The newest hotel in Brussels is a study in black. An Art Nouveau townhouse in the stylish shopping suburb of Ixelles has recently opened as an eight-room boutique hotel by Alisa Marks, the very affluent ex-wife of Stephen Marks who created French Connection UK.
No expense has been spared, from the black wrought-iron balustrades to the black stair carpets, from the black doors fronting each room with their 2ft-high polished-aluminium numerals, to the black and white TV in the library playing black and white Fellini films on a continuous silent loop. The bar is decorated with black and white prints of French movie stars and the wafer-thin staff is dressed from top to toe in black as well. Against such a monochrome backdrop is the occasional splash of colour; lilac roses in the dining room or the white fur bedspreads that stand out so dramatically.
In the library, rather than have books of every vulgar colour and hue on display, Odette's has decorated with black and white wallpaper depicting shelf-loads of paperbacks. However, in the midst of this modern, self-conscious hymn to Le Style, the bar, lounge and dining room are warmed by real log fires in glorious marble fireplaces, reminding us that Odette's has a history as well as a money-spinning future. The original Odette who inspired this hotel owned a café in the French village of Williers. Her lifesize photo (in black and white, of course) hangs in reception, like a presiding household goddess.
Inevitably black dominates the bedrooms, which can mean that it's difficult to find something dark you've stuffed into a black drawer or shelf at the back of the ample black closet space. A gas flame-effect fire sits opposite most beds with a black flatscreen TV (linked to a hidden DVD player) above. Every machine has its remote. There's even a long chrome lighter (encased in black leather) for igniting the lilac-coloured candles. Bed sheets are lilac-trimmed white, which really does help you find the bed, and the bathrooms also stand out in welcome white marble. Huge tubs that easily accommodate two – three at a push – and long white counter space make sharing easy. The toiletries are from the Ginger/Lotus line by Ex Voto of Paris and come in curious soft-touch bottles with luxury flip-top caps that look like Star Trek communicators.
The food and drink
The restaurant, presided over by chef Roberto Zanusso, is in a long, dark conservatory lit by an overhead lightwell at the back of the old house. The seatbacks and banquettes are in crushed silver velvet and the tablecloths white. The menu is unremarkable, but nicely executed and hugely popular with the locals. Make sure you book on arrival. Naturally the wine list is predominantly French. For three courses expect to pay £50 a head without drinks (and above UK prices for wine).
There is no gym or spa; however, "le Wi-Fi" is free. The only real extra is the library, which is small but cosy on even the brightest of afternoons and well worth losing yourself in for a few hours. A DVD library is available for when you grow tired of monochrome Fellini.
Children and small dogs are not discouraged. Kids sleep free in parents' room, but they might spoil the colour scheme. A children's menu is available on demand. There is no lift for those with disabilities.
Double rooms cost from €250 to €425 (£216 to £364) per night. The generously portioned continental breakfast is good value at a further €25 (£22) per person.
Odette en Ville, 25 rue du Châtelain, 1050 Ixelles, Brussels, Belgium. (00 32 2640 26 26; chez-odette.com).