Le Gray has finally opened in Beirut – one of the most eagerly and long-awaited hotel openings of the year. It's been an uphill struggle for hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray, hampered by civil unrest and two wars. "Everyone was really weary after the Israeli attacks two summers ago," he says. "But we refused to let it throw us off course and bashed on."
This latest addition to the stable of Campbell Gray Hotels – which includes One Aldwych and Dukes in London, along with Carlisle Bay in Antigua – is housed in a sleek, impressive building designed by Australian architect Kevin Dash. With its traditional "de Jaumont" yellow-stone façade, Le Gray forms an integral part of the upmarket downtown district of Solidere, once a battleground, now rebuilt on a grand scale.
The property, Beirut's first design hotel, centres on a circular glass-domed atrium. The lobby is an intimate affair but packs a stylish punch thanks to a large illuminated wall of flowers and dragonflies. (This is just one of more than 500 works of contemporary art, which Campbell Gray spent four years collecting in Beirut, Damascus, Cuba, Paris and London.)
The other communal areas – the pool, restaurants and bars – are at roof level, on the sixth floor, with the bedrooms in between. The light, bright, white and grey stylish interiors come courtesy of Mary Fox Linton in collaboration with Campbell Gray, and wow factors include the purple glass rooftop swimming pool.
Le Gray is set to become the heart of Beirut's's glitzy entertainment scene. And with Four Seasons opening here in December and Grand Hyatt and Kempinski hotels slated to open within the next two years, the city seems to be finally making a comeback as the Middle East's party town.
There are 87 spacious rooms and suites with large walk-in wardrobes. The decor is modern minimalism with bold sweeps of dusky pastel shades and wood panelling. All have hi-tech facilities, including big flat-screen TVs, iPod docks and deluxe espresso machines. The dark-grey tiled bathrooms, many with a central mosaic on the floor, are sizeable and stocked with toiletries by REN.
The food and drink
Gordon's Café, on the ground floor, is an all-day dining outlet focusing on salads, steaks and pastries, with main dishes from $22 (£13). Indigo on the Roof serves a fusion of international and Mediterranean dishes – expect to pay around $60 (£37) per head for three courses without wine. The Pool Lounge features light and healthy dining and the Cigar Lounge serves fine spirits, with cocktails mixed at the circular Bar ThreeSixty.
There is a large gym with state-of-the-art Technogym facilities, a PureGray spa with six treatment rooms and a hair and beauty salon. On the doorstep, Solidere is stacked with big-name designers, and for culture, the Roman Baths, Mohammad al-Amin Mosque and St George's Cathedral are just a stroll away.
All public spaces are fully accessible, except the spa, and several rooms are adapted for wheelchair users. Children are welcome. No pets are permitted except guide dogs.
Opening rates start at $315 (£192) per double room. Cox & Kings (020-7873 5000; coxandkings.co.uk) has four nights' B&B at Le Gray from £1,095 per person, based on two sharing, including bmi flights and private transfers.
Le Gray, Martyrs' Square, Beirut Central District, Lebanon (00 961 1 971 111; legray.com).