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Le Gray, Beirut

21 Jul

Staying in Le Gray is like moving into an art gallery. From the bright white lobby with its slightly ridiculous patchwork elephant sculpture to the enormous laser cut metal installation that tiny LEDs light up, visible through the glass fronted hotel at night. The feeling is no accident, all 500 works of modern art were chosen by the owner hotelier Campbell Gray.
The six storey hotel is built round a large circular glass atrium that stretches from the floor to the roof. Combine this with the glass and steel lifts and you feel constantly on display, but rather than being off putting, the inner public spaces feel light and airy.
Although the hotel is on the edge of the trendy Downtown area and only needs a five minute flaunting of the Green Cross Code as you launch yourself over to the other side of the Place Des Martyrs to get into Gemmayze where the bars and clubs reside (take the road next to a Paul café), there’s nothing particularly in the vicinity that’s a breathtaking view. Until you get up to the sixth floor that is. From the circular inner atrium to an outer square roof garden, in between Le Gray has moulded a fine dining restaurant called Indigo on the Roof, a Cigar lounge, Pool Bar and sun lounger deck and up on the rooftop proper, a circular bar called ThreeSixty, that has 360 degree views of the city. You can step out from any of the venues onto a wraparound roof garden that offers unrivalled views of the spectacular azure domed mosque next door. In a city peppered with rooftop bars, this is definitely one of the ones to be seen in.
The pool bar is also worth a mention in its own right. With pop art gracing the walls, it has a Californian milk bar style feel, all whites and sugar pinks but at first glance, you’ll wonder where the the pool is? An infinity number made of Perspex that looks like it’s been superglued to the side of the building is your answer. Once in the water, you have a view of Beirut, the sea and the mountains and can see straight through the sides and the bottom of the pool. Never has feeling disconcerted looked so good.
Rooms are spacious, with light greens and browns providing a fresh feel and nods to modern travellers include laptop and ipod docks and a machine that grinds coffee beans for fresh coffee. However these mod-cons are also where Le Gray falls down slightly. You might have fresh beans for your coffee but milk needs to be ordered from room service which makes a spontaneous cup a chore. The widescreen TV has plenty of channels but the only one in English is BBC News and movies must be paid for, which is a slight annoyance. Similarly, the hotel proudly proclaims it has a TV in the bathroom, which it does, but it only has CNN in English. If you’re not here on business and aren’t bothered about stocks, it’s best to leave the TV alone. The Cigar Room has a well stocked library where there is a quirky selection of books to borrow. The hotel also has its own spa in the basement, which is fast becoming one of the places to spend the afternoon in Beirut for pampering.

If you want to do Beirut in style and boutique is up your street, Le Gray should be your first port of call.