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Going Boutique in Beirut

The drive from Beirut’s airport revealed a lot about the city’s 20th century architecture and for someone like myself who was visiting the city for the first time, it was quite an eye opener. In between the high-rise buildings were quaint, Mediterranean style villas which gave Beirut a distinctly French feel and that charm carried on as our taxi pulled up outside Le Vendôme.

Steve Chalmers

60’S CHIC

Le Vendôme stands out amongst the new hotel developments under construction on the Minet El Hosn road. Built in 1964 by La Societe Hoteliere Fakhoury, Le Vendôme’s unpretentious architecture is typical of this period and over the years has seen a lot of love and money put into it. Several million dollars was invested in the hotel’s renovation and restoration back in 1993, with the refreshed décor catching the eye of the mighty InterContinental Hotels and Resorts group, who took on the management in 1995 and reopened Le Vendôme in all its current splendour back in November 1996.

Pierre-Yves Rochon: The famous designer styled Le Vendôme’s interior spaces after his favourite French chateau, bestowing the hotel with a warm and exuberant am

SUBTLE BY DESIGN

As you make your way through Le Vendôme’s revolving doors, the bustle of Minet El Hosn road is soon lost. Hidden from the street by a water feature and a jungle of plants and trees, you can understand why the hotel has become a regular choice for Royalty, celebrities and high ranking diplomats on their visits; it’s quiet, discreet, friendly and walking distance from Downtown.

INTERIOR BY ROCHON

Your first observations as you look around the grand reception area and foyer is that Le Vendôme is not your normal hotel. You’re immediately greeted by friendly, attentive staff who take care of your luggage and check you in while you gaze at the elegant and characterful décor. The hotel owes its chic ambience to French designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, who is best known for fashioning the interiors of the Four Seasons George V and the Shangri-La Hotel in Paris, the Savoy Hotel and the Four Seasons Park Lane and the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills.
For Le Vendôme, Rochon took the charm of a French chateau as his inspiration, combining rich woods and marble with an infusion of bold colours. Paintings, sculptures and ornaments add to the classical feel and the exuberant ambience continues into the rooms.

ROOMS

Le Vendôme’s popularity with Royalty and celebrities can be understood when you see how the rooms are laid out. Although each room is situated off one main corridor, each has its own mini lobby, meaning you and your neighbor could both be standing outside your doors, but you wouldn’t be able to see each other. In fact, Le Vendôme was fully booked during our stay and the only time we saw any of our fellow guests was at the breakfast buffet.
The hotel’s 73 rooms and suites all feature the Pierre-Yves Rochon touch and reflect the charm of the lobby. The rooms are spacious and a number of treats awaited us including cakes, fruit, baklava, rose water and a refreshing fruit pitcher, which can be topped up with water during your stay.

As with any room, the first thing you do is make a bee-line for the balcony to check the view. Here, pulling back the thick, blackout curtains reveals the road down below and no more than stone’s throw away – the Mediterranean. Opening the balcony doors lets in something us Dubai dwellers massively miss: clean, fresh air. Temps in the mid-20s and a lungful of cool, dustless air had me wondering why I hadn’t made the trip before.

Bed wise, we had an option of specialist pillows, but the ‘normal’ ones were already world class. Sleep isn’t a problem in Le Vendôme as the double-glazing keeps the car horns firmly locked out. We were offered a 15-minute neck and shoulder massage and complimentary access to the SPA Phoenicia and gym, but decided against it after lying down on the bed on arrival – it’s great just to kick back with the balcony doors open and just listen to the noises of Beirut coming in through the window.

Room service is as can be expected for a boutique hotel and anything that doesn’t have to be cooked is brought straight up. Again the friendless of the staff is evident when Roy on reception seemed almost disappointed that I didn’t recognise him when he answered the phone.

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SUITES

With Kings, Queens, movie stars and magazine editors calling Le Vendôme home during their stays in Lebanon’s capital city, the hotel’s suites are unashamedly lavish. Starting with the 90m2 Executive suites, you naturally get a sea view, but with a larger seating and balcony area.

The luxury is upped with the Presidential and Royal suites, both of which come with their own butler. The Presidential is 130m2 of luxury and comes with a dining area and kitchenette, with the Royal suite coming in at a huge 220m2 which includes a large living area, dining room, kitchen, two master bedrooms and a two balconies.

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This iconic eatery features a curved glass balcony which gives you an unobstructed view of Lebanon’s coast.

RESTAURANTS

Sitting quite literally on top of Le Vendôme is Sydney’s Club Bar and Restaurant. This iconic eatery features a curved glass balcony which gives you an unobstructed view of Lebanon’s coast, while adding a distinctive style element to the hotel’s façade.

The décor and overall ambience is that of a traditional private club and its various coves allow guest to dine anonymously, if they would so choose. Sydney’s warm and sophisticated space is perfect for a business lunch, afternoon tea, sundowners, fine dining, late night snack or an expertly mixed cocktail at the bar.

With Le Vendôme being only a few minutes walk from the Beirut Boat Show being held at the Zaitunay Bay Marina, it was the ideal base for the YACHTS team for three days. Stylish, intimate with friendly staff, Le Vendôme is the perfect boutique getaway for work, or play.