Advantages Location, size, quality service and comfort
Disadvantages Some will not like the limited facilities
|Value for Money|
|Quality of Rooms|
|Standard of Service|
|Quality of Food & Drink|
|Quality of Facilities|
I was fortunate enough to stay at Le Meridien, in Brussels a few weeks back after winning a competition. It was a novel situation all round as I would not normally be able to afford to stay at this quite exclusive establishment on my travel and subsistence budget and, even if I were I would be too busy to appreciate my surroundings. I do visit Brussels a lot for work and have stayed in many hotels (I reviewed the Welcome Hotel a while back and this remains one of my personal favourites for my business trips) but this was a nice change and most people enjoy a little bit of luxury once in a while.Ownership
The Le Meridien chain is managed by the US based Starwood Group. This also includes the Sheraton, Westin and St Regis chains amongst others. They operate 888 hotels worldwide, 499 are managed and the balance are franchised. The link to the Le Meridien, in Brussels is through the Starwood web site. This is the best link for a full list of all the services available and I am not duplicating such lists in my reviews as this is not my preferred style. Visit if such details are important to you or if you wish to see more pictures than I have provided below.
The Le Meridien markets itself as the best location in Brussels. Though it is difficult to endorse this claim without question it is certainly in a good spot for all categories of visitor being located directly opposite Central Station. This has direct connections with the International Airport (around 20 minutes with 4 trains an hour during the day) and also Gare de Midi (for the Eurostar) which is just one stop with services every few minutes. Many attractions including the Grand Place, Royal Palace, Museum of Fine Arts and Sablon antique (dealers) quarter are all within strolling distance as are a range of eating and drinking venues.The location makes the hotel very easy to find. Though no vast high rise affair the initial search for this 224 bed six floor hotel is further aided by its majestic crescent shape. Seven flags fly on poles to the front and a few cars (tightly controlled by the concierge I am sure) are parked in the crescent (see main picture).
ArrivalI forget is someone was actually standing on duty at the door when I arrived but there are bellboys and porters readily available and one quickly approached me to assist with my pull along overnight case. Hardly necessary and as personally I prefer not to use them I politely declined the assistance and this was accepted. I would expect no less in Western Europe but further a field such staff can be mightily persistent in upper end hotels making one feel rather uncomfortable.
Check in arrangementsI was therefore free to check in by myself at the desks to the right of the entrance. This was a quick and painless process though, as is now standard practice, they wanted an impression of my credit card for extras. I do find this annoying as I believe I am an honest person and would never leave a hotel without settling what I owe. Objectively speaking though, I have to accept that the staff there have never seen me in their life and are after all only following orders. Nevertheless, it is one of my bug bares - sometimes I am bloody minded and say I have no credit card which usually provokes a look of complete disbelief. As this was a freebie I did however decide to behave and provided the card. I then received my room key (the usually electronic card) in a paper wallet. Breakfast was included in my prize and the guy checking me in forgot to tell me where this was going to be so I had to ask later. That aside the check in was fine.
First impressions of the lobby and other common areasChecked in I turned my attention to the lobby. It was decorated quite tastefully with wooden furnishings, filled with an abundance of comfortable seating, benefiting from a very cosy looking bar and carpeted corridors that lead to the lifts. It is interesting that these are not immediately visible from the main lobby entrance, no bad things as it stops the odd individual without authority of access from easily wondering in like they are a resident. It was busier than many hotel lobbies I have passed through in recent times; there were some well known international organisations and businesses using the hotel and these each had their own reception desks. I also observed that the bar was remarkably busy.
I walked along the carpeted corridor and took the lift up to my room on the 5th floor. The corridor at both the ground and 5th levels were similarly carpeted and fitted with dark wood furnishings. This re-enforced the cosy feel I first identified when looking into the lobby bar. The other observation I made was that every inch of the common area appeared to be spotless.The bedroom
I always get a tinge of excitement when opening a hotel room door for the first time. This is difficult to explain, if you travel as much as me one place looks much like another; moreover such excitement regularly gives way to disappointment. Not so here, despite the room only being the standard type (which at this hotel are I believe not inaccurately defended as superior) it was delightful. Furnishings were all of a high quality and included a large (probably queen size but don't expect this guy to know) bed flanked by two bed side cabinets, a comfortable arm chair with strategically placed occasional table, large writing desk with 2 chairs, sizable mirrored wardrobe and a quality wide screed TV. The room was finished with off white walls hung with various pictures (one of which could have been a tad risqué for the most prudish) and blue carpeting. The room was creatively lit from various sources in an arrangement that worked to good effect and again brought out the warm and cosy feeling I have previously referred to in relation to the communal areas.The room of course also had a mini bar with items on sale at a significant mark up to what one would find on the street (this being standard practice in most upper end hotels in the west). There were however what I took to be some freebies to welcome me; two bottles of drinking water and a small tin of fine Belgium chocolates. When checking in I had noted a walk in rate of something in excess of 400 Euros; of course few would have paid that but had I done so I am sure I would have been thinking the chocolates and water were the least they could offer. In the event I paid nothing and these little extras (yes - even the free water is a rarity in the Brussels places I stay) were a nice surprise. I believe there was supposed to have also been a fruit basket from looking at the hotel web site but cannot recall seeing this.
Other facilities in the room including the inevitable air con - essential in a humid Brussels summer, tea and coffee maker, an iron and an ironing board. There was a socket for (chargeable) Internet access - remember I was not working in Brussels on this occasion so I did not need to use it - and a fairly high tech phone. The TV had a good range of channels including BBC and CNN and there was obviously a remote.The View
I was at the front of the hotel in the middle (almost directly above the entrance) so had a direct view over to the Central Station. The road outside was busy but double glazing ensured that I could not hear a thing from the street outside.The Bathroom
The bathroom was not quite at the level of the bedroom in my eyes but nevertheless it was quite lavishly fitted with marble style tiling and a granite surface into which the wash basin was sunk. There was a predictably large mirror and lighting that was not overly bright when considering the room was devoid of any natural light. Bathroom furniture in addition to the sink comprised just the toilet and the bath with incorporated shower mounted on the wall.The complimentary toiletries were more extensive and luxurious than I am used to and proved to be of quality when I (and of my wife) used them. As per the picture attached these included mango scented shampoo, orange blossom conditioner, lime and basil shower and bath get (I know it sounds more like a Thai dish) and grapefruit scented body lotion enriched with vitamin E. There were also a range of accessories to apply/remove cosmetics including strong cotton buds and also an emery board. These were presented in plastic case.
The room also had a high quality bathrobe for my use and should again (according to the hotel web site) have had slippers; if it did I could not find them. The other standard equipment at my disposal was a hairdryer and a heated towel rail.Other hotel facilities
The hotel does not seem great on sports facilities but is certainly a Brussels leader with regards to business facilities. The banqueting hall holds up to 180 and as previously noted the place was in use by several worldwide companies and organisations when I was there.Eating
The hotel again may not have enough range for some of the more discerning travellers. There are in fact only 2 restaurants of which just one is a formal sit down pace but do keep in mind that the hotel has a relatively small number of rooms so multiple restaurants would perhaps be an economically bad more.The one sit down top end place on site is described on the hotel promotional material as being French with a (and I quote) warm and exotic Caribbean atmosphere operating under the name L'Epicerie. I did not try it thought I saw the not insignificantly priced menu. Certainly the offerings available on the day I was passing through were as good as anything you might expect to emerge from a top end hotel kitchen. I note from promotional material that L'Epicerie offers a 'discovery menu'.
Very much second fiddle in terms of eating is the previously mentioned bar at the ground level. The name is Jermyn's Street Bar, a fine establishment and the cosy atmosphere is supposedly English themed. There is a relatively limited bar menu here but the emphasis is on the drinks. They also seem to sell a wide range of cigars but remember this is Belgium where tobacco dealers are commonplace.The only meal I tried was the buffet breakfast, included in my stay and 25E if paid for separately. This comprised the fairly typical buffet offerings one would expect to find at an international hotel in Europe. On the day of my stay the place (it is in the same place as L'Epicerie operates from) was jam packed and I was seated at a table with a total stranger. This did not bother me unduly but it would certainly ruffle some feathers and it is rare to find the waiting staff resorting to such measures at a top end hotel.
The breakfast selection once in was however better than average and included all you might expect. There was a particularly good range of cold meats and cheeses of which a stunning cut of mouth watering Parma ham lingers in the mind to this very day.Other discoveries
During my stay I came to find that each floor is decorated in a different colour scheme. Floors 2 and 4 have been refurbished quite recently and are somewhat brighter than the 5th floor where I was (not a huge issue for me but may be for some). I also found that all the hotel suites are up on the 6th floor (effectively the roof floor). Please appreciate I only passed one night at this place so I am afraid that is your lot.Check out arrangements
These were reasonably quick considering how busy the hotel seemed to be. They did detect a bar order on my bill which was a mistake as I had not ordered anything during my stay. I only needed to dispute this addition to my bill and it was cancelled without any question whatsoever. This impressed me greatly as I have encountered some unpleasant exchanges on check out on occasion in all parts of the world.Loyalty programme
A website called spg.com is the link to the Starwood Preferred Guest club. I am not a member and cannot vouch for the clubs remit or effectiveness. I will endeavour to find out a bit more and if I do I will update this part of my review and/or write a separate review to deal with the loyalty programme. Meanwhile comments from any members who are already members will be welcome.Overall View
This was a highly professional and well run establishment with a courteous and well trained staff. It is not too big as far as international chain hotels go and can just about maintain a personal degree of service and make its guest feel special (though the seating at breakfast has to be a worry for some). I personally loved the room and even elected to spend more time there than I needed to (only an hour but nevertheless - that speaks volume for someone who is usually on the go every given second). The complimentary tin of chocolates was another added bonus for me; I do not recall that happening too often. As noted, I was very impressed with the way the minor bill discrepancy was handled at check out. I would be delighted to stay here again; ideally with my wife so I could enjoy it all the more.Given this is a 5 star hotel choice of facilities such as places to eat, leisure facilities and like are possibly a little limited for the more discerning guest. For some though the opposite is true and they do not want to feel like they are staying at some kind of 5 star theme park. For me personally it depends on the situation; in this case what the hotel offered was entirely adequate.
Value for moneyAs noted for me the night was free. Ciao says rooms can be has had for as little as £79 which (if it meets your requirements) is likely to have significant restrictions and will not include breakfast. From looking at other hotels sites prices in the lower £100s are more realistic for most dates. If there are two of you and you are able to include breakfast this would still offer a good deal in my view.
Beware that Brussels has a large number of events that render seeking out accommodation a nightmare; on these occasions prices can and do multiply in accordance with demand. In general, it is always best to book as early as possible on any visit to Brussels.Recommendation
It is a nice hotel that I would stay at again if looking for a well located room at the top end of the budget this would be early in the list of places I would check out for a decent room deal. However, with the best will in the world I think if I was with small children I would head to the Welcome Hotel in St Katherine or another of my favoured mid range places.
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Located within a 3-minute walk from Brussels Grand Place and Manneken Pis, Le Méridien includes the signature Longitude Bar & Hub, the 100% Belgian...
Shipping: refer to website
Availability: Price is per double room per night and may vary depending on date booked