Luxury Hotels

BRUSSELS – 1

Hotel Amigo Brussels looks, in the nicest way of course,  as if it has been around for ever, like one of many mediaeval buildings also crammed close together in the downtown centre of this lovely city. In fact the hotel, which replaced the city prison, was only constructed in 1957, in time for Expo 1958, the first major world’s fair after WWII. It was built by local contractor Armand Blaton, whose family sold it on to Sir Rocco Forte’s financiers in 2000,

Everything’s timeless and fresh as today here at the city’s only luxury hotel. It’s run by a canny Danish consultant, Jan Nielsen, who look at life with a hint of an equivocal smile. Photograph tome? In front of that Magritte, he answers quick as a flash, so that’s how the photo above arrived.  The hotel has a total of 126 rooms, on six floors, and several are themed suites.

110sq m suite #321, for instance, honours surrealist icon René Magritte. Expect Magritte art (and a Magritte umbrella) and amazing books, including a whole range of PG Woodhouse, and perhaps a bar of Wittamer chocolate showing Magritte’s Son of Man 1964 – the bowler-hatted man with an apple in front of his face.

There were real apples on the breakfast buffet at the hotel’s very successful 110-seat brasserie, Bocconi, but then it’s a healthy place as well as lots of fun. There’s a fully-enclosed glass terrace as well as a low-ceilinged alluring inside section. One entrance wall is a gallery for Piero Fornasetti’s famous face plates.

We were to dine in Bocconi but first it was essential to have a drink in the bar (see below). At 1913 every evening, canapés are served. A reminder that Magritte, then 15, first met his future wife, a 13-year old called Georgette Berger, in 1913 (they did not marry until 1922). There’s a menu of Magritte cocktails, devised by flying mixologist Salvatore Calabrese. One concoction is Good Faith,  Bourbon infused with almonds, Tio Pepe, simple syrup, bitters and Mezcal, which together produce a cosy smokiness with the gentle dryness of sherry.

And then it was on to Bocconi, full with a combination of locals (80%) and hotel guests. Tuna tartare was followed by an ‘absolute favourite’, hand-cut spaghetti cacio e pepper,  with a side of spinach. The wine was definitely worth mentioning. The hotel has its own label, L’Amigo, produced in Brussels by Urban Winery. No, there are no vines up on the rooftop of Hotel Amigo. The hotel’s partner, Urban Winery, uses imported grapes……..