While occupying a distinct urban location near a key metro station, the history-laced Crowne Plaza Brussels Le Palace also offers a refreshing taste of bucolic countryside.
Situated on Place Rogier, rooms overlook the Botanical Garden and a small park where ducks float freely on a lake and seagulls preen themselves nonchalantly on grass verges nearby.
Inside, along the four-star property’s ground floor, an art déco-style corridor is enlivened with a thick black and yellow checkered carpet, ornate iron railings, molded wall masks, tall plants and a mix of modern and classical art. On either side are multiple function rooms used mainly for business and social events. The property, a member of the InterContinental Hotels Group, has 18 meeting rooms, with the largest acommodating up to 700 people.
While the essence of this hotel is modern in every sense, its history is a colorful one dating back more than 100 years. The first stone on the original building (then named the Hotel Palace and owned by Georges Marquet) was laid in 1908; its architecture being under the direction of Lener & Pompe, two young Belgian designers. The official opening took place two years later. Illustrious guests have included stars of screen and sport such as Gina Lollobrigida, Jean Poiret, Rita Hayworth, Brigitte Bardot, Orson Welles, champion Italian cyclist Fausto Coppi and American boxer Ray Sugar Robinson.
The hotel also has strong literary connections. The main character in ‘Le Locataire‘ (The Tenant), a novel by Georges Simenon, one of Belgium’s best-known writers whose most famous character is Commissaire Maigret, stays in one of the hotel’s suites.
Our room 553, an executive suite, was reached along a corridor featuring a bright sunny carpet abuzz with vivid colors resembling that of a painter’s palette. It offered pleasing views over the park and lake. Inspired by the art nouveau curves and lines of Gustav Klimt, a Viennese artist, Svensk Inredning at Attent, a Belgian company, has created stylish draperies, curtains, sheers, pelmets, dimming curtains, bedspreads and decorative cushions.
Dinner in the Brasserie Deco Verre opposite the reception desk a few steps up from the lobby was a cozy affair, with relaxing overhead music and a lively atmosphere created by both business and leisure travelers. Simple tables and chairs are positioned around the walls with comfy armchairs and low tables in the center, with high-stools bar-side. A smaller, more intimate room, adjoins the first with nostalgic black and white photos lining the walls depicting the hotel as it was a generation ago. Shelves here are filled with books.
The tuna '30-second' salad on the menu refers to the cooking process, not speed of service, which, however, was swift and efficient. The dish consisted of three generous chunks of fish pan-seared with a sprinkling of sesame seeds creating a delightful nutty texture of crust, with a light dollop of white wasabi cream sauce. A forest of diverse salad leaves and cucumber slices with a dressing of grapefruit and olive oil provided a refreshing base. The Thai chicken soup was authentic, rich in favor with tangy lemongrass and fresh lime complemented by the spiciness of ginger, galangal and chilly, with a hint of sweetness from coconut milk.
Our grilled entrecote came as medium-sized, tender, thinly-sliced beef with a smooth light pepper sauce with crisp Belgian fries (careful here about using the term ‘French’ to describe them). The fondant of veal was the evening’s best surprise, living up fully to its name—soft as butter and cooked to perfection, with coins of soft sautéed potatoes and green beans as side-dishes.
As for desserts, being in a country famous for the quality of its chocolate, we chose both options: a delicious creamy mousse steeped in a vanilla base and a moelleux with melting ice-cream atop.
For leisure guests, parks, theaters, museums and other landmarks including the Grand Place, the Belgian Comic Strip Center, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts and The Atomium are fifteen minutes away or less.
As well as attracting tourists, the Crowne Plaza is also a haven for business guests, its ground-floor arcade buzzing with conference-goers while we were there. International institutions such as the European Commission and NATO, as well as major multinational companies and banks, can be easily reached via the Rogier metro station, a five-minute walk away.
For a modern city hotel convenient to both tourism and business centers with a refreshing sense of history, the Crowne Plaza Brussels Le Palace is a pedigree.