Sleep - August 2012
Hotel Lord Byron
Via Giuseppe De Notaris 5, Rome, +39 06 3220 404, www.lordbyronhotel.com
words Jane Cunningham
Hotel Lord Byron is a bit of a find, literally, hidden as it is on a leafy narrow street, high up near the Villa Borghese park. An almost secret retreat, it displays its elegance quietly - the perfect place to escape the chaos of the hot, crowded city below.
All sorts of delights reside within the art deco interior, including the owner's wonderful collection of female portraits, a cool, white, book-lined lounge, grand Carrara marble bathrooms and a restaurant that favours haute cuisine and delectable Italian specialities. Which is not to say this is a stuffy kind of a place - reassuringly old-fashioned five-star values are carefully maintained yet still allow for a low-key, relaxed and homely atmosphere. And happily, situated by the park, this is a peaceful district of birdsong and tall, shady pines.
But undoubtedly, one of the most enjoyable aspects about the hotel is its cuisine, which could easily send you home a few kilos heavier. Simple sunshine flavours dominate as chef Roberto Antonelli works his magic on wonderful local ingredients. A five-course feast comprised: unfolded omelette with black truffle and Roman pecorino fondue; white bean soup with rosemary flavoured maltagliati pasta with bacon; loin of lamb with potato cake and sautéed chicory; Roman cassata with Sambuca liqueur sauce; and petit fours with espresso. Add to that the presence of a seasoned sommelier who will expertly guide you through the wine list and you will go to bed replete. Doubles from €247, including breakfast.
Korte Nieuwstraat 24, Antwerp, +32 (0)3 229 06 00, www.hotel-julien.com
words Emma Beddington
Antwerp is famous for its design and fashion, and the Hotel Julien is no exception: it's a space conceived with meticulous attention to detail and an unwavering eye for aesthetics.
In a tiny back street, a few minutes from the superlative boutique shopping of the Wildezee quarter and MOMU, the fashion museum, the hotel is an amalgam of two historic townhouses set around a peaceful courtyard garden.
The owners have painstakingly preserved the original features - intricate gilt ceiling embellishments, Chinoiserie doors, wooden panelling - but there's a modern edge to the choice of furnishings, decoration and exhibitions of fine art photography (provided by the renowned 51 Gallery) on the walls. A local ceramicist, Anja Meeusen, created the hotel's crockery in delicate white Limoges porcelain as well as decorative pieces elsewhere.
The 21 bedrooms are peaceful, airy spaces with high ceilings, bright white walls and lots of natural wood. There are organic REN toiletries in the vast bathrooms which are also used for treatments in the spa in the 16th-century vaulted cellar. The hotel doesn't have a restaurant, but there's a thoughtful menu of bar snacks and the breakfast is excellent, showcasing lots of local produce. In summer, the hotel's crowning glory - its sunny roof terrace - comes into its own with cocktails and stunning views over the cathedral and rooftops of the old city. Doubles from €195.
Sheraton Mirasierra Hotel and Spa
43 Calle Alfredo Marquerie, Madrid, +34-917 277 900, www.sheratonmadridmirasierra.com
words Scott Adams
A lush, green garden, a pampering spa and three restaurants await guests at the just-opened Sheraton Mirasierra Hotel and Spa in Madrid.
Located in a quiet enclave, just 15 minutes by taxi from the heart of the city, the hotel is perfect for families or those looking for some serious R&R. Space is the key here, and even standard rooms offer an impressive 65m2. Designed in an L-shape, they contain a dining table, large flat-screen TV, queen-sized bed, oversized wardrobe and bathroom. The sofa-bed sleeps two which means a family of four can fit comfortably in the same room.
Summer in Madrid is all about dining alfresco, and at the Sheraton Mirasierra you can savour creative Mediterranean cuisine prepared by Chef Ernesto Hinojal across three restaurants. Verdil offers both indoor and outdoor seating; Biguine, the poolside garden terrace, offers light summery meals and, for a special occasion, the candlelit ambience of Godello, on the 10th floor, is perfect.
The Absara Spa sprawls over 1,300m2 making it one of the largest in Madrid. Move into the stimulating water circuit and allow water fountains, jets, bubbles and whirlpools to soothe aching muscles. Rejuvenate with one of the specialised treatments or massages in the individual or couples rooms. Doubles from €145, including breakfast.