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The New European Hotels

The boutique-hotel-with-restaurant trend moves forward in Europe, but there's no herd mentality at these 10 quirky new places.

Central Europe

SWITZERLAND, AUSTRIA
In exchange for the skiing in Switzerland's pretty Celerina, at the bottom of the Cresta Run, you once had to endure a bad chalet and compulsory fondue—until Hotel Misani opened. With its floridly floodlit facade and its cheerful swaths of color inside, it looks like a nineteenth-century Rathaus attacked by cartoonists. The hotel provides a fantastical bazaar where you can "shop" for drapes, rugs and chairs to make your room homier. And the restaurants amount to a municipal service. Ustaria Misani serves Italian-Swiss comfort food. Bodega, opening in December, is a tapas bar. Voyage does something ordinarily terrifying—international cuisine (Thai curry, bouillabaisse)—but happily refrains from fusion (Via Maistra; 011-41-81-833-33-14 or Design Hotels at 800-337-4685; doubles from $85).

Fusion is on the menu, though, at two new supermod Austrian hotels. In the Tyrolean ski resort of Ischgl, the family-owned Hotel Madlein uses an Eastern theme for its restaurant (which has no name). The hotel's decor is pared down in the Japanese fashion—though it does retain those heavenly Austrian feather beds. After nearly a year, the shock of all that glass and steel among the Weinstuben has worn off. Tourists are getting down at the Wunderbar (Chaka Khan played here!) and getting cozy around the open flames in the glamorous Fire Room (011-43-0-54-44-52-26; doubles from $85).

In Graz, Austria's second-largest city, the Augarten Hotel closely resembles the Madlein, its country cousin. In fact, the glass-heavy modernist buildings could be sisters. Augarten suits its none-too-historic district. Its blocky couches, plank floors and exposed columns are functional, as is the 24-hour bar and—yup—the Asian restaurant, Mayer's. A splendid collection of art by young Austrians softens the sharp corners (53 Schönaugasse; 011-43-31-62-08-00 or 800-337-4685; doubles from $119).

Northern Europe

GERMANY, HOLLAND
Hamburg's Side hotel is unashamedly businesslike, with an almost imperceptibly tinted glass front. The decor is familiarly minimalist: bedrooms with soft cream-white-beige furnishings and lobbies featuring moody, mutating lighting and a trendy scarlet bar. Here the restaurant not only serves Asian fusion—it's named Fusion. Gregor Gerlach, the director of Seaside Hotels, Side's German owner, has modeled his place on hotelier Ian Schrager's successes. It shows (49 Drehbahn; 011-49-40-30-99-90 or 800-337-4685; doubles from $150).

Holland got hipper when Maastricht's La Bergère reopened. Architect Feran Thomassen has injected the nineteenth-century hotel with wild colors in the public areas and subtle shades in the bedrooms, which have—business travelers, beware!—practically no furniture. Instead of desks and closets, there are bloodred rose-shaped chairs and wall-size photographs. As befits this casual-Friday country, the restaurant, Simply Bread, has no pretensions—but it serves a great spiced chicken and roast duck club (40 Stationsstraat; 011-31-43-328-25-25 or 800-337-4685; doubles from $110).

Farther North

SCOTLAND, SWEDEN
With interactive TV, "privacy hatches" in the doors for knockless room service and Edinburgh Monopoly games in the rooms, The Scotsman, a Victorian Gothic pile near Princes Street, is modern in terms of function but not style: The decor stars local tweeds and verges on the traditional. The Scotsman Grill is gloriously traditional too. Its braised beef with stout, grilled skate and treacle tart are the opposite of fusion (20 North Bridge.; 011-44-131-556-5565; doubles from $210).

Stockholm's Nordic is actually two hotels, Nordic Light and Nordic Sea. They occupy nondescript '70s low-rises on either side of a quiet, ugly street, but inside all is pristine and witty in that Scandinavian way that Schrager was imitating in the first place. Overlooking Light's soaring lobby is an airportlike bar; starbursts of light perk up the monochromatic bedrooms. At Sea, blue glass and fishtanks punctuate the earth tones of the public areas; rooms are graded by clothing size, S to XL. L-Dine, one of several perching-grazing-drinking locations, has an appealing Swedish-Italian menu: mussel "cappuccino," salted char with grilled lemon and asparagus risotto (4, 7 Vasplan; 011-46-8-50-56-3420 or 800-337-4685; doubles from $115).

Southern Europe

ITALY, FRANCE, MONACO
Leaving aside the rows of poolside loungers, the bedroom CD players and the air-conditioning, hotel is a misnomer for the Villa Fontelunga. It's a nine-room villa set among the olive groves in the Tuscan hills near Cortona, with spare but homey interiors, all wrought iron, cream couches and antiques. Food is not the main attraction: The villa offers breakfast and lunch for whoever's around and sometimes stages a dinner party. Well, it's not as if restaurant options are lacking (5 Via Cunicchio, Loc. Pozzo, Foiano della Chiana; 011-39-05-75-66-04-10 or 800-337-4685; doubles from $130).

Restaurant options aren't lacking in central Lyon, where La Cour des Loges has opened in four opulently renovated Renaissance houses. But its dining room, Les Loges, is up to the competition. Nicolas Le Bec, its young Breton chef, has a quirk of listing the vegetable component of each dish first, as in la poire rouge pochée, filet de sanglier rôti, raisins sautés au romarin: poached red pear with roast wild boar and rosemary raisins (2, 4, 6, 8 rue du Boeuf; 011-33-4-72-77-44-44; doubles from $160).

The Brasserie at Monaco's Columbus is hardly going head to head with its Michelin-starred neighbor, Ducasse. Hotelier Ken McCulloch made a success of his Malmaisons: hip, affordable places in Britain's second cities. Here he prefers easy Mediterranean menus of antipasti, fish and meat from the rotisserie. Columbus is high-design luxury for the people, with in-room everything (including Playstations) and a free shuttle around town. Monaco itself has become easier since its mini restaurant boom of 1999 (23 Avenue des Papalins; 011-377-92-05-90-00; doubles from $160).

Published September 2001
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