Nestled in a tiny side street of the historic center of Bruges, a few steps away from the city’s legendary canals, the Romantik Pand Hotel was the epitome of timeless elegance, modern comforts and flawless service. This intimate family-owned and managed property was the brainchild of its founder, Mrs. Chris Vanhaecke, originally an international tour guide. Having observed in her extensive travels the complex elements of successful (and not so successful) hospitality, she translated her expertise, and her passion for antiques, into an intimate luxury property that has retained all the charm of its origins as an eighteenth century private residence. When I visited the property, although Mrs. Vanhaecke had transferred the management of the hotel to her daughter Lyne, she still oversaw the decoration and personally created the exquisite flower arrangements scattered around the common areas.
After an efficient check-in that included a quick recapitulation of the welcome amenities available to me, also documented in personalized formal invitations, I was escorted up a tiny elevator to my suite. On the way, I glanced at the richly paneled library where an inviting log fire danced in the antique fireplace. My suite was a cozy retreat tucked in the gables of the house, tastefully decorated in a neutral palette of designer fabrics and wall-coverings. Even on that gloomy afternoon, light streamed in from large windows on two sides of the room, which also offered commanding views of the peaked roofs of the medieval city. Looking at the comfortable armchairs, inviting four-poster bed, roomy writing desk and oversized whirlpool bathtub (also with a view), I fleetingly wished the storm might stick around so that I could nestle into my luxurious cocoon without any thought of setting foot outdoors. It didn’t. By the next morning the sky had cleared to a translucent robin-egg blue, and after a sumptuous cooked-to-order champagne breakfast that is a trademark of the hotel, I was ready to explore the historic gems of the city.
I loved the Romantik Pand Hotel for its refined elegance, intimate atmosphere and superb service. With the added lure of the romance of medieval Bruges just a few steps away, it definitely made my short list of places to revisit, whether for a relaxing personal break, a friends’ or family get together or a romantic weekend.
Class Of Accommodation Four-star boutique hotel
Connectivity There was complimentary WiFi Internet access in the room. For guests traveling without their own computer, a desktop computer with web access was available in the common areas.
General Manager Lyne Vanhaecke
Handicapped Access The facilities were not enabled for disabled guests.
Length Of Stay Two nights
Location In the heart of the historic center Bruges, Belgium, a 15-minute taxi ride from the train station and a five-minute walk from the city’s two main squares, the Grote Markt (Market Square) and the Burg (Town Square).
Owned-Managed The Vanhaecke family
Size The three-story mansion housed all common areas, 11 junior suites and 15 rooms. It could accommodate up to 60 guests and employed a staff of 15.
Year Opened-Renovated The eighteenth century property opened as a hotel in 1982. It was acquired by the Vanhaecke family in 1985, who gradually undertook a complete renovation. It remained the object of ongoing upgrades.
To the right of the foyer, a few steps led up to the lounge and library to the left and the bar to the right, with the elevator beyond. Against a backdrop of pearl gray walls, the cocktail lounge was dominated by an L-shaped mahogany bar topped with pale gray marble, and three bar stools. Behind it, a tall glass-fronted sideboard held an assortment of bottles and glasses. Three lights with deep fuchsia shades hung above the bar. A sectional sofa wrapped around the opposite corner of the room and a brown leather Chesterfield armchair provided seating space. Two tall windows overlooked the street. Their draperies, as well as the sofa and barstool upholstery were in various shades of purple velvet. Two cocktail tables were covered with white linen cloths. A large oil painting reminiscent of seventeenth century Dutch flower paintings completed the décor.
Across the corridor, in a grand double parlor divided by tall French doors, the sitting room to the front and the library to the rear flowed into each other. Soaring ceilings featured elaborate molding; in both rooms, elegant chandeliers hung from central medallions. Hardwood floors were covered with room-size Aubusson rugs in mellow shades of taupe and rose. Tall windows elaborately draped in coordinated taupe and rose damask opened onto the reception area below. The cream to taupe color scheme offered a serene backdrop for the antique pieces scattered around both rooms. Framed centuries-old deeds hung on the walls. In the sitting room, two wingchairs slipcovered in natural canvas and a long Chesterfield sofa upholstered in tan suede provided seating space. A large square hassock upholstered in matching suede served as a coffee table and stacks of vintage Louis Vuitton suitcases doubled as end tables. An elaborately inlaid gate-legged table was a striking focal point between the two windows.
My favorite place to linger was the library. It was entirely paneled in pickled pine, including the large fireplace framed by ceiling-height bookcases filled with leather-bound volumes. A long curved bench upholstered in black wool was wrapped around the hearth. It was an especially cozy spot to relax in front of the open fire with one of the many books lying about the room. Two tufted brown leather wingchairs sat at either end of the bench. On the opposite side of the room, in front or the windows a deep rolled-arm sofa covered in natural canvas with taupe, rose and sage green accent pillows faced the fireplace. A long rectangular taupe suede bench doubled as a coffee table. It held a butler’s tray and a low rustic basket filled with an arrangement of twigs, nuts and colorful dry pods. An eighteenth century spinet and a tall Regency bookcase with drop front writing desk completed the décor. Throughout the two rooms, table and floor lamps provided warm indirect lighting.
Deep inside the house, at the far end of the reception area, the long-ago carriage yard had become a charming breakfast room. Morning light streamed in through an oversized central skylight and French doors opened onto a paved patio where guests could be served al fresco during the summer. The walls were a combination of white clapboard and Victorian wallpaper with large sprays of faded pink roses splashed against a white background. A long bench upholstered in coordinated chintz ran the length of the right wall. The remainder of the seats around the crisp linen-clad tables were white wicker armchairs with matching seat cushions. The floor was tiled in dark gray ceramic. White-lacquered storage drawers and open shelves, and a black granite countertop with a built-in professional Aga stove lined the back wall. To the right of the entrance door, a white cabinet held additional breakfast service pieces.
Room My 350 square foot (32 square meter) junior suite, Number 106, was a romantic nest under the eaves with a sweeping view of the of red-tiled roofs and needle-like belfries of the medieval town. The color-scheme was predominately white and gray, with anthracite wall-to-wall carpeting setting off the white lacquered wainscoting, and above it there was Victorian-style wall paper of bold floral bouquets etched in gray against a white background. Most wooden furniture were white lacquer, including the built-in corner sideboard, the small two-drawer chest that served as a base for the flat-panel television, the bombé writing desk and the medallion back desk chair upholstered to match the wallpaper. Two small armchairs covered in medium gray wool and a mahogany pedestal side table were angled on either side of the sideboard. The king-size four-poster bed headboard, bed skirt, coverlet and decorative pillows were covered in heavy white matelassé, as were the draperies of the two tall French windows. The four corners of the bed were draped in pearl gray cotton with white lining. Black upholstered stools served as bedside tables. Two white silk-shaded reading lights on adjustable arms were fitted above the headboard. A pair of brass candlestick lights sat on the desk, with a black-framed hexagonal mirror hanging on the wall between them. Additional spot lighting was recessed in the ceiling.
In the bathroom there were two bathrobes as well as an ample supply of bath and face towels and washcloths, two shower caps, a shoehorn, a make-up magnifying glass and a hair-dryer. Personal sizes of Annick Goutal toiletries included shampoo, shower gel, facial soap and body moisturizer.
Facilities In addition to the bar and breakfast room there was a sauna.
Date Of Review March 2010
Reviewers Article and photographs by Josette King
Service The service was superbly attentive. Late on the afternoon of my arrival, with the rainstorm having dwindled to a misty drizzle, I bundled up and ventured out. I had only taken a few steps outside when the young man who was manning the desk came running out to hand me an open golf umbrella. The reception desk was staffed around the clock, with the reception staff member on duty also serving as a knowledgeable concierge, often discretely anticipating questions and making thoughtful suggestions.
Would You Stay There Again? Yes