The gate will be locked if you get back late to this classically beautiful, home-away-from-home boutique hotel. The first key lets you into the front courtyard (no electronic swipe-cards here), the second will open your room (there are just seven). Inside, you'll find a comfortable bed, antique Damascus chandeliers and perhaps a stunning Joe Kesrouani framed photograph of Beirut. Bliss. Wander down to the terrace in the morning to find husband and wife owners Olivier Gougeon (who is also the chef) and Marie-Helene Moawad. If they invite you to one of their evening gatherings ('It’s just a few good friends, it will be fun’), say yes. For breakfast, try espresso and perfect fresh manoushe zaatar, then sweet yoghurt and cake. You might end up staying all day… because Villa Clara (named after Olivier and Marie-Helene’s daughter) just does that to you. On the edge of Mar Mikaël, opposite a bullet-marked, run down building, painted a deep blue on the outside and cluttered with original artworks and photographs inside, Villa Clara is one of the first and best boutique hotels in the city, and packed full of unique charm. Dining here is a must, Olivier’s kitchen a wealth of French cuisine mixed with a touch of Lebanese, fresh ingredients and bountiful tastes. You might meet, say, a French artist, a TV celebrity, the owner of a fine Lebanese vineyard and a couple of musicians, interior designers and writers… it'll feel as if you've known them forever. Villa Clara is just that sort of place.
Villa ClaraThe original and best boutique hotel in Beirut
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