By Terry Trucco
At a glance: If I were building a stylish boutique hotel from the ground up in Brooklyn, bustling, industrial Fourth Avenue would not be an obvious location. So why is this attractive, eight-story glass-encased mini-tower, opened in 2007, sandwiched here between a taxi depot and a line-up of big-box businesses like Pep Boys and Staples?
My guess is the owners were banking that the leafy hipness of Park Slope, the pleasing, tree-lined neighborhood nearby, will stretch across Fourth Avenue. That hasn’t happened yet, and Hotel Le Bleu seems all dressed up with no place to go.
It is smartly dressed, in chic contemporary fabrics and mid-century-modern wit. Little bleu lights wink from the elevators and floor. And though two sleek charcoal sofas provide the only seating in the light-filled envelope of a lobby (the large check-in counter is the main attraction), stylish tables and chairs dress up the patio around the entry if you want to take in the air, if not the view. (Parking lot, anyone?)
One of Brooklyn’s first boutique hotels (and moderately prices, to boot), Hotel Le Bleu is an agreeable addition (it opened at a time when Comfort Inns were your main choice in the borough). You won’t walk to Brooklyn’s marquee attractions, like the Botanical Gardens, Brooklyn Museum or the Brooklyn Academy of Music unless you’re a marathoner. But parking is free (remember the lot?). You can stroll to the appealing neighborhood restaurants and shops on nearby Fifth Avenue. Views of the Manhattan skyline from the hotel’s upper floors are true bleu. And prices can be agreeable, too.
Rooms: The rooms I saw looked like the website pictures — contemporary, clean and (relatively) spacious, though not as big as we’d expect in Brooklyn. The entry is inviting, cocoa-brown carpeting in a mid-century-mod texture and huge windows opening onto the balcony. (For drop-dead views – and quieter nights — opt for a room facing Manhattan instead of Brooklyn). But rooms were starting to show their age, especially the outmoded dust ruffles on the beds. Time for an update.
I also liked the deconstructed bathroom: a little room with a sliding glass door to hide the toilet, a chic raised white sink, a dressing area visible from the main room and – drum roll – a large glassed in shower stall; you can gaze into the room while you wash or pull the external curtain around the cubicle for privacy.
Food and drink: A breakfast basket, it coffee, tea and light bites, is included in the price of the room. And each room has a stack of menus from Park Slope restaurants that deliver. The stylish rooftop restaurant, bar and lounge is closed. Neighbors complained of noise; no word on whether it will reopen.
Amenities: Great electronics, as you’d expect in a new building: 37-inch flatpanel TV with Direct TV, Bose radio and CD player, free WiFi, an iPod docking station, coffee and tea service. Free local calls. For security purposes, elevators won’t ascend without a room key card. A complimentary breakfast basket comes in every room. No fitness center; guests can use a gym several blocks away for $10 a day.
Surroundings: There’s a hospital across the bustling, heavily trafficked street and big box stores next door, but Park Slope’s charms beckon a block or so away, starting with Stone Park Café, a top-notch local restaurant specializing in New American cuisine, and one-of-a-kind stores like Brooklyn Mercantile, a clever sewing and gift shop.
Prime attractions like the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Prospect Park, Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Museum and Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) are not within walking distance but are easily reached by subway. Smith Street’s line-up of cool restaurants and DUMBO’s hip shops are also an easy hop by subway. Manhattan is also a short subway ride away.
Better yet, take the R train from Fourth Avenue (at Ninth Street) to Borough Hall and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge (stroll down Montague Street toward the East River to the fabled Promenade affording fabulous Manhattan views, exit onto Columbia Heights, walk downhill to the square at the base of the bridge and follow the crowd; you’ll wind up near City Hall when you reach Manhattan).
The Fourth Avenue subway stop is a five-block walk from the hotel, and bus stops are near the subway. And with a taxi garage nearby, hailing a cab is a snap. The hotel is also ideally situated for baseball fans to catch the subway to see the Brooklyn Cyclones, Brooklyn’s beloved Triple A team.
Back story: Park Slope ends on the opposite side of Fourth Avenue making Hotel Le Bleu a part of the Gowanus area, technically. (The infamous Gowanus canal is visible from the hotel’s roof and many of the rooms.) Industrial Gowanus is currently home to a new Holiday Inn Express and a Comfort Inn, making Hotel Le Bleu an outlier boutique.
Opened in 2007, the hotel was built from scratch and is the first in a chain of small, French-name-inflected boutiques that also includes Hotel La Jolie in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section.
Keep in mind: The hotel feels isolated, a plus or minus depending on your point of view. The Brooklyn Museum, listed as a nearby attraction on the website, is a 35-to-40 minute walk. (I timed it.) That said, it’s an enjoyable walk that takes you past some terrific Park Slope restaurants and shops. Whenever I’ve visited, only one of the two elevators has been working.