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Fifteen Beacon Hotel

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"Opening . . . eventually" read the banner outside the Fifteen Beacon construction site for most of last year. The 61-room boutique hotel (above, a Deluxe room), which looked like a winner in previews (Departures, July/August 1999), finally opened in late December. Was it worth the wait? In most regards, yes.

The design by Celeste Cooper, creative director of the Boston home design store and studio Repertoire (Departures, January/February 1999), has turned this 10-story Beaux Arts building into a lush, cozy enclave of neutral but rich colors—deep browns, taupes, and creams accented with dashes of red. The materials are uniformly lavish—chairs, desk accessories, even menu covers are made of buttery Italian leather; doors, walls, and bookcases are swathed in mahogany; beds covered in 330-thread-count custom Italian sheets and soft wool coverlets. There are also interesting details throughout: The bronze staircase railing in the lobby was cast in 1902, the trash cans in the rooms are silver wine buckets, clocks are encased in silver frames. Furnishings are democratic, as the smallest, least expensive rooms have a few of the most impressive pieces: hand-carved oak chairs, leather bedside tables, and the ultimate peel-me-a-grape chaise. All rooms have push-button gas fireplaces, and rooms with bathtubs actually feature whirlpools.

Apart from design, though, the hotel is stressing personal service and advanced technology. Being met at the airport by the concierge and ferried around town in a special-edition Mercedes S430, a service provided to all guests, is terrific. The phone system can bounce room calls to a cell phone (provided by the hotel), and every room has a bedside console for selecting music from a satellite. Of course it's all new technology, and it was being a little cranky when I was there, but general manager William Sander, hands-on owner Paul Roiff, and their swarm of technicians should have ironed out the kinks by now.

The only downside is room size: The largest is 497 square feet. (The solution: Book an 02 and 04 room, which can be combined as a 1,000-square-foot, two-room suite.) Regarding location, you'll do better with an even-numbered room. (Odd-numbered rooms look out on the brick wall of a neighboring building.) The 04-series rooms look at the buildings across the street; better are the 02s, which have a view down Beacon Street; best of all are the 06 studios —particularly on the ninth and tenth floors—which have a terrific view of the Prudential Tower and Boston Commons.

The hotel restaurant, The Federalist, is a draw on its own, its bar already a buzzy gathering place for politicos from the State House down the street. The menu showcases chef Robert Fathman's forthright flavors (braised lobster and seared foie gras in a chestnut bourbon cream; roasted rack of lamb with celery root purée, rapini, black currants, Kalamata olives, and dates). Ingredients are topnotch, and the coffee is the best I've ever had in a hotel. (It's provided by a company that monitors how the coffee is served and rescinds supplies if it's not up to par.) The 1,288-bottle wine list, from a 17,000-bottle cellar, has 15 vintages of Pétrus, 17 of Lafite, a 1795 Madeira, and a 1907 Heidsieck Monopole. Even the dishes are beautiful and unique—gold-rimmed Bernardaud from a Celeste Cooper design.

And that's what's great about Fifteen Beacon—Roiff strives for the best, from that gorgeous hotel car to minibars stocked with bottles of Krug and Opus One, chilled cucumber eye cream, orange-tangerine-lavender pulse-point balm, and a rice-filled eye mask in bronze-colored silk. This is easily the best small hotel in town. $395-$3,000. Dinner for two: $100. 15 Beacon Street; 617-670-1500; fax


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