Bar Staff, New Hotel Le Pharo, MarseilleThe New Hotel of Le Pharo is an unusual mix of tradition and super-hip modernism. You enter through a sweet little provençal kitchen garden into a lobby based in the former Institut Pasteur, a 19th century medical research centre. After that, though, all is ultra-contemporary.

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From the lobby a shallow flight of steps takes you into the bar/dining area, Le Victor Café, whose plate-glass windows look out on a swimming pool with a wide teak terrace.

Here an affordable set menu at weekday lunch-times offers a rotating choice of local specialities: alouettes sans têtes, pieds et paquets and the customary Friday aïoli.

Its young Marseille chef, Jérôme Pollo, trained with Alain Ducasse and with Lionel Lévy at the city's Michelin-starred Une Table, au Sud (Le Victor Café is also open to the public).

Both in the bedrooms and in the public areas, a minimalist monochrome base - anthracite-grey concrete floors, white walls - is splashed with rainbow pop art.

In a rather arch touch, the staff are required to sport little coloured children's badges and black shirts with colour-coded numbers and names on the back ("46 Bell Boy", "13 Food and Beverage") as though they were football players.

Lobby, New Hotel of Marseille Le PharoThe artworks scattered throughout (pictured, a familiar face by Toma L, or Thomas Labarthe) are personally selected by the owner of the chain, Georges Antoun, the Marseille-born, self-made-businessman who opened his first hotel in the town in 1968.

Antoun has been in the vanguard of the rise and rise of Marseille as a tourist destination. As late as 2006, when he launched the New Hotel Le Pharo along with his brother, Jean-Claude, it was Marseille's first four-star establishment in 16 years.

There are three other New Hotels in town but this one is the flagship (make sure your booking is for the New Hotel Pharo).

The downsides: watch out for the hidden extras. The rooms contain individual espresso machines, but you will pay for every single coffee you make. Breakfast, not included, is pricey too.

Bedroom, New Hotel of Marseille Le PharoLike the Sofitel Vieux Port, which it lies almost directly opposite, the New Hotel Le Pharo is a brisk 15-minute walk from the centre.

But, unlike the Sofitel, it's cut off from the sea by the coastal road and few of its 100 rooms look on to the Old Port (the sea can be seen from a handful of suites with private terraces on the top floor). From that point of view, it's very definitely on the wrong side of the tracks.

Visited April 2011

Where: 71 boulevard Charles Livon, 13007 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 31 53 15. Fax: (+33) 4 91 31 20 00. Book a room at New Hotel of Marseille Le Pharo

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