London’s Latest Watering Hole Blends In Like It’s Always Been There

By Christopher Metler

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Michael Achenbaum, the vibrant hotelier who led the revitalization of New York City’s once-gritty Meatpacking District, after opening the first luxury hotel in the neighbourhood, Hotel Gansevoort in 2004, remembers his earliest stopover in Shoreditch quite vividly.

Written by Chris Metler 

“It had the same raw and yet, ‘about to burst’ sensation I felt when I first visited Meatpacking,” he recalls of the formerly industrial quarter in London’s historic East End. “The whispers of the coming wave of new restaurants and retail was palpable.”

After having introduced a second Gansevoort property to much fanfare in Manhattan’s NoMad hotbed in 2010, as well as expanding the Gansevoort marque to Turks and Caicos and the Dominican Republic, respectively, Achenbaum decided to turn his eye to a debut European venture.

Settling upon Shoreditch was a no-brainer.

London’s Creative Hub

“Shoreditch is the kind of market that you would launch a brand from,” Achenbaum reveals, no doubt referring to its eclectic energy and ongoing gentrification. In that sense, it reminded him of what he’d previously uncovered in New York, though “Shoreditch is a lot further ahead than where the Meatpacking was at the time,” Achenbaum adds.

Which meant when Achenbaum and his team were deliberating what they wanted to do there brand-wise, style-wise and concept-wise, they contemplated what would be appropriate for Shoreditch’s community and client base, only to realize their existing Gansevoort brand wasn’t exactly what both groups were looking for.

So, in 2017, following a partnership with co-developers Douglaston, SUSD and Hondo Enterprises, Achenbaum unveiled The Curtain, a full-service urban resort which fuses the best of luxury hospitality and the dynamism of creative East London.

Laid out by global hospitality interior design firm Duncan Miller Ullman, The Curtain fully embraces the area’s striking art, design and technology culture, whilst encompassing New York’s modern industrial feel. It features 120 guest rooms and suites, each exuding an opulent, quirky aesthetic, from exposed brick walls, hardwood flooring and modern lighting, to custom-designed artwork by iconic British rock ‘n’ roll photographer, Mick Rock.

Do as the Londoners do

The Curtain is also home to Lido, a Moroccan-styled rooftop pool and all-day brasserie set against the backdrop of East London’s townified skyline. On top of that, there’s Red Rooster eatery, from celebrated Marcus Samuelsson, on of New York’s most celebrated chefs, a 24-hour Vault Gym, a lounge-style screening room, and exclusive members club, which houses its own cocktail bar and live performance expanse, where secret gigs with big-name acts are frequent.

Despite all the publicity circling the project since it was announced in 2013, Achenbaum concedes that rolling out The Curtain unaccompanied by the established, and sought-after, Gansevoort proprietary name was a risk—it was calculated risk, however.

“The fact that we added a members club component here made me feel uncomfortable calling it a members-only Gansevoort, because that is not what we do with our other properties,” Achenbaum says. “Ultimately, it didn’t go over with me to have an existing brand, and then change what everyone’s perception of that brand is.”

As it relates to The Curtain’s private members club, Achenbaum knew, culturally, that these were a huge part of what goes on in London, except he didn’t want to do a nightclub.

“We wanted to create something that would have longevity; something that would be interesting to people for a long period of time and grow by itself. When we looked at what we were going to develop, financially and creatively, members-only really made sense as well.”

To be certain, a members-only club was a new endeavour for Achenbaum. He had to start by outreaching to many key players in East London, and building real friendships based on the common goal of creating a collective of like-minded individuals.

“The ideal and mission is for a home where the members feel free to collaborate and socialize, while we provide an entertaining and value-added experience,” he explains. “We believe we have met this goal and continue to build upon it.”

Choose Your Own Adventure

All this in mind, it begs one to consider just how vital the need to “stand out” in today’s boutique hotel categorywas for Achenbaum. Not just in Shoreditch, but the whole of London, especially. After all, The Curtain opened alongside a host of other high-profile hotels in the city last year.

“It was very important,” he admits. “But ultimately, it’s up to our patrons to choose the atmosphere that suits them best. Our concept and what we offer — whether you are a hotel guest, member or trying one of our restaurants — is quite unique. At The Curtain, we try to ensure that everything we do is very curated and personalized, and I think anyone who spends time here gets a sense of that.”

If early acclaim is any indication, then Achenbaum’s hit the bullseye—again. Condé Nast Traveller deemed The Curtain as “Shoreditch’s new hotspot,” while national British daily The Telegraph remarked at its “unpretentious and upbeat” vibe. The hotel has even been shortlisted for two 2017 AHEAD awards, which recognize design in all its forms, and the guest experiences created in hospitality projects worldwide.

For all the overwhelming feedback Michael Achenbaum has so far received about The Curtain, there’s one bit that stands out most; his decision fashion a brand separate from Gansevoort was good one, and harkens back to his initial impression of Shoreditch’s potential.

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