I find Michael Achenbaum sitting in the lobby of The Curtain, poring over his phone as two tiny dogs—one his, named Shoreditch; one his girlfriend’s, named Mustard—perch cutely beside him. I say his name and he looks up with a friendly albeit surprised expression.
Achenbaum is a busy man, the co-founder of the Gansevoort hotel chain along with the London hotel and members club we currently inhabit, so he is forgiven for being a bit confused when I tell him we have an interview. It turns out someone forgot to send him a calendar invite, and he needs those to navigate his hectic schedule. “I just happen to be here,” he admits, and even though he is about to meet up with his girlfriend and I am clearly crashing date night, he ushers me (and Mustard, and Shoreditch) to Lido, The Curtain’s chic, glass-encased rooftop restaurant. With a charcuterie plate on its way and the dogs happily wandering about the place, Achenbaum explains why London’s hip Shoreditch neighbourhood was the perfect location to branch out from the Gansevoort name.
“Shoreditch is the kind of market that you would launch a brand from, and when we were looking at what we wanted to do brand-wise and style-wise and concept-wise, we considered what would be appropriate for this neighbourhood and this client base, and we didn’t think that an existing brand was really what they were looking for,” he says. “When I was looking at what we were going to develop financially and creatively, members-only really made sense as well. So when I was doing that, I also would have felt uncomfortable calling it a members-only Gansevoort. It didn’t really make sense to me to have an existing brand and then change what everyone’s perception of that brand is.”
The first Gansevoort was opened by Achenbaum and his father in the Meatpacking District of New York in 2004—a time when the area was not the trendy, upscale destination that it is today. With its swish decor and rooftop pool, Gansevoort Meatpacking NYC was a catalyst for renewal. Maybe The Curtain will do the same thing for Shoreditch. “I think this area is a little further ahead socially than the Meatpacking was when we started that project,” Achenbaum says (indeed, other luxury hotel and member clubs including Nobu and Shoreditch House have already opened up here). “I think we are bringing it to a higher level of service and quality of finish than people are used to in this area, but I think that we do it in a manner that it feels appropriate to the neighbourhood.”
The building indeed seems right at home in its surroundings, despite only having opened in May 2017; ubiquitous London brick covers the façade, and there is nothing much showy about it at all. But that’s the point. I mention to Achenbaum that I accidently walked past the hotel on my first visit, and he admits that he originally had a flashy sign designed, but that they ended up going with a simple, subtle placard instead. “We felt a sign would not allow it to really feel like it was part of the neighbourhood,” he says. At the end of the day, for those who want to be here, “they’ll find us.”
It is worth finding. For the general public, there is Marcus Samuelsson’s celebrated Red Rooster restaurant, a sister to the original Harlem location, as well as the Mexican-inspired lounge Tienda Roosteria (for which Samuelsson also designed the menu). Guests of the hotel also have access to the spa, 24-hour gym, and rooftop (which includes Lido and an outdoor pool). And private club members get all of the above plus admittance to the basement, which has a selection of concept spaces for cultural events and cocktails.
Each room feels unto its own; this isn’t a hotel with a cohesive look, and yet, the entire thing somehow works. Lido’s icy-cool blues give it a relaxed vibe, especially when accompanied by a bowl of creamy pasta; Red Rooster feels more like a state of organized chaos, with moody lighting and eclectic artwork on the walls; and the lobby, with chandelier, white columns bordering the elevators, and mirror in gilded frame, feels decidedly European. In the guest rooms, it’s all contemporary sophistication with exposed brick, muted greys, a signature shade of Curtain green, and a noteworthy marble washroom—complete with rainfall shower that also acts as a steam room, much to my boyfriend’s delight.
“This was definitely more personally designed by me,” Achenbaum says of The Curtain compared to Gansevoort’s four locations (two in New York, and two in tropical destinations). “I was really hyper-involved with the designers from DMU [Duncan Miller Ullman] to figure out what the vibe would be in each respective area. It was intentional that each area was very unique in itself; there are no two spaces that I really feel are consistent in design. It’s more I wanted it to be a series of surprises as you walk through the spaces.”
Downstairs in the members-only basement, Achenbaum’s touch shines brightest. “We have a whisky bar called Billy’s, named after my father,” he says. “My dog Shoreditch’s picture is on the wall, and an oil painting of my mother is in the corner.” There is also LP, a club room where DJs play on the weekends—Achenbaum says he envisions Saturday nights eventually becoming their busiest day of the week—and a garden room that has an original piece by legendary British street artist Banksy right in the middle (it is a personal acquisition of Achenbaum and his father). “That’s the Imperial Room; you have imperial roses weaved through the trellises, Moroccan tile,” he continues. “It’s very woody and floral.”
Just then, a restaurant guest comes over to our table and asks if it is alright that his friends are taking turns holding Mustard and Shoreditch. Achenbaum has no problem with it, of course, because he is cool and relaxed and gracious. He asks the man, “Are you a member or a guest?”
“I’m a guest,” he answers, and then pointing to his friend, adds, “He’s a member.”
“Oh, I hope to see you around,” says Achenbaum.
“I’m not VIP,” the guy jokes.
“No,” Achenbaum says. “You are.”
Scroll through our favourite boutique hotel destinations from around the world.