With the opening of The Curtain hotel, London’s Shoreditch is officially the coolest borough in the U.K. capital.
With the opening of The Curtain, New York hotelier Michael Achenbaum brings his neighbourhood-making pedigree to the U.K.’S coolest borough
DESPITE WHAT YOU might hear on the news, London is booming. Never mind Brexit or bombings — look up toward the city’s characteristically gloomy skies and you’ll see nothing but cranes. Buildings shoot up from rubble at record speed. Trains spill out into stations with record numbers of people: newcomers, visitors, and lifelong Londoners alike. The city just keeps growing. And nowhere in the city is this truer than in Shoreditch. Located in London’s increasingly trendy East End, Shoreditch straddles the buttoned-up City of London (where all the banking happens) and youthful Hackney and Hoxton (where all the drinking happens). As a result, the borough is equal parts work and play, a hotspot for creatives of all types.
It’s also where Michael Achenbaum is currently kneeling on the sidewalk, picking a cigarette butt off the marble tiling outside one of the newest of those buildings. Achenbaum is the — meticulous, fastidious, incomparably energetic — owner of The Curtain, a hotel and private members’ club that opened in late spring. He’s spent the last four years working on this project, which now takes up a full city block just off Shoreditch’s main drag, joining The Hoxton and The Ace in the live/work/play pantheon of boutique hotels in this small corner of the city. In jeans and a beat-up leather jacket, he bounds around the hotel, saying hello to everyone on staff and orchestrating finishing touches as though he didn’t have a staff of hundreds to attend to them. “Details are so important,” he says. “It kills me that I see things nobody else does.”
Achenbaum has made a name for himself as someone who obsesses over every little thing — in the best, most productive way possible. When he opened his first property, the Gansevoort Hotel in New York’s Meatpacking District in 2004, he almost single-handedly gentrified the neighbourhood — and kicked off a wave of trendy, high-design boutique hotels and restaurants throughout the city. For The Curtain, he’s at yet another forefront in hospitality trends: the hotel/members’ club combo that seems to be taking London by storm right now. And he has paid particular attention to the details here, especially when it comes to collaborating. The hotel features three restaurants, including the first European restaurant by James Beard Award–winning chef Marcus Samuelsson; it
boasts a Gansevoort-style rooftop pool of the type there aren’t (unsurprisingly) very many of in London; it has a gym that might be more at home in an NFL clubhouse than in a hotel, a particular point of pride for Achenbaum, who works out ritualistically; and it features, on almost every wall, an art collection curated by the British photographer Mick Rock. Among the spectacles: pieces by Rock, original Richard Avedon prints of the Beatles, and a Banksy from Achenbaum’s personal collection.
“I love making something people will love,” says Achenbaum. “I never set out to be an operations guy. I’m not an expert on construction. I’m not even that creative. But I choose the right people and I let them do their thing — I provide the box for them to play in, and the results are usually amazing.” Like on opening weekend in May, for example, when the basement whisky bar and adjacent dance club were packed for a one-night-only DJ set by Courtney Love. It’s like we said: London is booming, and nowhere is this truer than in Shoreditch.
1. The Curtain’s warehouse-like red brick digs are home to 120 guest rooms and three restaurants. 2. Awash in sea-blue hues, Mediterranean eatery Lido sits next to the rooftop pool. 3. The Curtain’s visionary owner, Michael Achenbaum. 4. Suites adopt a refined-industrial look, contrasting steelframed windows with plenty of luxe marble.