ON THE SCENE: NEW OPENINGS SEPT 2015
If you live in one of the world’s metropolitan hubs, then you’ll be familiar with Opening Fatigue, the medically-recognised condition with symptoms that include excessive Instagramming, ‘dad bod’, and FoMO. When you’re back from Googling those last two, we shall commence. It can be a bit too much, can’t it? A dizzying cycle of hip new spots, Instagram-envy and not-enough-nights-in-the-week. Hotels; bars; restaurants; pop-ups; pop-downs … but we’ve got to keep up, because there is simply nothing more terrifying than Erm-yeah Syndrome — the ailment that forces you to utter an unconvincing affirmative response to that most foreboding of questions: “you have been to [insert name of obscenely hip new restaurant], haven’t you?”. You can tell me, you hadn’t even heard of it, had you?
You know what you need? A specialist. Which is exactly why you’re here. We’re going to be running over some of the world’s most swelteringly-hot openings on a bi-monthly basis, ensuring we keep fevers associated with the afore-discussed disorder at bay. I am going to stop short at referring to myself as a doctor, but what follows is most definitely my prescription for an eventful Autumn.
We’re going to begin in Paris where this whole palaver probably began; the bourgeoisie during La Belle Époque surely the first to have got dizzy at a profusion of fancy new venues. The socialites of that time will have indulged many of their vices, no less than in the Pigalle district’s ‘maison closes’, lavishly decked out dens of iniquity where the well-heeled gentlemen of that era could find a “companion”. Quite. The workers have moved on, but the opulence remains — fabulous new hotel Maison Soquet revelling in former glories, and hinting at the ‘moment’ this area is currently enjoying.
And, as is often the way in Paris, there are other new openings with glory days at their heart. Following a three-year restoration project by owner Samy Marciano and acclaimed designer Dorothée Meilichzon, Hôtel Bachaumont in Les Halles has restored the prestige it enjoyed in the Roaring Twenties. There’s plenty of that unmistakable Parisian elegance to be had here, with Art Deco leanings, Carrara marble, and a wall of mirrors inspired by one at Versailles.
Les Grands Bains Guerbois, opened in 1885, was a private bathhouse founded by François Auguste Guerbois, who occupied the upper echelons of Paris’s high society in the days of the Belle Époque; but it is the building’s more recent history that serves as a starting point for the summer’s most significant opening in the French capital. Les Bains Douches was the nightclub during the ‘80s and ‘90s; Joy Division recorded a live album there, and literally anyone who was too famous to run their own bath partied there. It stumbled clumsily under the weight of its history into the 21st century, but the heady days were gone, and the decadent doors were shut in 2010.
Five years later, those doors are reopen. The club is back (complete with its infamous swimming pool), but it is joined by a spa, restaurant, bar and — most importantly — 39 rooms and suites that doff their collective hats to hedonistic times gone by; replica sofas from Andy Warhol’s Factory are among the bespoke furniture, and you can expect to find Joy Division records knocking around too. Les Bains‘s interiors of the communal spaces scream contemporary opulence at the top of their lungs, and a gallery-esque bohemian boutique across the street (designed by French studio Diplomates, whose portfolio includes London’s Dover Street Market) is quite feasibly the world’s most un-hotel-boutique hotel-boutique.
Worthy of note is a fourth recent hotel opening in the city, although one whose historical references are altogether more refreshing. Eschewing 19th century grandiose or high-society decadence in favour of inter-war modernism and the indifference of the post-war New Wave era, Hotel Henriette is a 32-room Left Bank property that manages the toughest of things: fusing the quaint with the super-cool. With design cues direct from the 1950s brought bang up to date with graphical interventions, the Henriette’s renouncing of intricate carpets, velvet and marble is a welcome diversion.
Four peerless Parisian hotels
A couple of hours on a high speed train will see you in another famous capital and, where Paris’s streets are thronging with new hotels, London’s are dancing to the beat of a different drum; as the Big Smoke’s restaurant scene continues to career along in hyperdrive. We’ve got a quadruplet of new kitchen openings that play in a harmony of great food, great design — starting with Shoreditch’s devastatingly beautiful Rök Smokehouse on Curtain Road.
Nordic cuisine continues to be big news and, here, the region’s techniques (such as brining, pickling and smoking) are put to work on British ingredients; a wooden herringbone bar giving a charming English warmth to a typically cool Scandi space. Nearby, in a non too dissimilar dining room, is Spitalfield’s Taberna do Mercado — a new offering from acclaimed chef Nuno Mendes, who showcases the best that Portugal has to offer in a modest, likeable space that is so no-frills that it wouldn’t surprise me if its designers — Joao Guedes Ramos and Clarise Faria — didn’t even know what frills were.
Embracing embellishments somewhat more gregariously, Cambridge Street Café over in Pimlico welcomes its punters with a trio of cheery candy stripe awnings … setting the tone for a carefree interior that puts salvaged materials side-by-side with artwork from co-owner Charlie Newey’s personal collection. Newey, along with partner Justin Salisbury, have recently opened the café as the street level welcome to their Artists Residence boutique hotel upstairs.
Completing our quartet, just-opened Clerkenwell London is so much more than simply an eatery; the 13,000 square feet, design-led venue is a warren-like network of spaces dedicated to selling art, fashion, homewares and plenty more — but let’s focus on the 155 Bar & Kitchen, where Executive Chef Gavin Gordon turns his hand to all sorts of British bistro fare that gives you fantasies of fattening up for winter. There’s a 1970s-inspired Vinyl Lounge; Martini bar; Piano Lounge and private dining retreat. And, being in the capital’s newest design hub, the interiors are to. Die. For.
London’s hottest new kitchens
Let us hop back to continental Europe quickly, before packing our bags for further afar. The elaborate canal network of the Netherlands’ capital are the backdrop for a duo of new hotels, both chipping away at the fabric of what it means to be a hotel. First up, The Hoxton continues its global expansion — furthering the ‘lobby is king’ philosophy that Ian Schrager pioneered with their Hoxtown concept that ‘curates’ the best of their ‘hood … putting themselves out there as a hub for their local scene. Where The Hoxton continue to innovate however, is their quiet rebellion against the unnecessary profiteering of international hotel giants; don’t expect to pay through the nose for extras like WiFi or in-room drinks.
Less chipping away and more shoving a stick of dynamite directly underneath the fabric of what it means to be a hotel, non-profit altruistic venture Good Hotel does what it says on the tin. Taking up temporary mooring in the Dutch city for a year, before being shipped across the Atlantic to occupy a permanent berth in the bay of Rio De Janeiro (in time for the 2016 Olympic Games), Good Hotel gives Amsterdam’s long-term unemployed locals a leg up into the hospitality industry, is developing a sports program for children living in Rio’s favelas, and will be building schools in Guatemala, where the project will open a second hotel next year. Good indeed.
A pair of boundary-pushing Amsterdam hotels
Fatigue setting in? You can catch some sleep on the plane, as we’re off to Schiphol airport. Pre-flight safety demonstration done, gin and tonic sank, crap films watched — next stop: New York City, and more hotels. The city that never sleeps is in the midst of a hotel boom; on track to reach an all-time high of 110,000 rooms by 2016. We’re going to cover three newcomers delivering three very different propositions.
Ian Schrager’s return to the city that made him comes in the shape of the New York Edition — which occupies a much-loved section of the Manhattan skyline known locally as The Clocktower, a majestic Gothic building that opened in 1909. Modelled on the Campanile in Venice, The Clocktower is now home to the latest in Schrager’s collaboration with Marriott, which takes direct inspiration from its London counterpart, complete with restaurant from Jason Atherton, in what must be something like his 375th opening of the last few years.
Up Manhattan island a little is another luxury, big brand offshoot — Starwood Capital Group’s new eco-group, 1 Hotels (who debuted on South Beach earlier this year) have just opened up near Central Park and continue their commitment to sustainability, with a green property that personifies their eco-credentials. And lastly is a hotel that continues a different trend, that of accommodation cropping up in NYC boroughs that are NOT Manhattan. Boro Hotel is a newcomer to Queens’ arty neighbourhood Long Island City — where views of the Manhattan skyline’s famous Midtown buildings (like the Empire State Building or United Nations headquarters) are paired with an up-and-coming locale; astounding industrial interiors coming courtesy of designers Grzywinski + Pons.
A NYC hotel couplet
And so, all good things need come to an end, but not before we have ourselves one more stop. If your Instagram account has sufficient room left, we shall make our way across the States … we need ourselves some hazy, decadent sunshine. Destination: La La Land. Los Angeles has hit the cultural headlines recently, thanks to the opening of major new art destination The Broad — a stunning $140 million addition to Grand Avenue, designed by New York agency Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler. In terms of wooing the creative class, L.A. hoteliers are surely high-fiving all over the place, as the city continues to heighten its international profile as a major creative force.
Cashing in on the creative capital is the growing French-born hotel chain Mama Shelter, who take their price-conscious design-led brand out of Europe for the first time. Designer Thierry Gaugain replaces Philippe Starck on the project, but plenty remains for those familiar with their hotels in France and Istanbul, a fun-loving design peppered with eccentric and quirky moments that justify its position on Hollywood Boulevard.
Hungry? Let’s wrap things up with an addition to another scene blossoming in the City of Angels. Former The French Laundry man Shawn Pham’s Simbal is the result of four years spent living in Ho Chi Minh City, immersing himself in his family’s heritage, and is currently the city’s hot ticket — table-side food carts bring in the spirit of Saigon, whilst a staunch interior from designers Studio Unltd sees a centrally-located open kitchen as its focal point.
Three new venues to fuel L.A.’s continuing ascendency
And there we have it … Opening Fatigue in the extreme. Did you pack any Beroccas?