A new wave of hotels in Brooklyn is drawing the attention of hipster Williamsburg to showcase the area’s lesser-known neighborhoods – and the arrival of the Ace Hotel brand in downtown should make New York City visitors reconsider and consider making Brooklyn, rather than Manhattan, their home base.
Where it is?
Ace Hotels is famous for finding places that are just starting to grow and then helping them to develop – and the chain’s Brooklyn establishment is part of this tradition. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly random location on a street that stands out only because of its subway station – from where it’s 15 minutes to lower Manhattan – this place in downtown Brooklyn sits on the border of several up-and-coming neighborhoods.
Leafy Boerum Hill with rows of tenement houses and picturesque Cobble Hill, where 19th-century architecture meets trendy cafes and boutiques, are two of the most charming places to stroll. On Smith Street, just minutes from the hotel entrance, there are independent bars and restaurants vying for space, and the Lululemon branch testifies to the area’s aspirations.
The Ace Brooklyn, like its siblings, is all about working, eating, drinking, and zooming together – “lobby culture” rules here. When we check in around 7pm on a Tuesday night, there is a buzz in the air – a crowd of employees sitting around a long communal table, relaxing and enjoying happy hour. With its warm paneling and soft leather sofas, the bar fills up and the lights are dimmed to just the right level for first dates and all-night cocktail sipping.
It’s all deliberately retro, giving Ace’s signature concrete and black steel a Mad Men-like touch. Sculptural lighting and artwork by local artists add color and character, while an old-fashioned photo booth in one corner nods towards the hipster cred the brand has built and for which – let’s face it – people still flock to the brand. And if you really want to buy it all, there’s an Ace merch store by the front desk.
The 287 rooms are inspired by architect Le Corbusier’s modernist holiday cottage “Le Cabanon” on the Côte d’Azur – with mid-century wooden furniture and flashes of dark green juxtaposed with more concrete and steel. Some have turntables with a selection of Rough Trade-selected vinyl, others have guitars – although I don’t hear anyone strumming during our stay. While not very large, the rooms are spacious enough by New York standards – with a desk, Smeg fridge, clothes rail, and enough maneuverability for two in the bathroom, as long as one of you brushes your teeth at the concrete sink while the other is in the shower. I was on the 13th floor and had an exceptional view of the Statue of Liberty, a pleasure to look down from our comfortable bed with a biodegradable mattress.
food and drink
The main event is the signature restaurant As You Are, a 130-seat all-day restaurant that bills itself as a ‘bar, restaurant and bakery’. Tick, tick and tick. In the morning we grab coffee and rolls to go from the bakery’s tempting counter – the brainchild of renowned pastry chef Danny Alvarez – although there is a full brunch menu available for those who prefer to sit back. Don’t miss the pastel de nata and maple pecan donuts for sugar starters.
Dinner is a social get-together, with warm wooden tables, neon lighting, and a bar that come to life, and Brooklynites and residents alike will enjoy the dishes of chef Ryan Jordan, who previously worked at the hotel’s Manhattan location. I’d come here even if I wasn’t staying at the hotel, and that’s the idea – a friend who lives nearby suggests coming over for dinner, that’s the locals’ reputation for good food. The menu is seasonal: we like oysters and celery and pear salads. The main course of grass-fed beef strips (a tender and little-used part of the tenderloin) is seared and served with artichokes and bone marrow.
Possibly more interesting (to me) is the drink menu, which features local beers, including those from the up-and-coming Talea All-Female Brewery in nearby Williamsburg. Cocktails are best enjoyed in the main bar due to the clean atmosphere, although the “Howard” (bourbon, vino amaro, vermouth) and ordered as my father’s name was too strong for a digestif.
Ace may not have a rooftop pool, but the gym deserves a special mention – designed in collaboration with streetwear/gym brand, Yeah, I Work Out. Vintage bodybuilder posters, retro gear and 80s trophies resonate with the vintage vibe this hotel wants to capture, but in a way that doesn’t take itself (or exercise) too seriously.
Another element of the Ace brand is the so-called “Stoop” – a set of concrete steps outside the main entrance, intended as a nod to Brooklyn’s traditional Brownstone and where residents and locals alike are encouraged to stop, spend time, or eat those mornings pastries.
Boerum Hill can be off the beaten track, especially for first-time visitors to New York.
But it’s perfectly located if your destination is Barclays Center Arena, where you can watch Brooklyn Nets basketball or Bruce Springsteen on the road.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music is just a few blocks away. If you’d rather get to the city by water than by subway, don’t miss the Brooklyn Heights Boardwalk, a 1,826-foot boardwalk with unforgettable views of the Manhattan skyline and ferry stops.
And don’t forget to stroll through picturesque Cobble Hill, which is within easy reach, and the typical rows of Boerum Hill brownstone townhouses.
Get the best of Brooklyn off the beaten track, but still capture the attention of New York City.
Rooms from $199; acehotel.com/brooklyn