Long gone are the days when the hotel lobby bar was a fallback—the easy meeting place where the focus was on the meeting, not the generic drinks at hand. Having morphed into a rather grand lounge with top-shelf spirits, the lobby bar has become a smart hotel’s draw—its statement of style, if you will. And the best, most creative bars deliver on both the design and the cocktail fronts.
With its new Green Room, The Curtain Hotel and Members Club in East London has upped the ante on lobby bars. And beverage director Jenny Willing, of Dandelyan Bar fame, has turned the cocktail menu into a celebration of her favorite places in Shoreditch. The Rough Trade, for instance, a cocktail in the trendy tiki style, gets a Bangladeshi twist inspired by Brick Lane.
It’s no surprise that green—emerald, peacock—pops on the palette here. Designer Ellie Horwell juxtaposes long curtains and velvet banquettes against concrete and jewel-toned tile for a balance of energy and comfort as well as a nod to the industrial surroundings.
A native of Glasgow, Willing brings multipronged experience to this venture, from training in product design to a pursuit of great produce for a seafood restaurant she opened on the Isle of Mull. Her creative cocktail credentials were fully locked in at Iain Griffith’s and Ryan Chetiyawardana’s Dandelyan bar, which she managed and where she famously explored what unusual qualities plants could bring to her cocktails.
At the Green Room, Willing is right on trend. As she puts it, “In London we are still very much drinking like the Europeans. With the long summer days, the aperitivo reigns supreme. And another trend shows no signs of slowing—low ABV drinking. Having a fino sherry and tonic or a vermouth spritzer is a great way to last the distance. One of our cocktails, Strawberry Thief, is a take on a classic Italian spritzer—Grey Goose L’Orange combined with orange blossom, wild strawberry vermouth, Prosecco, and green leaf bitters make for a light, fragrant summer drink that you can enjoy on a work night.”
And The Curtain, she says, loves anything London-made. “Bloomsbury Distillery produces a London-made, French-style Amer. It’s citrus-forward with notes of dry spice and dried flowers. East London Liquor Company has a distillery practically on our doorstep, creating a wonderful London dry gin and one of our new favorites, Demerara rum.” It’s a key component of a cocktail she calls their Baby Grand, the Green Room’s luxurious twist on a classic Airmail. Welcome to the neighborhood!