A pioneer in injecting a community-first spirit into neighbourhoods that are on the rise, US hotel group Ace has been paving the future for conscious travellers since the launch of its first outpost in Seattle, some 20 years ago (a repurposed halfway house that continues to thrive). We cross the East River from Manhattan to an edgier, lesser-trodden pocket of Brooklyn to visit its newest New York address.
Situated on Schermerhorn Street, bounded by the bustling Fort Greene and Boerum Hill, Ace Hotel Brooklyn houses 287 guest rooms, a forward-thinking concept store, exhibition space, dazzling destination restaurant, 80s-inspired fitness studio and super-sexy bar. Interiors, helmed by hospitality brand Roman and Williams, feature artworks imagined by a collaboration of local and emerging talent - an ethos of supporting the arts is stitched into every space throughout the property.
On arrival, we find ourselves enthralled by a dramatic double-height light display fixed above the hotel's glass-fronted doors. We are told that this sculptural spectacle is an installation by artist Stan Bitters, and pause to take in the materials that form the shell of the 13-storey space, from brushed concrete to rich mahogany and matte-black metal. It is an exterior that effortlessly marries glitz and grit.
Stepping inside, we're greeted with the sort of nod you'd give your mate down the pub - and we mean that in the best way possible. A keycard and hit-list of food, drinks and cultural delights later, we have our first chance to soak up the stylish set-up properly: hipsters buried amid a mish-mash of leather sofas and velvet pouffes; digital nomads huddled in a chic, softly lit co-working den; sparkly-eyed couples at the bar; and girlfriends racing upstairs with pizza boxes bigger than our carry-on. We think this might just be our favourite Ace outpost to date.
The dazzling light installation by artist Stan Bitters frames the hotel's front doors.
There are 287 rooms, all with the legendary high-spec Ace finish, and designed to complement the bolthole's industrial-inspired architecture. This plays out through the use of raw concrete, factory-style windows, plywood and playful pops of colour. We recharged our batteries in one of the suites, where handcrafted textiles backdrop a bespoke sofa, a handy desk space comes topped with turntables and hand-picked vinyls, and a king-sized bed is dressed in hand-loomed cottons crafted by Maine Heritage Weavers.
Outfit planning for a day in the Big Apple is no easy sport. Rest assured, there's a healthy amount of storage and activity space for those that require a runway practice - there are hangers etched with the words "you look good in that" for moral support, too. And for when your too tired to take another step on the sidewalk? There's an airy en-suite complete with organic Uka toiletries and fluffy robes perfect for lounging in.
What's for breakfast?
Pastry chef Danny Alvarez rustles up plates of sweet, seasonal stuff in the bakery. On-the-go breakfast? A sticky cinnamon bun has your name scribbled all over it. Prefer something a little more savoury? There's brown rice porridge, avocado on toast or old-fashioned pancakes on hand for that. Kinder than it sounds is the green monster smoothie, which we urge you to order - all energy-giving kale, kiwi, cucumber and ginger whipped together with chunks of green apple. Those staying on the weekend are in for a treat, when a top-notch brunch menu comes out to play. Standouts include New England oysters, chicken Caesar salad and griddled banana bread. There's a killer cocktail menu, too.
An edgy suite corner, left, and a snapshot of an en-suite.
How about lunch and dinner?
Prepare to feast. All-day dining restaurant As You Are is beautifully decorated with mosaic-clad walls, letterboard menus, olive-green tiled floors, leather banquettes and bistro-style seating. Executive chef Ryan Jordan celebrates the ever-evolving flavours of Brooklyn in a menu loaded with regional and seasonal ingredients. We started by ordering a plate of the Maplebrook burrata, before tucking into the octopus-mezcal ragu, sprinkled with oregano and perfectly aged parmesan. Dessert is the kind of treat that lends itself to a post-meal snooze: the warm apple pie served alongside bourbon ice cream gets the job done.
Is there a bar?
Yep, The Lobby, and it's the sort of bar that makes ordering a(nother) last round seem like a grand idea. Backed by a spotlight window and flanked by concrete pillars, it's stacked with swoon-worthy glassware and crowned with a wooden countertop studded with warm pendant lamps. Classic cocktails are made contemporary with playful names: "the expat" - a fun spin on a margarita, made with mezcal, Lillet Blanc, crème de cacao and dry vermouth - caught our attention. There's also a leafy oasis, The Garden, where low-intervention wines are showcased.
On the third floor, you'll find a 24-hour gym that makes the word "HIIT" seem exciting - hear us out. Brought to life by a partnership with streetwear label Yeah, I Work Out, the well-equipped studio pays homage to Brooklyn's bodybuilding roots through real-life trophies, vintage prints of icons and a stellar soundtrack. Guests can get their hands on duffle bags, water bottles, towels and tees from the capsule collection.
Rotating exhibitions at The Gallery spotlight a collection of fine art, fashion, literature and technology in an open, wood-panelled space capped by a skylight. During our visit, we saw works by Faten Gaddes and Nazanin Noroozi - a group of sculptures reflecting on the themes of displacement and instability.
How about their green credentials?
The Ace group is lauded for its efforts in living a green existence, using salvaged materials for building materials, recycled furnishings and organic produce wherever possible. Guests will find cork signs stating that sheets and towels are refreshed every third day, but can be changed sooner on request.
What about accessibility?
All communal spaces are accessible for those with reduced mobility. There are three adapted room types to choose from, spanning doubles to suites, each equipped with grab bars and lowered peepholes.
What's the crowd like?
Plenty of millennials living it up with their best pals, and a fair few loved-up couples, too.
Things I should know
There's an old-school photo booth on the ground floor, allowing you to snap a selection of shots for the memory album with your partner in crime.
Within a short walk I can find…
You're in Brooklyn - the options are endless. Head to Brooklyn Museum for a roster of exhibitions (a showcase of Virgil Abloh's work is running until 29 January), Gold Sounds for indie music gigs, and Paulie Gee's for the best wood-fired pizza in NYC. Keen to secure that iconic selfie beneath the bridge? Visit Washington Street at dusk.
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