As an East Ender born and bred I'm always astonished that there are hotels in this once-despised working-class area of the capital. Time was, you'd be hard pressed to get anyone to visit, let alone stay the night. How things have changed. Today, The Curtain is tucked away behind an unsightly multi-storey car park on Great Eastern Street but also beautifully situated on the nexus of the ultra-trendy areas of Old Street, Hoxton and Shoreditch.
You could be forgiven for walking past The Curtain without noticing it, so low-key is it from street level. A purpose-built red brick square with just 120 rooms and suites, this boutique hotel aims at a Manhattan loft-style ethic and is the first European venture for New York hotelier Michael Achenbaum. But while it might be compact it's also packed full of goodies.
Hotel apart, it's also a restaurant, live music venue and members' club. There's an outpost (the first) of Harlem's renowned Red Rooster restaurant downstairs as well as a guests-only rooftop restaurant, bar and heated pool. In the basement there's also an intimate burlesque-style club/live performance space and screening room. There's also a well-equipped gym.
From the black and white zig-zag of the tiles in the high-ceilinged, chandeliered foyer to the fun photographs of rock stars in the hallways and rooms, The Curtain is young, vibrant, cool, quirky and very confident.
My Shoreditch Suite isn't huge and there isn't much of a view (unless you're into brutalist car parks), but it's perfectly proportioned and beautifully furnished to make the most of the space. And I love a luxurious claw-footed bath as much as the next man (though what it's doing in the bedroom is anybody's guess) but finding out the commodious rain shower also doubles as a steam room makes my day.
Hardwood floors, a shot-silk Chesterfield sofa, desk with a stylish green leather chair, flat-screen TV, marble bathroom and a supremely comfortable king-size bed complete the picture. And you really have to love a mini-bar that not only contains The Botanist (a dry gin from Scotland's isle of Islay) but also a bottle of 16-year-old Lagavulin (also from Islay), an Overindulgence Survival Kit and a Love Kit (£25 a pop and containing 1x whip, 1 x vibe, 1 x couples ring, 1 x love dice, 1 x lube and 2 x condoms – what these things are, or for, is anybody's guess).
The toiletries are from the amusingly named Bish Bash Bosh range and the inside door of my wardrobe is a cute teenager's wall of crudely cut-out magazine photographs of David Bowie, Elton John, Iggy Pop and Tina Turner.
There are three choices in-house; chef Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster with its South American-via-Harlem vibe, the rooftop all-purpose, guest-only LIDO and the cool ground-floor Tienda Roosteria, which dispenses guacamole, tacos and tequilas from lunchtime every day.
We ate dinner in Red Rooster in the lower ground floor and came away happy, fulfilled by the food and charmed by the efficient and friendly staff. If you go, please do not go past the amazing corn bread and the delicious herbed chicken (a great tip from the reception staff). If I had time to go back it'd be for the Sunday brunch, which is accompanied by the house gospel choir (yes, indeed). The cocktails are excellent, too.
Breakfast is served in the LIDO restaurant, which has a retractable roof should the weather in London ever be warm enough. There's the usual continental option or you can go the full English brekkie from the a la carte menu. Like my room, it's not huge but the quality of the produce really does shine through.
With Old Street, Hoxton and Shoreditch on the doorstep it's hard to know which way to turn. If you head toward Old Street, chuck a right at the big roundabout and look for a queue – this will be the punters waiting to get into Nightjar, a subterranean live jazz and blues bar with cocktails that are pure theatre. Try the Alchemist Brew if you go. Hubble bubble indeed.
Nearby Hoxton Square is essentially wall-to-wall bars and restaurants arrayed around a small central park while Shoreditch Town Hall, just a short walk away, contains the Michelin-starred Clove Club (book in advance).
Frankly, the area is so awash with pubs and bars and restaurants that it's hard to go wrong. There's curry in Brick Lane of course and the area around Great Eastern Street and Kingsland Road is festooned with good Vietnamese.
A funky new boutique hotel that has hit the ground running. Eminently relaxing and comfortable and full of wit and verve. And it sits at the crossroads of some of the hippest areas in London so you'll never run out of things to do.
45 Curtain Road, London, EC2A 3PT, England. Phone +44 (0) 203 146 4545, see thecurtain.com
Keith Austin was a guest of The Curtain.
The vibe, the live music and the tasty comfort food in Red Rooster – though the shower that turns into a steam room at the flick of a switch comes a close second.
The pool on the roof is not so much a pool as a large bath. It's also right alongside the LIDO bar and restaurant, where patrons can eat lunch while watching you flopping around just a metre or so away.