Instead of flocking alongside other East-end-headed hipsters, Thompson Hotels own launch into Europe has landed its downtown styles right into the beating heart of London’s Belgravia – one of the wealthiest districts in the world. Famed chef, Mark Hix, has also been added. But, rather than proffering a signature British menu, he’s created a collection of his favourite dishes from around the world.
Led by the same acclaimed hotelier that originated the transformation of now infamous New York areas like SoHo and TriBeCa, Jason Pomeranc (one part of the trio of brothers heading Thompson Hotels) is someone who knows how to work right outside of the box.
The property market was almost a right of passage – The Pomeranc Group (his family’s business, now an equity arm of Thompson Hotels) had long been an established real estate business in America – but it was Jason who decided to branch out into hotels.
His first, the now legendary 60 Thompson in SoHo, opened in 2001 and was the first New York rooftop lounge (Above 60) open exclusively to guests and members. Another noted project was the $40million restoration of red carpet haven, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The Beverly Hills Hotel (need we say more) falls under his jurisdiction too, alongside four other sites around North America and the recently opened London Belgraves.
The direction of Thompson Hotels’ truly boutique collection is paramount. This is a complete cultural concept, including accommodation with Pomeranc-directed films to advertise and a stylish, ‘Room 100’ magazine for and featuring Thompson VIPs.
Hg2 caught Jason during his brief stopover tour of the new London site before a jaunt to Jaipur to attend a wedding invite from his new Harilela business partner…
Your specialisation in loft law conversions helped transform the land-marked areas of SoHo and TriBeCa. And you were the first Pomeranc to bring hotels into the mix. What was it that inspired you?
I grew up in New York so to see the transformation and gentrification was interesting. Then, my education was in finance and law. And I’d gravitated to living down town. So it all just seemed like a natural gravitation to transform these areas to include restaurants and hotels. Every block has a distinct character beyond the grid system but it takes being a native to understand the nuances of each. It opened a great opportunity to build small luxury hotels in an area like SoHo. All that was very good training for me – it provided a great background. People questioned why anyone would need a hotel in SoHo – it was a completely new concept. But it was the turning point that forged our identity as non-traditional hotels.
London Belgraves is your latest venture – what made you choose that location?
It’s one of the most established in London and is mostly, for want of a better term, posh. So we’re bringing a proper downtown attitude to that. It feels like our aspirational home – aesthetically, pragmatically and by use of vibe of Thompson culture, but molded for a British experience.
It’s been classified as ‘today’s rough luxury’ – please explain.
There’s a different interpretation of luxury today; it’s less formal. More open to design variation. More casual. Mixing materials. Combining brick walls with great art. Textures and feels. More open plan, spacious. Less constrained by tradition.
What do you like to do when you come to London?
It feels like home, so I just get back into the rhythm of day-to-day life – try a few new restaurants; see what’s going on at the galleries. London’s a wonderful place. Where I go depends on my mood. I love all the different ethnic restaurants.
Solloos restaurant for Pakistani food. China Tang at the Dorchester. The Wolseley is great for lunch. The Ivy Club. I’ve started to get a bit more comfortable in Shoreditch now too, so like to spend time and explore there. London’s such a spread out area – New York’s cluttered. But Notting Hill’s still my favourite. Shoreditch House is cool.
And in New York or LA – your other ‘homes’ – what’s at the top of your list for pleasure?
I travel so much that it’s a privilege just to stay in one place. Home has a very loose interpretation for me – it’s several different places.
I’m enjoying LA right now – the healthy lifestyle is a good structure. Outdoor activities like hiking, biking and the beach. I like to follow new young chefs in LA – Guilna is a very fun Italian table. Son of a Gun is a new, progressive meat and fish restaurant. These guys are doing a great job of moving LA food culture forward.
The cocktail subculture is fun. The Spare Room [Thompson’s cocktail lounge at the Hollywood Roosevelt] book is coming out nationally throughout the hotels soon.
London Belgraves has been opened alongside the Hong Kong-based Harilela Group – what else have you got planned with them?
We’re looking at lots of opportunities. A resort in Mexico, a new project in Chicago (converting an existing central hotel) and we’re weighing up the options in Asia.
What are you most looking forward to in 2012?
I’m particularly excited about London Belgraves. It’s our gateway to London and Europe – eclectic and rough, tapping into our brand DNA.