Food & Drink

Marcus Samuelsson’s New Red Rooster Outpost Defies Hotel Restaurant Stereotypes

Marcus Samuelsson red rooster the curtain

Those enduring stereotypes about restaurants in hotels. You’ve heard ‘em.

Written by Chris Metler

That they belong on the same disparaged level as food in museums. That they are prone to being little more than an extension of a stuffy lobby, with the underwhelming fare to match. That they can’t rival a standalone eatery because, in an establishment dedicated to providing accommodation, dining will never be the sole focus.

Or, in the increasingly common case of hotels hosting celebrity chef-driven efforts, that they’re associated with the famed restaurateur in name only. Their brand, likeness and recipes traded for a hefty licensing fee, rather than any ongoing personal involvement. In other words, a brazen attempt to cash in on star power.

Despite these long-held conventions progressively becoming a thing of the past — after all, untold examples currently challenge the stigma in Canada alone, plus Nobu is on the way — you could still forgive our slight skepticism when booking a table at Marcus Samuelsson’s new Red Rooster outpost.

Sure, prominently situated in The Curtain — itself drawing plenty of notice as the coolest new auberge in London’s vibrant Shoreditch district — Red Rooster had all the buzz and glowing reviews going for it since opening last year. But old clichés about hotel restaurants die hard.

Well, shame on us. An award-winning cook, author and omnipresent television personality, Samuelsson’s acclaimed portfolio has never conformed to fixed and oversimplified ideas. And based on the meal and experience we recently enjoyed on-site, we’ll go ahead and confirm Red Rooster Shoreditch doesn’t just defy the previously indicated preconceptions — it flat out shatters them.

The private dining room inside Red Rooster at The Curtain Hotel.

Here’s how:

It offers something new for a red-hot area.

Make no mistake, this is Harlem meets Shoreditch — celebrating the roots of American cuisine, while channeling Southern soul food alongside the diverse culinary traditions of New York and Samuelsson’s Northern European upbringing. For a trendsetting English neighbourhood of hipsters and high-rollers alike, which already boasts a competitive array of new-wave Brit restaurants like Cali-style cafés, high-end dives, and all the other usual suspects to cater to its dual identities — the significance can’t be overstated. There’s nothing else in Shoreditch like it.

The menu draws on local ingredients and inspiration for updated dishes.

In addition to showcasing many of the same authentic plates as the original location found in, you guessed it, Manhattan’s aforementioned Harlem borough, Red Rooster Shoreditch further serves up a veritable smorgasbord of brand new ones. The catch? They were created exclusively for its fresh digs. Accordingly, many constitute interpretations of East London. Others reflect the Jewish population that used to call Shoreditch home, as well as the Bangladeshi demographic there now. This inclusive initiative typifies Samuelsson’s commitment to bucking the norm.

There’s even an adjoining taqueria.

On the ground floor of The Curtain — one level above Red Rooster — sits Tienda Roosteria. Also curated by Samuelsson, it opens its doors for a Mexican-style breakfast at 7AM, then slings tacos and tequila until 2 am nightly. But Tienda Roosteria’s intention isn’t to be the real McCoy. Some tacos are traditional and some aren’t. That’s not the point, though. No, by putting a spin on an oft-overdone genre — and Shoreditch has more archetypal Mexican joints than we care to count — what matters is Samuelsson’s pledge to purvey variety. Thankfully he nails it.

The Red Rooster menu includes cornbread and devilled eggs.

A suitable soundtrack.

Since providing experiential value has become de rigueur throughout today’s consumer market (and yes, that includes the food industry), Red Rooster Shoreditch takes its music very seriously. Live bands perform throughout the week. There’s acoustic soul on Mondays, afrobeat and reggae on Tuesdays, female-fronted soul on Wednesdays, contemporary jazz and funk on Thursdays, hip-hop and motown on Fridays and southside funk on Saturdays. As for Sundays…

Two words: Gospel brunch!

Red Rooster Shoreditch’s Gospel Brunch maintains the tradition of their sister restaurant in Harlem. Truth is, if it’s not already as famous as London’s alternative Sunday service, it’s arguably well on the way. The popular weekly ritual invites guests to settle in with a Bloody Mary and chow down on a whole-fried chicken with waffles, biscuits, mac ‘n’ greens and pickles, all while serenaded by a house gospel choir. What did we say about the importance of quote-unquote experiential value?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Red Rooster Shoreditch marks a personal milestone for Marcus Samuelsson.

Growing up in Sweden, London inherently possessed that bright-lights-big-city appeal for the Ethiopian-born Samuelsson. ​It was always a his dream to open a restaurant there, and eventually became clear that Shoreditch and the historic East End was where he wanted to be. Mission accomplished. What’s more, Samuelsson credits Red Rooster Shoreditch’s early triumph to the people that live and work in the community being creative, ​fun​ and neighbourly — plus knowledgeable about good food and good music. In equal measure, it feels very Harlem and like its own unique UK entity. Which, of course, was the point to begin with. Cash grab? We think not.