Four members of staff reveal their rooftop ambitions for four different houses: Chicago, Ludlow, Shoreditch and Berlin
Mercedes Reyes is assistant manager of Cowshed at Soho House Chicago, and will be offering treatments on the rooftop for the first time this summer
“Right now Chicago is coming out of hibernation. Winter is just so cold – when the sun finally arrives we go crazy; every patio across the entire city is packed out from 9am, ours especially.
“I’m really excited that we’ll be offering Cowshed treatments on the roof for the first time. We’ll have a menu of treatments, each taking about 20 minutes. A summer mani or pedi will include a buff, file and polish, using our own line of Cheeky products. We’ll also offer a scalp massage, a foot rub and a ‘morning after’ eye treatment, perfect for helping tired (or hungover) members look their best. They won’t even have to get up from their sun lounger. Just before midday, everyone will get a complementary spritz of our cooling Chamomile Toner, and we’ll offer to clean our guests’ sunglasses – they’ll be very well looked after!
“Our rooftop has an amazing, unobstructed view of the Chicago skyline, especially the Willis [formerly Sears] Tower. Last year was the first full summer we had on the roof; people got a sense of how good it is to work, to play, to party up there. To sit and drink a big glass of rosé.
“This year, with the Cowshed treatments, we’re taking it up a notch again. There just aren’t other places like it in Chicago. We have people who literally live down the street, who stay at the hotel just because they want to be part of the scene.
“In short, our roof’s become the hottest spot around.”
Corwin Kave, 34, from Long Island, is chef de cuisine at Ducked Up – a new restaurant idea at New York’s Ludlow House. The menu is based around crispy duck. All other dishes are vegetarian, in keeping with the Asian theme, and in order to provide balance with the meat
“The rooftop at Ludlow is under a glass atrium, which matters quite a lot in New York as it means we can stay open all year. We’ve got an open-plan dining room and a big open kitchen with a zinc-wrapped counter. It gets lots of sunshine and looks really pretty.
“The menu is mostly vegetarian. We have a lot of dishes you could easily eat every day – natural things that are delicious and fresh and holistic – but it’s important to balance that with the duck options, which are just really cool. We do Peking duck, Chinese roast duck, a couple of other duck varieties, all prepared in our wood-fired oven. The birds are sourced from a great farmer up in Pennsylvania called Joe Jurgielewicz.
“We wanted to use ingredients that are distinctive. We use a tremendous amount of things most people would be unfamiliar with: sansho pepper, white soy, yuzu, Indonesian long pepper. We’ve been salting and curing chillies. Pickling vegetables in miso and rice bran. Pickling green strawberries. In particular there are a lot of interesting Japanese ingredients, like seaweed in some of the salads, even preserved yuzu skins blended into dressings. It’s all very punchy and very fun, while keeping it healthy, of course.”
Anastasia Koutsioukis, 41, co-founded the first Mandolin restaurant – located in Miami – with her husband Ahmed, and oversaw the opening
at Mandolin at Shoreditch House
“The perfect rooftop space can transport you to your favourite time and place. Being outside with a glass of wine, simple delicious food, close friends, sunshine and great conversation is as good as it gets for me. The nicest compliments we receive about Mandolin are when our guests say they feel transported in the same way.
“My husband is Turkish, I’m Greek, and everything we do reflects that Aegean combination. Even the name Mandolin, refers to the instruments used in the music of both cultures. Mandolin is our love story, where food and music bring people together. It’s a celebration of the simple pleasures in life.
“We put a lot of effort into Shoreditch in terms of making the escapism complete. Whitewashed surfaces, blue lanterns, climbing vines, potted herbs everywhere. Even olive trees. We play Turkish and Greek music; some traditional recordings from the ’40s, some pop music from the ’80s. When you walk into Mandolin we want you to feel as if you’re stepping into another world.
“Little touches make all the difference. Like the wooden clothes pegs holding the menus together. That’s a reference to my grandma – on hot days she’d hang our washing using the exact same pegs, and our clothes would come back smelling of summertime. Or the hand painted pottery, Turkish evil eyes and kallas table salt that you find in Greek tavernas all around the Aegean islands.
“The Shoreditch menu focusses on coastal food, which suits the outdoor setting perfectly. We’ve identified some brilliant local fishmongers to supply our ‘catch of the day’, alongside the usual grilled meats, salads and soft breads. And new signature cocktails, for instance Kaliméra, which means ‘good morning’ in Greek. It’s yoghurt-based and dangerously good; like a smoothie spiked with gin.
“We have so much in common with the rest of Soho House: generosity, family spirit and a love of home. All we do is bring our Mediterranean hospitality, simple fresh food and effortless casual style of summertime entertaining because after all we’re all chasing summer even in the winter.”
Dannel Carter, 22, from St Albans in the UK, works as a server on the roof at Soho House Berlin, where there’s now a Mandolin restaurant
“Working on the roof in summer is really a treat. Berlin can reach 37C, and at that point anybody in their right mind would want be up here, with music playing and drinks flowing.
“We interact a lot more with our guests. There’s always a friendly atmosphere and a degree of socialising and getting to know the members, most of whom are local, not just somebody on their holidays. I see some of them three or four times a week, so there’s a certain level of understanding – I know what’s going on in their lives; I care about their wellbeing. They know my name and I know theirs!
“When we have a 6am start, all of the staff stand together and watch the sunrise eight storeys up. It really is beautiful, with the famous TV Tower directly in front to us. Then, members begin arriving from around 8am, looking to grab a sun lounger, strip down to the bare minimum and hang out all day, swimming in the pool between drinking rosé or champagne. Working later we get the sunset too. It’s a great atmosphere, and really doesn’t feel like work.
“Five years ago when Soho House Berlin opened we didn’t know how the rooftop would play out with the locals. There was no precedent. Now we have Mandolin, which is packed because we aren’t taking reservations. They’re working on a breakfast menu, as well, which is exciting. We’ve tweaked the roof layout, knocking down the showers and replacing them with smaller toilets, and more dining space.
“Before, we had one bar, a kitchen and another basic serving kitchen on the roof. Now we have one kitchen and three bars. Service will flow faster, which is great, and we can lavish more attention on each drink. More bars and better cocktails can never be a bad thing!”
Read more great articles from the most recent issue of House Four…