Restaurant Paparazzi: The Chelsea

Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa. There are moments in life when you realize, Nothing will be the same from this point forward. In the timeline of Atlantic City, those pivotal moments occur on occasion: the first time we set foot in Borgata; first but of banana cream pie at Chef Vola; and now, earlier this week, when we walked into the lobby of Curtis Bashaw’s boutique hotel The Chelsea. Dude, after this, nothing will be the same.

Located on Chelsea Avenue in the historic Chelsea district that straddles Atlantic City and Ventnor, the hotel rises like a limestone beacon bathed in ultraviolet spotlights. A rinky-dink Days Inn blocks Boardwalk access, so the front entrance is actually on the side of the building, half-a-block down from Starr’s Teplitzky’s anchoring the corner of Chelsea and Pacific. Revolving glass doors spit you out into a snug lobby decorated with mirrored walls, Grimace-purple sofas, cow patterned chairs and book-lined shelves and a fireplace built into the brick wall.

Go ahead; draw comparisons to the Delano, Gansevoort, Soho House. We were certainly guilty, and the lobby definitely echoes the surreal, whimsical, old-mixed-with-modern aesthetic outlined in the Boutique Hotelier’s Handbook. But after actually being in the Chelsea, and taking a trip upstairs to the communal living room called Fifth Floor (a Soho House bite), it’s evident Bashaw has done due diligence.

Old Atlantic City lifeguards, cigarette girls and bon vivants gaze out from black-and-white photos lining the walls. A sleek, modern fireplace flickers in front of a low-slung couch and tweed armchairs. To the left, Chelsea Prime pulls in diners with its mirrored ceiling and curving wall of vertical light sabers.

To the right, the living room flows into a game room with a purple pool tables and vintage board games stacked high on antique breakfronts. Cocktails and Clue?! We’re so down for that. Glass doors lead out to a spacious landscaped balcony overlooking Chelsea Avenue. The billiard room connects to a lounge dominated by a gleaming carved wood bar. Twin hallways tiled in mosaic mirrors spill into another lounge, this one with zebra-pattered chairs, tables for two and another set of glass doors that open onto the pool deck. The succession of darkly lit boites is dizzying, sexy, exhilarating. The ceilings don’t soar and the rooms are intimate and interesting. Touching encouraged, and we don’t mean the fabrics.

Tented cabanas and lounge chairs line the pool outside. From Chelsea Prime’s outdoor terrace, the ocean views are uninterrupted. A huge square bar anchors the other side of the deck, where bartenders spin signature cocktails like The Chelsea (vodka, Prosecco, mint and lime), fresh fruit Bellinis and Dark & Stormies. The pillowy low-to-the-ground chairs are actually folded-up flip-flops, that down-the-shore staple that could be rolled out into one damn comfortable guest bed. Nostalgic moment incoming: We spent our formative summers sleeping on them at our grandmother’s shore house. We didn’t even know anyone made flip-flops anymore, yet here they are at The Chelsea, grouped into seating clusters around tin patio tables that look fashioned from salvages radiator covers. With the salty breeze blowing in, sipping something suitably alcoholic, reclined on a soft marshmallow of Jersey shore memorabilia, it’s hard to imagine a better place to spend a few hours.

Go now, while it’s still quiet—we hear they’re offering inaugural rates of $99 a night while the rest of the hotel is still under construction—and experience The Chelsea for yourself. The hotel marks a tuning point in Atlantic City. Don’t be surprised to see Morgans moving in soon, or Andre Balazs scooping up a dumpy Pacific Avenue motel and revamping it into The Standard AC. Stranger things have happened here. In this town, stranger things have certainly happened.

Photo: blogalicous

No comments: