For the next few weeks, The Curious Eye becomes The Wandering Eye. One of us is in India and the other is in New York – which should provide some extreme cultural contrasts. We're looking forward to everything from ethnic simplicity to urbane sophistication, with lots of strange and wonderful sights in between.
So, our first stop in New York City is Roebling Tea Room in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Williamsburg has a very particular style of its own - it's notorious as being the home of the hipster massive in NYC. An area filled with precocious, media-savvy twentysomethings who spend their disposable wealth on tattoos, vintage clothing, and hi-tech gear. For these kids, it's all about being cool, riding the earliest waves of trends and dropping anything that becomes too mainstream.
Never get into a conversation about music with a Williamsburg hipster. You may think that you're cutting edge with your Santogold and Vampire Weekend references, but trust me, however much Nu Folk you have on your ipod, they wil look at you as if you’re the uncool uncle at a New Jersey wedding. They will then give you a speech about how they’re really into Cymbals Eat Guitars and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (yes – these are real bands). My advice is to call their bluff and ask them what they think about the underrated genius of Serge Gainsbourg (or Laura Nyro, or John Barry). That’ll shut ‘em up.
However, fun as it is to pour scorn on the hipsters, there's no denying that they have style. And it's a very particular look that has sprung up here. A combination of industrial modernism, rugged Americana and quirky vintage. Nowhere exemplifies the Williamsburg look better than Roebling Tea Room.
This is the formula: Take an old industrial building and clean it up. Remove any actual dirt, but retain distressed details to give plenty of character,Use additional industrial design, (tiling, light fittings) to emphasise the origins of the space.
Add offbeat vintage finds - ideally ones that reference huntin' or fishin' (most W-burg joints have some form of taxidermy adding ambiance – here, we have a slightly elevated use of a hunting motif).
Finally, provide a menu of fashionable food combinations, preferably a riff on traditional American comfort food – so, if life hands you lemons, make ginger mint lemonade.
The look may be formulaic – but that doesn’t stop it from being entirely pleasing. Roebling Tea Room is highly recommended as a perfect introduction to the Brooklyn hipster aesthetic.
Roebling Tea Room, 143 Roebling St, Brooklyn 11211