There is a moment when dipping freshly baked pita from the wood-fired oven into chicken shawarma hummus and drinking a cocktail of gin, grapefruit, lime and Campari that you might think you are in Los Angeles, or maybe Venice Beach. But then the view of Clayton Street in Cherry Creek North is visible through the big front windows, and it is clear that it is not California. This is Of A Kind, the signature restaurant in the new Clayton Members Club and Hotel in Denver.
The 63-room boutique hotel is part of the Chicago-based Aparium Hotel Group and has been revamped from its previous incarnation as the Inn at Cherry Creek. With interior design by Avro KO, which specializes in hotels and restaurants around the world, the social spaces and lounges are filled with contemporary furnishings and works from local artists. Add a rooftop restaurant and pool and the place becomes a breath of fresh Colorado air.
Of A Kind restaurant, OAK Market and a lounge, Five Nines, are all accessible to the public.
The property’s executive chef, Brandon Duley, was previously at Gjelina in Venice, Calif. and Edition in West Hollywood, Calif. and the Ritz Carlton Hotel Co. He said he took the job of creating the food program at Clayton after meeting with one of Aparium’s owners, Mario Tricoci, and learning they shared a commitment to fresh, local ingredients.
Duley describes himself as having a “passion for produce” and locally sourced meats. The Mediterranean and coastal fare on Of A Kind’s menu highlights Colorado vendors, farms and flavors. Duley’s current favorite dish is the berbere-rubbed lamb shoulder, which is prepared sous vide, and he loves the pickled vegetables that accompany the lamb. The pizzas and pita bread come to the table fresh out of the oven, which is fired with pecan wood.
Duley, who recently moved to Denver from California with his wife, a native of Colorado, and his young sons, says he is inspired by the state’s lifestyle and hopes that plays out in his food. (Speaking of playing, he loves to snowboard and can’t wait to spend time on the slopes next season.)
Earlier this spring, the chef brought wild arugula seeds from Flora Bella Farms in California to Esoterra Culinary Garden near Boulder. Esoterra will plant and grow the seeds for the chef to use in his dishes. By growing the seeds here, Duley hopes to incorporate a little of the ocean into our landlocked state. He says he will be Colorado-forward in his cooking, but also will bring out the best of his culinary experiences from around the country.
Duley oversees the entire hotel food operation including OAK Market, the hotel’s casual all-day eatery. OAK Market is just off the lobby or can be entered from Clayton Street, and serves as a meeting place for those in search of coffee, sandwiches and pastries, veggie or grain salads, charcuterie and cheeses. The market also serves fresh-pressed juice. Ice cream is from Curt Peterson’s shop, smith+ canon, on East Colfax Avenue.
What you can’t see from the front of the building is the evening venue, Five Nines, which is accessible through a separate entrance off Clayton Street and is directly behind OAK Market. When the doors to the cocktail lounge open, the California vibe of light, airy spaces fades into low lighting, intimate conversation and the sounds of martini shakers. The velvet lounge chairs, close tables and live music lure guests late into the evening. The feel of the space is somewhere between a speak-easy and a lower Manhattan lounge club.
Beverage director Greg Wasserman works with Duley to pair drinks with the food for the restaurants, but Wasserman also has his own creations that are highlighted in the Five Nines lounge. His drink, “Yo Soy Joaquin,” is both sweet and spicy and leaves you with a kick from the infused habanero pepper.
For those who have joined Clayton Members Club or are hotel guests, there is access to more. On various floors of the boutique property you'll find a pool, fitness amenities, a library and spaces for private meetings, coworking and lounging.
The hotel has a partnership with Tattered Cover Book Store, and books are for sale at the reception desk. Children's books are available for guests to borrow and book clubs will be hosted for the members. The art, in a partnership with RedLine Gallery, rotates and highlights local talent with an emphasis on minority and LGBTQ+artists. The goal, explains membership director Rachel Smith, is to curate art from Denver’s most interesting and diverse creators, particularly from the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. “Art is an embrace of culture,” she explains, “and the culture at Clayton—our identity—is rooted in opportunity, equity and inclusion.”
Smith formerly worked at SoHo House, which has clubs in cities around the world that cater to those in creative professions, offering events and spaces for social interaction, as well as food and lodging. Clayton Members Club aims to bring together a diverse group of local creatives, social and business leaders. Membership is by application and approval by a 40-person committee.
Clayton is taking an “incredibly deliberate and intentional approach to ensuring that the principles of OEI— opportunity, equity and inclusion— are reflected in every part of the organization,” says Kendra Anderson, Clayton’s OEI and hospitality consultant. The inspiration for the member hotel project comes from what they have created as the five defining pillars at Clayton: be curious, be fun, be authentic, be generous and be inclusive. The team is dedicated to an inspirational and inclusive future in Denver that starts with conversation and community. And great food.
Lindsey Schwartz is an award-winning television producer and writer, having produced for “48 Hours,” “Dateline NBC” and CBS News. In 2020, she wrote and produced two episodes of a series for MSNBC called “What’s Eating America.”
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