When George Gorrow and Cisco Tschurtschenthaler returned to their vacant plot of land in the Balinese surf town of Canggu after a two-year hiatus in New York, theirs was one of the few plots left untouched.
“On our return, we found Canggu was morphing quickly [and] there was an energy that was multiplying at a rapid rate,” Gorrow recalls of the first time they revisited their then-barren lot on the town’s frenzied main drag, some 300 meters uphill from nearby Batu Bolong and its popular surf spot, Old Man’s. “Our dirty little road to the vacant beach wasn’t so barren anymore, so we decided to flip the idea, and flip it fast.”
Though the speed at which the couple decided to pivot away from their dream of building a home designed by Tschurtschenthaler’s father toward opening a hotel was mirrored by the rapid rate at which the area is changing, there’s little else about their joint venture that suggests either party was in a rush to return to the pace at which Gorrow first made his name. Thirteen months after the couple decided to open their first hotel with little by way of experience to guide them, The Slow was born at a more agreeable pace.
By now well into its second year of operations, The Slow is, by Gorrow’s admission, very much a work in progress – none of which is to say that the hotel’s ‘tropical Brutalist’ shell is still encased in scaffolding and drop sheets – far from it, in fact. Instead, Gorrow readily concedes that the hotel and its ongoing evolution will never reach a state of completion, and that its growth (much like the novelty of owning a hotel) will never subside. “I keep thinking ‘I finally have my own Fawlty Towers’,” Gorrow says of his eye-opening first year as a hotelier, a title that joins ‘multidisciplinary designer’ and ‘Australian fashion’s enfants terrible’ on a well-documented résumé.
“Building something from conception, opening a business in a foreign country, it’s all pretty trying at times, but moreover it’s fulfilling,” he says. “To try something new and see it so well received by the public has been deeply satisfying.”
While a great deal of The Slow’s appeal lies in its light drenched spaces carved from an abundance of poured concrete and the treehouse-like timber fixtures that were employed by Bali-based architecture firm GFAB, more so is to be found in the hotel as a deeply personal expression of its owners. “For me, the project encapsulates many aspects of the different fields I have worked in previously and that’s what keeps me excited,” says Gorrow, who, in addition to being one of the original co-founders of what was then infamously known as Ksubi (or Tsubi, if you’re a purist), also launched the label Cocurata, a joint venture with the curator of Allouche Art Gallery in New York, George Banias. Cocurata’s conceit, as its name suggests, was to develop ready-to-wear collections through the direct application of art exhibited in group gallery shows to streetwear. More recently, Gorrow re-partnered with another Ksubi co-founder, Gareth Moody (also of Chronicles of Never), on a third menswear offering, Non-Type – the flagship boutique for which adjoins the hotel. Gorrow describes the offering of tonal separates as “a well curated blend of styles between Gareth and myself, smooth to rough” and as “a modernist, non-trend focused, sophisticated, approachable, non-conservative, classic [and] non-seasonal menswear only collection.” An online store is slated for opening mid-2018.
Gorrow and Tschurtschenthaler’s own private art collection provides a through line between each of these disparate projects, and features extensively throughout The Slow’s 12 rooms and its adjoining restaurant. Initially founded on the work of those artists who played a significant role in “shaping the way we looked at things, or people we generally looked up to”, many of them photographers who create “bold images and statement pieces that really hit you”, Gorrow estimates the collection is nearing 100 pieces in total. The Slow’s dedicated gallery space, named Room 13, is co-curated in collaboration with the Surry Hills gallery, China Heights. The artists Brooklyn Whelan, Annalisa Ferraris, Otis Hope Carey, Jesse Lizotte and Gemma O’Brien are all slated to exhibit there at various points throughout the year. “It’s a little hedonistic in a fun, exploratory, artistic kind of way,” Gorrow says of those details that belie the hands of the makers in the hotel’s design. “From the art to the ceramics [which are made by Tschurtschenthaler]… even down to the furniture and curtain fabrics we matched from a holiday in Tasmania – it’s all deeply personal.”
Gorrow is at the crest of a new wave of Australians making their decidedly antipodean mark on the island, albeit in a manner that differs slightly from that of their predecessors. Their impact is discernible in the opening of restaurants that prioritise sustainability initiatives that not only minimise environmental impact but maximise on returns to the local community; in the growth of innovative business models for small-scale accommodation driven by social media; and in the cultivation of a high-end café and dining culture that only recently begun to take root. Where a previous generation succeeded in building destination dining concepts that prioritised transferring over to Bali restaurants that had already succeeded at home, few have appeared interested in participating in a return exchange with their country of origin. With a ‘Delfino Aperitivo‘ event to be held this week at The Dolphin Hotel, Gorrow will stage a homecoming of sorts, bringing with him not only the food and beverage created by chef Shannon Moran but an entirely realised concept that will see The Slow travel to Sydney in all ways but one.
“I love travelling for a purpose like this, to come and present something new I have been working on,” Gorrow says of the event, which he says doubles as an inversion of his long-time friendship with restaurateur Maurice Terzini (another Australian who has laid down roots in Bali with Da Maria). “We’ve collaborated on some interesting projects in the past, but my most memorable one was our fashion show back in 2008, which Maurice helped guest design and style.
“We had a good laugh backstage dressing the models; I smile thinking about it all now. Damn that was a time, the look on Maurice’s face. ‘What do I do, Chitch?’, says Maurice, and I just say, ‘Do the Chitch thing, Maurice.’ And we just laugh. Back then Maurice was playing around in what I guess was considered my field, and now I’m hyped to be coming over to play in his field in his town, which is very exciting. We take our [food and beverage] very, very seriously at The Slow, and we are doing something we are very proud of, so we were honoured to be invited to be a part of Aperitivo.”
On the menu are the customary share plates that have made ‘Delfino Aperitivo’ an instant classic and which speak to both The Slow’s Indonesian roots and international sensibility in equal measure. One dish, A chick named ‘Sate’, riffs on traditional peanut satay enlivened with a pineapple and chilli relish; another, Japanese cowboy, pairs fresh raw tuna with Tokyo hummus and pickled raddish. A trio of shots and batch made cocktails created by The Slow’s “ultra-insane Indonesian in-house mixologist, Sid, also known as ‘the mad spirit’” will put a “Shaman spin” on classic cocktails, using locally-influenced and infused tinctures made using Indonesian plants, roots, fruits and spices. The quintessential art element comes courtesy of another China Heights artist, the California-based surfer Alex Knost; as with the hotel’s one channel sound system, LA’s Allah-las and Reverberation Radio will soundtrack the event live and in-person. The event is as much a standalone one as it is a preview of the inaugural ‘Oh So Slow’ festival, which will take place over three days in early May and survey local and international artistic contributions across music, film and art before culminating in an “old school beach party”.
“It’s time for The Slow to get a little jungle-jungle on our old Sydney town,” says Gorrow. “[I’ll] show you a couple of tricks that I’ve learned on the island.”
Delfino Aperitivo by The Slow takes place Friday April 27 at The Dolphin Hotel’s Wine Room. More information is available here.
Tile and cover image: Supplied