There are few places in the world I am happy to return to more than once, but New York is certainly one of them for me. I’m of the opinion that there is just so much out there in the world to see, if I were to keep returning to the same place I would never get to see it all. But the twinkling lights of the concrete jungle with symmetric grids of tower blocks and beautiful green parks had me instantly.
We decided to head over for a long weekend in May. New York is only an 8-hour flight from London, making it the perfect long weekend getaway. Tip: you can often great priced return flights to New York from London with Norwegian Air or do what I did and see how many airmiles you have!
I arrived in JFK on a Thursday in the afternoon and jumped in a cab and headed downtown to SoHo to The Dominick Hotel. Previously part of the Trump Collection, The Dominick recently went through refurbishment after the President’s name was removed from the front door as they changed ownership. With stylish modern interiors and huge rooms, the hotel is a great option if you want somewhere central and reasonably priced (for the area at least). In the summer months they have a rooftop pool and terrace.
That evening I was rolling solo so I decided to meet up with Si’s brother Tom and his girlfriend Lucy. I had done New York before so I was for doing something different. Lucy and I had investigated all sorts of pop-up’s and in the end, we decided we wanted to check out some live music. I’d had a hankering for Mexican, so we headed to nearby Dos Caminos, SoHo for dinner first.
It was a gorgeous spring evening and the sun was shining. SoHo is a great area for window shopping in all of the beautiful boutiques. Dos Caminos has a great outdoor terrace, perfect for such an evening. We camped out there with our margaritas and got cracking on our tacos. Be warned, they are of epic proportion! Order half of what you think you can eat and go from there. Dos Caminos is great for a chilled-out evening with friends; it was tasty, cheap and cheerful with ambient interiors. If you are looking for a more in-fashion/ sceney Mexican, try La Esquina (advanced reservations required). Si coincidently was also out for Mexican with other friends and recommends Cosme for easy-going upmarket Mexican.
After dinner when the sun had set and people were merry ready for their evenings ahead in the city that never sleeps, we headed to Le Poisson Rouge (LPR); a well-known live music venue and contributor to the New York underground music scene, to see South African singer, songwriter, and record producer Jeremy Loops. We actually didn’t know anything about him or what to expect before we arrived, we were just up for a gig and to have a laugh. Turns out his music was pretty good. Think soul x commercial rock. We really enjoyed the ambience and dancing the night away.
On Friday morning I woke to the most beautiful sunrise. The warm orange rays seeped through the city skyscrapers and into my hotel room. Balthazar was voted by Time Out as one of New York’s best spots for breakfast. I didn’t really feel like wasting valuable shopping time by having a sit-down breakfast but had learnt that Balthazar also had a bakery. By Spring and Crosby, right next door to the restaurant was a very cute Parisian looking shopfront with a queue out the front door. It had to be a good sign! I patiently joined the slow-moving queue admiring the delicious pastries on display behind the counter, as I slowly but surely made my way forward. I ordered a ham and cheese croissant and a bucket of orange juice – apparently there was only one size, JUMBO. Outside, I sat on one of the benches in front of the shop and peeled back the wrapper and tucked into my breakfast. It was pretty damn good. I can only imagine what the dine in option must be like! Next time…
With a busy day of New York City shopping ahead of me, I started off in Bloomingdale’s, made my way up Broadway, stopping in Union Square for an all-American burger for lunch. Without a doubt, it was the most beautiful Shake Shack I had ever seen. I know that’s not how you would expect someone to describe a burger joint, but the gardens were in full bloom with pastel flowers everywhere in front of the little Shack lined with quaint tables and chairs in the middle of the park. Of the cult burger chains, I happen to think Shake Shack is the best, and I have had my fair share of burgers the world over, however I always welcome a challenge when it comes to a good burger!
After lunch I made my way over to 5thAvenue, via Washington Square Arch (New York’s answer to the Arc de Triomphe), and back to the hotel to freshen up for date night.
Si met me that evening in the hotel’s bar Mr. Jones, designed in homage to the classic 1960’s gentleman. Si ordered a classic Negroni, whilst I ordered a Thai-influenced cocktail. My Tom Kha Gimlet was smooth and sweet, yet tart concoction – absolutely delicious. After knocking back a few cocktails, we jumped in a cab and headed uptown to Atoboy, a contemporary Korean restaurant with sharing style tapas dishes. Head chef, Junghyan Park, was previously the Chef de Cuisine at Jungsik, a two Michelin starred Korean restaurant. The adventurous dishes were intriguing, but on occasion we felt the flavour combinations didn’t necessarily gel well together. However, we could not fault the service and dining experience. I think this restaurant is best suited to real foodies at heart with an appetite for creative dining. Group dining would be advantageous to take advantage of all of the dishes on the menu.
After dinner we hopped over to Bathtub Gin in Chelsea. I highly recommend making an advanced reservation here. It very much appears to be a spot of the moment despite having been opened since 2011, and the general admission queue was massive at only 10pm. Luckily, we had booked a table and were able to walk straight in. The speakeasy is “hidden” behind a coffee shop. The Victorian style bar is decorated with opulent vintage wallpaper, and silk sofas that recreate a bygone eras social club. In the middle of the room you will find a giant copper bathtub and lots of people milling about waiting to get their ultimate Instagram picture on it, in it, beside it – you see where I am going with this? Tip: go on a night when there is a burlesque cabaret. There was no entertainment the night we went, and though the old school hip hop was cool and very much to my taste, I thought it somewhat clashed with the surroundings feeling a little out of place.
On Saturday morning we headed to Greenwich Village for a little brunch and window shopping along Bleaker Street. Seeing as we were in the area, we made our way to Bedford Street to see the “Friends” apartment we had come to know and love over the years. Surprisingly there weren’t too many people about to contend with.
We then jumped on the L-train to Bedford Avenue (Brooklyn) to meet up with Tom and Lucy. It was such a lovely sunny day. A short stroll from subway, we meet them at Smorgasburg; a large open-air food market down by the water’s edge of the East River. We arrived shortly after midday and the queues for all of the street food vendors were crazy busy. Tip: arrive between 11.00 – 11.30am to beat the lunchtime rush. Everything looked and smelt so good but having made the rookie error of eating in Greenwich Village before we arrived we unsurprisingly weren’t hungry and the best we could manage was a mouthful of Lucy’s spareribs (which were freaking awesome), and some freshly made lemonade.
We decided to make a break for it to escape from the crowds. Along the way Si was stopped by charming man who asked him if he would be interested in trying on some cloths from a popular high-street chain and having his photo taken for their Instagram page. Ever good at negotiating a deal, and sweating his chops off in his chinos, he bartered with the chap and agreed to do it provided he could shoot some shorts and keep them. The stylist let me assist and we ended up dressing him in some crazy neon kiwi swimming shorts and a rather preppy looking t-shirt (collar up of course). I think he looked fun, I’d give him my number 😉
After his brief modelling career and now that he was happy and cool, we made our way to The Ides, an art deco inspired rooftop bar with unobstructed views of the Manhattan skyline, perched on top of the uber-cool Whyte Hotel, Brooklyn. There was a lovely cool breeze up there and spectacular views out over the city. I highly recommend stopping by for a glass of rosé or two.
Tom and Lucy split and getting peckish Si and I headed to Maison Premiere, Williamsburg; an acclaimed award-winning oyster and cocktail bar that specialises in Absinthe cocktails. We LOVED this place – so cool without trying, absolutely zero arrogance or wank factor. They nailed it. The décor is reminiscent of the French Quarter, New Orleans circa the late 1800’s. The bartenders take their job seriously and have impeccable knowledge and make the most divine concoctions. We ordered the Oyster Selection and a Lobster Roll to share with the most delicious bottle of Sancerre. I think this was easily my favourite restaurant that we visited.
After our late lunch we jumped on a couple of Citi bikes and rode around the colourful streets of Williamsburg, down to DUMBO where we dropped them off and went for a leisurely stroll over Brooklyn Bridge, back to Manhattan.
That evening we met our NYC crew at Gallow Green, a lush garden hideaway atop of the McKittrick Hotel, for a casual meal and some cocktails. This is such a great spot and I highly recommend you go and check it out. You don’t have to be attending the show at the McKittrick Hotel to enjoy Gallow Green. They even have a weekend brunch with live entertainment for only $35 per person!
After dinner we popped next door to the McKittrick Hotel for Punchdrunk’s immersive theatrical performance of Sleep No More. The air was cool and the room was dark – we were welcomed to Mandalay Bar by smooth talking hosts with thick ghostly voices. It’s a little bit hard to describe just what goes on at the McKittrick without giving too much away, so all you need to know is it is obviously an immersive theatre experience based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth influenced by Alfred Hitchcock, set in the McKittrick Hotel – a 100,000 square feet space. Guests identities are left at the door as everyone dons a white mask as they enter the eerie tale. It is an experience like no other. Tip: dedicate the whole evening, don’t rush the journey. Be brave and be prepared to choose your own story; pick one – two of your favourite actors and try to stick with them throughout the evening to get the most out of it. The fun past comes when you exchange tales of what you saw with your friends in the Mandalay Bar afterwards, trying to piece it all together. The show doesn’t come cheap, tickets start from $119.50.
Sunday came around all too quickly. We headed over to The Standard Grill in the Meatpacking District for some brunch with friends of ours who have recently relocated from London to New York. To be really honest I was a bit underwhelmed with The Standard Grill. It seemed to lack atmosphere, we waited ages and were allocated a pretty shitty table right by the front door. I can’t fault the food, and the staff were perfectly friendly, but I don’t think I would return.
After brunch we headed over to the High Line. I love the innovative ways New Yorker’s create green spaces in the city. Built on the old West Side Line, the High Line is a 2.33 km public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above Manhattan’s West Side. It runs from Gansevoort Street through to West 34th Street. We strolled quite a short way as it was quite windy, but as we passed under The Standard I stole a cheeky glance up at the windows infamously known for their frequent lewd sexual displays from hotel guests. It was all pretty PG on a Sunday morning.
Checking out the local area we did some window shopping and had a wonder around Chelsea Market, an indoor food market. They had a great array of tasty treats and some nice homeware style stores too.
Alas, our time had come to an end and it was time to head back to London. The highlight of the trip for me was easily our day in Brooklyn. For anyone visiting New York, I would encourage you to get out and about and enjoy some of New York’s other boroughs for an authentic experience. We loved New York and its contagious energy and can’t wait to return again.
A summary of our trip with our top recommendations
Dinner at Dos Caminos, SoHo – highly recommended
Live music at Le Poisson Rouge, Greenwich Village – highly recommended
|Breakfast at Balthazar Bakery|
Dinner at Atoboy
Drinks at Bathtub Gin
|Brunch in Greenwich Village|
Visit “Friends” apartment
Wander around Smorgasburg
Rooftop drinks at The Ides – highly recommended
Late lunch at Maison Premiere – highly recommended
Ride Citi bikes Williamsburg – DUMBO – highly recommended
Walk over Brooklyn Bridge – highly recommended
Dinner and drinks at Gallow Green, McKittrick Hotel – highly recommended (you need to go once)
Theatre at McKittrick Hotel (Sleep No More) – highly recommended (you need to go once)
|Brunch – avoid The Standard Grill|
Walk along the High Line
Lunch at Chelsea Market
Until next time, safe travels.
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