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Black book travel guide: NYC
Photography by iStockphoto.com.
In New York City, there is a constant buzz about what’s new: a hot bistro with a boldface-name attached; a hip hotel outside the usual tourist ’hoods; a divey bar with award-winning mixologists creating outrageously good cocktails. But that’s not to say New Yorkers aren’t a loyal bunch: They know a good thing when they see it, so the old favourites seem to never go out of favour. Do like a local when it comes to planning a weekend jaunt to the Big Apple, and be sure to include a few new and a few not-so-new places to round out your experience. Here are some of our picks—just to get you started…
SLIDESHOW: NYC’s top TRAVEL HOT SPOTS
The Library Hotel
299 Madison Avenue
New York has plenty of lovely hotels in amazing locations, so it’s the finer details that can make all the difference. This is what struck me as I sat on the Library Hotel’s rooftop terrace, sipping a glass of prosecco and enjoying a plate of cheddar, brie and grape tomatoes in the evening sun. The Library’s wine and cheese reception, free to guests every evening from 5 p.m. till 8 p.m., was part of what tempted me to stay at the Library, and it ended up being one of the highlights of my weekend. Aside from this delightful perk, the Library ticks all the boxes: friendly and helpful staff, charming décor and superb location (Madison and 41st). Bibliophiles will love the books theme. (I stayed in the Fairy Tales room.) The free (continental) breakfast set me up for a day of galleries, museums and culture (er, okay—shopping). I’ll be back—and I’ll be clearing my sightseeing (fine, shopping) schedule every day from five till eight.
Thompson Hotel Gild Hall
15 Gold Street
Truth be told, I had a little trouble finding this place. Travelling from Midtown, I figured the subway was the quickest route—but I didn’t bank on getting disoriented once I was at street level and struggling with a map, umbrella and suitcase in the pouring rain. Knowing I was heading to a Thompson hotel, though, I soldiered on and found my way. Sure enough, the Gild Hall outpost of this über-cool brand has that edgy luxury that not many hotels seem to be able to nail—and, indeed, that you wouldn’t expect to find in the Financial District. The interiors are both modern and retro with a masculine feel—lots of leather, dark woods and rich plaids—which makes the them feel cosy and stylish at the same time. Just two blocks from Wall Street, Gild Hall is well located for exploring Lower Manhattan (a must) and, despite my fraught arrival, is very close to the subway. Staff are super-helpful, products in the bathroom are lovely and a quiet setting ensures a solid night’s sleep.
Where to STAY IN NYC
The best restaurants in NYC on the next page…
The Dead Rabbit
30 Water Street
If you thought the speakeasy disappeared after prohibition was lifted in the 1930s, you’d be wrong. Sort of. In a 185-year-old building in the rarified surrounds of the Financial District is a very cool and very fun new speakeasy. The Dead Rabbit is, granted, a little off the tourist path, but if you’re in the area, it’s well worth including a visit to take in the authentic décor, buzzy atmosphere and expertly made cocktails (thousands of recipes were tested before they made the cut). And, let’s face it: If you’re staying on the tourist path, you’re missing out. On the second floor is the Parlour Bar—wooden tables with old-timey oil lamps, a long bar—where you’re handed a vintage-teacupful of the communal punch almost as soon as you sit down. The Tap Room is on the ground level; sawdust on the floor and the wooden-beamed ceiling covered in old photographs, this feels more publike, and you’re likely to see founders Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry enjoying a pint of one of their many craft beers after a shift mixing up Mamie Taylors and Velvet Gaffs (just two of the many drinks on the menu). Both originally from Ireland, Muldoon and McGarry have impressive resumés, having mixed libations in some of the U.K.’s most prestigious barrooms, and brought their talents together to create the Dead Rabbit. The bar is located on a “cursed” block—every business that had hung their shingle here in recent years had failed. But Muldoon knew it was the right place from the moment he saw it and was convinced he could make it work. “It had to be good,” he says. “It had to have an edge.” The droves of customers seem to confirm that it is and it does.
NYC travel guide: LIFESTYLE TIPS
407 West 14th Street
The wine had just been poured, orders taken and the gossip started when one of the many attentive servers dropped off a wooden serving platter laden with soft, warm tearing bread and a huge pat of herbed butter. This boded well. There are few things in this world that are more delicious than fresh-from-the-oven bread, but one of them has to be fresh-from-the-oven bread at Manon. This new restaurant-cum-nightclub is a great place to start your night out: It’s right in the Meatpacking District, and the ground floor happens to be a pretty happening bar too. Exposed brick, high ceilings and super-cool light fixtures complement the beautiful people within, and the comfortable chairs will make you want to stay for hours. But as soon as you’ve finished your chocolate cake with ice cream and salted caramel sauce (DO have it), head downstairs for a glass of prosecco before venturing into the night and joining the revelry.
Dominique Ansel Bakery
189 Spring Street
Half the fun of a going away is treating yourself to the local delicacies. In Naples, you should have pizza; in Scotland, dare to try haggis; in Russia, straight vodka is practically de rigeur. In New York, you must try the Cronut: a new and insanely popular croissant-doughnut hybrid. Layers of flaky pastry filled with a delicate cream and topped with a civilized amount of glaze amount to one of the most sought-after foods to ever come out of a patisserie—Dominique Ansel Bakery, to be specific. “I wanted to create a doughnut, but it had to be something different, something French,” says Ansel, the Cronut’s French creator. Given the facts that a) the lineup outside the bakery starts well before the 8 a.m. opening (at 5:30 a.m. on the day I visited), b) the Cronuts sell out within 15 minutes and c) there are actually scalpers who manage to resell the doughnuts for up to $40 each, it seems safe to say that the Cronut has been a triomphe. But, “It’s not my favourite,” says Ansel—he prefers the DKA (Dominique’s kouign amann: layers of croissant pastry that are baked with sugar as well as butter for caramelized deliciousness). I had the pleasure of trying a Cronut, and it was, in fact, delectable. But I’m with the chef on this one—the DKA was the winner for me. When I asked if he would keep inventing pastries, Ansel’s quick reply was: “Of course—I will never stop.” Well, thank goodness for that.
NYC’s best shopping on the next page…
45 Bond Street
Serving up very fresh Tuscan fare, this new addition to NoHo was opened by the same team who own Posada Margherita, in Tulum, Mexico, a hugely popular beachside Italian restaurant. Circolo co-owner Andrea De Leonardis believes first and foremost that guests should feel comfortable and that the food should be fresh—in fact, on the evening of my visit, he was meeting with Italian cheese vendors as part of his quest to find the perfect Parmesan cheese. When I asked the waitress what the house specialties were, one of the dishes she mentioned was gnocchi in a “parmigiano reggiano fondue.” Fearing it might be too rich, I decided to share it with my companion as a side dish—but it was so good we nearly came to blows over the last gnocco. The rest of the meal was almost as satisfying (buffalo mozzarella, Scottish salmon, spinach and ricotta ravioli), and just when we thought we were defeated, the desserts were brought out: a Tahitian vanilla and raspberry tart and chocolate cake with molten centre were both well worth feeling ridiculously full for.
183 1/8 West 10th Street
In what may actually be the narrowest shop in New York City, Laura Lobdell and Xiao, her adorable Japanese Chin, preside over her collection of “found object” jewellery, a chilled bottle of bubbly always at the ready. The inspiration for her beautiful trinkets and baubles are everyday items—a matchstick, pop-can pull tabs, a button. Her first piece was a guitar-pick necklace, a practical creation for her guitar-playing friends that proved so popular it prompted her to forge on with more such projects. She is particularly known for her champagne-cage (the wire thingy over the cork—called a “muselet,” I’ve just learned) rings and necklaces. Unusual and lovely, they can be customized with the precious stones and engraved. “My jewellery is about celebrating every day and not saving things for a special occasion,” says Lobdell. All the more reason to pop in and treat yourself.
Town House Shops
504 West Broadway
I popped into Town House to escape the rain for a few minutes—by the time I left I had a bagful of goodies and my umbrella was completely dry. It was all too easy to pass an hour in this girlie shop filled with great accessories (colourful statement necklaces and infinity scarves, hipster hats, fun purses) and dresses, skirts and blouses in all manner of quirky and pretty patterns. The décor is almost as much fun as the wares, and there’s even a gorgeous sofa so you can rest your weary feet. Take the girls with you, then pop into the café next door to celebrate your purchases.