Friday, 4 June 2010

New York, New York....

....Kelly and I are recently back from a week long stay in New York. Largely brought about by the wedding of Matt & Tess on the Bank Holiday weekend, (which will be documented in a separate post), but we decided to make a holiday of it.

Unperturbed by flying BA, (booked long before the strike debacle) and in the wake of an omnipresent ash cloud, we reached New York safely on Monday morning. (In fact, we got there some ten hours earlier than expected, after being transferred to a different departure, after our original flight was cancelled). I was excited to be returning to the city again, my fourth trip in five years, whilst Kelly having only stopped for a brief visit once before, was keen to see more of the real NYC.

There are reels of photos, as you might expect, plenty to describe from our day to day meanderings, but I want this post to serve as an (expanded) list of what we enjoyed most and would therefore recommend to any other visitors to New York. We did, of course, only scrape the surface of the wealth of possibilities on offer, but we we had a truly incredible time. (Full reels of photos at the end of the post.)

** Also, a huge thank you in the first instance to Andreas & Lina for putting us up from Monday to Friday - " Bumpin' / Disgustin' " !! **

In a very Roy-like manner, I had written a huge list of potential things to do and places to visit - both through my own research and other recommendations. We only managed some, which will appear below, but others were new finds altogether. For ease I am going to write the list on a day to day basis.

Monday: Our first day, tired and wandering locally to Andreas.
El Beit on Bedford Avenue & N8th, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This is the best and indeed first coffee we had in New York. (Perhaps those facts are related). And it is where I learned that the coolest job in NYC right now is that of a barista.


Are you being served?

Smartie cookie.

Coffee to die for.

- Bozu, a Japanese tapas on Grand St, Brooklyn.
- Beacons Closet, a vast vintage clothing warehouse on N11th St, Brooklyn.
- Lodge, a bar and adjoining cafe (General Store) on Grand St, Brooklyn.

Tuesday: Our first real day, walking from Brooklyn to Manhattan and all in between.
Phoebes cafe on Graham Ave, Brooklyn. This was our breakfast regular - good food, good choice, good portion. And local. We usually plumped for the granola, fruit & yoghurt but I have it on good authority that the steamed eggs are top notch.

Freemans Restaurant, Freeman Alley off Rivington St, Lower East Side. We were recommended this restaurant and whilst it was expensive, it was also exceptional. The setting was wonderful, both it's set back location and dark, broody taxidermy-filled interior. The service was the best I have had and the meal not far behind. Devils on horse back / grilled sardines to start. Pork shoulder steak with asparagus for main (both). Lemon curd on stewed strawberries & rhubarb for dessert (shared).

- Angelica Kitchen, a wonderful vegan restaurant on N9th St, East Village.
- Van Leeuwen, roaming ice cream vans stocked with seasonal tasty, unusual, well thought flavours.
- Back Room Bar, a hidden bar serving cocktails in tea cups and bottled beer in brown paper bags in pseudo opulent setting. On Norfolk St, LES.

Wednesday: More walking and parking, all in Manhattan.
The High Line, Meat Packing District, Manhattan. As written in a previous post, I have been fascinated by the High Line ever since Joel Sternfeld documented it as an overgrown disused space. Now it is a rejuvenated and well designed public park that runs from Gansevoort St to W20th, before reaching W34th when fully completed. It is a wonderful place to visit, take in views and relax. The newly opened boutique Standard Hotel also straddles it, adding another dimension.

Central Park, Up Town, Manhattan. A classic that has to be seen to be believed. Expansive fields of green, a lake, reservoir and more, with the back drop of skyscrapers for company. An idyllic relief from the city, we used it as a retreat for a picnic and relaxing afternoon.

- Stumptown Coffee in the Ace Hotel foyer on West 29th & Broadway, Manhattan. Good coffee, silly cool staff, photo booth in the foyer and a hotel above that is trendy, but pricey.
- Frankies Spuntino restaurant on Clinton St, LES, owned by two Italians both called Frank, who cook up a delight. And the best creme brulee I've eaten.
- Times Square on Broadway & 7th Ave, Manhattan. A busy, pulsing neon quarter that puts Piccadilly Circus well and truly in its place. Look out for the Naked Cowboy!

Thursday: A birds eye view, a Katz eye view and an Andreas private view.
Helicopter flight over Manhattan. Now, I probably wouldn't have chosen this myself, owing to my general fear of flying and the expense of such a frivolity. But it was a gift to mum, dad and I from Ruth and Andy......and boy was it good. Brief, but good.

Katz Deli, E Houston, Manhattan. Sure, we followed the tourist trail, sure it's over priced and perhaps over hyped, but I just wanted some of whatever Sally was eating! Whether it was pastrami on rye with gherkins, I don't know, but that's what we got and it was epic. I thoroughly enjoyed the over filled sandwich, salty and delicious. Kel thought she liked it, but several repetitions later, she wasn't so sure! I stand by it. Go.

- Flat Iron Building, Fifth Ave, Manhattan. It looks like it's name suggests and is an architectural and tourist icon.
- L'Asso pizza restaurant on Mott St & Kenmare, Manhattan. For good value pizza, if you're in the area, (also serving good beer including watermelon wheat beer and good Stumptown coffee).
- Daddy's bar in Graham Ave, Brooklyn for a local drink in a cool bar. Not too busy with a good clientele and staff.
- The Puffin Room on Broome St, Manhattan for expansive, ever changing young artists exhibitions. (And where Andreas is currently part of a group exhibition).

Friday: Eggy bread, arty farty, then off to Sleepy Hollow.
Egg, on N5th & Bedford, Brooklyn. We started the day with brunch, (New York's most favourite past time don'tcha know?!), at this recommended cafe. It was worth the small wait - a lovely little setting, a neat idea for crayons on tables, (I couldn't resist) and an intriguing menu. I went for Eggs Rothko (an egg cooked within a thick brioche slice) and Kel had Country Ham Biscuit (ham, with fig jam on scone with 'grits'). We thoroughly enjoyed it.

P.S.1 Art Gallery, Queens. I love this space - a former school, (Primary School One), that MoMA transformed and opened this contemporary gallery in its place. It showcases new artists and on this occasion was hosting a review of the last 5 years. To be honest, it was an extensive and all to exhaustive display of work, meaning that after reminding myself, (and introducing Kelly), of the great space, we retreated to the cafe, then home.

- Grand Central Station terminal on East 42nd & Park Ave, Manhattan. An incredible, vast and beautifully decorative hall. Stand there and watch New York commuters fly past whilst you take it all in.

Saturday: (Wedding Day, post to follow).

Sunday: A trip west side and a hotel that is anything but standard.
The Standard Hotel, on Washington & W13th St, Manhattan.

Kelly and I stayed here on our final night in New York. It was a treat to ourselves, until it became a birthday treat from mum, dad, Ruth & Andy! We were very excited to not only get some time with one another, but also to see a hotel that looked so incredible in all the photos we'd seen. It didn't disappoint - confidently straddling the High Line, saying, 'look at me' - yet its entrance somewhat more inconspicuous, underneath the High Line via a yellow swing door. Our room was modest in size, but stylishly and thoughtfully designed.

The king size bed was, without question, the greatest bed I have ever slept in. Little touches like the full height windows affording views of the city and down to the High Line walkway beneath added glamour, whilst a glass shower screen make your view, (and anyone elses of you), unobstructed throughout.

The hotel, still one month shy of their roof terrace opening, did have an 18th floor bar too, known as the Boom Boom Room.

Kelly and I treated ourselves to stunning views and cocktails as the sun set over the Hudson River and downtown Manhattan.

It was a wonderful sight and the opulence of the room from which we watched, added yet more glamour and memories to the occassion.

Marie's Crisis Cafe, Grove St, Manhattan. Another recommendation, described simply as a 'gay piano bar', but one that I would love owing to my recent positive review of Hair. They weren't wrong.

This was the final stop on our final night and it was filled with fun, singing and crying. Down some stairs and in to this bar, gathered around a piano were men, (and the odd lady), singing cabaret and musical numbers.

They did it casually, yet brilliantly. With a smile, but like they'd done it all their life. (Which I don't doubt). Kelly and I were enthralled, immediately befriended by a local, (and subsequent singer), and remained there for the evening. As ever, I was reduced to (alcoholic) tears, as a beautiful song, (no of course I don't remember the name!), dedicated to his late mother was sung impeccably amongst a hushed bar. I was in bits. Good bits. Go.

- Zampa on W13th St. An Italian tapas restaurant & wine bar. Small, not too busy, not too pricey, but very good.
- Art Bar on 8th Ave & Jane St. A pretty inconspicuous bar, but bypass the front tables and go and sit in the Moroccan-like lounge at the back. Not too busy for such an area, serving beers & cocktails.

Monday: The final day.
Hudson River walk, Manhattan. Kelly and I had a long and slightly hung over lie-in, we had a welcome delayed check-out until 1pm and decided the best decision would be to stay local for what remained of our last day. In the burning sun, we got some breakfast then strolled along the bank of the Hudson, taking it all in. And there was plenty - from the views, to the people-watching, the joggers, dog walkers, gay couples, straight couples, famelies and sun bathers. To us they all had something interesting about them. Maybe we were just aware we'd shortly be leaving and wanted to soak up every last detail. But it was a perfect final day. A perfect holiday. We are already looking forward to our return.

The photo reels, (click on each to enlarge):

From start to finish:

Random snaps:

The Standard Hotel:

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