My love affair with this city began so long ago. I even did the New York Bar exams without having done a J.D. (American law degree) which people have likened to learning the entirety of Shakespeare’s written work off by heart. A labour of love! I feel more at home in NYC than anywhere other than London. It really is my second home, not least because it now the home of my sister, my life’s longest and greatest love. Writing a short blog post is kinda tough but here’s my favourite current spots from my latest trip.
If I could invent a City lunch spot cafe, it would be a cross between Hu Kitchen and Eat Is Life (Ibiza) with a few extra luxuries thrown in. At lunchtime, I want a quick place, and I want to eat food that is going to fuel my afternoon without making me collapse needing sugar or coffee at 4pm, especially in NYC where even on a two week trip I was so hard pressed to fit in everyone I wanted to see and everything I wanted to do. The Hu website talks of “unequivocally delicious food that also happens to be unprocessed and good for you”. Absolutely true. Fresh salad to die for (or live for!), and I had the most delicious coconut milk latte and almond butter dark chocolate I have ever tasted. So good in fact, I brought enough bars home to get me through to my next NYC trip.
At dinner, if I am eating out, I have no interest in specifically healthy places. I want the best food, the best atmosphere, the best all round. A place has to be good enough to leave my kids, my own home cooked food and my evening reading sessions in bed – and that is frankly a tough call. I could not pick just one of these two restaurants because they were both perfect.
The hottest table in NYC, and deservedly so. A classic New York bistro style restaurant with a twist: French fusion food, 80’s atmosphere and music, cocktail bar vibe. I cannot put into words how delicious the food was, and BTW French is my least favourite cuisine – I’m much more of a Japanese, Thai or Italian kind of girl. Two tips from the night: 1. Order the chicken and as many sides as you can fit on your table (I particularly loved the squash and the mushrooms). 2. Don’t drink as many cocktails as I did. The restaurant has a cocktail master and the cocktail menu features plays on classic cocktails. They were far too good for me to approach with my usual level of self discipline. Same goes for the food actually. The whole place is just too delicious. Thank you to my friend John, who eats there so worryingly often that he is on first name terms with the staff and even has a running tab.
You know Brooklyn has arrived when the NYC outpost of arguably the best Italian restaurant in Italy opens there. I lived in Rome as a child, I know my Italian food! Antica Pesa is my favourite restaurant in Rome – not because it is a celebrity haunt and has a stunning Roman walled garden, but because it has the yummiest food. I mean, pasta has to be worth it, right? If I’m going to eat a whole plate of carbs, geez it better be melt in the mouth delicious and yes it is here. This Williamsburg gem even has gluten free pastas on the menu. I think this is the perfect winter restaurant – there is a cosy feel with a fireplace, leather arm chairs and a fun cocktail bar. The owner had flown in from Italy overnight the previous night, and was still there, jetlag and all, checking up on clients’ meals. I could hear from talking with him that he passionately cared about the calibre of food, staff, atmosphere, everything. Thank you to my Italian friend Marco – I didn’t even know Antica Pesa had opened in NYC. Marco knows everything.
You just can’t go to NYC and not try a Soul Cycle class, OK people?! Cycling is my least favourite cardio and spin classes are my idea of misery, but I love Soul Cycle so they must be onto something. It is an NYC fitness phenomenon that has deservedly achieved cult like status. It is therapy as well as exercise – mind and body are inextricably linked, and you really do leave not only with renewed energy to attack the rest of your day, but a sense of purpose and perspective. I know that sounds all new-agey and very unlike me, but honestly every time I leave a Soul Cycle class, I have sorted out something in my head that was worrying or bothering me. I also leave with a load of endorphins and leave behind a load of calories. What’s not to love? Thank you to my friends Emily and Hilary, two beautiful souls and my favourite Soul Cycle companions, who each booked a bunch of slots for me. Top Soul Cycle tip: My favourite instructors are Stacey and Connor. Ride with them; you won’t forget it.
Every time I am in NYC, I go on a run. I love running through different neighbourhoods and picking up the vibes and atmosphere of this multi-cultural City, full as it is of go-getters, dreamers and achievers. If I’m staying uptown, I run through or around Central Park, which is so beautiful in the Fall. The colours are breathtaking. If I am staying downtown, I run either along the river on the West side, taking in all the Piers and parks, or along the High Line and surrounding areas. It gets too hot to run in July/August, and too cold in December/January, but at other times of year, NYC is perfect running weather – It is always bright and rarely raining. Running tips: activate the muscles you want to target by using a TRX pre run. Remember to stretch post run. TRX plus run is my favourite anywhere workout when I travel.
One World Trade Centre
At 1776 ft tall, this is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. The views from the Observatory are just remarkable, and really gave my children a sense of the shape and size of this huge City with Manhattan Island sitting in its centre. We loved it! Apparently the lines/queues can be terrible so pick your times carefully. Morning weekdays are preferable. Book your tickets online in advance to avoid the first queue altogether. The Observatory and WTC building is totally separate from the Memorial, so you can feel safe taking children up to see the view without having to explain the horrifying and tragic history. I did myself go to the memorial and fountain. Don’t go without feeling strong and armed with several boxes of Kleenex. I am still, over fourteen years on, utterly unable to get my head around what happened on 9/11. The headline facts and figures, and even the image of planes hitting an iconic high rise building on Manhattan are nothing compared with the very humanising individual and personal stories.
Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum
My children are obsessed with this place. There is nothing like it in London, or perhaps anywhere else in the World. A submarine, a concorde, a space shuttle – REAL ONES, not models. And that is just a few of the many vessels here – all housed on or beside a huge WW2 aircraft carrier on a pier beside central Manhattan. Wow, right? There are a lot of displays, interactive experiences, simulators and films. Everything has been authentically restored, and I especially love how detailed the information is on all the artefacts displayed. Reading about how military personnel actually live on these vessels, as well as how they are built and operated, is fascinating even to a very girlie girl. Don’t miss it.
I usually stay with friends or family in NYC but booked The James Hotel for part of my stay. It’s on the border of SoHo/Tribeca, a great area for shopping and for kids. I much prefer staying downtown when I’m with my children, even though it is far from Central Park and many of the museums. These are easily done in uptown day trips. Downtown Manhattan is much more child friendly generally, the restaurants are more welcoming and there are many little playgrounds. The James is high in the coolness stakes – I was obsessed with some of the art, the mid-century Scandinavian style interior design and the buzzy rooftop bar. The family corner suites are as spacious as you could expect on Manhattan and the well equipped gym has a fantastic view. I had to promise the kids we would go back when the weather is warmer – there’s a rooftop pool!