Monday, 22 June 2015

New York - City Guide

I'm lucky enough to go to NY four or five times a year with work, which has given me an amazing opportunity to see the city across the different seasons (ranging from -17C and blizzards in January, to blue skies and cherry blossoms in Spring, and tarmac-melting heat in August...) And while I'm a die-hard London girl, there are definitely parts of New York that I've grown to love as much, if not more, than my home town.

Sunset over Queensboro Bridge

My first experiences weren't the best - I made the mistake of staying in Midtown both times (once - even worse - near Times Square) and experienced the crowd-thronged side-walks and traffic-choked grid system that are the city at its worst. By my fourth trip, I had got the hang of it - booking boutique hotels in laid-back Chelsea, West Village and Tribeca and relying on local recommendations to uncover some seriously good places to eat.

Sunrise from my 46th floor office in Midtown


Until recently, my favourite brunch spot in NYC was Good, a lovely restaurant in Greenwich Village. The buttermilk pancakes with orange butter and toasted almonds are fantastic, and the Cazuela baked eggs - a decadent dish combining leeks, gruyere, crisy bacon, parmesan croutons and copious amounts of cream - is definitely worth the calories (which is saying something!)

However, on my last trip, this was overtaken by the amazing meal I had at the Tipsy Parson, a quirky West Chelsea restaurant specialising in rib-sticking Southern comfort food. My boyfriend and I shared the BBQ pulled pork with fried eggs and corn spoonbread (an amazing cornmeal concoction, halfway between a souffle and a pudding), fried chicken and waffles (maple syrup and chicken make a surprisingly good pairing), and the cheese and bacon grits, which were incredible. I've never really understood the appeal of grits - the versions I've tried previously have tasted a lot like buttery porridge - but these totally converted me. A rich cornmeal pudding topped with a thick crust of melted cheese and crumbles of cripsy bacon. Not the healthiest of sides, but definitely one of the tastiest!

Tucking into chicken and waffles at The Tipsy Parson

Aside from those two favourites, here are a few of my other best-loved brunch spots:

Bubby's for enormous fluffy pancakes with wild blueberry sauce. Follow with a walk on the High Line or along the Tribeca waterfront, depending which branch you go to.

Beauty and Essex for tapas-style brunch dishes to share in Lower East Side (the brunch pizetta, kale and apple salad, and vanilla beignets were my favourites). If you're in the mood for something a little special, they have a champagne brunch from 1pm til 6pm every Sunday.

Closer to Central Park (and if you're feeling a little flash) - Norma's at Le Parker Meridien is the perfect location for a glamorous girly brunch. The rock lobster and asparagus omelette (with a side order of hollandaise for dipping) is delicious and Norma's eggs benedict is served on pancakes (enough said). Best of all, you can book in advance, so no queueing.

Me enjoying brunch in Brooklyn

Highly recommended by friends and on my must-try list are:

ABC Kitchen - with an aspirational browse in the homestore next door
Egg - I've actually heard mixed reviews on this one - and damnit, I don't want to queue! - but despite giving up on my last two attempted visits, I do really love eggs, and biscuits, so hopefully some day I'll get to eat here!
Root & Bone - Southern comfort food in Alphabet City. Because I still haven't tried shrimp and grits.
Buttermilk Channel - Carroll Gardens is one of my favourite areas in Brooklyn, so I don't need much of an excuse to go back. And this place is supposed to be great (pecan pie french toast, hello!)


I try and stay in a different hotel each time (and where possible, avoid chains in favour of cosy boutiques). Here are a few of my favourites so far:

The Tribeca Grand. This hotel is seriously cool and perfectly placed for exploring the famous Tribeca culinary scene. I'd love to go back sometime for the Sunday brunch buffet (with live jazz).

The Jade Hotel - a lovely boutique on the edge of Greenwich Village with an excellent restaurant (The Grape and Vine - try the seared scallops with avocado mousse!)

The Dream Downtown - unfortunately I went in winter, so wasn't able to take advantage of the outdoor pool of this Chelsea establishment. The rooftop lounge-bar was buzzing though, and the lobby was full of glamorous model-types in short-short skirts and sky high heels every day of the week. Definitely a place to stay if you want to explore the NYC nightlife.

The High Line Hotel - a beautiful building overlooking the High Line (more on this below). The rooms are gorgeous, with huge windows and original features. There's a great little coffee shop in the courtyard outside, and free bike hire too.

The High Line Hotel

The Mandarin Oriental - on the expensive side, but perfect for a treat (I used my airmiles to take my Mum for Mother's Day weekend and we had a fantastic stay). Just minutes from Central Park, with stunning views and a "secret" burger joint which is supposed to be one of the best in New York. (Norma's at Le Meridien also makes my list of best brunch spots)

For my next trip, I'm booked into The Standard, High Line in Meatpacking. I've eaten there before and am very excited to finally stay (and to check out the views from the rooftop bar, Le Bain, over a few cocktails!)



The High Line! I make sure to walk along the High Line every time I go to New York - the views are amazing and the foliage and flower beds change dramatically across the seasons. Wake up early on the weekend and get it almost to yourself for an amazing, traffic-free run (it tends to fill up with tour groups from 9am onwards, so set your alarm!)

Crocuses on the tracks in early spring

Lush foliage in June

Autumn colours on an early morning run in November

Chelsea Market - lots of nice shops to wander around and plenty of places to eat - the lobster rolls from The Lobster Place always look very tempting, though I haven't tried them yet! Chelsea Market often hosts samples sales so keep an eye out!

Central Park reservoir - this must be one of the most perfect running spots in Manhattan - springtime is especially beautiful, with hundreds of cherry blossom trees lining the water. On a still day the surface of the lake is like a mirror, reflecting back stunning views of the city skyline

The Metropolitan Museum of Art - The Met is perfect for escaping the cold in winter - you'll definitely need a few visits to see everything though. The Ancient Near Eastern Art exhibit is my favourite

Morningside Heights - I feel like this part of Manhattan is somewhat neglected by tourists, but the area around Columbia and Riverside Park is really worth a visit and is a lovely place for a walk on a sunny day (minus the crowds)

Hudson River Park - another of my favourite running routes, this is the place to go for breath-taking sunsets (and to watch people walk their enormous, surely-too-big-for-Manhattan-apartment dogs - I've never seen so many Great Danes!)

Sunset over the Hudson

Korean nail salons - for $10 manicures and excellent value pedicures, foot rubs, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Another great way to escape the weather outside in winter and high summer. Joy Nails is my go-to.


Williamsburg - I'm lucky to have a friend who lives here, so I head over every time I'm in New York. From super-cool bars, brunch spots and coffee shops, to flea markets and vintage stores, Williamsburg has plenty to keep you entertained. On Saturdays, head to Smorgasburg for one of the best food markets I've been to (try the tacos, fried chicken, and salted caramel ice-cream sandwiches, or branch out with some of the more exotic ethnic offerings)

Prospect Park - designed by the same landscape architects as Central Park, but far less busy. Pick up a Citi Bike and go for a cycle, or have a picnic in the sun. Nearby Park Slope is also worth exploring

Smorgasburg in Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights - a recent discovery for me, this is the part of New York I feel has the most similar vibe to Islington, where I live in London. With wide, tree-lined streets, and rows of elegant brownstones, the neighbourhood is low-rise and spacious, and a lot calmer than Manhattan. On Sundays, the Brooklyn Bridge Park plays host to Smorgasburg (see above - it's amazing). Nearby Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill are equally nice, the perfect balance of Brooklyn cool and family-friendly suburbia.

Brownstones in Brooklyn Heights


I have to admit I haven't spent much time in Queens, and I definitely need to do some more exploring. On my to-do list is Greek food in Astoria and dim sum in FlushingMoma PS1 is also supposed to be great and I definitely want to go to an exhibition there sometime soon!

Sunset view from Penthouse 808

One thing I have done, which was pretty incredible, was watching the sunset from Penthouse 808 after playing in a company softball game in Queensbridge Park (in which embarrassingly I didn't hit the ball once). A truly fantastic spot for drinks, and the Asian fusion bar snacks were also very good!

So! That was my NYC City Guide. And to finish off the post, here is a Thanksgiving turkey I made last year :)

I came over all American and threw a big Thanksgiving dinner back in London - here is my beautiful first-ever turkey - so proud!