When I first moved to New York, fresh out of university, it was 2004 and I “bunked up” in a flat with a friend in the West Village. Every day was a walk to choose flowers on the corner of Hudson and Christopher, and grab a coffee at one of three favourite local places. Later, I moved up to another shared flat just on the cusp of Hell’s Kitchen. I learned the ins and outs of the “tapas streets” that hide just west of Times Square, and found it easy and quick to get around from such a central — if annoyingly “on the map” — part of New York.
But time has long passed since when I moved away in 2006, and after years in New Zealand and Los Angeles, it was high time I brought my husband to the city that he says I always get starry-eyed talking about. It’s true: New York holds a special place in my heart. But I was a little concerned when we booked a three-day trip from LA that it might not prove to be the marvel that it always had been — so I went with a new plan.
My goal: to see the city through fresh eyes. New and old. Nostalgia and discovery.
With this plan, I decided that we should stay on the lower section of the island, seeing as I was more likely to be ready to explore from a different vantage point, so we set up camp the first two nights at The Frederick, a newly-opened hotel that overlooks the triangle that TriBeCa is known for, right on Broadway. The beauty of staying here is that the 1-2-3 Line Chambers Street Station is right on the corner, and from this place we did all of the more “touristy” (yet not overly cliche) activities that a first-timer should do. Our room was beautifully clean and crisp with blue and white decor, a dreamy tiled shower with to-die-for water pressure and excellent amenities. This is the hotel you want to stay in especially if you have business on the lower west side.
The first night we walked up Hudson Street in the brisk air, smiling up at the brick buildings so much of the city is comprised of, until we found a spot known for it’s authentic dim sum. Coming home to our cosy room, we smiled out at the view of our corner room where we could see the Empire State Building glittering back at us.
In the morning, we took a quick Lyft up to my ultimate favourite spot for brunch or breakfast: Bubby’s at Gansevoort. Bubby’s is an institution in West Side New York, and I had to share the biscuits, gravy and pretty much everything that this place affords. There are two locations, one actually right in Tribeca, but we wanted to start up “higher” where the Meat-Packing district location is, so that we could do the “sweet stroll” that is following Bleecker Street all the way until you start hitting SoHo. (For the uninitiated, SoHo stands for “South of Houston” and NoHo “North of Houston.” You are welcome).
We ate pizza in Little Italy for lunch, I took over twenty photos of graffiti (because that is it’s own, very worthwhile, New York activity) and we zipped back to The Frederick for a quick rest. The rooms are so clean, classy and comfortable, it would have been easy to sleep but we hustled out after an hour.
When I previously lived in NY I think I actually got down to the Financial District — located just at the southern tip — three to five times, tops. It was a highly windy day, but we walked along the water, waved at the Statue of Liberty and then strolled up to see Charging Bull at Wall Street (and then Fearless Girl). I’d love to say that we ate responsibly that night, but instead I’ll just say that walking really whips up an appetite, and there’s nothing better after dinner if you’re on the east side anywhere close to SoHo than pulling yourself up to the Milk Nolita window. Get yourself cookie ice-cream, or a cookie and ice-cream, or a milkshake and eat it on the sweet few benches provided on the side walk. Everyone who works there is in a great mood and so are the customers; it’s a win-win situation.
Our second morning, we moved across town, which I have to say is very easy to do if you have anything from Away. I’m such an outspoken fan of these bags. Having well-made, easy-to-move bags that also comply with carry-on standards in the US is a serious must for weekend trips. I’m hooked on all my Away luggage. In keeping with my determination to see NY “fresh,” we moved over to Hotel 50 Bowery, located adjacent to Chinatown and the Lower East Side, and we stepped immediately into a blend of luxury, street style and aplomb.
The service here is past one hundred percent — as we checked in, I noticed that the concierge knew everyone in the lounge by name — and the decor phenomenal. The Hotel partnered with Exhibition A to curate a collection of art featured across the space, and paid homage to the hotel’s surrounding neighbourhoods, including historic black and white photographs of Chinatown from the Museum of Chinese in America. In contrast, there are abstract compositions and graffiti art peppering the walls, rooms and, in particular, the restaurant.
Rice and Gold, the ground floor restaurant, had just opened it’s new brunch menu when we visited, and the food was an explosion of taste. We chose morning options a la carte, and you wouldn’t think what you wanted at 10 AM was a lobster roll until you ate it, sipped your coffee and decided that it might be the best thing you’ve ever eaten before noon. The theory behind the name is that the menu is based on a collection of cultural tastes, all woven together by their common cultural staple food: rice. (Note: Later that night, we slid up to the bar after returning from our show and ate the best soup dumplings known to man, with cocktails we talked about the next morning on the plane. They were so good.)
On this last full day, we found ourselves wandering slowly up Central Park, people watching at Rockefeller Centre and eventually making it up to dine at Bevy, the new restaurant nestled in the Park Hyatt hotel. The meal we ate that night will go down in history as one of the most decadent, perfectly-paired menus either of us are likely to have.
View this post on Instagram
Incredible dining experience at the brand new @bevynyc restaurant at the @parkhyattny. A beautiful, and definitely luxurious atmosphere – and the food is excellent! One of my favorites were the Long Island #Oysters with #mignonette pearls, with fennel #sausage on the side as a "chaser"! Such a treat on the taste buds. — ?: @bevynyc #bevynyc #bevy . . — #foodbabynyc #parkhyatt #newyork #foodporn #passionpassport #nyc #eatingnyc #heresmyfood
I’ve eaten all over the world, at some of the “most popular,” but between the candied bacon appetizer (and it’s delicious; it isn’t greasy), the foie gras, the steak, the venison and all of the scrumptious “sides,” Bevy has me for life. I’m praying they never change their head chef — but especially that they keep their sommelier forever. The wine selection is particularly of interest, and his recommendations were past my expectations. This is the place to go to “go all out” on your trip to New York, to take your spouse out for a special time or your best friend for her birthday because you can slowly saver every bite and you will remember all of it. We ran eleven blocks to get to our show in time, went back to Hotel 50 Bowery and barely wanted to every go to sleep, knowing we had to leave the city in the morning.
Should you go to New York, my final advice is this: Select one borough a day and leave FOMO at the airport. Take a friend and eat delicious food. Above all, remember to always allow “old” cities the chance to be sparkling and new every time you visit.
Is there a city you get starry-eyed about?
Feature Image via Joshua Newton