New York is an amazing city full of brilliance and utter crap living loudly side by side. From the most expensive penthouse flats and beautifully crafted furniture to must-be-illegal windowless bedrooms for rent in dodgy LES buildings. NYC attacks the senses with loud noises, brilliant blue skies, steaming streets and more delicious restaurants than you can shake a Metrocard at. It's cold enough to make an adult woman cry in the winter, and hot enough to cause the roads to perspire in the summer.
Not for the fainthearted, it is one of the best cities in the world and I am lucky enough to think of it as a second home. In this post, I outline my favourite spots to visit - not the tourist landmarks that everyone should visit at least once in their lives (Rockerfeller Centre, 9/11 memorial, Central Park, The Statue of Liberty...) but rather those little places and streets that make you feel like a true New Yorker.
I would actually recommend renting a flat in New York for the fullest experience. Look in the West Village, Nolita or Tribeca for a nice apartment and enjoy the freedom of feeling like a resident in one of the more residential areas of the city. If you want to stay in a hotel, below are my recommendations:
The Bowery Hotel: An absolute gem of a place. The interior design is wonderful, the restaurant and bar are so chic it hurts and the service is impeccable. The rooms are not huge and the prices are slightly eye-watering but the location and experience are phenomenal.
The Mercer Hotel: In the heart of Soho, this hotel's location can't be beaten. The rooms are surprisingly spacious and the breakfast is very good. This is perfect for those looking to shop and walk everywhere they need to go downtown.
The Crosby Street Hotel: A little gem in Soho, quieter than the Mercer and quirkier in design - the food is delicious and the rooms have real character. I would recommend this hotel for anyone looking to stay slightly more under the radar whilst still being in the heart of downtown NYC.
The Greenwich Hotel: Robert De Niro's stunning hotel with a glorious spa located in the quieter, more grown up area of TriBeCa, this hotel is perfect for a relaxing stay. There are some amazing restaurants in the area and service is exceptional.
The Nomad Hotel: A beautiful quirky hotel in the up-and-coming area of NoMad, this hotel has an amazing restaurant and is the perfect in between spot for those wishing to be more centrally located. The beds are incredibly comfortable and the atmosphere is captivating.
As I mentioned, there are a gagillion restaurants in NYC so I don't pretend to have tried them all (though I did give it a good go!) - below are my absolute favourites and the reason I rate them so highly.
The Little Owl: This one room slice of heaven is a corner restaurant with enormous floor to ceiling windows which always seem to be drenched by the West Village sun. Located on one of the prettiest streets in the city, it serves fresh simple food that is also healthy and beautifully presented. It's also in the building that Friends was filmed in, making it a bit of an iconic landmark for kids who grew up in the 90s. I like it best at lunch time, make sure you book ahead.
Café Carlyle: This is THE ULTIMATE NYC experience. The Carlyle hotel is a bastion of classic New York style and they have Woody Allen and his jazz band play there for selected dinners at the Café - you'll need to book so far in advance but it is by far one of the most magical experiences to have. I'm pretty certain I had goosebumps throughout the meal and it wasn't because I was cold, it was just so much New York-ness to experience all at once.
Bond Street Sushi & Cherry: For excellent Sushi, both of these restaurants are a sure hit. They make the most beautiful flavour combinations, the venues are beautiful and their cocktails are completely delectable. I also love Nobu downtown, a classic and still a favourite.
Miss Lily's & La Esquina: Brought to life by the visionary Serge Becker, these two restaurants are undeniably two of the coolest spots in town. Miss Lily's must have the most attractive staff ever recruited and La Esquina was the first original speakeasy restaurant before a lot of people followed suit. I personally adore dinner at Miss Lily's because their take on classic Caribbean dishes is so spot on, it feels like a holiday every time I eat there.
Mr Chows & Mission Chinese: At opposite ends of the luxury spectrum, Mr Chow offers incredible Chinese food in plush surroundings while Mission Chinese is reminiscent of a student flat with a large paper dragon streaming overhead in the Lower East Side. Both of them however, offer genuinely mouthwatering food that will make you rethink Chinese food altogether.
The Waverly Inn: Possibly the most romantic restaurant with a private courtyard/garden and real fireplaces dotted everywhere, this place is magical. The food is delicious and the atmosphere is very special. Similar in style but slightly more laid back is the Freemans which has a gorgeous private dining room upstairs and some strange taxidermy that kind of works.
Peter Luger & American Cut: If you want to have steak in New York, make it the best. Peter Luger is an establishment - it is the oldest steakhouse and still the best. American Cut is a more modern take on a steakhouse with a wonderful menu and gorgeous interiors. Both are indulgent and a complete treat.
The Fat Radish & The East Pole: Both of these joints are worth visiting just for the charming, modern interior design they have. Populated by New York's delightful British expat contingent, the service is always brilliant and the atmosphere is friendly yet chic. On top of being aesthetically beautiful, they serve fresh, responsibly sourced, seasonal dishes that delight every time.
Barchetta & Perbacco: These two absolutely charming restaurants lie at opposite sides of Manhattan and offer completely authentic Italian cooking. There are no shortcuts at either places: the amazing chefs handpick the ingredients from local markets and make all the dishes from scratch. For example, Clelia at Perbacco delicately puts together each raviolo made with freshly rolled pasta and chef Dave Pasternack at Barchetta slices all the crudos by hand and dresses them with delicately flavoured olive oils. This is Italian cooking at its purest.
Brunch Spots: There are SO many options for this but my favourites are Buvette for their croque madame, Whitehall for the avocado toast, Café Cluny for their brioche french toast, Joseph Leonard for their egg sandwich, Public for their tea-smoked salmon poached eggs, The Lion for chicken & waffles, Jack's Wife Freda for great bellinis and authentic food, The Butcher's Daughter for healthy vegan delicious everything.
Things To Do: Aside from the aforementioned tourist hot spots, don't forget to visit Chelsea Market, take a walk on the High Line, buy something from the Williamsburg flea market on a Saturday morning, go to Battery Park for a different view of the Statue, have a drink at sunset at the bar in the Wythe hotel for views of the city and go to a party at MoMA PS1. For one of the best spa experiences book in at the AIRE Spa and Ancient Baths, and if you want to drink rosé in the summer, head to the Soho House rooftop. For some amazing jewelry and piercings, head to NY Adorned and for an awesome tattoo head to Bang Bang. Eat at Red Rooster in Harlem, have a drink at the Boom Boom Room and a dance at Acme or Happy Endings before heading to No.8 for a nightcap.
What an amazing place to be.