Come triumph or catastrophe, New York never stops evolving, which is why Spear’s dispatched Caroline Phillips to discover what’s in, out and shaking it all about in the New New York.
Part Two: Eating and drinking
One of the hardest reservations in NYC is the Minetta Tavern in The Village, Keith McNally’s (of Balthazar and Pastis fame) recent revamp of the 1930s saloon bar. There’s an unlisted number for insiders and a 6pm (if you’re lucky) dinner reservation for outsiders.
Perhaps I should have ordered one of the lavishly-reviewed steaks or burgers, as my salt cod-stuffed squid was ill-conceived. The restaurant is also uncomfortable, cramped and chaotic. It’s known as a head-swivelling place and I ended up as a cork screw – but didn’t see anyone well-known apart from my companion, a friend of Warhol.
Contrastingly, lunch at Maialino – über-NY restaurateur Danny Meyer’s just-opened trattoria overlooking Gramercy Park – was a pleasure. Channelling Rome, its delizioso food – albeit in social X-ray portions – comes with slick service from film-extra waiters. There is also an airy, light room with rustic tables, weathered wood floors and what the Americans term ‘salami stations’.
The Monkey Bar is one of the prettiest rooms in New York with its Edward Sorel murals, subdued lighting and tinkling piano. At dinner it’s full of dressed-to-kill corporate women dining sans hommes, and Old Money.
With its Caprice-like menu, charming staff and buzz, it’s hard to fault. Our party went long on lobster – lobster cocktails and superlative lobster pie. It’s owned by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and reservations are only by email unless you’re what’s known locally as a FOG. (Friend of Graydon’s.) Anyone want his home number?
113 MacDougal Street, New York, NY 10012-1201
Tel: 212 475 3850
2 Lexington Ave
Tel: 212 777 2410
The Monkey Bar
Elysee Hotel, 60 East 54th Street between Madison and Park Aves.
The Breslin, April Bloomfield’s (of Spotted Pig fame) new restaurant in the hip Ace Hotel, doesn’t take reservations – so call before you queue. It has Scottish baronial-meets-Edwardian caff décor and serves modern European meat-centric fare.
If you have enough light to read it, it’s a great menu. Chargrilled lamb-burger with feta, cumin mayo and thrice cooked chips is their signature dish ($17. Oh, plus gratuities suggested generously at ‘15%, 18% or 20%’.) Excellent, like everything we tried.
16 West 29th Street
Tel: 212 679 1939
Plumes of red smoke, washing lines or an immense clitoris in the scale of 450:1. Those are some artists’ suggestions for filling the void in the Guggenheim, the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright museum.
Alternatively, you can just have lunch at The Wright, its elegant new eaterie. It occupies a sleek white-on-white space designed by Andre Kikoski, a leading new-guard architect. Inspired by the original corkscrew building, there’s a curvilinear walnut wall, sweeping blue leather banquette and layered white ceiling, plus Liam Gillick’s orange and yellow powder-coated aluminium planks mounted horizontally on the walls and ceiling, The horizon produced by a factory once it has stopped producing views.
Chef Rodolfo Contreras (ex-David Bouley) has created a modern American menu with seasonal, local and sustainable ingredients, and inventive dishes like Roasted Suckling Pig, Quince, Violet Mustard and Apple Bacon Jus. The curved bar is for ‘small plates’ (panini, almond soup), or you can sit at a curved communal table or that banquette.
Flawless service – while I’m in the loo, my napkin is re-folded. And the food? Baby Octopus Mosaic is pure Pompeii. Halibut comes with miniature pansies, artfully arranged sugar peas and a potato-chive sauce in Picassoesque lines. World class art on a plate.
The Wright at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue at 88th Street
Tel: 212 427 5690
Lunch Monday to Wednesday, dinner Thursday to Saturday, brunch Sunday
Opened December 2009
The Boom Boom Room is 18 floors above the groovy Meatpacking District. There’s a lot of hype (‘They make you re-re-confirm and still don’t have your name at the door,’ complains a Christie’s director) and posturing (‘Let me check your coat, or we’ll take it later. We have a no jackets on furniture policy,’ preens the receptionist).
Despite this and Madonna sightings, this wannabe Studio 54 is a must-see. It has Art-Deco ocean-liner-style leather banquettes, waitresses in skimpy backless dresses and an open wood fire, plus spectacular wraparound views through floor-to-ceiling windows – including in the loo – and vertiginous glass-floored smoking terraces.
The bar is full of committed American cocktail drinkers on ‘Kissed a Girl’ and ‘Absolution’ from 4–9pm. The 10pm-4am ‘party’ is with a DJ and ‘guest list only’, mainly accessed through knowing the owner, André Balazs. There is no membership fee – yet.
And there’s also an adjacent black-tiled room with a triangular soaking tub – which I wasn’t shown… Is that where they glug the 1952 Krug, $14,400 a bottle?
Boom Boom Room at the Standard Hotel
848 Washington Street at West 13th, Meatpacking District, New York NY 10014
Tel: 212 645 4646
Opened September 2009