The insiders guide to whats red-hot and ice-cool in New York and London, by Natasha Faruque.
The insider’s guide to what’s red-hot and ice-cool in New York and London, by Natasha Faruque.
Where to strut:
The only place to party in the Big Apple at the moment is The Box (189 Chrystie Street, +1 212 982 9301). Make sure you are connected, cash-rich or cooler than the rest of the crowd as the buzz that surrounds this thesp-filled, club-cabaret hybrid – housed in an ornate, gold-and-red theatre-style space – ensures a scrum at the door every night. Bag a velvet-curtained first floor booth (the best tables in the house), pop open the champers and get ready for a seriously raunchy, raucous show.
Where to sip:
You know you are one of New York’s A-list when you gain entrance to Gramercy Park’s private rooftop club bar (www.gramercyparkhotel.com). Once you get whisked up to this oasis, you can sit on the comfy home-style wicker furniture, Belvedere Martini in hand, in a picture-perfect garden with ivy-laden trellises, orange trees and rose bushes. When the night air gets a little chilly, move indoors and gaze at the dazzling light bulb-encrusted ceiling.
Those partial to a glass of vino should hop in a cab straight to Noble Food & Wine (7 Spring Street, +1 212 777 0877), which elevates the wine-by-the-glass concept to a whole new stratosphere. Its Enomatic enoline 8 (oenophiles will of course know that’s an argon gas preservation system that keeps wine fresh after uncorking) lets you sample some of the most sought-after wines by the glass, like Chateau Lafite Rothschild, at bargain prices. They also let you sample verticals (same producer, different vintages) and horizontals (California cult wines) from a 150-strong list. Fried oysters will help you soak up the alcohol and plough on with the tasting.
For a very different type of retro-gourmet bar experience, teetotallers should hotfoot it to Ronnybrook Milk Bar (75 Ninth Avenue, +1 212 741 6455). This old-school malt shop specialises in milkshakes in a variety of exotic flavours (including cardamom or lavender), or you can go for broke with a milk cocktail (chocolate, cinnamon and coffee perhaps?), shaken like a Martini and served straight or on the rocks. Great brunch favourites: eggs, sandwiches and salads, are among the fine fare on offer.
Where to sleep:
Fashion folk will gladly swap their Prada-laden wardrobe for a chance to kip at Ian Schrager’s ultra-hip Gramercy Park Hotel (www.gramercyparkhotel.com). Home to the hottest restaurant and bars in the city, sink into the lobby sofas and feast your eyes on the Hirsts, Schnabels, Basquiats and Warhols that line the walls. The two-bedroom, 185-square-metre penthouse is the perfect party pad for Manhattan socialites.
Bookworms in search of something a little more quirky should opt for the literary pleasures in the prime-located Library Hotel (www.libraryhotel.com). With floors dedicated to history, science and other subjects, rooms in this small boutique hotel are numbered according to the book-cataloguing Dewey Decimal system and feature reading material relevant to your floor. Rates include free in-room wireless, use of the business centre, access to a delicious buffet breakfast, and cheese and wine in the evenings in the airy reading room. A happening bar and sunshine-filled rooftop terrace offer respite from the hectic streets below.
Where to shop:
Who’d have thought you could combine celebrity watching with grocery shopping? At SoHo’s Dean & Deluca (www.deandeluca.com), prepare to splurge on perfectly presented foods, sinful desserts, cookbooks and kitchen nick-nacks. A one-stop shop for foodie presents to cart back to Europe, just be prepared to pay prime dollar. Chelsea chicks swear allegiance to their neighbourhood’s Balducci’s (www.balduccis.com). This emporium is the place to head to if you are after maple bourbon-glazed hams, freshly roasted on the premises; grilled lamb burgers paired with goats cheese; purple heirloom tomatoes; more than 20 kinds of butter; or Indian mangoes. Those steering clear of carbs, beware: the smell from the bakery is intoxicating. New Yorkers after fine food without the foxy clientele, make a beeline for the more low-key but equally impressive Citarella (www.citarella.com), specialising in seafood, or the fruit and vegetable mecca of Fairway (www.fairwaymarket.com).
Where to salivate:
You’ve been wowed by Per Se, dazzled at Buddakan, and star-spotted at Iron Chef Morimoto’s eponymous eatery. Your inner child has been indulged as you gorged on ice cream smothered in chocolate sauce at Serendipity, and you’ve sampled the kosher hot-dog sold at every corner. Now for something truly different. Orhan Yegen’s new Turkish seafood restaurant, Sea Salt (seasaltrestaurant.net), has a star dish that has foodies salivating: the off-the-menu baked whole fish. The process begins at dawn when Yegen selects the finest fish at the market (sea bass works best), cleans it and covers it in a sea salt and egg white paste. Once the paste hardens to a cast, the fish is baked. When it is brought to the table, it is flambéed with cognac and the cast cracked with a hammer; the resulting fish is moist, moreish and perfectly sublime.
Celebs and media luvvies sit shoulder to shoulder at Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter’s distinctly yesteryear-influenced Ye Waverly Inn (16 Bank Street, +1 212 243 7900). Low ceilings, blazing fireplaces, a long wooden bar, crazy murals of well-known regulars and brass coat-hooks decorate the cosy main dining room, where you can expand your waistline by tucking into comfort classics like braised ribs and chicken pot pie. It may not look like much, it may not serve the best food, but the fact that you have dined there gives you instant street cred.
Where to shine:
Have your very own silver screen moment by recreating the infamous scene from When Harry Met Sally when Meg Ryan screams the house down in ecstasy. It was filmed in the quintessential old New York deli, Katz’s Delicatessen (www.katzdeli.com), and if you really want what she was having, order the pastrami sandwich – with the pickle on the side of course.
Where to saunter:
Check out the very best ethnic eateries and hard-to-find food hotspots by going on a famous walking (and eating) tour of food stores, stalls and restaurants in New York (www.foodsofny.com). Italophiles will adore the Greenwich Village route, which takes in two very different pizzerias, a southern Italian pastry shop and a Mediterranean olive oil store among others, while trendy young things will want insider knowledge of the Meatpacking and Chelsea districts.
What to skip:
Keith McNally’s Schiller’s Liquor Bar was supposed to pick up where Balthazar and Pastis left off; our advice is to stick to the originals.
Where to strut:
London’s social set are ready to sell their grandmothers to gain entrance to Maya (1A Dean Street, W1, www.mayalondon.com), the newest kid on the nightclub block. Dance divas will love the fact that the VIP tables have their own raised podiums for you to show off your moves, with embedded LED up-lighting to make sure everyone catches you in the most flattering possible light. Having drawers under each table to safeguard Fendis is another nice touch. As the dashing owners say, if you’re not in, you’re out.
New York may have had the original, but the in-crowd has moved across the pond to the London branch of Amy Sacco’s Bungalow 8 (St Martins Lane Hotel, 45 St Martins Lane, WC2, www.stmartinslane.com). This tiny venue, reincarnated from its previous guise as a gay club, has such a limited capacity, expect long lines of beautiful people begging the clipboard Nazis to let them in.
Where to sip:
Glamorous girls and high-rolling city gents flock to Kenza (10 Devonshire Square, EC2, www.kenza-restaurant.co.uk), the latest outpost from the Middle Eastern specialist Tony Kitous, who has already lit up London’s nightlife with stalwarts Pasha and Levant. Their tried-and-tested formula for success has been issued again: exotic, brightly coloured décor, low lighting, comfortable loungers to sink into, sexy belly dancers and DJs to liven things up later in the night. Tiny plates of mezze are intended for sharing – highlights include smooth, rich hummus and crispy falafel.
If you haven’t heard about it, and you haven’t been invited to join, you aren’t going to get in. But here is the bluffers’ guide to Shoreditch House (www.shoreditchhouse.com), with just enough information to help you name-drop effectively. This media playground which has bowling alleys, a heavenly Cowshed spa, gym, sauna and, best of all, a heated rooftop pool, is situated on the rich financial epicentre-meets-edgy urban east end cusp, in an old tea factory. There is of course a restaurant serving Nick Jones’s signature brasserie-style menu and a bar where you can bump into fashion fiends, movie stars and the just plain fabulous.
Where to sleep:
Ensure you get a Hyde Park-facing place among the select 70 that dine at each seating at Alain Ducasse’s hot London outpost, by booking into The Dorchester hotel (www.thedorchester.com). With other dining options including Aiden Byrne’s Grill Room and China Tang, you will be spoilt for haute cuisine choice here.
Where to shop:
Despite the buzz that American organic giant Whole Foods has created on Kensington High Street (we know it’s great fun to mix your own muesli and make your own cashew butter), London’s premiere gourmet experience is still to be had in the hallowed, gilded Harrods food halls (www.harrods.com). Even the plainest all-butter shortbread screams luxury when packaged in a forest green, gold-embellished tin. The store’s even more established counterpart lies down the road on Piccadilly. Now 300 years old, there’s nothing quite like buying gifts bearing Fortnum & Mason (www.fortnumandmason.com) distinctive tercentenary livery; and what could be more English than a special blend of tea, rose and violet creams or a jar of Stilton?
Where to salivate:
Admittedly, all the latest pretenders seem to have distinctly French overtones. London may be the flagship city of ‘cool Britannia’ but it’s got rather hot under the collar over newcomers L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, La Petite Maison (where you have to order the fois gras-stuffed roast chicken when reserving your table) and Ducasse at the Dorchester. Luckily the locals are fighting back with Chelsea favourite Tom’s Kitchen (www.tomskitchen.co.uk). Nestled between the Kings Road and Fulham Road, the more casual, bustling offering from Mr Aikens is packed for breakfast, brunch and dinner (make sure you finish with the churros served with vanilla yogurt). Or there is Bumpkin (www.bumpkinuk.com), where tousled trustafarians and Notting Hillbillies take refuge and refuel.
Where to shine:
You’re sexy and you’re sporty but no one appreciates it when you bound through Hyde Park or sweat it out at the gym. Fear not, as west Londoners finally get their own branch of the glitziest bowling alley in Europe, All Star Lanes (www.allstarlanes.co.uk). You can show the world your skills but make sure your threads are of Christy Turlington’s Nuala or Stella McCartney’s Puma variety; Sweaty Betty just won’t cut it in this swanky haunt. The venue must be good as it has lured even the most ardent Voguette to part with her Manolos and slip into rubber-soled flats! If you’re more of a spectator than a sportsman, take advantage of the American bistro and cocktail bar, and tuck into old-fashioned meatball hoagies, macaroni and cheese, crab cakes or creamy New England clam chowder.
Where to saunter:
Pop into Borough Market (www.boroughmarket.org.uk) to buy all your regional, speciality gourmet goodies. Taste your way through the hunks of pungent cheese, slivers of charcuterie, gallons of olive oils, vinegars and dressings and chunks of freshly baked breads sold on the tightly-packed stalls dotted around the alleyways. If all this browsing gives you an appetite that bite-sized morsels cannot satiate, head straight for Brindisa (www.brindisa.com) for its must-try barbequed chorizo roll and tapas plates.
What to skip:
New York’s corner hot-dog stands are legendary; there is a reason why London’s aren’t. Unless you have a yearning to go down with food poisoning, just say ‘no’. Head instead to one of the branches of Lebanese eatery Maroush (www.maroush.com) for the best late-night snack in town: a chicken or lamb shawarma (wrap) with a freshly squeezed, detoxifying mixed fruit juice.