My first visit to New York basically resulted in love at first sight, the five days I spent there last September basically making me fall head over heels for this city.
The food, the people, the sounds, the smells- I loved everything about this place, and more specifically the East Village, and couldn't wait to return to explore more. All the more reason why I had booked a return flight within a month of being back in London (FYI Delta has some seriously cheap and none budget feel flights from London to NYC with mine coming in at £360!). This time I didn't embark on the trip solo however, going with my fantastic friend Emmi from Helsinki who proved the best travel companion one could wish for (I was in charge of the eating and drinking spots and she of the culture, working our way through an area a day).
We once again chose the heart of the East Village as our hood for the week and found a real gem of an apartment on Airbnb at the end of Rivington street. It seems weird to thing of a time before Airbnb existed when you had no choice but to stay at a hotel if you weren't lucky enough to have local friends especially considering how nice it is to be able to stay in a great area relatively cheaply, cook your own food if you wish and actually get to know locals who have tips no guide book would ever be able to provide you with. Blaine, our host on this occasion, was absolutely wonderful and our room so perfectly located and in walking distance to basically everything on my to do and eat at list that I can only recommend a stay at her place!
My last New York round up featured a few places that I couldn't help but return to again -
Russ & Daughters for their phenomenal Jewish brunch, Artichoke Basille's for their infamous pizza by the slice that drips with cheesy goodness and of course my favourite spot in the world for truffle fries and cocktails V Bar St. Marks (all of which I would still fully recommend and you can read more about here) but below a selection of new favourites and some must-do's for anyone that finds themselves in this fantastic city this summer.
THE TOP SPOTS FOR ROOFTOP VIEWS & DRINKS
New York during the summer is all about the rooftops- after all what can really be better than overlooking the city and its imposing skyscrapers and basking in New York's reliable heat and sunshine, all whilst sipping on a delicious cocktail? Not much even Carrie Bradshaw at her most heartbroken would have to admit.
Le Bain at the Standard Hotel is the most obvious choice for awe inspiring rooftop views with its view over Manhattan and though a little poncey in its crowd is 100 percent worth a visit! Go during the day or late afternoon to avoid queuing and to get a comfy seat on one of the sofas overlooking the whole city. The swimming pool one floor down is also worth having a look at for its pure over-the-topness.
My personal favourite when it came to rooftops has to be Salvation Taco though. It may have been quite a walk to mid town from our usual East Village hunting-ground but boy was it worth the hike.
Downstairs a bustling Mexican restaurant, the rooftop here has been beautifully restored from a semi derelict building (old arches serving as subtle reminders). Served up are equally Mexican inspired cocktails, we had the most delicious margarita that was finished off with an incredibly moorish chilli salt rim, and nibbles, me sampling the without a doubt best guacamole of my life right here. The crowd is chilled and local, with office workers wanting to forget their day over a few drinks as the sun sets in front of them and you will quickly forget just how many rounds you've already had. It's a place I simply cannot recommend enough, not only for its views but for the truly amazing atmosphere that makes it a rooftop with a difference.
I would also recommend a drink on the roof at the Wythe Hotel, east of the river , which is a way more chilled alternative to Le Bain with great views, affordable wine and a less "seen to be seen" vibe.
Whichever one you pick, if you do one thing on a summer trip to New York go to a rooftop. They really make New York what it is and are something we are completely lacking in London (let's be honest Frank's doesn't quite measure up), after all you may as well feel on top of the world in the big apple from the 20th floor and clutching an ice cold cocktail!
Prune came highly recommended from my fellow foodie and the only hairdresser I trust,
Pont at Blue Tit, and after a browse on their website was on top of my list of places to visit this time. A well loved insider tip amongst locals rather than printed in the guide books as of yet, brunch at Prune may incur a bit of a wait but it is absolutely worth it.
In fact I just about love everything about this place - from the pink accents in its interior, the menus , the waitresses' uniforms etc. , to the slightly Parisian inspired decor and of course the experimental yet brilliant brunch options - this place is a an absolute gem you would be delighted to call your regular brunch spot. I went for the merveilles ( little fried balls of doughy amazingness- see above) served with an incredible combination of fresh ricotta, figs, raspberries and honey - a modern twist on a sweet brunch option that was one of the best I've ever had. Emmi's pancakes, served Dutch style, topped with berry compote and sour cream and finished with a side of bacon were equally awe inspiring and a world away from your super size and over-sweet stereotypical American brunch.
Savoury options looked equally good ( butter crumbed poached eggs with spicy stewed chickpeas and warm flat bread narrowly loosing out to the merveilles), with every dish flying past us, ready to be devoured, looking like a real labour of love and craft. Service was equally fantastic and if it hadn't been for the steady queue remaining outside we would have struggled to leave. I will return to Prune not only for brunch but also for their equally fantastic looking dinner menu so let's keep this place a local secret for just for a little longer...
Roberta's was another place that kept on being mentioned by all my foodie friends when it came to New York dining, it apparently a pizza spot a little of the beaten track in Bushwick ( basically the NYC equivalent of Hackney Wick) that was worth making the journey for. As big pizza aficionados, and with accordingly high standards, Emmi and I were more than intrigued and embarked on the 45 minute walk from our lovely wonder down Bedford Avenue to judge for ourselves. Of course there is always the danger of a place being more hype than actually good and on paper Roberta's could have easily fallen victim to this. After all it's where hipster kids are serving pizzas in a graffitied bier garden environment and pizzas are called Cheezus Christ.
I can assure you though that it is almost impossible to not bloody love all of the above because the pizzas are not only fantastic, in fact the aforementioned Cheezus Christ, a pizza topped with four cheeses, no tomato sauce and black pepper, ranking in my top 2 pizzas ever eaten (the other one being at one of Rome's best pizzerias) but the staff are a laugh, wine is good and cheap and the atmosphere simply superb. We went on a Sunday at around 6pm so only waited a little while but this place is worth a wait, heck you can enjoy the sun, a great drink and the people around you in the meantime and almost forget it's the sublime pizza you are actually here for!
THE TAKEAWAY SUSHI THAT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND @ KANOYAMA
Whilst making use of the ever so helpful free wifi in a Starbucks in Noho ( hey Instagram needs to stay updated guys) a guy next to us must have spotted my none American accent and started chatting to us. A British expat, he had been living in New York for the last ten years and insisted on giving us a list of his favourites and very much none touristy local spots. One place stood out especially. Kanoyama he told us was the best sushi he had had outside Japan, with fish flown in to its chefs for preparation on a daily basis.
An assuming looking joint from the outside, he told us it was an absolute must try and extremely popular with locals in the know. We were thus more than ecstatic when, hungover as hell from the night before and in no mood to eat out or cook, we realised that we were staying within the delivery area of the place, immediately going on to order their daily changing sushi and sashimi tasting menu for two as quickly as our internet and sore heads would allow us.
Costing us just under 35 dollars each, what was delivered was no short of stunning and in its value and quality simply not comparable to London. Not only beautifully presented, the sushi was undoubtedly some of the best I've ever had - sashimi that melted in your mouth and maki rolls that made you question all the, as it turns out inferior, sushi rice you had in the run up to this. As far as takeaways goes this was pretty much as close to Michelin standard in your own home as you are going to get and whether you live in New York and are searching for the best local sushi joint or are on a fleeting visit, this place is a must try for anyone vaguely into sushi. No other sushi will ever seem the same again.
Dominique Ansel is famed around the world for his cronut invention, a hybrid of donut and croissant that regularly sells out before noon in his tiny but lovely bakery in Soho (in fact the 200 they bake a day gone by the time we got there at 11 am). Dominique isn't a one a trick pony however in his modern and exciting interpretation of patisserie classics, no, this year his frozen s'more has been making quite the waves on social media and with someone with a ridiculously sweet tooth immediately gained my attention, making the bakery in fact the first stop of the trip.
My expectations may have been high, after all this vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate wafer crisp on the inside and honey marshmallow on the outside concoction sounding rather amazing, but it did not disappoint. In fact as far as desserts go it was pretty much right up there. Yes it may not have been cheap ( 7 dollars for a very un-American petite portion) but this literally blew my mind in its flavours, textures and mix of temperatures and once again reiterated what I love so much about the NYC food and drinks scene.
This is fun, experimental and doesn't take itself too seriously and with that is pushing food and our tastebuds to the next level and will see me dreaming of this joy on a stick whenever I have a sweet craving for quite a while to come. One last tip- enjoy your sweet choices whether cronut or s'more in their lovely backyard which is shaded and not as busy as you would think!
A none food related tip to finish of proceedings, I can only recommend a quick trip to the kitschy, nostalgic and slightly trashy experience that Coney Island is. It may only be a 3 dollar and 50 minute subway ride away but you almost instantly feel a world away from NYC's hustle and bustle as you arrive in this sea side resort.
The beach is sandy, it gets pretty damn hot from May onwards (as my very British sunburn and tan line after a day there proves) and the slightly dated though nonetheless great theme park rides dotted around the promenade are instantly enchanting. Even though I was technically already on holiday this place gave me that almost childlike giddy holiday excitement and added a hint of beach holiday that topped of this already amazing week in real style!
One thing is for sure.. New York our honeymoon is far from over yet, I think I may have to make a visit to see you an annual tradition!