New York City has enough incredible restaurants, bars and galleries to last a lifetime of travel. Finbarr Toesland savours the best from his recent visit
Often described as the capital of the world, New York is a must-visit for those looking to experience not only the best US has to offer, but the finest restaurants, hotels and hang-outs anywhere in the world. From world-renowned hotels to the iconic Statue of Liberty and serene Central Park, to authentic cuisine in Brooklyn and culture-defining shows on Broadway, you’re spoilt for choice in The Big Apple. The distinct character of each neighbourhood offers a unique encounter, with snapshots of history at every turn.
The variety is endless: once full of industrial warehouses, Tribeca now stands as a celebrity enclave that’s populated by luxury hotels and restaurants and the annual Tribeca Film Festival. Meanwhile, replete with artists’ lofts and galleries, Soho combines renaissance Italianate architecture with cast iron buildings to offer a free-flowing journey around the city.
The Chelsea neighbourhood is one of the most residential in Manhattan and is well known for the historic brownstone apartments, townhouses and redbrick apartments. Situated at the heart of Chelsea, The Moore hotel provides the ideal base for exploring this artistic neighbourhood. With literally hundreds of galleries, art lovers will find it a challenge to discover all the hidden boutique shops and galleries in this storied area.
The Moore offers small, but perfectly formed rooms that feature high quality furnishings and views over iconic landmarks, including the Empire State building. With just 81 rooms, each has a local vibe, complementing the stylish rooftop wine bar and relaxed ground floor cafe. Each room feels carefully considered and has everything a busy traveller needs, from high quality bath products, to soft beds and a workable desk.
Just a few minutes’ walk away is contemporary Indian cocktail bar and restaurant aRoqa. The intimate and sophisticated spot is an ideal setting to begin an elevated dining experience. Small plates are paired with Indian-inspired cocktails that have been specially created to match the bold flavours, including lasuni gobi gram flour battered cauliflower, garlic sauce and a sprinkle of onion seeds, and chicken shami kababs with ground chicken patties.
Standout signature cocktails include the Indian Sunset that contains vodka, rum, mango, passion fruit purée, lemon juice and hibiscus rose, as well as Cultural Impact, which is rich in gin, raspberry and strawberry rosemary purée, lemon juice and champagne.
Home to dozens of restaurants, bars, food stalls and boutiques, Chelsea Market is perfect for visitors who stay over in Chelsea. Authentically restored to its industrial origins, the former National Biscuit Corporation factory offers everything from comfort food at Los Tacos, to delicious seafood at Lobster Place, and locally made arts and crafts at the Artists & Fleas marketplace.
With more than 100 museums, culture seekers in New York can visit the Tenement Museum to hear stories of migration, or pop over to The Metropolitan Museum of Art to experience the largest art museum in the Americas.
Mad about Manhattan
For those who truly want to experience the best Manhattan has to offer, the Kixby Hotel is an ideal choice thanks to its central location and hassle-free service. Minutes from the Empire State Building and next to Herald Square, the hotel has been tastefully revitalised to create an intimate boutique feel, full of elegant and contemporary touches. All 195 rooms and suites reflect this dynamic city and are typically larger than the standard New York City hotel room. The contemporary style philosophy brings calm to even the most active visitor, with the on-site Black Tap bar being well-known for its classic burgers and cocktails. The hotel’s rooftop bar, The Lookup, features stunning views of Manhattan and the Empire State building.
The brainchild of famed French chef Alain Ducasse, Benoit is the Midtown outpost of his growing restaurant empire and puts forward a selection of bistro staples and novel innovations on conventional plates. Described as a “Paris Bistro Meets New York Restaurant”, Alain Ducasse collaborated with Executive Chef Alberto Marcolongo to produce a menu that includes artichoke and avocado millefeuille, and Dover sole à la meunière with grenobloise sauce. But the dessert selection is the standout, with the pistachio soufflé and raspberry sorbet showing how traditional dishes can be elevated by embracing substance over superfluous style.
While the term affordable luxury has become widely used in recent years to describe a range of experiences, the citizenM Bowery Hotel manages to find the right balance between price and a luxury experience. Found on the lower east of the city, citizenM Bowery provides exactly what it claims to: an elevated experience in a neighbourhood that gives visitors an authentic experience. A perfect downtown base, citizenM Bowery couldn’t be better located and check-in is a breeze thanks to high-tech check-in desks.
Five-star The Knickerbocker is a New York landmark that holds the status as the first luxury hotel in Times Square. While The Knickerbocker is ideally located near stunning Bryant Park and Broadway, it’s away from the hustle and bustle of Times Square, ensuring a restful nights sleep.
Having originally opened in 1906, The Knickerbocker closed in 1921 and, after extensive renovations, reopened in 2015. This spot is the perfect choice for travellers who want expansive views over Times Square and Manhattan and easy access to cultural institutions including Central Park, MoMA and the Rockefeller Centre.
Pan-Asian restaurant Hortus NYC in NoMad set out to change how modern Asian cuisine is viewed by focusing on a novel design outlook, open kitchen and truly unique dishes. By fusing Korean, Chinese and Thai cuisines to offer fresh options for even the most selective palates, it’s difficult to find anything not to like about the menu.
Starting with the appropriately named Royal Platter, comprised of lobster tails, shrimp cocktail, hamachi crudo and caviar-topped oysters, the mains consist of perfectly executed staples, such as ribeye and sea urchin. Yet, the soju-based cocktails are by far the most memorable. The Peach Mule, with soju, peach and tonic may sound like an uncomplicated cocktail but is impeccably crafted.
Crossing over the Brooklyn Bridge to uncover a different side to New York is a must. Famous for being home to hipsters, who transformed the borough into a widely gentrified area, Brooklyn is now a destination in its own right for travellers to New York. A short taxi or subway ride away, visitors can encounter the distinct neighbourhoods that make up this diverse borough.
Perhaps the best known hotel in Brooklyn is The Williamsburg Hotel. Found in North Brooklyn, this five-star property is close to the best Brooklyn has to offer, with The Williamsburg reflecting the hip, youth-oriented vibe of Williamsburg. Exposed brick and herringbone wood floors are found throughout and guests who book a suite can expect unrivalled views over the Manhattan skyline.
Nearby Penny Williamsburg doubles-down on Brooklyn’s artistic heritage and places a focus on guests experiencing a creative stay. Created by the same team that founded the NoMad and the LINE hotels, Penny opened last year and has already fostered a distinct design approach that includes an art space that showcases work from artists from under-represented backgrounds and those with developmental disabilities.
It’s hard to find a space at Penny Williamsburg that doesn’t have a piece of artwork, with graduate students from the local Bard liberal arts college living in the hotel on different floors than guests. The rooftop bar and restaurant elNico is a solid choice for diners looking for vibrant Mexican food that prioritises fresh and locally sourced ingredients. Chef Fer Serrano has supplemented recipes past down through her family with new ingredients discovered on her travels. Agave-based spirits form the basis of the cocktail menu that perfectly matches the dishes.
The transformation of Brooklyn into a bona fide cultural destination is exemplified by the rise of Aska, the two Michelin-starred Scandinavian restaurant. Located under the Williamsburg Bridge, the unassuming warehouse housing Aska remains the only two Michelin-starred restaurant in Brooklyn.
Founded by Swedish chef Fredrik Berselius, the Aska Tasting Menu brings guests on a journey “though the landscapes of New York and the Northeast”. Comprised of between 12 and 14 courses, the carefully considered ingredients create a complex flavour profile that celebrates the finest of Nordic cuisine.
It’s difficult to pick out a single favourite from the menu as each dish is perfectly plated. But the grilled tail of langoustine from Norway with a sauce of the caramelised shell and red gooseberry, and the gently cooked trout with salted white currant and flavours of Northern New York were stunning.
Even born and bred New Yorkers won’t be able to explore every new restaurant opening, exhibition launch or bar. Thanks to the density of New York, every street no matter how unassuming it may appear at first, offers new experiences for travellers with a sense of adventure and an eye for hidden gems.
Main image: Culinary innovation at Penny Williamsburg’s restaurant, elNico
© Eric Medsker