We spent a few days in New York recently and did loads of homework on the best places to go, eat, stay and explore. If you’re thinking of a city break there look no further than our Haute List city guide… with a predictable emphasis on the food! It’s pretty comprehensive so hopefully we’ve covered everything you need to know… Enjoy and let us know if we missed anywhere good – any excuse to go back!
Where To Stay
We knew we wanted to be somewhere near Soho and the West Village as those are our favourite areas to roam and explore – they’re both lovely with the best mix of shops, coffee stops and little delis and restaurants. If you haven’t been before we would definitely recommend looking around those areas. Further uptown near Times Sq is just too hectic (and touristy) and there’s not as much to do. As fans of boutique hotels over high-rise chains, we chose Sixty Soho.
The location was perfect as it’s in the heart of Soho but on the left hand side so it’s also a 15 minute walk to Bleeker St which is the main high street in the West Village. We loved the interiors and the service was amazing. It’s going through some refurbs this spring so it will soon have a modern Italian restaurant and the roof top is being redone – we took a sneak peek when it wasn’t too cold! Highly recommend this place as a great base for your trip. Other good choices in the area include The Mercer and the Crosby St Hotel.
Where to Eat
As you can imagine if you are regular readers of our blog, food was the focal point of our trip and we had so many wonderful friends on hand to supply us with the longest lists of their favourite places! It was so hard to whittle them down but all it means is that we’ll just have to go back to try the rest! So here were our favourites that we would suggest you book (most let you either one month or 3 weeks in advance):
It’s not new, but it was still top of everyone’s lists as the perfect Lower East Side venue for lunch or dinner. We booked dinner on a Saturday night and it was full to the brim with amazing music and a really fun atmosphere. We went upstairs to the bar for a drink while we waited for our table to be ready – warning: even if you book ahead, we found that we had to still wait for at least 45 minutes before tables were ready anywhere on the lower east side and as this was a Saturday night we waited an hour. Luckily it was worth the wait but make sure you keep checking in with the front desk!
Our favourites from the menu where the French onion soup dumplings (filled with soup and covered in Gruyère cheese with a crouton on each bite!) and ALL of the desserts! We kind of went overboard and had the doughnuts (a must!), the s’mores pot and the sticky toffee pud! The cocktails are superb and it’s the perfect place for somewhere that’s a mix of good food, drinks and music either as somewhere to start your evening or somewhere to stay and hang out at. We left past midnight and there were still loads of people arriving for the bar.
2. ABC Kitchen
We came here for lunch but it would be a great dinner place too. It’s just behind Union Sq which is under a 20 minute walk from soho and has a cute farmers market to explore. The restaurant itself is all about farm-to-table cooking with the freshest ingredients and seasonal produce. The butternut squash soup was delicious as where the wood fire oven pizzas and the salads. We also loved the salted caramel sundae and the orange tart with orange curd (are you sensing a sweet tooth?)
3. La Esquina
We first tried this Soho-based Mexican speakeasy when it first opened around 8 years ago but again, it still came recommended by everyone which shows you that the good ones tend to be the ones to survive the first year in NYC. This place intentionally looks like a taco stand with a decoy restaurant next door but the real fun happens through a back door marked “no admittance” guarded by a stern looking bouncer with a clipboard. Once you’re approved (which isn’t guaranteed even if you’ve made a reservation!), you’re guided down through the dark stairwells to the frantic kitchen (reminds us of that scene from Goodfellas!) and then into the underground bar/restaurant. There’s a DJ, plentiful cocktails laced with chilli (try the Diablo if you dare) and a customary wait for your table – we did warn you.
This is one of the many “no reservations” brunch places that inevitably means you have to wait even longer for a table (although we did go on a weekend so it was always going to be busy). It’s in the west village so if you are heading there anyway for a wander around Bleeker, make sure you head here first to put your name down – it may be over an hour wait so you can come back and hopefully your table will be ready. The speciality is different types of egg on toast with different toppings. The Nicoise and the avocado toast is also pretty good.
Back in Soho, this is the restaurant in the Mercer hotel and probably where we had our best meal. We went for dinner and contemplated coming back for lunch the next day just to do it all over again! Again, it had a great atmosphere and is a really fun place to come to for any occasion, but we were totally blown away by the food.
We wanted to try everything but you have to order the salmon sashimi on crispy sushi rice and ponzu sauce, the black sea bass tagine with orange and cumin, and the slow baked salmon with mash and brussel sprouts with a black truffle sauce. If you can fit it in (we are big eaters so it was no problem!) also order the Mercer burger – it’s amazing. The lobster with artichoke also looked incredible but we had to save some space for dessert! When we were there, there was a green apple pavlova with green apple sorbet and a sticky banana and toffee take with caramelised bananas and salted caramel ice cream. Unfortunately we were so taken by the latter that we had to order a second portion and waddle slowly back to the hotel. All we can say is it’s a good thing you can walk everywhere in NYC – there’s a lot to walk off!
This pie cafe came highly recommended and worth a trip to Brooklyn for. We wish we had time to check out Williamsburg too but that will have to wait until next time – this time it was all about the pie! We tried a selection of salted caramel apple, black bottom (chocolate oat and the buttermilk chess pie – all were absolute heaven. We managed to sneak some home as it really was that good – we would highly recommend the book to recreate them at home (the salted honey is unreal) – it’s just been featured on Nigella’s cookbook corner too.
Where to wander
Our favourite places to explore during the day were, predictably, more food places. There’s only so much shopping you can do and we found that most of the shops were European anyway (the usual Sandro, Maje, Reiss etc… The only ones that were worth it were American brands like J Crew and we loved Jonathan Adler for eclectic interiors).
So for the foodie explorers, we love the Dean & Deluca deli – for everything from the flowers to the fresh fruit and vegetables to the brownies!
Also amazing is Chelsea Market – so many little food stalls and artisan boutiques and a great place to stop for lunch.
Also great was Chobani in Soho, a Middle Eastern yoghurt (labneh) counter/cafe with amazing savoury and sweet toppings. Finally, we would always recommend Eataly as somewhere to wander (every Italian produce / cook book / gadget you can imagine) and to go for lunch too if you fancy a good pizza or pasta.
We also walked along the high line which is a raised narrow walkway with views over the city – the access is right by Chelsea Market so it’s good to do these in combination if the weather is good. We also had an obligatory wander around Central Park and to the main department stores (Barneys, Fred Segal and Bergdoff Goodman are all fairly close to each other – and to FAO Schwartz if you fancy a go on the big piano from the film Big!) – also Bloomies is always fun but I’m not as much of a fan of Macy’s.
Until the next trip…