Where to eat, drink, stay and play in the Big Apple
With the Canadian dollar firmly set on its mission to hit rock bottom, it’s hard to make your money stretch far if you decide to venture south of the border. But with some smart planning you can score a deal on the finer things in New York City from a million-dollar view to cocktails at a Michelin-starred restaurant bar.
My top tip? Check out Long Island City just one stop away by subway from Midtown and full of fun bars, restaurants and culture. Save money here and then spend the rest of your cash exploring some of the lesser-known secrets of true blue, Democrat-supporting, protest-organizing Manhattan.
1. Stay in Long Island City
Let’s face it: it makes little sense to stay in a tiny flophouse in Manhattan when for around the same money you could stay in what’s essentially a palace in Long Island City—just 12 minutes door-to-door from Midtown by transit. May I then introduce the Z NYC, super funky on the outside and pleasingly comfortable and spacious on the inside with a jaw-dropping view over the Manhattan skyline. In summer you can sip cocktails on the roof terrace and swoon over that billion-dollar view, but I had a pretty good time up there dodging the rain and snapping selfies in January.
2. Or splurge at the Quin
Because if you’re going to shell out on a room in the city, it may as well be somewhere as gloriously sexy as the Quin. A relatively new opening, the Quin’s previous life was as the Buckingham Hotel, a favourite with artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe and (my personal hero) Marc Chagall. Now it's a spiffy designer boutique bolthole complete with Venetian linens, spa-ready rain showers in the bathroom and one of the funkiest foyers I’ve ever seen jewelled with guitars hung on the walls and vast vibrant artworks. Just a few steps away from so many iconic New York names: Central Park, the Carnegie Hall, Rockefeller Centre and Fifth Avenue, the Quin is the perfect spot for a really special New York vacation.
3. Drink cocktails at Upper Branch
New York is stuffed to the brim with astounding cocktail bars, including the Dead Rabbit, which scored World’s Best Bar at the Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards. I went and of course it was great, but also when you bag a trophy like that it’s gonna bring the crowds. So you’ll wait and wait to get a seat at their upstairs bar and when you make it up there, it’s stuffed-to-the-gills busy too, so, I’m gonna recommend Middle Branch instead. It’s from the same people who bought you the groundbreaking Milk & Honey bar, but tucked away in a two-storey brownstone on 33rd Street. Head downstairs and if you need to wait, add your name for the upstairs bar. But while you wait, you can have a friendly chat with the bar team here who’ll create something delicious just for you or recommend something from their killer craft cocktail list. I loved this spot as to me, bartending is all about hospitality, which you’ll get in spades here. Super-friendly, beautiful room and all the ‘fancy dranks’ your heart (and poor liver) desires.
4. Eat at M. Wells
French-Canadian chef Hugue Dufour and his partner Sarah Obraitis have created a softly chandelier-lit temple to all things meaty and mouth-watering in a converted auto-body shop in Long Island City. There’s a daily happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. with $1 cocktails with every order of a half-dozen oysters, a tempting tourtière (meat pie) with ‘Céline Dion purée’, poutine and even pouding chômeur (poor man's pudding) on the dessert menu.
But look beyond the Canadian all-stars and you’ll find some classic French-inspired meat-centric dishes: wagyu flank steak which comes with France’s gift to the potato, pomme sarladaises, a heavenly mix of garlic, potato and fat. There’s a cassoulet studded with duck confit and sausage. and the Porterhouse Dinner, a multi-course cavalcade featuring dry-aged Porterhouse, escargot bone marrow and cheesy whipped pommes aligot (cheesy mashed potatoes).
5. Go glam at Bar Fiori at Langham Place
Vermouth is so damn hot right now and the chance to try a flight of three at the bar of one of New York’s most glamorous luxury hotels is definitely not to be missed. What’s that? You can’t possibly afford it? Think again. Despite its Michelin-starred Al Fiori restaurant, and all-round vibe of divine decadence, you can still find a bargain if you know where to look. Head to the Langham Place Hotel on Fifth Avenue and slip upstairs to the Bar Fiori and take a seat at its swoon-worthy marble bar and order up a flight of three different Vermouth varieties for just $13. As a side note, if you are feeling flush, then you will not regret spending $39 on a plate of pasta here: imagine a flight of angels got together in the kitchen and whipped up the most delicate, perfect ideal of pasta and you’re pretty much there. I’m still dreaming of the buttery kiss of the ricotta and mascarpone ravioli I tried.
6. Check out modern art at PS1 MoMA
It’s $25 to visit MoMA, but just $10 at this excellent MoMA-affiliated exhibition space in Long Island City which totally blew me away. The building dates back to 1892 when it opened as the first school in Long Island City, now home to some incredibly exciting modern art installations and pieces. It’s fun exploring the old-school space and seeing how that plays with the work on display. One of the exhibits by Brazilian artists, Cinthia Marcelle uses chalk inserted into the gaps and spaces between the red brick walls of the Duplex Gallery in a ‘discussion on dust, brick and pedagogy.' There are four storeys (including the basement) on display and if you love modern art, you will adore this space. Add into that, a diner off-shoot of the delicious M.Wells restaurant in the school cafeteria serving up comfort food faves and you have the perfect rainy day activity.
7. Enjoy an Empire State moment
It’s always good to give into a cliché when you travel; there’s a reason those iconic shots exist. From its gorgeous golden glowing Art Deco lobby to its breathtaking 86th-floor observation deck and all points in between, the Empire State is an unmissable part of any trip to New York City. It’s open till 2 a.m., so head up there at night, check out the exhibition spaces covering the building's new sustainability mission and also the fascinating Dare to Dream exhibit which shows the history of this incredible feat of architecture. Then head out on to the Observation Deck and score a dazzling view over New York, with a million twinkling lights shimmering below.
8. Go to yoga class
Integral Yoga/FacebookI’ll confess: I did it. I was that Vancouver girl. I walked to yin class and I was slurping a green smoothie along the way. After two nights in New York, I could feel the need for some solid mat-time and I found a fantastic ashram in the heart of Greenwich Village, which delivers classes that go deep on form and breathing. Integral Yoga was founded as an ashram and teaching centre in 1970 and was one of the first places to introduce yoga to New Yorkers. It’s a piece of yoga history and a very special place to do classes. They focus mainly on hatha, restorative, yin and meditation and their centre is: "a living embodiment of Sri Swami Satchidananda’s teachings, a community where the goal for all people is to have an easeful body, a peaceful mind, and a useful life.” Hugely recommended.