Something Old, Something New: New York City
In this series, a guest writer talks about a city they love, their old favorites and their new recommendations. First up is our very own CEO, Jamie McDonald.
Dorothy Parker once said that ‘London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it.’ This echoes my sentiments exactly, and it’s why I like going out in New York so much. Back in London, ‘going out’ was a matrimonial commitment: it required days of military-style planning and possibly a new haircut, but in New York, I feel like you are always ‘out’. Why? Because why the hell wouldn’t you be? ‘What waits for you at home?’ says every New Yorker that I’ve ever met under their breath. You read a book in a café and not at home, because the person next to you might just change your life for the better (New York) rather than annoy you with loud chewing noises (everywhere else).
I’m Jamie McDonald and the new CEO of The Just Opened Group. New York is still and forever hopeful, so I hope you enjoy my recommendations.
After your mandatory early morning exercise class, where you are told to give 100% within the first five minutes – the ‘math’ of which I have never understood – I like to go somewhere with strong coffee and a menu that’s so healthy it could start its own skincare range, and probably will. The Butcher’s Daughter deserves all the hype it has and the queues it draws. I get a drip coffee, a shot of Vampire Slayer (ginger, lemon, garlic, cayenne) and the Spinach Egg Bowl, and then it’s 9am and the world is there for the taking. If it’s Saturday and brunch has elbowed its way into pole position on your to-do list, then look no further than the Fat Radish, which just launched a new cocktail menu and is partnering with us this weekend with a cocktail on the house for our readers.
Activity wise, I always say the same to people visiting: NYC is a walking city, including Brooklyn, so plan your day on foot and enjoy the fact that getting between places is part of the experience. So many people say, ‘I felt like I was in a movie’ – well, guess what, darlin’; you probably were. I love to go to Washington Square Park on a nice day and watch the performers, or play chess against the locals there. Look for Jordan (Father Christmas doppelgänger); if you play him, stick around afterwards while he tells you where you went wrong. To warm up, head round the corner to Tokyo Record Bar (opened last year), where you can sit and listen to vinyl records and drink fine Japanese whiskey.
For lunch, I try to hold on to that healthiness and lucky for me I have a new Soho favorite: The west-bourne (opened in January) not only reminds me of the iconic scene pub in Notting Hill in London where I made poor decisions in my 20s, but it’s mindful, sustainable and utterly delicious. They are a restaurant with a purpose and I love that about them. Get the Sunset Grains to make you feel less guilty when you order the Chocolate Cashew Pudding topped with nut crumble.
Afternoon activities must include some down time at Roman & William’s Guild (opened in December) which is currently a cute bar and café with a gorgeous retail space, but will add a restaurant too in the coming weeks. And if celeb-spotting is on the agenda, this is your place: last week Martha Stewart was sitting next to me and I hear she has great taste, so this place must be good.
In terms of afternoon fun, I highly recommend the Russian and Turkish Baths on East 10th Street, where you bathe with 70-year-old New Yorkers and 20-year-old start up CEOs alike – both with equal and infuriating amounts of energy. There are also foot massages on Pell Street, the art galleries in Chelsea, the Sex Museum (is New York claiming rights over that too?), McNally Jackson Bookstore, where new authors are often talking about their recent publications, and so much more.
Now we come to the evening – if you haven’t had some sort of life changing experience yet, you will likely now have two or three in a row. On your way uptown to explore a little of how the most influential people in the world live and make a choice: new, or classic. I recently went to a new speakeasy bar called Patent that I loved and will revisit (it’s open now): coffee shop by day, it has a secret entrance to a very beautiful lounge bar at night only open to those in the know – a great way to start the evening. Or, if you prefer the more iconic cocktail, look nowhere else than Bemelmen’s Bar in the Carlyle Hotel. Bring your cheque book though, as drinks there start at $21, and there’ll be a surcharge if the piano player is there especially if his name is Woody Allen. Expensive but experientially essential.
For dinner, my friend has opened up his second UES restaurant, focused on fish, and done an amazing job. The East Pole Fish Bar is designed like its brother round the corner and even surpasses it in terms of menu – exceptional dining all round.
Now that you have experienced the way Uptown jives, time to see how Downtown dives, so do not miss an after dinner drink at Marie’s Crisis. Simply put, the most fun you can have in a bar – why? Because you are singing along with everyone else in it. Seriously. This bar is so wonderfully New York and is your chance to experience Broadway up close without buying a ticket, mainly because several of the people round the piano are currently performing there and using their night off to join the masses.
‘Let’s go dancing’ is about the most dreaded sentence each boyfriend fears on a night out; well, gentlemen, fear no longer. Jump in a cab to deep Chinatown and to the place that never disappoints, Apotheke. The barmen are dressed like chemists, the music is always on the money and on Tuesdays there’s a brass band that brings the house down and gets even the most unconfident visitor shaking a tail feather until the early hours.
You see, if you are reading this, then you’re a traveller. And if you haven’t been to New York City, or you live here and get stuck for ideas, then this is what we are about. We’re here to make sure you get the best out of your time in cities and if you haven’t made it to Manhattan yet, then make sure in 2018 you do. Heck, drop me a note – I’ll come and join you.
Featured image: Washington Square Park