Never has a nickname for a city been more accurate. As I’m woken by jetlag at 4am, I peer out of the window of my room on the 23rd floor of SoHo’s Mondrian hotel and realise ‘the city that never sleeps’ is just as noisy, bright and heaving with traffic as it was 12 hours ago. I have a feeling that this trip is going to be more get up and go than wind down and chill…
SoHo, a neighbourhood of about 26 blocks in lower Manhattan, has a colourful history; from comfortable home to the middle classes in the late 19th Century, to industrial wasteland in the 1950s, it wasn’t until the 1960s that it became fashionable again. Artists drawn by cheap rent and the abundance of natural light in the warehouse-style buildings moved in and the rest, as they say, is history. These days, it’s an area buzzing with fashionable cafes, pop up bars, must-visit restaurants and quite possibly the best shopping in the world. Established department stores like Barneys and Bloomingdales neighbour upmarket boutiques like Aether (chic, understated sportswear), Kiki de Montparnasse (lingerie heaven) and Zimmermann (the A-lister’s go to for beachwear).
Right in the centre of the action is the Mondrian hotel. Part of the Mogans Hotel Group, it channels the same quirky luxury vibe as its sister hotels in LA and Miami, and attracts the same young, buzzy crowd. Rooms are small – as is standard in New York – but perfectly formed, with vast, ridiculously comfortable beds, iPod docking stations, flat screen TVs and Malin + Goetz products adorning the marble bathrooms. Book a room on a higher floor to take full advantage of the breathtaking views. Whatever your evening plans, start with a drink at the hotels’ Crudo Bar; the Aperol Spritz’s are divine and the best way to kick off a night out in New York. As in any major city, choosing where to eat and drink can be an overwhelming task, so here is Luxurious Magazine’s guide to the 10 best places to eat and drink in lower Manhattan, right now:
Il Buco: The hippest Italian restaurant in New York right now, chef Joel Hough transforms locally sourced ingredients into simple but stunning Italian dishes. Sit upstairs to soak up the buzz, or head down to the astonishing wine cellar to sit among the 400 wines on offer with dinner. Hunt down General Manager Scott Henkel if you can; he is an absolute gem and will bend over backwards to make your dining experience the best it can possibly be. Il Buco, 47 Bond Street, New York, NY 10012
Diablo Royale: Bustling with 20-something New Yorkers, Diablo Royale is a fun Mexican restaurant in New York’s West Village. Start with a giant bowl of the best guacamole in town, then tuck into tasty tacos, enchiladas and fajitas. Wash it down with a jug of freezing cold margarita – perfection. Diablo Royale, 189 W 10th Street, NY 10014
Balthazar: Head to New York institution Balthazar for brunch and the top rate coffee and piles of homefries (you MUST order these as a side) will keep you going until dinner. You’ll most probably spot a celebrity or two, too. Balthazaar, 80 Spring Street, NY 10012
Rosemary’s: This busy West Village trattoria is the perfect place for a romantic meal a deux. Turn up early to people watch while you sip on a glass of prosecco and tuck into a plate of cured meats and focaccia. Leave room for a main course though – the pasta dishes are out of this world. Rosemary’s, 18 Greenwich Avenue, NY 10011
Café Cluny: A good coffee is just as important as a good cocktail; this West Village café has both nailed. Visit mid-morning for a tasty brunch and a glass of horchata (the best I’ve ever tried) or book in after dark and enjoy a Snapdragon (Grey Goose vodka, ginger beer, pineapple, lime, chilli and basil) or two before dinner.
Café Gitane: You could be mistaken for thinking the interior of Nolita’s Café Gitane was last updated in 1974, but that’s all part of the appeal to the super cool hipsters who frequent this hot spot for breakfast. Try the baked organic eggs and smoked salmon with a flat white; hipster heaven. Café Gitane, 242 Mott Street, NY 10012
Café Habana: This Cuban hole in the wall is often packed wall to wall, but wait for a table and you’ll be rewarded with delicious grilled corn, fat tacos packed with marinated pork and juicy spicy shrimp. Café Habana, 17 Prince Street, NY 10012
Little Branch: Tucked down a staircase behind an ominous unmarked brown door, the only thing that gives this hidden speakeasy bar away is the queue of beautiful people waiting to get in. Be patient, and it’ll pay off; the cocktails are some of the finest I’ve ever tasted, and the dim lighting and gentle jazz make for an intimate atmosphere. Little Branch, 20 7th Avenue S, NY 10011
EN Japanese Brasserie: Good Japanese restaurants are few and far between so imagine the delight when I discovered this West Village gem. Serving up everything from fresh, delicate sashimi to tofu packed full of flavour and tender slivers of wagyu steak, every mouthful is a delight. EN Japanese Brasserie, 435 Hudson Street, NY 10014
The Dutch: Located in a prime SoHo shopping spot, stop off at The Dutch for a mid-morning caffeine hit to keep energy up for pavement pounding. The service is upbeat and friendly, and the oyster sliders are divine. The Dutch, 131 Sullivan Street, NY 10012