What exactly is a New York minute? To a baby boomer, it’s a song by those plaid-clad crooners, The Eagles. For the baby boomer’s tween daughter, it’s a movie starring the forever-shrinking Olsen twins, Mary-Kate and Ashley. For most, though, it is the exhilarating, accelerated passage of time that one can only experience in Gotham. Time is a luxury not everyone can afford, so what should one do if a New York minute is all one has in New York?
Monogamists may swear by the sprawling greens of Central Park or the dizzying view from the top of the Empire State Building, but with so many new places to choose from, a dalliance seems perfectly acceptable. The Meatpacking District is one fling you won’t forget for a long, long time. An irresistible mix of glamour, sex appeal and grit, Gansevoort Market—as it is officially known—has become one of the city’s must-see and must-be-seen-in neighbourhoods.
Once home to beefcake butchers, visitors were more likely to see Sunday lunch hung on display rather than the chic Alexander McQueen dresses and Vitra furniture that now lure the eye. Stilettos no longer need to be wary of blood-soaked offal as they traipse past the boutiques, design studios and bijou architecture firms that rub shoulders with more than 50 bars and restaurants in this 20-block square on the west side of Manhattan.
If art is your thing but you don’t fancy the throng at the Museum of Modern Art, head to Wooster Projects, an intimate gallery whose rotational contemporary and pop art displays include exhibits by Andy Warhol and David Hockney. If you’d rather appreciate the aesthetics of a well-made plate of food, try your luck with reservations at Vento Trattoria or Spice Market.
Getting a table may pose a problem if you want one on Thursday nights which, my resident New York spy Maria informed me, is the city’s new Friday night. “Almost every place up and down Second and Third Avenue between 34th and 72nd Street will be packed with 20- and 30-somethings,” she warned me. And she was right. The bars were full of hipsters drinking away as if there was no time card to punch the next day.
My friends and I made our way to Park Blue, a lounge-bar-restaurant (apparently it’s not acceptable to be just one of them these days) on West 58th Street that’s proud of the fact that it’s the only bar in New York which stocks more than 150 choices of wine in half bottles. Our waiter felt the need to convey this bit of information to us three times, and looked slighted when everyone in our party opted for cocktails.
But if wine in half bottles—or in any kind of bottle—is your thing, do look up Park Blue. Its dark ambience is sophisticated without being cold, and the quiet jazz tracks and intimate seating arrangement is an antithesis to the loud music and general din that seems to pervade most lounge-bar-restaurants today.
If making Page 6 of The New York Post or knocking back appletinis with Paris and Lindsay isn’t really your thing, and you want a taste of New York’s multicultural districts, then there are plenty of places to pick from. We stayed with friends in Astoria, Queens, a neighbourhood once dominated by Greeks (there is an Athens café, Athens nail bar and Athens deli for all our needs) that has, over the years, made space for South Asian, Chinese and Italian families and businesses.
But if you’d rather not leave Manhattan for your migrant experience, then head to Chinatown and grab a table at Dim Sum Go Go, where the trendy décor and vast menu belie the reasonable rates. Chinatown can get pretty crowded and noisy, but before you escape the madding tourist crowds, grab some dessert at The Chinatown Ice Cream Factory—a treat at any time of the year—and then atone for your sins by hailing a cab (the equivalent of a cardiovascular workout in New York) to North of Little Italy or NoLIta.
NoHo-NoLIta is another up and coming part of town where a shopping spree can drain your bank account in one go and a penthouse can set you back by a cool couple of million dollars. For those in search of simpler pleasures, a walk along Spring Street will lead you to Rice to Riches, a super-niche eatery that serves up to 21 varieties of rice pudding. From plain vanilla to basil-pineapple (not for the faint-hearted), this place beats Baskin Robbins hands down.
If NoLIta is eclectic and one of a kind, Times Square is at the other end of the spectrum. Crowded, commercial, noisy and crass, I wouldn’t suggest anyone try to navigate this busy intersection at any time of the week. However, if you’re hell-bent on catching a glimpse of these illuminated crossroads, then the only way to do it is with a drink in your hand at the Broadway Lounge. The Marriott Marquis’ bar has cosy tables and velvet-covered chairs lining a large circular bay of windows that is the perfect spot from which to appreciate all the flash and colour of this crazy landmark without actually getting swallowed by the pulsating multitude.
If you’re a little tired of the sound and fury that is New York, unwind with brunch at any one of the unassuming diners that dot the city. My own New York minute or, rather, moment was at Saturday brunch at the Bel Air Diner in Astoria. Eggs, however you like them done, home fries, however the Diner likes them done, bagels, mini-muffins, toast smeared in butter and enough coffee refills to keep the entire city awake. There was no Paris, no Lindsay, no reservations. Just some friends eating together and trying to make a New York minute last for as long as possible.
How to go
Flights: Fly to New York from Mumbai and New Delhi. Round trip economy fares, with a stopover at a European gateway, are between Rs40,000 and Rs90,000.
Visas: Apply at 11 locations across India; interviews at US embassies in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. Visas cost Rs4,200, plus Rs322 service charge.
Where to stay
The Gramercy Park Hotel is a boutique hotel on Lexington Avenue (Tel: 1-212 920 3300, www.gramercyparkhotel.com) that has raised the bar on boho chic. Deluxe rooms start at $545 (about Rs22,000). For a truly New York experience, pick a loft for $645. The art-deco majesty of the Waldorf Astoria (Tel: 1-212 355 3000, www.waldorf.com) provides old world charm, hospitality and luxury. Room rates start at $379. The Ritz Carlton (Tel: 1-212 308 9100, www.ritzcarlton.com) offers guests tabletop telescopes for an intimate view of Central Park. Room rates start at $795.
Where to eat
For a sublime slice of country-style baking in the heart of the city, head to Little Pie Company (www.littlepiecompany.com), where the Mississippi Mud Pie is a three-tiered chocolate affair. For celebrity spotting and great food, make your way to Pastis, a French bistro in the Meatpacking District (Tel: 1-212-929 4844). If you’re in a rush, grab the perfect combo: an H&H bagel (www.handhbagel.com) and ‘The New York Times’.
What to do
If you’re midtown and have an hour off, hire a bicycle (Central Park Bicycle Rentals & Tours, Tel: 1-212-541 8759, www.centralparkbiketour.com) and go for a leisurely ride around Central Park. It’s the best way to see the city’s green lung, but watch out for errant joggers. Catch the PATH train at 33rd Street and Broadway and take it to Hoboken for great views of the Manhattan skyline. Hoboken, which also has lots of bars and restaurants, is the birthplace of baseball and Frank Sinatra, and many residents consider it the sixth borough of NYC. Take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and when you get to the other side, head to Grimaldi’s (www.grimaldis.com/brooklyn.htm) for great views of NYC and terrific pizza.
Where to shop
The Museum of Modern Art’s design and gift shop on West 53rd Street offers Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired silk scarves, aesthetic, functional accessories by design legends such as Aalto and future classics from Tord Boontje. You’ll be able to head back with more than the standard Tiffany’s trinket.
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