The Pierre from Centre Park New York

New York hit-list | NYC fine dining | Manhattan moments

Cool, understated elegance that belies inner sparkle and sizzle.

The problem with New York is that everyone has been there before you. Forget the excitement of the inner child – telling people you’re off to the Big Apple brings out the Inner List. Before you can say “itinerary”, your lists will be qualifying as their own New York Book Of Short Stories. Susan Skelly starts her own

The list of Qantas Business and First menu consultant and restaurateur Neil Perry is our Bible: Per Se, Esca, Balthazar, La Marea, Momofuku Ko, Saam Bar and Bouchon. Australian Gourmet Traveller’s food editor Pat Nourse rates Torrisi, plus Ma Peche, Momofuku Ko and the Terroir wine bar, but advises that more often than not, it’s the small owner-operated joints under the radar that are the business. Arts writer colleague Tony Magnusson has more cultural priorities – The Met, Frick, and Whitney, or Lincoln Center imperatives such as the New York Philharmonic, New York City Ballet and any Met Opera with Anna Netrebko, who is hot, hot, hot. His steak-knives list – “but wait, there’s more” – includes vintage and designer second-hand shops such as INA and Fisch For the Hip, a Black Comme des Garons boutique and, now the real insider stuff, the best place to buy meatballs.

Regular NYC-based writers tag the High Line, the Red Rooster bar/restaurant in Harlem, the classic Italian Laconda Verde in Robert De Niro’s Greenwich Hotel in Tribeca, or a day wandering in Williamsburg (Brooklyn). They insist on the necessity of a 10am start at fashionista heaven/hell Century 21, before the hordes descend on the much-reduced designer threads and shoes. They will also know to register for free tickets to see the 911 memorial. Trouble is, in the time it takes to sort all these lists, you could have found your way to MetLife Stadium in New Jersey to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform on home turf. There’s only one thing for it. Ditch the lists and get out there.


Asiate 80 Columbus Circle at 60th Street On Level 35 in the Mandarin Oriental, there’s a Japanese spin to the food of Angie Berry. Try the tasting menu: hamachi sashimi with preserved cherry blossom, tiny broad beans and beads of white soy ponzu; velvety buckwheat soba noodles with the tiniest egg and caviar; butter-poached lobster with polenta and kaffir lime emulsion. Wine match: Sunshine Coast wine director Annie Turso has freakily fabulous ideas.

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Asiate, fine dining at the Mandarin Oriental in New York

Peasant 194 Elizabeth Street, Nolita. The open-fire oven down the back and a serious rotisserie mean dishes such as pizza, suckling pig with fingerling potatoes and chicken and quail are a given. Again, a great New York atmosphere, enthusiastic diners, and honest Italian farm to table food dressed for a party. See burly soloists at the bar ordering cheesecake with pistachio ice-cream.

Mussels at Peasant Nolita farm to table seasonal wood fired

Mussels star on a seasonal, robust Italian menu. Photo courtesy Peasant.

Per Se Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle. Thomas Keller’s local provedore-driven Per Se is on every list. It’s an elegant space of wood veneer, polished stone, huge flower arrangements and lots of Limoges dinnerware. The food is perfection, from the exclusive butter to the post-dessert cappuccino sabayon, warm, ping-pong ball-sized doughnuts, caramel bonbons, chocolate truffles and shortbread biscuit sandwiches. The smaller, five-course, tasting menu includes Australian abalone with parsley mousse, monkfish with an olive and chorizo emulsion, and a Canadian suckling pig with poached pears. Finesse without starchy formality.

Ma Peche Chambers Hotel, 15 West 56th Street. Another in the David Chang (Momofuku) portfolio, Ma Peche might have started with a Vietnamese tic, but under Paul Carmichael from Barbados, it is something else. Like Alice in foodie Wonderland, things get “curiouser and curiouser” with delicate, surprising combinations: the menu is divvied up into raw, small plates, large plates for two, and vegetables. Graze on steamed lobster buns, black sea bass ceviche, Dutch carrots of all hues lightly curried with chilli and ribbons of coconut flesh; duck breast with a tiny tube of duck sausage; and an extraordinary popcorn, white chocolate and floss dessert. Go for cocktails at the grand Plaza afterwards.

Torrisi Italian Specialties 250 Mulberry Street. A tiny, buzzy space (seats about 25) with a seven- or 20-course menu (morsels, not mountains) that is fun and fabulous. The smaller offering comprises four antipasti, from warm mozzarella to a blackened mackerel and caponata; a pasta – Dirty Duck Rice a Roni on this visit; a choice of two mains (the rich quail cacciatore danced with several kinds of mushrooms), and house sweet treats (lots). All wines are American, so seek the damn fine advice of the waiters.

Balthazar 80 Spring Street. Classic French bistro hangout, whether you’re having a herb omelette for breakfast (hold the fries); a homemade linguine with cockles, sausage and spinach or duck shepherd’s pie at the bar; or a late dinner of premium Balthazar Bar steak (yes, to the fries), a glass of burgundy and a tarte tatin from the kindred bakery next door. There is a raw bar, too. It is always full, with people waiting.

Bustle and bonhomie in Balthazar, pit-stop for the discerning in Soho.

Viand 673 Madison Avenue. Four policemen are sitting at the long bar, joggers come and go, a businessman grabs a quick coffee on his way to the office; waiters order in verbal shorthand. This feels like the real thing: locals single-minded about the task of consuming a dinner plate-sized yoghurt drizzled with honey accompanied by a tree’s worth of walnuts; or corned beef hash with fried potatoes and eggs.


The Pierre 2 East 61st Street. One of New York’s most iconic hotels, the Pierre houses both guests and permanent residents and so is almost disconcertingly low-key. Old-fashioned wood-lined elevators have a tiny padded red leather seat for the foot-weary, gold-leaf domes, carpet, polished brass and real lift attendants wearing white gloves. There are vintage mail chutes on each floor, a concierge desk that can open doors anywhere and, as of last October, a new restaurant, Serio. The rooms (hard to beat one with a view of Central Park) have an elegant palette of duck egg blue, coffee and cream, with satins and brocades. Expect a note on your pillow each night advising stock exchange closing prices and tomorrow’s weather. But the money shots are on level 2, where there are opulent function rooms, sweeping staircases, marble, frescos, flower arrangements, massive ballrooms, and chandeliers. Splendiferous. From $US825 ($AUD789).

Tata Suite Master Bath-The Pierre Hotel New York luxury accommodation

Soaking up the view from the master bath of the Pierre Hotel’s Tata Suite. Photo courtesy The Pierre.

The Mandarin Oriental 80 Columbus Circle. Dead glamorous, great aura of authority and service, bathrooms to die for (sit in the tub and look over the Hudson River and NYC skyline). The efficient concierge desk executes requests for a blow-dry, shirt pressing and tickets within 10 minutes of lobbing. The decor is oriental clubby, juxtaposing marble, pressed metals, orchids, bronze and wallpapers with human props (this being a week the UN General Assembly is meeting), beefy security men with earphones. The reception lobby on 35 is a people-watching hub: an elegant lounge with million-dollar views, groovy bar and Asiate restaurant (see above). From $US795 ($AUD760).

Crosby Street Hotel 79 Crosby Street. Kit Kemp’s style is alterna-chic and her New York digs are as desirable as her London Firmdale portfolio. Dogs of Soho is a theme here, with local mutts framed, sculpted and saluted throughout the boutique hotel, which feels like a home away from home with its solicitous drawing room, courtyard, dining room and bar, all in trademark jewel and cool colours. It’s a stone’s throw from Nolita, Soho and Little Italy, with funky homewares (Australia’s Dinosaur Designs and Mud labels among them), restaurants, cafes and boutiques. Rooms are spacious, comfortable, with NYC rooftop panoramas. From $US555 ($AUD531).

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Crosby Street Hotel lobby with its 2.4m tall White Head by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. Photo: Simon Brown

Places to go in NYC

Brooklyn Brooklyn is the buzz, never more so than on a Sunday. Take the subway to the Bedford exit into Williamsburg for flea markets, cool, idiosyncratic cosmetic and vintage clothing shops, juice bars, cafes and restaurants. Head for the rooftop bar at the corner of Wyeth Avenue and North 11th Street, order a Normandy pear cider or a boutique brew and watch the sun set over NYC. Then stroll to the East Side Ferry for a punt back to Manhattan.

The High Line The High Line on Manhattan’s West Side, runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. Saved from demolition by protest, an elevated freight rail line has been turned into a park above the city, a space for people to meet, chat, eat, stroll, get their feet wet in the water feature or suck cantaloupe and tarragon ice blocks. Residential buildings are springing up around it.

Urban innovation high line New York City things to do

The High Line: a disused rail track transformed into an acclaimed urban recreation space. Photo courtesy Friends of the High Line

Blue Note 131 West Third Street. Never were so many people shoehorned into such a small space. The upside is that if you queue early and get seats near the front, famous musicians such as Chick Corea, Lee Ritenour or on-the-rise jazz, soul and R&B artists will be all but in your lap.

Bemelmans Bar Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th Street.  Cosy bar with walls and table lamps illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans, famous for his Madeline books (bunnies picnicking in Central Park). Art Deco chocolate leather banquettes, black granite bar, gold-leaf ceiling and, with luck, a Gibson Les Paul dripping golden jazz notes into the best martini you’ll ever have. Golden light and golden sounds abound at Bemelman’s Bar at the Carlyle. Photo courtesy Rosewood Hotels

Hit the shops

Bergdorf Goodman’s shoe salon (754 Fifth Avenue), is a shrine to straps, sparkle, studs and altitude via Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Valentino, et al. A restaurant on the seventh floor with Central Park views helps soothe the pain of the overspend. Barney’s cosmetics basement for perfume aficionados (660 Madison) offers rare and refined scents from The Different Company, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Frederic Malle, Serge Lutens, Byredo and the singular, signature notes of Le Labo. Yes, OK, designer devotees: Woodbury Common if you have a day to spare; Century 21, ditto, only if you are feeling strong.

Source Qantas The Australian Way May 2013

Your turn: Travelled to New York lately? What were the discoveries?


Editor. Writer. Traveller. Keeping tabs on all things fab.

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Copyright © Susan Skelly 2020.