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New York, Shopping, Stores, Websites

Hayes and Jarvis Shop NYC App

New York is famed for its amazing shopping and it’s one of my favourite cities for finding those cool hidden gems.

While I love wandering around the Big Apple and discovering hotspots as I go, it can be easy to take a wrong turn and miss the best shopping streets.  Luckily, travel specialists Hayes and Jarvis have created a handy Shop NYC app for the iPhone, so you’ll never miss the best places to drop some dollars.

The innovative app features 100 of New York’s best stores handpicked by retail experts as well as curated shopping guides and reviews of all stores.

The stores are filtered into 10 categories for easy navigation, under sections including American Classics, Beauty Products, New York One-Offs, Classic Department Stores, Homewares and Food & Drink.  It couldn’t be easier to plan a day of boutique hopping, or simply whip out the app when you’re in need of a bit of instant inspiration.

Shoppers can find important info such as opening hours, direct links to the store websites and even call stores directly from the app.  Even though New York is known as the city that doesn’t sleep, it’s still easy to make a shopping faux pas and arrive to find the shutters closed, wasting valuable holiday time.

One of my favourite features is the route planner, calculating the walking time between stores and noting the spots that you can visit on the way.  It’s almost impossible to get lost, as the real-time GPS pinpoints your location and guides you along your route.

My favourite shopping area is Downtown New York, in particular its SoHo and Nolita neighbourhoods.  This hip area below Houston Street is filled with designer concept stores, independent boutiques, and American brands that are hard to find in the UK.

Here are a few of my favourite haunts on the SoHo and Nolita shopping scene…

Madewell SoHo

The younger sister of J.Crew, Madewell is the place to find your downtown New York wardrobe with high quality basics, casual dresses and slouchy leather bags.  I bought one of my favourite jewellery pieces – a hot pink thread and gold bead necklace – at Madewell last time I was in the US and often stock up on accessories there.

Opening Ceremony

Carol Lim and Humberto Leon launched their first Opening Ceremony store in New York and this SoHo store still leads the way with a well-edited selection of pieces by designers across the world.  Look out for cool sneakers, exclusive collaborations and lashings of KENZO.

Nicole Miller

I’m a fan of New York-based designer Nicole Miller’s cool, playful clothes with bold prints and interesting design details.  With only one other store in West Hollywood, you’re sure to find a unique dress that no one will be wearing at your next cocktail party.

Proenza Schouler

The SoHo flagship store of New York designer brand Proenza Schouler is a sleek, high-tech space that houses the full collection of womenswear, jewellery, shoes, bags and accessories.

CB2

The hipper offshoot of Crate & Barrel, CB2 offers well-priced contemporary homewares and furnishings to recreate that New York loft vibe at home.  You can even have a one-to-one consultation with the resident design expert every Thursday from 6-8pm.

McNally Jackson Books

It would be easy to lose an entire afternoon in this fantastic independent bookshop.  Not only does it have an excellent selection of books and a cute cafe, but you can self-publish your very own book right there and then.

Of course, even the most seasoned New York shopper needs a quick refuel, so here are my top places to indulge and really make a day of it…

Charlie Bird

Hot downtown restaurant Charlie Bird takes new spin on Italian-American comfort food with plenty of New York hip hop soul.  Tuck into tasty pasta, fresh oysters and seasonal vegetable dishes.

Crosby Street Hotel

Find a little corner of London in New York at Firmdale Hotels’ colourful SoHo hotel.  Start a day of shopping with delicious Eggs Benedict, refuel with a decadent afternoon tea or numb the pain of weary feet with cocktails and bar bites.

Balthazar

Keith McNally’s French-style bistro is a SoHo institution and still the place to see and be seen.  Cosy up on a red leather banquette and review your purchases over Steak Frites and a glass of Champagne.

Dominique Ansel Bakery

Home of the trend-setting Cronut, Cookie Shot and other sweet creations, Dominique Ansel Bakery is perfect for a SoHo sugar fix.  Be sure to get there early in the morning if you want to try the world’s most talked-about pastry.

Dean & DeLuca

I always find myself drawn to this gourmet food temple when I’m out and about in SoHo.  Its posh deli sandwiches and fresh salads are to die for and don’t forget to share (because they’re enormous) a box of sweet potato fries.

Parm

Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone’s Italian-New York diner in Nolita is the place to feed the soul with classics such as parmigiana subs, mozzarella-smothered meatballs, baked ziti, club sandwiches and patty melts.

Where are your favourite shops in NYC?  Are you more of a Downtown or Uptown shopper?

To get the best out of New York shopping, download the free Hayes and Jarvis Shop NYC app for the iPhone from the App Store.

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Accessories, Designers, Fashion, Hotels, New York, Shopping, Stores, Websites

BRIKA x The Coveteur at Paramount Hotel, New York

The holidays are a thrilling time to shop in New York with buzzing stores, festive window displays and winter markets.

For a truly unique shopping experience, luxury lifestyle website The Coveteur has teamed up with modern craft online boutique BRIKA to host a holiday gifting shop at The Free & The Brave Pop-Up Shop at the Paramount Hotel.

Founded by three Toronto creatives – designer Erin Kleinberg, stylist Stephanie Mark and photographer Jake Rosenberg – The Coveteur takes an insider’s look inside the closets of stylish celebrities, designers and fashion influencers such as Amber Valletta, Sophia Webster, Pamela Love, Pharrell Williams and the Mulleavy sisters.

Also formed in Toronto by Kena Paranjape and Jen Lee Koss is BRIKA, an online retail site with a carefully-selected range of well-crafted goods by authentic makers, artisans and designers.  

Located in the heart of Times Square, the BRIKA x The Coveteur holiday gifting shop features six curated closets with pieces by BRIKA makers alongside luxury products by established and up-and-coming New York designers.

Styled by The Coveteur, the closets are divided into shoppable gift guides for Him, Her, the Home, the Foodie and the Little Ones. Celebrity astrologer (and mum of Sophomore’s Chrissie Miller) Susan Miller also has her own Zodiac Closet, tailoring holiday gifts to match each star sign.

Shoppers can expect to find fabulous gifts from makers such as Otte, Juma, Journelle, Blueprint Cleanse, La Petite Caravane and Babiators.  There’s even the chance to pick up a tin or two of Karlie’s Kookies, a collaboration between Momofuku Milk Bar and supermodel Karlie Kloss with a portion of proceeds donated to FEED.

The closets are also shoppable online and gifts are delivered to the customer’s home.

BRIKA x The Coveteur is filled with cool gifts for friends and family, plus you might be tempted to treat yourself to something new.  Ending a successful shopping trip with coffee and cake at Paramount Hotel’s Corso Coffee is an added bonus.

The Brika x The Coveteur Pop Up Shop runs until 6th January at The Free & The Brave Pop-Up Shop at the Paramount Hotel, New York. 

All images © Jake Rosenberg for The Coveteur

Brunch, Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, New York, Restaurants

Brunch At Asiate – Mandarin Oriental New York

What could be better than spending a lazy Saturday in New York over an indulgent brunch looking out over Central Park?

Asiate at Mandarin Oriental New York has an enviable position, perched on the 35th floor of the Time Warner Center, by Columbus Circle.  The spectacular floor to ceiling views are matched with exquisite food and a tantalising contemporary Asian and American brunch menu.

Arriving a little early, we took some time to wander around the 35th floor of Mandarin Oriental New York and stopped to admire the curved lobby’s stunning Dale Chihuly glass sculpture.  The Lobby Lounge was also buzzing with weekenders enjoying afternoon tea and dim sum bento boxes.

Asiate is an elegant, expansive restaurant whose minimal-luxe design lets the views do the talking.  The large tables feature  comfortable seating and guests can dine overlooking the south-west corner of Central Park by the window, or nestled in an intimate booth to the sides of the room.

While Asiate is all about clean lines with dark wood highlights, the centrepiece of the restaurant is a beautiful silver tree branch sculpture, referencing the trees of Central Park in winter.  Another interesting design point is the wall of wines, including over 1300 bottles.

Chef de Cuisine Angie Berry’s weekly-changing brunch menu features a well-edited selection of seasonal classics with an innovative twist.

We were warmly welcomed by the attentive, friendly staff and swiftly set up with a bottle of chilled still water, a choice of artisan breads and a glass of Champagne.  Asiate’s semi-set menu brunch is a fun concept, serving three courses in smaller tasting portions.  The starter and dessert plates are chosen weekly by Chef Berry and guests can choose two dishes for their main course.

We started with the beautifully-presented Gourmandise Tasting, made up of four bento dishes.  The Cauliflower Veloute with smoked bacon foam and chives was thick, creamy and ever so smooth.  Ahi Tuna Poke, avocado crème and wasabi-sesame tempura was plump and fresh while the Farmhouse Frittata with country sausage, goats cheese and roasted tomatoes was light, bubbly and full of strong flavours.

My favourite bite was the Miso Chilled Shrimp with green papaya and mango salad with ginger dressing, which was succulent, aromatic, well-marinated and so tasty.

Following the Gourmandise Tasting, we enjoyed a refreshing palate-cleanser of home-made Mango Sorbet.

As we ordered only savoury dishes for our main courses, Asiate’s pastry chef kindly sent us a scrumptious Belgian Waffle with berries, whipped vanilla cream and Vermont maple syrup that also features on the menu.  It was a heavenly treat between courses and definitely worth ordering as part of brunch.

For my main course, I went for a duo of Croque Madame with sunny-side-up egg, grilled country ham, red watercress, bechamel sauce and toasted sourdough and Cavatelli with pancetta, mushrooms, parmesan cheese, garden herbs and parmesan broth.

The Croque Madame was deliciously rich and decadent, smothered in thick bechamel.  It was the perfect French classic but with an interesting addition of sun-dried tomato jam spread on the sourdough, giving it a tangy edge.

The Cavatelli was cooked perfectly al dente and was accompanied with chunky, meaty pancetta, silky mushrooms and torn garden herbs.  The parmesan broth was well-seasoned and light and the roughly-cut parmesan finished the dish nicely.

Steven ordered the Grilled NY Steak with market vegetables and the Eggs Benedict BLT with soft-poached egg, pancetta, arugula, heirloom tomatoes and bacon hollandaise.

The sliced medium-cooked steak was tender and nicely charred, served with sauteed courgette and slow-roasted carrot.  The Eggs Benedict BLT was another rich dish with thick pieces of pancetta, lashings of peppery bacon hollandaise and a perfectly-cooked poached egg.

Dessert was a delicious duo of Double Chocolate Crème brûlée and Strawberry Lemon Shortcake – ideal if you find it hard to decide between chocolate and fruit.  The luxurious crème brûlée custard was velvety smooth and made using 64% semi-sweet chocolate and 70% dark chocolate.  The caramelised natural sugar had a thick, crisp crust and was topped with two biscuit curls.

The Strawberry Lemon Shortcake was a lighter affair with infused sponge cake, lemon curd cream, strawberry glaze and wild strawberry sauce.  It was delicate, zesty and light as air – the ideal dessert after an epic brunch.

We finished with a pot of fresh mint tea and lingered a little to soak up the last of the incredible Central Park views.  Before leaving, we were invited to fill a little lime green take-away box with cookies, biscotti and candy, as a sweet souvenir of our visit.  It was a lovely touch, putting the cherry on the top of a fabulous afternoon that ended with a marathon walk around Central Park.

Brunch at Asiate is a wonderful experience that tourists and New Yorkers can delight in equally.  The food is outstanding, the menu is exciting and the small plate concept allows you to sample lots of different tastes and still leave feeling happily full.  I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather spend a lazy weekend afternoon in Manhattan.

Brunch is priced at $54 and speciality cocktails are $19.  For more information and booking, visit: www.mandarinoriental.com

Chérie City was a guest of Mandarin Oriental New York

Photos by Chérie City

Asiate on Urbanspoon

Hotels, New York

Hotel Chandler – Midtown, New York

On our last night in New York, we stayed at Hotel Chandler, a Midtown Manhattan boutique hotel that you cannot help being charmed by.

A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Hotel Chandler has a warm, homely atmosphere and the design is contemporary and timeless, with a few quirky touches to discover.

The hotel’s Flatiron location is conveniently close to Madison Square Park, designer stores on 5th Avenue and foodie spots such as Mario Batali’s Eataly, Eleven Madison Park and Shake Shack.  Midtown may have a reputation as a touristy area to stay in, however, the NoMad neighbourhood (north of Madison Square Park) is very up-and-coming, with high end restaurants and stores moving in.

Unlike some boutique hotels, the expansive lobby is somewhere that you actually want to spend some time.  There are some interesting design touches such 18th century clock hands on the wall, knotted armchairs, surprisingly comfy stools made from wooden sticks and a locally-made mangrove tree lamp.

Freshly-brewed coffee and a selection of black and herbal teas are offered complimentary to guests in handy cardboard cups to take out or enjoy in the lobby.  The Library Room is another cosy, welcoming space where guests can relaxing in front of the open fire while watching the big screen or reading a newspaper.

Next to the original 1905 staircase, the hotel also has a public iMac and printer, plus a thoughtful airport departures board, providing the latest news on flights.

Our Executive Suite was comfortable and spacious with an open-plan bedroom and living area and plenty of natural light.  The interiors are a neutral mix of chocolate brown, bronze, biscuit and shimmering grey with highlights of royal and powder blues.

The king-size bed was heavenly, covered in crisp Frette linen, plus the sofa in the living area converts into a queen-sized bed for extra guests.  I particularly liked the Japanese-style screen that divides the two living spaces.

The suite includes two LCD HDTVs, a comfy seating area with armchairs, large coffee table, over-sized work desk with ergonomic chair, mini bar, plenty of hanging space and an ironing board with iron.  There is also free wifi and a copy of the latest Time Out New York, so you can plan your day easily.

There are also some thoughtful touches such as complimentary overnight shoe shine, branded umbrellas, embroidered Frette bathrobe and slippers and turndown service with Le Belge chocolates on the desk.  The views from the windows aren’t terribly exciting, however the room is surprisingly quiet, particularly at night.

The petite bathroom has a slick, urban feel with white ceramic brick-effect tiles and navy mosaics.  It features a rainfall shower over a low bath, plush Frette towels and a full set of Molton Brown bathroom amenities.

Following a great night’s sleep, we were brought a tasty breakfast tray of pastries, muffins and fresh fruit salad, served with a pot of English Breakfast tea and orange juice.  There is a well-equipped fitness centre on the first floor to work off the pastries, if a day of strolling around the city isn’t quite enough.

The hotel currently offers in-room dining and the Hotel Chandler Bar is open for a cocktail or night cap.  This autumn, Hotel Chandler’s dining options will be complete with the opening of Restaurant Juni, overseen by Executive Chef Shaun Hergatt.

Hotel Chandler is a great place to stay in New York for that ‘home away from home’ feeling.  The location is particularly well-suited to first-time visitors in New York, and the warm, friendly atmosphere will leave a lasting impression, long after you’ve left the city.

Superior Queen Rooms at Hotel Chandler start from $209 (approx. £135), per room per night.  For more information, visit: www.hotelchandler.com

Chérie City was a guest of Hotel Chandler

Photos by Chérie City and Hotel Chandler

Hotels, Hotels - Design, New York

Thompson LES – Lower East Side, New York

Thompson LES is the epitome of New York downtown cool with slick, minimalist design and a young, creative crowd.

Located just off the Bowery on Allen Street, the striking 18-storey, 141-guest room hotel towers over the neighbourhood’s tenements, offering up some spectacular views.  It stands out from the landscape but is perfectly matched to the Lower East Side’s arty, style-conscious spirit.

Inside, Thompson LES has a buzzing vibe and the smartly-dressed staff orchestrated a swift early check-in.  Within a few moments we were escorted in the elevator on the way to our room.

Our very spacious Studio King Suite had a contemporary, industrial-luxe style with clean lines and Japanese accents.  Designed in a colour palette of black, white and grey, the room features exposed concrete columns, black wooden varnished floors, a striped grey carpet, a shiny black mirrored wall and floor-to-ceiling windows.

Room features include a large LCD TV with premium cable and in-room movie library, iPod dock, a minibar filled with Dean & Deluca snacks and plenty of storage space.  The plush lounge area is separated by a beaded metal curtain and has a sectional sofa and a coffee table with a stack of fashion magazines.

The king-size bed was incredibly comfortable and luxurious, covered in soft Sferra linen, which is a signature at all Thompson hotels.  Above is a stunning illuminated light box headboard by American photographer and artist Lee Friedlander that brings character to the room.

During the day, the room benefits from lots of natural light streaming in and at night it becomes more seductive, with mood lighting and the sultry glow from the city outside.  A few nice touch were the bonsai tree by the entrance of the room and the Belgian chocolates on the desk at turndown.

The slate grey open-plan bathroom includes a separate walk-in rainfall shower and toilet behind frosted glass doors, a circular sink and a full set of REN bathroom amenities.  The water pressure in the shower was very powerful and the oversized terrycloth bathrobes were perfect for lounging in.

Wifi internet in guest rooms at Thompson LES comes with a charge, but we were told on arrival that there is free wifi in the bar on the first floor.  Many guests flock to this lounge section of the bar with laptops to check emails and do business, so it has a sociable feel.  The staff tend to leave guests to use the internet in peace, however, drinks and bites are closeby, should you wish to linger.

The hotel’s popular restaurant Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya on the same level serves its own take on Japanese dishes alongside fried chicken and grilled NY strip steak and the Grand Buffet Brunch on the weekend sounds particularly tempting.

If you’re in the mood for a different type of cuisine, Thompson LES is in a prime spot for sampling some of New York’s most exciting restaurants – we ate at the nearby La Esquina, The Meatball Shop and Pulino’s.

A special perk of staying at Thompson LES is access to Above Allen, the exclusive members terrace lounge with great views over the city.  Sadly Above Allen is usually closed on the day that we visited, otherwise we would have visited for a nightcap.

The hotel’s rooftop pool is surely the coolest in New York and it’s a real downtown hotspot when the sun comes out.  Guests can swim over an Andy Warhol filmstrip and soak up some rays with a cocktail and light bites on the striking orange loungers.

For further relaxation, there is also a guests-only fitness and renewal centre with a gym, sauna and treatments rooms

Thompson LES is an ideal base to explore downtown New York, matching cool design with a fun atmosphere and surprisingly reasonable prices.  The hotel feels cosy and comfortable in the colder months, however to get the most out of the facilities such as the fabulous pool and outdoor dining, summer is the time to visit.

Rooms at Thompson LES start from $200 (approx. £130), per room per night.  For more information and booking, visit: www.thompsonhotels.com

Cherie City was a guest of Thompson LES

Photos by Cherie City and Thompson LES

New York, Restaurants

Dinner at Sotto 13 – West Village, New York

Sotto13 is a friendly neighbourhood restaurant that really wowed on my trip to New York this year.  The ‘social Italian’ restaurant has an unexpectedly residential location on the lower floor of a landmark brownstone on a quiet, leafy street in the West Village.

We visited on Friday evening and the restaurant was already buzzing with well-heeled, in-the-know New Yorkers clinking Prosecco glasses and sharing rustic Italian small plates and pizza slices.

The restaurant is expansive with a split-level dining room, designed in earthy olive, espresso and dark wood tones.  We sat at a comfy booth and were greeted warmly by the manager Giuseppe, who made some great recommendations that we were more than happy to try out.

We started with some delicious freshly-baked Focaccia served with a dish of high quality olive oil.  Cocktails at Sotto 13 are a must, so I ordered a refreshing Mango Margerita (all cocktails $12) and Steven went for a strong and classic Sazerac.

To start, we were tempted by the Chickpea Fries, sun-dried tomato pesto ($7).  The moreish fries had a golden, grainy coating and were smooth and creamy on the inside with a hint of aniseed.  The sun-dried tomato pesto dip was deliciously rich, zangy and sweet.

The Garlic Shrimp, rosemary-thyme infused olive oil ($11) came highly-recommended and rightly so.  The plump, succulent shrimps were perfectly cooked and came with a scrumptious garlicky jus that was so tasty we mopped it all up with the focaccia.

Having heard good things about Sotto 13′s wood-fire oven pizzas, we shared a Brussels Sprout Pizza ($16) that was cut into slices for easy sharing.  The thin and crispy base was covered with strongly-flavoured toppings that complemented each other well.  The halved sprouts were nicely charred and scattered among chunky pancetta, rich Fontina and thinly-sliced caramelised red onion.

Our favourite, however, was the wonderful Rigatoni Veal Ragu with Caciocavallo cheese ($16).  The large tubes of al dente pasta were smothered in a slow-cooked, rustic sauce with well-seasoned minced veal and tiny pieces of carrot.  The pasta was comforting and satisfying, plus the portion size was enormous.  This is a dish I’d order again and again if only Sotto 13 was a little closer to home.

For dessert, it had to be the Cannoli – a New York classic that I always try to indulge in when in town.  Each mini cannolo was filled with cool, creamy ricotta and chocolate chips and the dough was light and crisp.

Steven’s Pear Strudel with cinnamon ice cream was heavenly and also presented in small bites, so we could share.  The pear was stewed with raisins and the pastry was fluffy yet crunchy on the outside.

We finished with a round of New Old Fashioned cocktails that were, strong, expertly-mixed and infused with zesty orange.

Sotto 13 is a real hidden gem where you can eat out like a true New Yorker.  The ambiance is stylish yet informal and the staff are so brilliant that you’ll leave the restaurant with a smile.

Next time I visit New York, I can’t wait to spend a lazy Sunday over Sotto 13′s bargainous $25 All-You-Can-Drink Boozy Brunch, including tapas or pizza and unlimited brunch cocktails.  Another fun touch is the DIY Prosecco Bar where you can customise glasses of Prosecco with a tray of juice mixers, toss-ins and liqueurs ($15 per tray).

For more information and booking, visit: www.sotto13.com

Chérie City was a guest of Sotto 13

Photos by Chérie City (interiors by Sotto 13)

Sotto 13 on Urbanspoon

New York, Restaurants, USA

Luke’s Lobster At The Plaza Food Hall – New York

While in New York, I was determined to find a great place to eat lobster rolls.  Our first attempt at visiting Luke’s Lobster in the East Village was ill-fated, as the tiny bar was packed full (it only seats 8!) and it was too chilly for take-out.

Luckily, we stumbled upon Luke’s Lobster again in one of my favourite NYC foodie haunts, The Plaza Foodhall, after a long trek around Central Park.

Lobster rolls may sound like an extravagant indulgence, but a lobster glut on the East Coast last year means that prices have been driven down and happily lots of affordable seafood joints have recently popped up in New York.  Luke’s Lobster now has ten locations and has expanded to Washington DC and Philadelphia’s well-heeled Rittenhouse Square.

We ordered a Lobster Roll with soda, chips and a pickle ($17) and a Crab Roll – just the roll ($12) to share.  The Maine style lobster roll was substantial with a quarter-pound of plump, chilled lobster meat atop a split toasted and buttered roll spread with mayonnaise, a drizzle of warm lemon butter and scattered ‘secret herbs’.

The lobster was incredibly fresh and succulent and was perfectly complemented by the oozing butter sauce and the ‘secret’ ground herbs (I detected a bit of paprika and oregano).    The lobster roll came with a choice of Cape Cod potato chips and a glass bottle of Maine Root Mexicane Cola.

The crab roll was also delicious with a flaky texture and a clean, subtle taste.  Both were extremely tasty, but the lobster roll had the slight edge as the lobster meat was more flavoursome.  If you’re really peckish, try the Taste of Maine – half lobster roll, half crab roll and half shrimp roll with a soda, chips and a pickle ($20).

Unlike other lobster shacks in NYC, Luke’s Lobster rolls are simply packed full of seafood rather than bulked up with lots of mayo and celery – they’re probably the best value for money too.

Many of the outlets can be small and hard to find a seat when it’s busy, but The Plaza Food Hall has plenty of seated eating areas.  In the warmer months, grab a few rolls and head to Central Park for a posh picnic – what could be better!

For more information and locations, visit: www.lukeslobster.com

Luke's Lobster on Urbanspoon

Breakfast, Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, New York

Crosby Street Hotel – SoHo, New York

Crosby Street Hotel is one of downtown New York’s most desirable design hotels and a little corner of London in the Big Apple.

The first US hotel by British boutique hotel brand Firmdale, Crosby Street Hotel is nestled on a quiet cobbled street in SoHo, between Prince and Spring Streets.  It’s perfectly positioned for a spot of shopping at Opening Ceremony, a chic lunch at Balthazar or gourmet munchies at Dean & Deluca.

Design director Kit Kemp’s unique style is what draws A-list celebrities and well-heeled travellers to all eight Firmdale hotels and Crosby Street Hotel is just as covetable and luxurious as its London cousins.  Think riotous colours expertly paired, exquisite prints, ethnic touches and an enviable art collection.

On entering the spacious lobby, there is something interesting that meets the eye in every corner.  As we waited for an early check-in, we marvelled at a 10-foot metal sculpture of a human head made up of letter by Jaume Plensa, papier-mâché Beano dogs by Justine Smith and a spectacular Anselm Kiefer painting.

New Yorkers famously love their dogs and Crosby Street Hotel pays tribute to them with dozens of pooches ruling the roost – from the hotel’s stylish logo to artwork throughout the hotel.  A portrait of noble Jack Russell Simone watches over guests in the Drawing Room while the lifts feature charming ‘Dogs of Soho’ montages, snapped by Kit and Tim’s daughter Willow Kemp.

The Drawing Room is a residents lounge designed in rich colours with fireplaces, plush embroidered sofas, objects from around the world, an honesty bar and complimentary bites for guests – mini lemon and yoghurt muffins were offered when we were there.  The Drawing Room leads on to a leafy courtyard garden for hotel guests only – a perfect retreat in the warmer months.

Crosby Street Hotel features 86 bedrooms over 11 floors and all boast high ceilings and loft-style floor length window.

Our spacious Luxury Room was vibrant and elegant with an apple green statement wall, large flat screen LCD TV, Tivoli radio, iPod player, DVD/CD player, free wifi, minibar, comfy seating, a large writing desk, mother of pearl dresser and two window seats to enjoy the great views over the Lower East Side.

The sumptuous king-size bed featured a stunning candy stripe headboard, Frette linen and a beautiful hand-made white quilt.  A Firmdale signature is the beautiful embroidered silk dressmaker’s form – ours was designed in a pretty chartreuse colour.

We were kindly welcomed with a hand-written note and a special Crosby Street Hotel candle by Miller Harris in a scent created exclusively for the hotel – Le Jardin 10012.  It has a seductive, smoky aroma and is available to buy from the hotel as a very stylish souvenir.

At turndown, a cotton mat was placed next to the bed and we were given complimentary bottles of Voss water and a Temple Spa Calming Mist to spritz on pillows.  In the morning, the The New York Times was delivered and waiting for us by the door.

The marble bathroom was an absolute delight, with a Lefroy Brooks double sink, a fabulous walk-in shower with the strongest water pressure I’ve ever experience in a hotel, heated towel rails, underfloor heating, bathrobes and slippers, a fun neon stool and a full set of Miller Harris Citron Citron amenities.

After a blissful sleep, we went down to The Crosby Bar and Terrace for a leisurely breakfast.  The colourful bar is a real destination restaurant, offering all-day dining, afternoon tea and great cocktails.  The charming terrace is a leafy oasis in the middle of SoHo and during the summer, it’s sure to be a hit with both hotel guests and New Yorkers.

The breakfast menu is a real treat and offers everything from Brioche French Toast to an indulgent Champagne Breakfast.  I ordered the Crosby Breakfast – a cooked English Breakfast with orange juice, seasonal fruit, yoghurt and pastries from the buffet.

The cooked breakfast was large, filling and perfectly cooked using high quality ingredients. I particularly liked the delicious poached eggs, crispy bacon and the buttery bubble and squeak.

Steven went for the American Breakfast – free range eggs, buttermilk pancakes and sausage.  The large pancake was excellent and was served with a jug of maple syrup.

Brits will be delighted that the bar serves excellent loose leaf English Breakfast Tea in a China pot, served boiling hot with a jug of chilled milk.  There is even a Warhol-esque portraits of The Queen, pleasing the US fascination with all things royal and referencing the hotel’s British heritage with a dash of eccentric humour.

Like many of the London Firmdale hotels, Crosby Street Hotel has a state-of-the-art screening room and a Sunday Night Film Club.  There is also a gym open 24-hours a day, private dining and meeting rooms and a spa treatment room.

Families are also well cared for with a special children’s menu, DVDs and popcorn, children’s books and babysitting service.

Concierge were excellent and advised us on the quickest way to get uptown that day – the New York Subways routes can sometimes need an insider to decode.  All of the staff we met were friendly and addressed us by our names every time.

Crosby Street Hotel also has some serious green credentials – it is certified gold LEED by the US Green Building Council.  The kitchen garden on the 12th floor has an urban vegetable patch managed by head chef Anthony Paris and a Tudor style chicken coop with four Araucana chickens producing pale blue eggs.  The Meadow Suite also boasts a woodland meadow with over 50 varities of native flowering plants.

Crosby Street Hotel has it all – a cool downtown location, gorgeous design, a warm atmosphere and lots of character.  Whether it’s staying overnight or hanging out at the bar over smart cocktails or brunch, Crosby Street Hotel is a New York address that you need to know about.

Room rates at Crosby Street Hotel start from $555 per night, based on two sharing a Superior Room.  For more information and booking, visit: www.firmdalehotels.com

Chérie City was a guest of Crosby Street Hotel

Photos by Chérie City and Crosby Street Hotel

New York, Restaurants

Breakfast At Pulino’s – Lower East Side, New York

Pulino’s is the more low-key, downtown sister of Keith McNally’s Pastis and Balthazar – it’s certainly more affordable too.  Located on the Bowery and just a short stroll from our hotel, Thompson LES, we decided to have a leisurely breakfast there to set us up for the day.

The interiors resemble many of the other restaurants in the group with high ceilings, checkered floors, booth tables and brasserie-style wooden furniture.  The walls are lined with hundreds of spirit bottles and there are baskets of Balthazar bread to tempt you as you walk in, as well as a rack of magazines and newspapers to catch up on some reading.

The restaurant was quiet when we arrived, with just a few other tables finishing their morning meetings.  We both went for the very reasonably priced Breakfast Special ($10) – two eggs any style, potatoes, choice of white or wheat toast, a freshly-squeezed orange juice and a cappuccino.

It took a long, long time for the breakfasts to arrive, but when we eventually got to eat, they were delicious.  The scrambled eggs were creamy and plentiful while the flavoursome potatoes were sauteed in sweet onion, chilli, spinach and garlic.  The only thing I didn’t like was the thick white toast that tasted like the long-life bread that you might find in a supermarket.  It was disappointing for a restaurant that uses Balthazar bread, which I hesitate to say that it was.

The English Breakfast Tea (Twinings) was served piping hot in a tea pot, however we weren’t given any milk or even lemon and Steven was also brought tea, despite ordering a cup of Stumptown Coffee Co. Balthazar Blend.  The orange juice was very good and high quality, although it didn’t appear to be freshly-squeezed in the restaurant.

On the whole I liked Pulino’s and enjoyed our breakfast, but there were a few annoyances.  The waiting time to receive our food was far too long, considering there were only two other tables present and preparing scrambled eggs is far from time-consuming.

Our first waitress was fine, but another member of staff managed to serve us without saying one word throughout.  I’m a regular at Balthazar Bakery in London for a pastry fix and always find the staff charming, chatty and helpful – I didn’t experience this at Pulino’s.  It was also noted that this was the only restaurant we visited in New York where our tip was counted out in front of us before we left the table.

I would go back to Pulino’s to try the pizza at dinner when the restaurant is busier, with more atmosphere and a better standard of service (hopefully).  I want to like Pulino’s, so I’ll give it another shot.

All photos by Chérie City 

Pulino's Bar and Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Hotels, Hotels - Budget, Hotels - Design, New York, Restaurants

Futuristic Luxury At YOTEL New York – Midtown

YOTEL New York is one of the city’s most forward-thinking design hotels, combining cutting edge technology with home comforts.

Following the success of YO SUSHI’s airport pod hotels, the group launched YOTEL New York, its first city hotel.  Inspiration for this innovative, minimalist hotel came from the luxury of first class airline travel and micro-living Japanese capsule hotel rooms.

The hotel is located in a quiet, regenerated part of Hell’s Kitchen, just a few blocks from Times Square and close to arty Chelsea.  It’s impossible to miss the shiny, glowing white and purple exterior and vertiginous glass tower.

The ‘airport chic’ entrance is lined with automated check-in computers for a hassle-free check-in.  It is there that you will meet YOBOT, the world’s first luggage robot who stores guests bags in different sized compartment draws.

YOTEL New York is a large-scale operation with 669 over 27 floors, from the very affordable Premium Queen Cabins through to the impressive VIP Suites.  Our Premium Queen Cabin was slick, stylish and just the right size for a short stay.

Designed simply in white, beige and purple with light wood highlights, the cabin features a techno wall with flat screen TV, a work desk with iPod connectivity and multi power point sockets, open hanging space and a motorised queen bed that transforms into a sofa.  The bed was slightly harder than I’d expected once it was flat – perhaps due to its mechanical features – but the linen was crisp and high quality.

Space is used intelligently, with secret storage spots and cup holders around the room, and never once does the room feel too small or claustrophobic.  Thoughtful touches such as complimentary wifi, free calls within the US, an iron and ironing board, a good hairdryer and YOTEL-branded pocket tissues made all the difference.

We found the open-plan bathroom quite spacious, boasting floor to ceiling views of the Manhattan skyline.  It features a walk-in monsoon shower, large white towels and face cloths, heated towel rail and YOTEL’s own brand of rather nice rejuvenating and relaxing aromatic body wash/shampoo (no conditioner or body lotion, so plan ahead).

For longer stays, try the more spacious First King Cabin (some feature a spacious terrace and outdoor soaking tub) or the indulgent yet competitively priced VIP Suite.  This plush pad features 180-degree views of the city, a terrace with outdoor soaking tub, Apple Mac, Bower & Wilkins sound system, a dining table that converts into a billiards table, kitchenette with Lavazza coffee machine and fridge freezer, rotating king bed, luxurious bathroom and a separate room with a queen sofa bed.

At YOTEL New York, there are a number of complimentary treats that give it that extra edge.  Each floor has a self-service galley with purified water, ice and a Lavazza espresso capsule machine offering cappucinos, lattes, mochas and hot chocolate for the room or to take out.  Tea lovers are also taken care of with hot water and boxes of Celestial English Breakfast Tea and Chai.

The galleys were immaculately clean and well-stocked throughout our stay and we loved being able to grab a hot drink whenever we wished.  What could feel more homely and comforting than cosying up in bed with an indulgent hot chocolate?

YOTEL also serves a complimentary light breakfast of delicious home-made muffins in different flavours with tea and coffee on FOUR (the public floor for socialising and eating).  We found the muffins more than sufficient to start the day, but for something more indulgent, DohYO offers well-priced cooked breakfasts.

YOTEL New York also offers a gym, Apple Mac computers for guests to use and Mission Control one-to-one concierge on FOUR.  The high tech Club Cabins are great for business meetings and the expansive Studiyo features a boardroom and cinema screening space.

After a long day of walking around the city, we came back to our room to relax and then downstairs for dinner at YOTEL’s restaurant DohYO (translated as ‘sumo’).  The colourful, buzzing restaurant features a Latin Asian tapas menu by Richard Sandoval. The room is lined with intimate booths, but we chose to sit at the centre Japanese-style tables.

DohYO’s sharing dishes are perfect for a lighter supper, however the food is so delicious that it’s easy to keep ordering.  We loved the Crunchy Shrimp ($10) with lemon sake aioli, sesame, scallion and masago, and the deliciously sticky teriyaki marinated Crispy Chicken Wings ($9).

The House Ground Beef Sliders ($9) with lemon sake aioli were succulent and nicely charred and the Shrimp & Chicken Fried Rice ($8) was plentiful with a zesty kimchee flavour.  Also worth ordering is the tasty and generously sized Wok Seared Cauliflower ($5) with ginger, garlic, Thai chili and black vinegar.

After dinner, the Japanese-style tables are lowered and it becomes a cocktail bar.  The lounge on FOUR is another sociable evening spot and in the warmer months, the expansive outdoor terrace is undoubtedly popular for sundowner drinks.

Every Sunday, DohYO hosts the YO! Brunch with free-flowing cocktails and small plates ($40 per guest) and music from New York DJs including Roxy Cottontail, Uri Dalal and Andrew Andrew (the suited and booted iPod DJs in that episode of Girls).

YOTEL New York is a fun, inspiring place to stay with a sociable atmosphere, slick design and homely comforts that no other budget-luxe hotel in the city could possibly offer at such a competitive price.  While cosy in the winter, I would be tempted to stay in the summer to enjoy the outdoor terrace and have a long, lazy weekend brunch in the sun.

For more information and booking, visit: www.yotelnewyork.com

Cherie City was a guest of YOTEL New York on a room only basis.

Photos by Cherie City and YOTEL New York

Dohyo Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, New York

The Lowell Hotel – Upper East Side, New York

The Lowell is a very special independent luxury hotel on the Upper East Side with the intimate feel of a private residence.

A member of Leading Hotels of the World, The Lowell is nestled on a quiet, leafy street, just a short stroll from Central Park, MoMA, The Whitney Museum of American Art and the high end department stores of Fifth and Madison Avenues.

The charming Art Deco/Modern hotel began as a residential apartment hotel in 1927 and has maintained its homely, old world character, while also welcoming guests for short stays in the city.  The Lowell is very discreet about its high profile guests, however, Madonna famously made a two-bedroom suite there her home for nine months in the late-eighties.

The Lowell is a small hotel with 47 suites and 25 deluxe rooms set across 17 storeys.  The lobby is petite and quietly opulent, with soft lighting and a colour palette of soft gold, ochre and cream shades.  A thoughtful touch for guests is complimentary hot apple cider and hot chocolate with cookies, to enjoy while reading a newspaper or to take out.

We arrived in the early evening and were swiftly checked in by the warm, professional yet chatty staff.  Guests are offered a welcome drink on arrival and two glasses of Champagne were delivered shortly after our luggage.

We stayed in a spectacular Lowell Deluxe One-Bedroom Suite, which is the epitome of Upper East Side refinement.  The separate living room, redesigned by Michael Smith in light beige and natural stone tones, was filled with exquisite dark wood furniture, Chinese porcelain lamps, a large sofa, comfy armchairs, an intricate tapestry rug, flat screen TV and contemporary artwork.  The suite also has free wifi and we loved the delicate white roses on the table.

A unique feature is the elegant original fireplace with baskets of wood logs – in fact, The Lowell is the only hotel in Manhattan to offer this.

Staff are on hand to light the fire, offering a choice of aromas, so guests can enjoy a warm glow while relaxing in the lounge.  Our stay was sadly a little brief to experience a roaring open fire in our living room, however Concierge called us in the morning to check if we wanted our fire lit – really, nothing is too much trouble for the dedicated staff.

We were also delighted to stay in one of the two Lowell suites that features a private terrace, boasting impressive views of the Manhattan skyline.  Waking up to New York with a morning cup of tea on the terrace was a real treat – in the warmer months it will be a very enviable spot.

An advantage of staying at The Lowell is the separate granite-topped kitchen fully set up with kitchen utensils, pots and pans, a china dinner service and The Lowell mugs.  If cooking isn’t on the agenda, there is a mini bar fridge full of premium beverages, tempting Dean & Deluca snacks and a whistling kettle with a selection of teas and coffee.

The spacious bedroom was classic and stylish with two built-in wardrobes, a large flatscreen TV and the most sumptuous, heavenly king-size bed.  At turndown, the bed was meticulously prepared for sleeping, complete with bedside mats and slippers and bottles of Voss water.

Guests can also leave their shoes outside for a complimentary shoe shine, to be returned in the early hours.  In the morning, The New York Times was delivered in a Lowell canvas newspaper bag.

The beautiful bathroom, covered entirely in Selene marble, featured a double sink, a walk-in stall shower, a deep soaking bath tub with a flatscreen TV on the wall, BVLGARI thé vert bathroom amenities and little extras such as a bath mitt and a wooden nail brush.

Relaxing bath in the enormous tub with BVLGARI thé vert bath salts, followed by slipping into the oversized bathrobe and slippers was the perfect way to unwind after a long day of travelling.

The Lowell’s second-floor restaurant The Pembroke Room is a New York institution, known for its refined afternoon tea.  Overseen by Executive Chef Michael Fred, the civilised, dainty restaurant also serves breakfast and weekend brunch and pre-theatre dinner.

The Lowell’s steak and chop restaurant The Post House is perfect for good ole American classics.  The much loved power lunch hotspot serves tempting dishes such as Maryland Crab Cake, Jumbo Gulf Shrimp and Cajun Rib Steak for lunch and dinner.

The Lowell is perfect for guests who prefer an elegant city retreat over a buzzing lobby scene.  It’s an exquisite hotel where you can lounge elegantly and live the Upper East Side dream.

The Leading Hotels of the world (00800 2888 8882) offers stays at The Lowell, New York from $700 per room per night based on two sharing a room on a room only basis.  For more information and booking, visit: www.LHW.com/lowellnyc

Chérie City was a guest of The Lowell

Photos by Chérie City and The Lowell

New York, Restaurants

The Meatball Shop – Lower East Side, New York

The Meatball Shop is a perfect spot for a bit of tasty, low-key comfort food in a rustic New York-Italian diner.

Established by Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow, it’s quite the New York success story, starting from just one small restaurant on the Lower East Side and quickly expanding to Brooklyn, West Village and Chelsea.

The concept is simple yet clever, focusing purely on five meatballs that you can customise with different sauce, breads and sides.  It’s made even easier by just marking down your order with a felt tip pen on a laminated menu.

For the first lunch of our trip, The Meatball Shop was the winning choice – not only were we in the mood for meatballs, but it was conveniently just around the corner from our hotel, Thompson LES.

There can often be a long waiting time for a table at The Meatball Shop (they don’t take reservations and it’s a very popular place), but for a Wednesday late lunch, we were through the door and seated right away.  Our fun, charming waiter explained the menu well and made personal recommendations for pairing the balls with sauces.

It would be easy to order lots of sharing dishes, but with dinner plans later that day, we tried to go easy and both ordered a Meatball Smash ($9) with different balls and sauces and split them.  The two smashed classic beef meatballs were plump, well-seasoned and hearty, with fresh herbs and breadcrumbs.  They went perfectly with the sweet, rich roasted classic tomato sauce and creamy mozzarella.

The large brioche bun was fluffy and glazed yet not too sweet and we enjoyed the simple green salad with a light olive oil vinaigrette dressing, fresh herbs and slices of tart green apple.

The spicy pork balls had a very meaty taste with a touch of fennel and were complemented by the deliciously thick and garlicky Parmesan cream sauce – almost like a bechamel.  Both types of meatballs were high quality and very natural-tasting, but didn’t have the same juiciness as others I’ve tried.

We couldn’t resist ordering the only dessert on the menu – an Ice Cream Sandwich ($5 each).  My giant scoop of house-made chocolate ice cream was rich and dark while Steven’s vanilla ice cream had a strong natural vanilla flavour and was as decadent as you’d expect.

The freshly-baked Snickerdoodle cookie was soft and laced with cinnamon while the Ginger Snap cookie was chewy and sweet with a potent ginger kick.  No matter how filling the meatballs may be, you don’t want to miss out on these simple yet scrumptious treats!

If you want to take a bit of The Meatball Shop home, they have collaborated with brands such as SHUT, Vans and Carhartt on merchandise including a skateboard deck, hi tops and a beanie.

While New York is full of delis serving up meatball parm sandwiches, The Meatball Shop is fun, sociable and better suited to a leisurely lunch or dinner – plus you can drink wine.  Prices are reasonable, staff are great and while becoming a small chain, it has personality.  I’d definitely go back, but this time for dinner and add some sliders and sides.

For more info and menus, visit: www.themeatballshop.com

The Meatball Shop on Urbanspoon