Amelia Hunger­ford falls for New York’s ex­tra­or­di­nary cock­tail bars and the bright lights of Broad­way with a stay at two very dif­fer­ent ho­tels.

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Up­town finds and down­town de­lights in the Big Ap­ple

Cen­tral Park is dusted in the be­gin­ning of a snow­fall as we ar­rive at one of New York’s most creative cock­tail bars. The Aviary NYC is perched 35 floors above Cen­tral Park and Colum­bus Cir­cle in the Man­darin Ori­en­tal, New York, and it’s easy to see why chef Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas of Alinea Group chose this as their first venue out­side Chicago.

What looks like a science ex­per­i­ment is placed be­fore me, the blue flame of a bun­sen burner work­ing its magic on am­ber liq­uid in a beaker. It bub­bles up to a vac­uum cof­fee pot and plumes of scented smoke soon waft out the top. Some­how, my am­ber drink (fit­tingly named Science A.F. for peni­cillin dis­cov­erer Alexan­der Flem­ing) is now a rich red. What­ever alchemy just hap­pened is a good thing – the cock­tail is de­li­cious.

Drinks aren’t all that’s on the menu at this sen­su­ous venue and we re­gret eat­ing din­ner be­fore we came. For a set price, you can jour­ney through three or five cock­tails matched with small plates.

And that’s not all. Be­hind the cock­tail kitchen, a dis­creet door leads into a wood-pan­elled room where leather arm­chairs hud­dle to­gether and a rare ex­tinc­tion cabi­net houses the ‘dusty bot­tles’ col­lec­tion. This is The Of­fice NYC, a pro­hi­bi­tion-style speakeasy bar Zelda Fitzger­ald would have loved.

We en­joy the same bird’s-eye per­spec­tive of Cen­tral Park from our im­pec­ca­ble 48th-floor room. I savour a freshly de­liv­ered pot of green tea on the chaise longue be­side the win­dow, the sky­line lit up be­fore me.

As easy as it might be to stay in­side the ho­tel (The Spa at Man­darin Ori­en­tal, New York ranks among the city’s best), that’s not why trav­ellers flock to the Big Ap­ple. Food and drink, how­ever, are and it’s not just high-end es­tab­lish­ments that get peo­ple talk­ing.

Street eats We head down­town to one of Man­hat­tan’s din­ing in­sti­tu­tions: Katz’s Del­i­catessen. The process here is be­wil­der­ing – take a ticket, choose a cut­ter, tip the cut­ter, eat, then pay and tip again and, for heaven’s sake, do not lose your ticket – but the sky­high pas­trami sand­wich is worth the con­fu­sion (and po­ten­tial heart at­tack).

This deli dates back to 1888 and is best known for its ap­pear­ance in When Harry Met Sally, but it’s not just for tourists. We talk to sev­eral lo­cals whose fam­i­lies have been din­ing here for gen­er­a­tions.

East Vil­lage and SoHo’s other hap­pen­ing des­ti­na­tions tend to be on

“At The Stan­dard in East Vil­lage, hip young things shel­ter from the cold with fon­due and yurts in the Win­ter Gar­den.”

the newer side. We stroll the streets at a leisurely pace, past art gal­leries, cafes serv­ing Aus­tralian-style cof­fee, and bou­tiques ded­i­cated to every­thing from pens to mo­tor­cy­cles. Be­hind the grit, there is a per­vad­ing air of cool that has noth­ing to do with the tem­per­a­ture. It reaches an apogee at The Stan­dard, East Vil­lage, where hip young things shel­ter from the cold with fon­due and yurts in the Win­ter Gar­den.

Cock­tail bars abound in this neigh­bour­hood. PDT (Please Don’t Tell) gives you the full speakeasy ex­pe­ri­ence: lift the re­ceiver in an old phone box next door to ac­cess the hid­den en­try. (As a side note, PDT will soon open at The Land­mark Man­darin Ori­en­tal, Hong Kong.) Not far away on East 6th Street, the menu at Death & Com­pany is lit­tered with so many ob­scure in­gre­di­ents, or­der­ing can feel a bit like a lucky dip.

We brave the wind-chill fac­tor the next morn­ing to walk the High Line from West 34th Street to Gan­sevoort Street in the Meat­pack­ing Dis­trict. This el­e­vated park cel­e­brates its in­dus­trial her­itage as a train line. Ab­stract art­work is dot­ted along the wind­ing path and there are plenty of spots to pause and ad­mire the streetscape. Once in the Meat­pack­ing Dis­trict, take a tour through the Whit­ney Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art and grab a bite in the Chelsea Mar­ket, an up­mar­ket food hall. Los Mariscos’ fish tacos are cheap and de­li­cious, if you can find the en­trance.

The high life

When you’ve had your fill of street eats and dark­ened cock­tail bars, there’s more to ex­plore. At The Pierre, A Taj Ho­tel, we ex­pe­ri­ence a New York that is al­most un­changed since the ho­tel’s open­ing in 1930. There are white-gloved lift op­er­a­tors, crys­tal chan­de­liers and the ceil­ing fres­coes and hand-painted mu­rals of The Ro­tunda. The In­dian in­flu­ence is ev­i­dent in the sump­tu­ous, em­broi­dered silks and scented Etro ameni­ties in­spired by Ra­jasthan. Down in Two E Bar and Lounge, British and In­dian tra­di­tions com­bine in the af­ter­noon at Tif­fin & Tea, trans­form­ing into a glam­orous Art Deco bar by night.

Fa­ther of mod­ern French cui­sine, Au­guste Es­coffier, was brought in to cre­ate a cel­e­bra­tory menu for the ho­tel’s open­ing and its sig­na­ture res­tau­rant Per­rine re­mains a bas­tion of culi­nary re­fine­ment. We en­joy a sam­ple with a late-night in-room feast; the shoe­string-cut chips are the best we’ve ever tasted.

As a fan of mu­si­cals, I can’t re­sist the daz­zling lights of Broad­way. Hamil­ton, the Tony Award-win­ning hip-hop retelling of the life of Found­ing Fa­ther Alexan­der Hamil­ton, still draws the crowds to the Richard Rodgers The­ater, de­spite its orig­i­nal cast long since de­part­ing. If you’re not the sort to lis­ten to a mu­si­cal be­fore see­ing a show, make an ex­cep­tion in the case of

Hamil­ton; com­poser Lin-Manuel Mi­randa man­ages to ren­der the nuances of the bud­ding US fis­cal sys­tem riv­et­ing.

If see­ing a show isn’t enough, Mil­lion­aire’s Concierge can make you a Broad­way in­sider with per­sonal meet-and-greets, theatre tours and even din­ner with your favourite stars.

If you’d rather go grand, pay a visit to The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Opera, housed in one of the world’s great mod­ern opera houses. Choose from clas­sics like

Madama But­ter­fly and The Merry Widow, or see some­thing new, like Thomas Adès’ The Ex­ter­mi­nat­ing An­gel. The lobby is also won­der­ful for peo­ple watch­ing.

New York views never get old and few can match the panora­mas of­fered from the Top of the Rock, the tiered ob­ser­va­tion deck of 30 Rock­e­feller Plaza. Skip the lines by mak­ing a reser­va­tion at Bar Six­tyFive a cou­ple of floors be­low and soak up the cityscape over a cock­tail or din­ner at the Rain­bow Room.

At long last, you can have break­fast (or lunch or af­ter­noon tea) at Tif­fany’s. The Blue Box Cafe opened in Novem­ber in the jew­ellery store’s Fifth Av­enue flag­ship, im­mers­ing vis­i­tors in a world of sig­na­ture blue. The menu of­fers clas­sic cafe fare, in­clud­ing – as Audrey would be de­lighted to know – crois­sants.



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