New York CITY GUIDE

Ford Madox Ford called it a crucible. Alastair Cooke, the venerable writer, thought it the biggest collection of villages in the world. Perhaps the best description of the life and times of this swilling, swelling city comes from author John Updike, who noted that the true New Yorker believes that “people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding”.

For this is New York, the Big Apple, heir to Imperial Rome. The terrible events of 9/11 haven’t dimmed its fuse: if anything, its lights burn more luminous than ever. There is virtually no limit to what can be done or achieved here, so long as you have the time, money, contacts, and a dollop of chutzpah.

This remains, first and foremost, a business-friendly city, where lunch is done, where face time matters, where relationships, despite the fast-paced lifestyle, are nurtured. It can also be a bewildering place, if you don’t know where to eat, sleep, drink, meet people, and hang out. So let First Class Traveller do all the hard work for you.


Breakfast and Brunch

New Yorkers aren’t big on breakfast per se – remember, this is a city where the heart-healthy egg-white omelette rules. But brunch is a different matter: bagels and coffee, particularly on a weekend, are a reliably good location to discuss balance sheets. But be careful where you go. New York is full of breakfast bars, and choosing the wrong one can send the wrong signal to a prospective client.

Here, the watchwords are simple: head for the most popular and profitable dining rooms. If well-decked New Yorkers like a brunch bar, it must be pretty good. With this in mind, follow your feet and nose to Balthazar on Spring Street in Soho. This is in many ways the classic American tea room: a proper city institution that usually pops up in reputable city guides. Great service, a bustling atmosphere, and its location in Lower Manhattan all give diners the sense of being seated plum in the heart of this great city.

If Balthazar has a serious rival, it’s Pastis, a former corner-store meticulously recreated as a 1930s brasserie. Low-key but with a high-end clientele, Pastis, on 9th Avenue between Hudson and the Lincoln Highway in the Meatpacking District, can get super-busy, particularly on weekend mornings. But walk-ins can get lucky, and it also doubles up as a popular evening hangout with an excellent bar and dinner menu.

Lunch eats

Lunch is serious currency in New York, a city that loves healthy bites and reveres face-time. You may not get much time to impress a client in famously-impatient New York but if you do, it’s likely to come just after the sun is over the yardarm.

Being in the know about where to eat is as important here as what you order. A good start is to head to the David Burke Townhouse on the Upper East Side, a landmark restaurant that offers flashy-but-healthy light meals, heavy on fish and presentation. It’s not stretching a truth to say that this is the sort of place that Gordon Gekko might have a corner table. Across in midtown, at the heart of the fashion/theatre districts, DB Bistro Moderne fuses French cuisine with American pizazz. A very modern bistro that won’t break the bank.

The ever-present and ever-reliable Nobu is always a good bet. His prices may be high, but Nobuyuki Matsuhisa never lets you down. Nobu, a reliable focal point of Midtown, is cavernous but never overwhelmingly so, a huge hall full of expectant diners being served the best sushi on the planet. If you can’t impress a client here, you never will. The quintessential New York dinning experience is the 21 Club, which has been as hot a spot as any. A former speakeasy on West 52nd street, the place has powered into the 21st Century, this was also the birthplace of the power lunch. Forbes magazine once said more deals were done here than on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. True or not? You decide.


Evening Eating

If there is a meal that involves New Yorkers letting their hair down, it happens late in the day. Dinner is a big deal in the Big Apple, and business clients will expect you to know your way around a Zagat Survey.

A good start is at the Spice Market at the heart of the Meatpacking District. This place acts as a tiny slice of Asia, offering super-fresh seafood with a spicy kick, along with killer desserts. The dark walls and luxurious interiors make it an ideal place to cut or close that deal. A Voce Columbus overlooking Columbus Circle is another pearl, offering eye-catching views of Central Park at unthreatening prices. The clean, crisp lines are a perfect setting for a formal business lunch or dinner, and the seafood is an added attraction: try the Nantucket Bay scallops.

Les Halles in the Financial District, once home to television masterchef Anthony Bourdain, author of Kitchen Confidential. Try the Flat Iron steak and the curly fries, an institution here. A great place to eat early and head elsewhere, the restaurant often empties out as the clock ticks towards eleven. If you’re talking Upper East Side, chances are your conversation will include Daniel, home to some of the best French cooking on the planet. The menu changes with the seasons and remains both affordable and a-la-carte.

A final option here is Jean Georges, described by many as heaven on a plate. The dinner menu is a genuine bargain, coming in at $38 a head. This a place where food is taken as seriously as the deals done within its sharp, clean walls. Housed in the Trump International Hotel and Tower, some of the Trump aura has clearly drifted down: this is renowned as one of the best business restaurants in town.

Entertaining

Evening brings out a different side to the city. Despite the financial crisis, this remains a great place to head out on the town. Traders, fund managers, media bosses, advertising gurus, all can be found at one or more of Manhattan’s many watering holes as the sun goes down.

Try Bookmarks as a kick-off. This Midtown staple on Madison Avenue, is enclosed within the cracking Library Hotel, and offers elegant cocktails, a solid wine list, and – a rarity in New York – a real rooftop garden. A great place for after-works drinks and working the room. Just a few blocks from Times Square, Tonic is one of the best places in the city to chill out, whether in the large upstairs or downstairs bars. Then there’s The Hudson Hotel on West 58th Street, simply one of the best places to spend the evening. If New York is glowing, encased in its late-spring elegance, the outdoor space here just can’t be beaten. Clients will love you for suggesting it. From a vast wine list to specialty whiskies and unusual cask ales, there’s something here for everyone.

Bed Down for the Night


New York hardly lacks hotels: the key is to find one at the right price. (This island remains a prime rib of real estate, which translates directly to the high cost of getting your head down for the night).

But there are options. The Gansevoort in the Meatpacking district, just up from the West Village, is a sleek, 14-storey hotel overlooking the Hudson River as it rolls in from the north. Cutting-edge rooms that cater to the cost-aware business and the young executive, it also boasts a roof-top swimming pool. Then there’s the Four Seasons, a 52-storey whopper hard by Central Park that acts as a three-course business life in one: start with one of the best power breakfasts in town and stay for an exquisite dinner at the in house restaurant The Garden. The Four Seasons also offers one of the best post-work bars in town, a great place to meet-and-be-met.

One final option is the Ritz-Carlton, always worth the admission cost for what it stands for: one of the world’s great natural business meeting points. This is where leisure outfits meet corporate suits, where executives rub shoulders with fashionistas. Every public space has wifi access, and the hotel offers a host of videoconferencing services and networking facilities.

Insider Knowledge

There are few scenes in the world as staggering as that enjoyed from the Rockefeller Center. Looking north over Central Park on a sunny day is perhaps the second-best view in the world; the very best is enjoyed by turning 180 degrees and looking south. Come on a mid-week morning to enjoy the solitude.

Museum fiends will love the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) on West 53rd Street, a vast space full of Lichtensteins – and a great place to stroll with a client, separated from the rest of New York and its myriad distractions by a wall of silence.

Just as it does in the bustle of the weekday, New York also delights after-hours and on weekends. Head to one of the city’s infamous old-time bar for a cold beer and hot conversation: try McSorley’s, PJ Hanley’s or the Bridge Café. Hire a bike on at Bike and Roll NYC in Battery Park or at Blazing Saddles, and head north up the Hudson.

Or splash out a few dollars on one of the fabulous film tours, and visit the set locations of many of your favourite screen moments, whether it’s on film (see where North By Northwest, Crocodile Dundee, Spider-Man or The Devil Wears Prada were filmed) or TV (the same goes for Friends, Seinfeld, and Mad Men.