What do you think of when you hear Manhattan, New York City? The plethora of neon lights against a dark sky, their reflection shimmering and dancing on the current of the Hudson River? Do you imagine the luxury shops with their lavish window displays? The sparkle of Tiffany diamonds; a beacon at the end of Fifth Avenue. There is glitz and glamour in every corner of this enchanting island and that seeps in to the culture, the nightlife and the dining. No matter the second or the season, there is something to experience in the city that never sleeps. With so much Manhattan magic in the air, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. There are bars, restaurants, clubs and pubs wherever the eye can see. So to make things that little bit easier, here are my top 5 Manhattan bars and restaurants guaranteed to show you the true New York luxe.
The River Cafe
1 Water Street, Brooklyn
Our first recommendation actually takes us out of Manhattan slightly and straight across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Nestled just underneath this impressive work of architecture lies Michelin star restaurant, The River Cafe. Just as its own website states, you are taken “Across a bridge, over a river and into a dream.” The pathway to the restaurant is adorned with beautiful lights and stepping into the foyer you are met with a sensational display of fresh pink flowers. The dining room itself has one of the most breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. With glass running floor to ceiling across the entire front of the restaurant, you can sample their 5* food whilst watching the 5* view. My personal recommendation is to book a table at a time where you can see the sun set behind the buildings. Whilst sipping on wine chosen from one of the best wine menus in the entire world (a fact, not me being dramatic!) I was lucky enough to see the sky turn a glowing shade of yellow before fading to black and watching the lights of downtown Manhattan illuminate the skyline like stars. The food itself, was exquisite with, as you would expect, exceptional 5* service (including a little footstool, delicately placed next to my seat for the sole purpose of holding my handbag! This was a touch I must say I thoroughly enjoyed!). I myself visited the restaurant for my 21st birthday meal and can say that it definitely did not disappoint. This is a must do for any special occasions spent in New York City – a way to feel the true magic and romance of the place.
92 Ninth Avenue at 16th Street
TAO is a pan-Asian restaurant in the downtown Manhattan district of Chelsea. Not only are they infamous with the elite of New York City, their restaurants span across other desirable locations in America such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The food and service at the restaurant is impeccable, just as you would expect. We opted for the chef’s special tasting menu, several courses of delicious Asian cuisine including lobster and shrimp spring rolls, edamame and salmon sashimi. Accompanied by a smooth and refreshing bottle of white, the meal was beautiful. The most impressive aspect for me however, was the interior. The restaurant is below street level and upon descending from the front door, you are immediately immersed in a beautiful creation of Asia. You are guided down a long hallway by the flickering light of candles. Through their glow you can see the Chinese murals that adorn the walls. You are brought from this hallway to the top of the ‘Grand Staircase’ where there is a beautiful seating area, looked over by the Reclining Buddha. From the top of the staircase here, you can see the dining room spread out before you like a map of beautiful jewels. Everything is candle lit and you are surrounded by rich, beautiful colours of deep blue and gold. The centrepiece of the dining area is the large, 24 handed statue of the Quan Yin set within a 3D animated flowing waterfall. The visuals are perfect and so meticulously designed that this restaurant is far more than a restaurant, its a must do Manhattan experience. I have included my own photography below, however these do not do justice to the amazing interior. Visit TAO’s website http://www.taodowntown.com to see beautifully detailed images.
The Back Room
Moving on to the bars of New York City. Where better to experience the true magic of Manhattan’s culture than in one of the only two bars left on the island to have operated during prohibition. The Back Room is oozing with traditional 20’s glamour; ornate scarlet sofas have been paired with heavy deep red curtains and the walls are lined with traditional oil paintings. There is even a secret room, hidden behind a vintage bookcase. What better way to experience the glamour of New York than sitting where renowned gangsters had their secret meetings during prohibition? The spot remains a hit with the notorious to this day; when drinking here you may even find yourselves rubbing shoulders with the likes of Paul McCartney. Finding The Back Room is no easy fit, particularly on a dark New York night. First, you must look for a silver gate with a battered white sign attached stating ‘Lower East Side Toy Co.’ From here you are led down some steps, along an apartment block alleyway, all with next to no light until you come to a metal fire escape. Ascend these stairs, knock on the door and state this week’s password before you are allowed to enter the prohibited world of the 1920s. In keeping with its history, The Back Room serves its alcohol as it once would have: hidden. All cocktails and wine’s are prepared in china teacups on matching saucers. For anyone unknowing, it could just be a simple cup of Early Grey. Likewise, beers are served in bottles covered over by a brown paper bag. No evidence, no crime. This vintage bar sends you diving right into the glamorous history of New York City head first and what better way to experience it.
Beauty and Essex
146 Essex Street, Lower East Side
Beauty and Essex is a must-see for the Manhattan tourist, even when not dining in one of its rich and beautifully decorated dining rooms. Owned by TAO hospitality, just like TAO, it is famous with the A Listers across America, proudly boasting elite fine dining restaurants in LA and Las Vegas as well as here on Manhattan. It’s menus have been impeccably designed and it is on my list to experience the mouth watering food that Beauty and Essex have to offer. However, it is not the food that I myself have come to rave about. Strangely, it is the ladies bathrooms. But first, I’ll start with the outside of the building. In a similarly speakeasy vibe to The Back Room, Beauty and Essex NY fronts as a fully functioning pawn shop. Its guitars and jewels are there for the passer by to purchase. However, enter through a door in the back of the shop and you are immediately immersed in a world of lavish sparkling chandeliers that twinkle like stars from the soft lights that line the walls. I could sit and stare at the interior of the bar and 4 dining rooms all day, however taking a trip to the ladies bathroom was an experience of glamour like no other. Opening the door, you are greeted with an interior I can only dream of replicating in my own home one day. Intricately patterned wallpaper against which lies a plush chaise lounge; long mirrors line the centre of the room separated by shelves on which sit vintage crystal perfume bottles. In the corner of the room however, is by far the best feature. Sitting behind a pink tiled bar, is a friendly hostess handing out pink champagne to the ladies who happen to use the facilities. Now that’s the most glamorous toilets I have ever entered.
230 Fifth Avenue
The final recommendation for your New York nights comes in the form of Manhattan’s largest outdoor rooftop bar. From up here, the lights of the Empire State are so close that you are no longer simply looking at the skyline, you’ve actually become part of it. Whilst sipping on a glass of bubbly amongst the locals, you are completely within New York’s glamorous lifestyle. During the winter, the rooftop becomes adorned with transparent igloos containing cosy fires and blankets to protect you from any harsh weather. Below the rooftop, 230 Fifth’s lower floor is an indoor penthouse bar with an effortlessly cool vibe. Whether popping up here early evening for happy hour or partying till late, this place ensures an excellent night with excellent views.