Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Glamour of New York: A List

"He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of, make that: he romanticized it all out of proportion. Yes. To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin.
― Woody Allen, Manhattan. 

No matter how you feel about traffic, noise, rude people, expensive rents (and hotels), and general urban chaos, you can’t help but feel a frisson of excitement every time you come into New York. It is the most scintillating of cities. As Sinatra sang in that anthemic tune, it’s a place where ‘those little town blues’ just melt away.  I have been to New York many times, and I'm just as in love with it as I was when I first visited as a child. I've lived in several countries but my heart still beats a little faster with anticipation every time the taxi drives down the Long Island Expressway and the Chrysler Building comes into view. 

Lots of people I know are visiting New York this year, so I thought I'd share some of the places that I love about this city. Here, in no particular order, and some of New York's prettiest and most memorable hideaways. I hope they inspire you, and perhaps even encourage you to seek out your own favourite New York places.

Forget Saks (although the shoes sales are sublime). Forget Barneys and even Bergdorf Goodman. (Ditto re shoe sales.) Henri Bendel is where I go to grab great gifts for friends. Avoid the front of the store, which is frantic with sales assistants and cosmetic counters, and instead head to the rear of the ground floor, which offers gorgeous accessories, scarves, jewellery, books and other lovely New York-ish gifts. Fifth Avenue.

One of Vogue Contributing Editor Andre Leon Talley's favourite hangouts, this French-inspired bolthole is a little piece of Paris in Manhattan. Go there during Fashion Week and you'll spend most of the night playing Spot The Star. And if you can't afford dinner, the bar is just as beautiful on its own. 60 West 55th Street.

Still a favourite with locals and tourist alike, even after all these years. Keith McNally's Parisian-style bistro is just as stylish as anything on the Left Bank. The energy, however, is pure New York. And the conversations are as memorable as any you'll have. I went with an investment banker and we had a two-hour discussion about Brooklyn (the good and the bad). Completely enlightening. And the food is great, too.  80 Spring Street, SoHo.

A new kid on the New York block, this cheery little cafe is hidden away in the New York Historical Society (which, in itself, is one of New York's best-kept secrets).  The lemon-and-white colour scheme is refreshingly different from anything else in the city, but it's the dinner-plate decor that really made me smile. It's glamorous and yet whimsical at the same time. My favourite new place to eat in Manhattan. And judging by the swarms of diners walking in, it's the new favourite of many Upper West Siders, too! 170 Central Park West.

The Flatiron is famous for its iconic, iron-shaped building, but the neighbourhood is fast becoming one of the funkiest in town. It's full of design stores, many of which are housed in extraordinary architecture, so it's great place to wander if you're into design. But it's also a lovely place to take a seat and linger – either in the loveliness of Madison Square Park (grab a shake at the iconic Shake Shack), or in one of the sleek new eateries, the best of which is Eleven Madison Park (shown). (Bottom image via

One of my two favourite hotels in Manhattan (the other is the Gramercy Square Hotel), this inspiring and utterly delightful hideaway is a gilded dream of a place. 
The hotel styles itself on a bygone era of travel and every aspect of the design is one part sentimentality, one part sophisticate. For example, upended vintage steamer trunks serve as bar fridges in the rooms, which are decorated with vintage maps, old prints, gilt frames, and swathes of Parisian-style silk. It's lush, elegant, and completely enchanting, (More on the Nomad soon!) 1170 Broadway.

My partner groans whenever we head here, because I can spend hours in this store, wandering the aisles. It's still one of the best bookstores in New York – on our last visit, I found a copy of (the now out-of-print) Cecil Beaton: In Vogue for $20 and Bill Blass' autobiography Bare Blass for $5. There are fantastic literary finds to be found here. In fact, I could have bought up the whole biography and fashion sections – and lots of people do. Kate Spade's buyers reportedly come here for the books displayed in Kate Spade stores. 828 Broadway.

Oh, how I love the Empire! It's almost as good as the Nomad and the Gramercy Park Hotels. (Perhaps even on a par.) Located on the Upper West Side, it features a high-glam interior that is almost Hollywoodesque. But it's not the interior design that guests return for: it's the service. Staff here are so impeccable, you can't fault anything. They kindly gave me an upgrade to a suite (see above), and were so lovely, I'd return in a heartbeat. It went through a bad patch a year ago, I believe, but I can tell you that things have turned around and the place is running like a well-oiled Bentley! Beautiful. Just beautiful.  (The rooftop bar, terrace and pool are fabulous, too.) 44 West 63rd Street.

The Mondrian doesn't get as much press as The Crosby Hotel down the road and that's a shame, as it's just as innovative, and just as stylish. The exterior (above) is a creative mix of conservatory-style elegance meets urban rusticity, while the restaurant (top image) is truly one of the prettiest in town. I loved the table full of glass cloches (a nod to the greenhouse theme), the crystal chandeliers, and the gardening tools lining the shelves. A gorgeous place to come if you love gardens, as I do. The staff were great as well. I hate snobbish, arrogant people and there were none to be seen here! Everyone was as delightful as the decor. 9 Crosby Street, SoHo.

If you've been to New York before but are travelling with someone who hasn't, and you want to show them some of the city's 'old glamour', then head to either the rooftop terrace of The Peninsula Hotel on Fifth Avenue (top image) for one of the best views of Fifth Avenue and Central Park, or the salon of the Plaza, for a quintessential New York-style afternoon tea. Both will leave a suitably good impression. Fifth Avenue.

Gramercy Park is the last of New York's private parks. Like the park in the film Notting Hill, it's only available to residents: you need to own an apartment on the park to have a key. One way around this is to stay at the Gramercy Park Hotel (which is also on the park). The hotel is not only happy to let you experience this exclusive green space, it also provides a coolly glamorous rooftop terrace so you can look out over the entire neighbourhood! A symphony in green, black and white, it's highly popular with locals and guests: on a sunny afternoon, nothing beats it at this level! (More on the Gramercy Park Hotel and the area in a future post.) 2 Lexington Avenue.

If you haven't yet seen Ralph Lauren's new store on Madison Avenue (opposite his old one in the Rhinelander Mansion), then make sure you pop in, if only for the architecture. The staircase is one of the most beautiful in the city. 888 Madison Avenue.

A hair salon so cute it looks like a confectionary store. The decor is divine, the staff are lovely, and the hair cuts would make even a supermodel happy! 3 Center Market Place.

A cutey in the Bowery district, Gemma is the restaurant of the Bowery Hotel. Both hotel and restaurant are worth a look (the hotel's bathrooms are some of the plushest in town), but if you've only got half an hour, stop here for a drink. The interior is startlingly chic. 335 Bowery.

And when the President drives past, well, that's when you know you're in a great city!

All photographs copyright © Janelle McCulloch 2012, except where indicated.


  1. This collection is heaven on a stick. And you are making me now reach for my frequent flyers points list, to plot and plan if I have enough to get back to this most glorious of cities...

  2. Fantastic post Janelle... I too love NYC... I am saving these favourites of yours for my next visit... xv

  3. I love New York too! There's no other city like it. You included some of the best spots and your photos are divine!

  4. LOVE the images and the tour of hotels! I've had breakfast at the Plaza. I would love to stay at each hotel you've shown. Thanks!

  5. Dear Janelle
    Another superb post! - Your pictures of your faves in New York are wonderful. Wish we'd known about these when we visited New York some years ago. The Caffe Storico looks particularly delicious, so fresh and light with the high ceilings and chandeliers and the white and lemon colours. Loved the plates as decoration. Also loved the Mondrian and its garden, but really they all look so good. A far cry from the little hotel we stayed at just off Times Square (I seem to remember a depressing range of browns and old formica). But we loved New York too, particularly the galleries (went to the Metropolitan 3 times!) and the bookshops - and there is a real buzz about the streets (similar to the buzz one gets in Tokyo my husband felt). I also liked the historic old Anglican (probably it was Episcopalian) church near Wall Street and attended a service there for merchant seamen.

    Best wishes, this time from Paris, Pamela

  6. Never been to NYC but Id love to

  7. Sharing this post with friends who are New York bound this year. Strange, it does seem as if everyone is going to NYC, except me.


Thank you for stopping by. It's always lovely hearing from The Library's readers.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...