What makes a good city? The best cities often aren’t comfortable, clean or easy; they’re gritty, confusing, and inconvenient. They’re sensual places, metropolises for eating and drinking, working and playing. The best cities offer life rather than a refuge from it.

I was born and raised in London, and this curses (and blesses) you with a baseline expectation of a city. You develop an unreasonable appetite for choice and stimulation; whether it’s food and drink, art and music or skylines and greenspace. You become a magpie, hungry to seek out the finest, shiniest things. To me, London as a city is like blue-top milk, and often, when I visit others, it feels semi-skimmed. Visiting New York, however, gives clotted cream.

They say New York is like the universe: you don’t need to understand it to accept it. It’s a titanic ecosystem, and you can only gauge the scale when you attempt to walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan in a pair of ill-fitting shoes or when you soar above it by plane. As you descend into the city, you’ll notice miles of graveyards with tombstones organised into neat lines adjacent to thousands of rows of houses, baseball pitches and spaghetti roads. The view from the runway tarmac teases you with a glimpse of the city, an iconic, unmistakable skyline veiled in a smoky haze.

Visiting New York feels like déjà vu because, whether you’ve noticed it or not, you’ve been watching it on your TV screen for years. The city's texture at ground level feels familiar – the road signs, yellow cabs, traffic lights, and fire escape-clad buildings. When Fran Lebovitz was asked why so many people come to New York in Pretend it’s a City, her response was simply, “It’s New York. What’s not here?” She’s not wrong. There are few things you can’t do here, so here’s our pick of the best you can.

Where to eat

Bolivian Llama Party

44-14 48th Ave, Sunnyside, NY 11377

View on Instagram

If I lived in Sunnyside and had the metabolic endurance of a pubescent boy, I would frequent Bolivian Llama Party daily just to eat the Diablada chicken sandwich. You know a burger will be great when the piece of fried chicken is twice the size of the bun, arriving jacketed in a crisp, buttermilk coating that’s dosed with Bolivian locoto chile powder for a piquant kick.


Taqueria Ramirez

94 Franklin Street, Brooklyn, NY 11222

View on Instagram

The mammoth pile of pork seen through the window of Taqueria Ramirez is enough to draw in most empty-bellied passersby like a moth to a flame. Sit at the bar, hypnotised by the bubbling choricera of longaniza, suadero, lard, and cow intestines and the rotating spit of adobo-spiced pork shoulder that’s gracefully shaved into tortillas (and soaked in meat dripping).


L’Industrie Pizzeria

Various locations

View on Instagram

Blame it on inflation, but there’s no longer such a thing as a good $1 pizza slice in New York. There are $1 slices, and then there are good slices. If you’re game for the latter,head to L’Industrie, one of the biggest names in the New York Pizza game. These gargantuan triangles of New York-style pizza are so good you’ll likely burn your fingers with the hot oil that seeps from it as you gladhand it into your mouth at lightning speed. Bellissima.


Four Horsemen

295 Grand St, Brooklyn, NY, 11211

View on Instagram

Run by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, Four Horsemen is a convivial neighbourhood spot in Brooklyn that manages to hit a home run with the wine, food and even acoustics – thanks to the absorbent burlap walls. Getting a reservation here can be tricky, but there’s always space for walk-ins at the bar (AKA the best seat in the house). The food is imaginative and unusual, and even offal sceptics will be converted by the veal sweetbread skewers and monkfish liver. Don’t be tempted to skip the $10 bread course either; it’s worth every penny.


Frankel's Delicatessen

631 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222

For those who staunchly defend the Full English as the best breakfast, a visit to Frankel's may make you think otherwise. This contemporary interpretation of a Jewish delicatessen in Greenpoint is famed for its breakfast sandwiches, bagels, brisket and smoked fish – and you’d be a fool to order anything other than the pastrami, egg, and cheese challah. The sandwich's cross-section looks better than any Hollywood actress, and the combination of pillowy challah, silky scrambled eggs, melted cheese and firm chunks of pastrami promises to set you right for the day.


Where to drink


Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222

The clue might be in the name, but Eavesdrop is a 36-seat listening bar in Greenpoint inspired by the kissa music bars of Japan. Step inside, and you’re cocooned in a soothing 1,000-square-foot plywood-clad room complete with a state-of-the-art sound system. To accompany the stream of tunes emanating from the DJ booth, you’ll sip on some stellar cocktails and feast on Japanese izakaya. Pitch perfect. 674 Manhattan


El Nico

288 North 8th St, Brooklyn, NY 11211

A rooftop bar with happy hour margaritas that accepts walk-ins in New York sounds as plausible as a vegetarian butcher – but head to El Nico atop The Penny Hotel on Tuesdays to Thursdays from 5-7pm, and you’ll be proven wrong. If you visit during the spring months, happy hour conveniently coincides with sunset, and you can sip on $10 martinis while the sun shrouds the expansive cityscape in a salmon-pink glow.


Teddy’s Bar & Grill

96 Berry St, Brooklyn, NY 11249

Opened in 1887, Teddy’s makes claim to be Brooklyn’s oldest continually run bar and is a casual drinking den perfect for pints and picklebacks. Over the years, it’s played home to many iconic film and TV shoots, including PS I Love You, The Intern, and King of New York. All eyes peeled for Christopher Walken…


Panorama Room

22 North Loop Rd, New York, NY 10044

View on Instagram

When sipping on a glass of rosé at Panorama Room, the bar perched on the 18th floor of The Graduate Hotel, it’s hard to imagine Roosevelt Island used to be the former home of the city’s smallpox hospital and mental asylum. This glamourous, high-altitude haunt is hailed as having the best views in New York, with a balcony to bask on during the warmer months. There’s a DJ playing a continuous stream of R&B anthems, so drink ample mimosas and shake what your mother gave you.


Bar Blondeau

80 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249

With unobstructed vistas of the Manhattan skyline, you’d be mistaken for thinking you’re just paying for the views at Bar Blondeau. The French-style bar on the sixth floor of the Wythe Hotel dishes out an equally impressive roster of cocktails, including large-format ones, and an international selection of wines. 


Where to stay 

The Peninsula

700 5th Ave, New York, NY 10019

The Peninsula is a timeless New York institution located in the beating heart of Manhattan, just a three-minute walk from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), four blocks from Central Park and in the thick of Fifth Avenue shopping. A stay here promises to be classy, classic and cosseting, with all the comforts you’d expect from old-school, five-star luxury. 


Wythe Hotel

80 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249

If you want to experience Brooklyn industrial chic, head to The Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn. Formerly a cooperage before serving as a munitions factory during WW2, the Wythe’s industrial architecture gives way to light-soaked bedrooms thanks to huge factory windows. If you’re lucky enough to be staying on the East River-facing side, you’ll get twinkling views of midtown Manhattan from the comfort of your voluminous duvet.


What to do

Stand-up comedy at The Stand

116 E 16th St, New York, NY 10003

View on Instagram

Head downstairs to the comedy club at The Stand and prepare for a show of hysterical belly laughs, fuelled partly by the solid roster of comedians on stage and the stellar cocktails designed by Minetta Tavern vets. This spot is known for attracting big-name acts keen to test out new material, so don’t be surprised if Big Jay Oakerson, Ari Shaffir and Artie Lang take to the mic. Just make sure not to sit in the front row unless you’re game for a series of brutal character assassinations by acid-tongued performers.


Empire State Building

20 W 34th St, New York, NY 10001

It wouldn’t be a trip to the Big Apple without ticking off some of the big guns, and the Empire State Building serves up delicious 360° views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and beyond. It’s a popular visiting spot for Blake Lively, Oprah, and even Lassie (the dog), so be sure to bring your autograph book and pen.


Massage at Angel Hands

277 1st Ave, NY 10003

On approximately your third day of exploring New York, your body will start to give up. A combination of jet lag, walking 40,000 steps a day and drinking one too many Pacificos takes a heavy toll – so make the trip to Angel Hands and get that orthopaedic factory reset you need. An incredibly reasonably priced massage will see you be cracked and snapped within an inch of your life, ready to re-enter the world a supple, unflappable and rejuvenated version of your former self.