Is New York City every foodie’s mecca? A dream of diners, burger joints, coffee shops, hot dog stands, brasseries, donut stops, sushi joints and high end eateries is hunger-making for the best of us. And all dreams must start somewhere.
A shared dream with two close friends, dining companions with whom I have the pleasure of eating very regularly with – culinary adventurers quick to snap up the challenge of the latest best burger or greatest steak to be found in London.
A dream that seemed to constantly just be out of reach, hatched over many a glass of wine. Eventually we set a date and started to form a plan.
Mile high meals
We start the trip with a champagne breakfast in Roast in Borough (in marginal irony of the fact that within a couple of hours we’ll be sitting on BA001, the flight that replaced Concorde, being served food from Roast in Borough).
Head chef Lawrence Keogh had the envious (and extremely challenging) task of designing the menus on British Airways most prestigious flight. The difficult nature of food at 33,000 feet was highlighted in Heston’s recent show – your tastebuds are completely dulled so food needs to be highly flavoured and still delicious.
Lawrence achieved with aplomb, creating a firmly British menu covering all bases.
A take on the classic Coronation Chicken was perfect air-fare, spicy, flavourful and a world away from tinfoil boxes with sweaty lids and sorry chicken-in-sauce-with-mushy-veg.
A starter of Laverstoke Park buffalo mozzarella coupled with sweet figs and aromatic mint was fresh and breezy – click here for Lawrence’s recipe.
Michelin star class
After probably far too many glasses of champagne we land at JFK (as a domestic flight – BA001 does a stop-over and US immigration in Shannon, Ireland to save time) and nip into the familiar yellow cab.
Check in at The Gotham is quick, bags are dropped, showers foregone due to our pressing booking at Le Bernadin, one of New York’s 3 Michelin-star restaurants, where head chef Eric Ripert does quite inconceivably delicious things to fish.
I lost count of courses after a while – queen scallops with kaffir lime, sea urchin linguine with osietra caviar, yellowfin tuna sashimi with crisp seaweed and roe, scallop poached in duck fat dressed with a squillion shavings of black truffle, langoustine with mache and foie gras. This is decadence of the highest level.
Wines are exquisitely matched – a milk chocolate and sea salted caramel pudding paired with a Trapist beer was bordering on genius.
Click here to read Eric's gorgeous recipe for white tuna poached in olive oil.
The following morning, jet-lag being the beast that it is, we were all up in the small hours. A quick google and we found The Breslin, a recent addition to the city’s burgeoning dining scene and a place that had not only just received its first star but that was also famed for brunch.
A brisk walk and we touched down into the sort of place that really characterises this place. You could have walked in first thing in the morning or last thing at night and it would have had the same vibe and feel – dark, grungy crimson, wood and leather, butcher’s paper for tablecloths, coffee flowing freely.
Huevos rancheros, that Mexican classic, made a fine first breakfast for me, while my companions tucked into an unusual spiced lentil dish with a poached egg and the American classic, steak and eggs.
A side of house-made sausages may have been guilding the lily, but who’s counting?
Butchers' scales at Five Napkin Burger
It’s marginally fortunate we’ve woken at some God-forsaken hour and squeezed in breakfast as lunch is a mere hop-skip-and-a-jump away at Five Napkin Burger – named for the number of napkins /you’ll need to get through it.
It’s a buzzy, vibrant place – perhaps if you think of that ideal New York diner-style burger joint you’d imagine this joint – packed with families, cool twenty-somethings hanging out, and us, the Brits in the corner.
Sylvia's famous Harlem restaurant
It’s banquette seating, meat hooks hanging from the roof with lightbulbs slinking around them, white-tiled walls and squirrel-cage lamps. None of it would matter if the food weren’t any good – but this is the stuff that burger-dreams are made of.
Thick, juicy patties (cooked to some secret specification, a peek into the kitchen and the door was closed very quickly) with rosemary aioli and grilled onions, fiery buffalo wings with blue-cheese sauce, giant onion rings, deep-fried pickles (yes, deep-fried pickles) and a very necessary bowl of crisp fries.
And some house pickles – what is it with the American mastery of the pickle we have failed to perfect?
The ordering system at Katz
New York was a trip of epic proportions – to describe our every meal in detail would take up half the internet but I’ve put together a list of my must-visits next time you hit the Big Apple:
Le Bernadin – Michelin-starred fish-focused dining at its best under the brilliant head-cheffery of Eric Ripert (Le Bernardin, 155 West 51st Street, New York, NY 10020, 001 (212) 554-1515), www.le-bernadin.com)
Kyochon – Korean-style fried chicken wings – go for the hot and sweet. They are, as you can probably imagine, hothothot. (Kyochon, 319 5th Ave, New York - 001 (212) 725-9292, www.kyochon.us)
The Breslin – a stellar breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner is worth taking in at this dive-esque Michelin-starred joint (The Breslin, 16 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001-4502, 001 (646) 214-5788, www.thebreslin.com)
David Burke - cracking burgers, open steak sandwiches and some unmissable jalapeno chilli cheese fries are worth stopping in for (www.davidburke.com, various locations)
Shake Shack – stop off for their Shake Stack burger complete with an entire portobella mushroom stuffed with cheese and deep-fried (www.shakeshack.com, various locations)
Luke’s Lobster – a milk roll stuffed with perfectly poached lobster and a squeeze of mayo is order of the day at this hole in the wall (www.lukeslobster.com, various locations)
Porchetta – Cuban pulled pork sandwiches with house-made Sriracha garlic-chilli sauce are a perfect beer-soaker-upper (Porchetta LLC, 110 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10009-6108, 001 (212) 777-2151, www.porchettanyc.com)
Artichoke Pizza – brave the queues here (they are mainly students happy to give you plenty more food recommendations) for arguably the best ‘slice’ in NYC (www.artichokepizza.com, various locations)
Momofuku Milk Bar – this Korean-owned place serves up all things sweet – although their pork buns are to die for. But you have to try their ‘crack pie’ (www.momofuku.com – various locations)
Papaya King – hot dogs but not as you know them – all served with a large cup of papaya juice. It foxed us a bit too, but hey – the dogs are good (www.papayaking.com – various locations)
Locanda Verde – elegant modern Italian serving up perfectly formed small plates – the lamb sliders are a must-have (www.locandaverdenyc.com - 377 Greenwich Street, New York, NY 10013-2338, 001 (212) 925-3797
Five Napkin Burger – epitome of the NYC-style burger joint, rumour has it opening a pop-up in the UK later this year (www.5napkinburger.com – various locations)
Sylvia’s – this Harlem institution has Gospel Sundays – get serenaded while you tuck into some of the best soul food around. The fried chicken is a must – dunked in their own recipe hot sauce (328 Lenox Avenue New York, NY 10027, 001 (212) 996-0660 www.sylviasrestaurant.com)
And just FYI – this was all in three and a half days...
We stayed at The Gotham Hotel 16 East 46th Street New York, NY 10017-2404 001 (212) 490-8500.
We flew with British Airways on BA001 from London City to JFK via Shannon, Ireland.