Wise Men Go East
Keen to explore lower Manhattan’s ‘hoods we headed to the East Village to soak up the village’s vibe and pitched up at the East Village Hotel. Well not entirely a hotel, more like an Aparthotel. Ok less of an Aparthotel and more like clean, minimal room with a bed and tiddly bathroom and a kitchenette squished into the corner of 1st Ave and 10th St above The Bean Café (and its questionable taste in music which they’ll be pleased to invade your room with regardless of day or night). My advice? There’s better places to stay. That aside the character of the East Village holds less formality, a bit like an old school pal, less concerned with your appearance and more interested in catching up and none more so than in the evening. This part of town cranks up the volume and becomes a playground for beer loving boys and girls holding sway at the best of the village’s pubs. Discreet restaurants such as the Redhead with its bacon peanut brittles and buttermilk fried chicken, and the gastronomically stupendous Momofuku (serving bbq pork bun, crispy pig ear ssäm and golden spotted tilefish) are busy taking reservations from the queuing masses until midnight. But the wait is worth it, after all what are you going to do? Sleep?
When you do awake there’s a generational institution serving hungry New Yorkers a belly busting brunch whilst being transported to the Ukraine. Veselka’s magnetic menu has been attracting a local crowd, operating as a beacon for Ukrainian culture since 1954. Men with thick necks, from the old country slowly stir syrupy coffee, whilst short order chefs rustle up hashes, pancakes, grilled Kielbasa (Ukrainian smoke cured sausage) and of course pierogi (dumplings). Stop a while and soak up the patina of this joint, then let your legs loose and explore Greenwich Village.
If fashion is your fix then head to Bleeker Street and feast on the theatre of the Ralph Lauren store decked out like a frontier hardware store, providing all the necessary kit for urban Davy Crocketts. Indulge your guilty preppy pleasure at Gant’s ‘Rugger’ store where Oxbridge and the Ivy League collide to turn out the best groomed frat pack. Store fronts glisten and sparkle like wonder cabinets hypnotising pedestrian traffic into sampling their contents. Some like Comptoir des Cotonniers, 7 for All Mankind, Sandro, and Jack Spade are better than others and the experience is incomplete unless you’re approached by a fashionably camp assistant.
When you’ve run out of fingers to grasp your new wardrobe it’s time to head to the wonderfully intimate and convivial atmosphere of Aria charged with the gossip and chatter from the day. This bar cum restaurant on 117 Perry Street combines Mediterranean rustica with bare brick Manhattan design, paired with tapas style sharing plates. Food for friends and lovers, serving laid back cocktails and an unpretentious wine list. The menu is small but so beautifully formed filled with the freshness of a Mediterranean Mama’s pocket garden and the imagination of NYC’s immigrant descendents. If you’re early bag a bar stool and eat at the bar, you’ll get served quicker. The food begs you stay a while and the gorgonzola stuffed dates wrapped in speck and grilled lamb chops in balsamic vinegar are hard to say goodbye to.
When you’ve had your fill, exercise your calves and eyes and indulge in some celeb spotting along Houston Ave’s mezze of bars. The Maharani got lucky and slowed down the pace to fill her vision with the Emmy Award winning Damian Lewis sipping suds with a friend. Replete in every sense, sleep beckoned our eyelids.
- Tip 1 Don’t stay at the East Village Hotel (we checked out early)
- Tip 2 Get to the Redhead early, they don’t take bookings
- Tip 3 Stop for gelato at Cones, 272 Bleeker St and try the corn variety