Curious New York: a weekend guide

By Danielle Contray

Photography by Alexander Spatari/Getty

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March 2016

New York is a magical place, even if it’s your second, third or fifth visit to the city. From immersive adaptations of Shakespeare in Hell’s Kitchen to discovering Michelin-starred Mexican food in Queens, here’s a 48-hour guide for curious travellers seeking the unexpected in NYC. The best part? You don’t have to use any holiday time.


Evening - Make your escape

With up to 15 flights a day between London and New York, you’ll be spoilt for choice with British Airways’ schedule. Minimize the time you need off work and maximize your first evening in Manhattan by catching the 18:10 from London Heathrow to JFK – which means you’ll be in the heart of New York City by 22:00.

22:00 - Nightcap

After checking into your hotel to unload your luggage, head back out to Lantern’s Keep, a small bar behind the lobby of the Iroquois Hotel near Bryant Park. The cozy bar has a 1920s feel to it, with marble tables, velvet chairs and an excellent craft cocktail list. Order the Boulevardier, a blend of bourbon, Campari and sweet vermouth – it’s like the love child of a Negroni and Manhattan.

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  • The new Whitney Museum of American Art has reopened in the Meatpacking District

    Art attack

    The museum’s 21,000-plus works of art are on exhibition in its fancy new designer digs near the High Line – which has twice the space as its previous home on the Upper East Side, meaning that much of the collection can now be on full-time display, which was never possible before.

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  • Tuck into Michelin-starred Mexican fare at Casa Enrique

    Michelin magic

    Casa Enrique is New York’s only Michelin-starred Mexican restaurant – and with good reason. Chef Cosme Aguilar’s most popular dish, cochinito chiapaneco – tender baby pork ribs marinated in guaillo chillies – is worth the trip to Queens alone.

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  • Sleep No More, an immersive adaptation of Macbeth, at The McKittrick Hotel © Driely S


08:00 - A breakfast of super chefs

Superstar American chef Mario Batali’s new spot La Sirena opened at Chelsea’s Maritime Hotel in February 2016. Make the most of your jet lag-induced early rise and enjoy breakfast without the crowds in the stark-white dining room surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows. Highlights include truffle and eggs on a toasted brioche, and an omelette with crispy Chinese sausage, mozzarella and provolone.

10:00 - Get arty

The Whitney Museum of American Art recently moved downtown and reopened in new Renzo Piano-designed digs in the trendy Meatpacking District. The expansive galleries display more than 2,000 painters, sculptors, architects, film makers and performance artists from the 20th and 21st centuries, celebrating new artists as well as icons such as Mark Rothko and Georgia O’Keeffe. Reservations essential for major exhibitions.

13:00 - Live the high life

The Whitney sits at the southern end of the High Line – an urban park that stretches along an old elevated railway track from the Meatpacking District up 22 blocks to Midtown. Take in the views of the Hudson River and the city as you stroll north through the sustainable park where indigenous plants grow around the old tracks – with stops at the gelato stands and bars along the way, naturally.

  • Beat your jet lag and enjoy an early breakfast without the crowds at La Sirena

    Top tip…

    During the summer months, about 100 extra seats will be available on La Sirena’s outdoor patio. Open daily for breakfast from 7-11am (until 3:30pm at the weekend).

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17:00 - Foodie quest to Queens

At the end of the High Line, you’ll find yourself at the new terminal for the 7 train. Hop on and head out to the Hunters Point Avenue stop in Long Island City, Queens. You’ll need to make a reservation beforehand at Casa Enrique, but it’s worth it. The Michelin-starred Mexican taqueria is a standout in the neighbourhood’s evolving food scene, serving ceviche, brisket tacos, and chile relleno (chillies stuffed with soft white cheese, tomato sauce and rice).

21:00 - Shakespeare in the city

After you’ve had your fill, make your way back to Manhattan for an only-in-New-York experience: Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More, an immersive adaptation of Macbeth, is a theatre event held at The McKittrick Hotel. You’ll be given a mask and be allowed to wonder through 100 rooms, coming upon intricate scenes and interacting with the mysterious cast. Not for the faint-hearted.


  • Swap Fifth Avenue for the West Village’s quirkier boutiques – such as Alexis Bittar

    For more designer shopping

    Take a trip to Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in upstate New York, where you can find 220 big brands from Clarks to Chloe with discounted price tags.

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10:00 - Brunch bunch

New Yorkers take brunch seriously, but most restaurants don’t raise the gate until noon. Maximize your time by heading to Buvette, a sweet French spot in the West Village where service starts at 09:00 (give yourself a bit of a lie-in and head there for 10:00, when the queues are still light). Order the much raved-about croque-monsieur or the fluffy steamed eggs, made via the espresso machine’s steam wand and served with prosciutto on country bread.

Noon - Boutique therapy

Forget the chain stores that have proliferated in SoHo and on Fifth Avenue. The West Village is still the place to find unique shops – some only found in New York – that stock both homegrown designers and imported goods. Fragrance shop Aedes de Venusta has Frederic Malle and Diptyque scents as well as their own label; Darling is a favourite for day dresses; Odin stocks high-end menswear; while Alexis Bittar is a jewel-box of a store displaying the designer’s signature Lucite pieces – New York style icon Iris Apfel is a fan.

16:00 - Homeward bound

There are plenty of high-frequency flights back to London to choose from – hop on the 19:35 from JFK, which touches down in Heathrow at 07:25 – leaving you enough time to grab a caffeine fix on your way into the office.

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