Two of my loves in life are people and places. In fact the two go together rather well because knowing the right places to take people is rather important in building relationships. So I’m launching a Travel Guide blog about places to take people. As a professional speaker on business relationships I am privileged to travel to cities around the world. So each month I am picking somewhere I visit and writing about my top ten favourite places to take people. This month I’m beginning with New York City...
1. Fine Food Restaurant: Gramercy Tavern
When flying London to New York City I catch the early morning flight and land at JFK in time to jump in a cab and head to Gramercy Tavern for lunch. As I walk into the restaurant and approach the counter I am greeted, “Hello Matt, welcome back” and feel immediately at home in this global city where it’s all too easy to feel alone. The counter is a great place to sit, in a large part due to the super friendly bar staff who aren’t nice for the tips as it’s a ‘no tipping’ restaurant, they just love what they do. So whether you are hosting a guest or happen to be dining solo the counter is a buzzy place to enjoy a fabulous seasonal menu.
2. Jazz Venue: Dizzy’s Club
New York City spoils you for choice when it comes to live jazz so it’s tough to pick a single favourite so I’m going to cheat sightly and mention three… Smalls Jazz Club lives up to its name being a tiny basement venue and has that feeling of being in ‘the hood’… The Django in the basement of super cool Roxy Hotel is great for a chilled night out with friends. Dizzy’s Club at the Lincoln Centre is altogether different, its a big space with view of central Park and great spot for a ‘big band’ experience.
3. Neighbourhood Restaurant: Empellon Taqueria
If you have a taste for some Mexican tacos and margarita then Empellon Taqueria is a great neighbourhood restaurant. If you like a fresh and spicy margarita then the Spicy Cucumber is highly recommended. The restaurant is located across the street from Smalls Jazz Club so it’s the perfect location for a pre-show or after-show supper. If you sit in the right place you can even see when people begin to queue outside Smalls so you can pop across and buy your tickets.
4. Favourite Cocktail Bar: Ascent Lounge
Cocktail bars in NYC are easy to find but few have the class or the views of Ascent Lounge. Located on the 4th floor of the luxurious Time Warner Center it has fabulous views across Columbus Circle and into Central Park. It is the perfect spot for an aperitif before a show, performance or film at the Lincoln Center or for a night cap afterwards.
5. Favourite Breakfast Cafe: The Bluebell Cafe
Breakfast is often described as the most important meal of the day and that’s especially true when you’ve dined at the Bluebell Cafe. A neighbourhood cafe with a warm atmosphere that serves breakfast that looks and tastes like it’s been made in the best home kitchen. So whether it’s a weekday breakfast or a weekend brunch the Bluebell Cafe is my first choice in NYC.
6. Favourite Speakeasy: Patent Pending
Speakeasies are renowned for being difficult to find - which was the whole point during American prohibition - and Patent Pending is no different. It is a simple coffee shop by day and a bar by night located in the basement of the Radio Wave Building where Nikola Tesla first envisioned ‘radio waves’. Patent Pending is accessed by pressing a buzzer at street level and then entering a secret door at the back of the coffee shop through to the speakeasy. It has seating at bar stools or booths for groups with a high-end cocktail menu that continues the radio wave theme.
7. Favourite Hotel: NoMad
In the busyness of city life I love stepping off the streets into a comfortable hotel whether it be for a business meeting or a quiet corner where I can collect my thoughts for a talk. The NoMad hotel in NYC is an oasis away from the hustle and bustle. My favourite space is the Library which is a double-level room lined with beautiful books and connected by an exquisite spiral French staircase. It is the perfect space to meet, to think and to create.
8. Favourite Rooftop Bar: Azul Rooftop
The NYC skyline is a mass of rooftop bars. One of my favourites is the Azul Rooftop bar located at Hotel Hugo on the 20th floor which is open during warmer months of the year. The bar has stunning views of Lower Manhattan and across the Hudson River to New Jersey. Sunday is ‘Cuban night’ with a Cuban band, cocktails, and cigars being freshly rolled to order - fedoras are optional but certainly help you look the part.
9. Favourite Park: The High Line
The High Line began life in the 1900s as a train line elevated from street level in order to avoid pedestrian deaths. The track and narrow sidings have now been transformed into a 1.5mile horizontal park of trees, plants, art installations, performances and community events. There is always something new to see on The High Line because the light of the day and the seasons of the year change the way it looks. When I’m in NYC I try and walk The High Line every day whether with someone or on my own.
10. Favourite Museum: The Tenement Museum
Matt and museums don’t mix very often so I can’t promise to feature a museum in all my city Travel Guides however I think The Tenement Museum is unique. It offers immersive experiences that enable you to step back in time into the lives of immigrants and refugees to explore their lives and how they have shaped NYC and the US. On my first visit I made the connection between German immigrants and kindergarten, hamburgers and pretzels that are now an integral part of US culture.
New York City is a tough place to choose only ten favourite places to take people but these are mine. I would love to hear from you about your favourite places.