New York: A brief return to the place which once stole my soul

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I only had two nights in New York, where I lived for four years and hadn’t been back since I left. That’s not nearly enough time to do a circuit of your favourite spaces and faces. But I did my best in a mad rush.

The trip is best described, really, via the places in which I procured food and wine. Which are all great places to go, should you ever find yourself there.

Side note: if you haven’t been to New York, you really should. Putting a finger on exactly what it is that makes this small American peninsula so enduringly special remains tricky.

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But if it were a person, it would be that loud, rude, flaky girl you met once in a bar.

Transfixingly beautiful, but not in a supermodel way, because she looks rather older than she is and though she has lovely eyes, they are tired.

You probably watched her commanding her assembled friends and acquaintances with a mixture of envy and mockery, and you might have bumped into her in the bathroom, and maybe she asked you to borrow some mascara.

And then you had a chat, and subsequently became absolute best friends for exactly ten minutes, because her vivaciousness was so infectious. You found yourself telling her one of your deepest, darkest secrets – one of the most fucked up things you’ve ever done – and she just shrugged, which made you feel extra-specially normal.

So you promised you’d meet up next weekend, and you staggered out feeling a bit star-struck, but never heard from one another again, because why would you?

If you watch Girls, New York is a bit like Jessa. 

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Anyway, here are the 5 places I went in New York, my old stomping ground, all of which were great…

Blossom

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This a sublime and very famous vegan restaurant (dinner only) in Chelsea which is genuinely cool without trying, and doesn’t offer green juice.

It’s dimly lit, and serves overpriced wine with dishes including buffalo risotto croquettes with blue cheese dressing, and Seitan Scallopini with white wine, lemon-caper sauce, and truffle mashed potatoes.

For someone who doesn’t eat dead animals but is not a hippy or a health freak, it’s Mecca. Sleb vegans who frequent Blossom include Natalie Portman and Joaquin Phoenix, both of whom I admire.

The only bad thing about it is that at a few scattered tables it has overhead lighting, which I have an extreme aversion to. Overhead lighting is what you find in hospitals, airports, police stations, and underground subway stations. It is harsh, too bright, and makes everyone look like shit, even pretty people.

I ate at Blossom twice in three nights. Once with my brother Charles and his girlfriend Christine, and once with my friend Natara, who used to be my vet in New York, and her friend Eva. Great company all-round.

The Butcher’s Daughter

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Another very famous vegan restaurant, on Bowery. Bustling. Chaotic decor (in a good way). Expensive. Excellent. If you ever go, order the cashew ricotta with fig mostarda, and the angel hair carbonara. No overhead lighting.

I went with my friend Jack.

Cafe Ghia

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Not a cafe, as the name would suggest, but rather a very badly named restaurant/bar.

I lived around the corner for years and always heard locals mention it, but internally boycotted it because I don’t like cafes. The food in cafes is often shit, I can’t drink coffee (because caffeine makes me feel sick), and they never serve wine, unless you’re in France.

Cafe Chia – which is located in Brooklyn’s Bushwick – is nothing like a cafe, and more like the closest thing in America I’ve found to an English pub. It is decorated like a cosy home, the staff are beyond delightful, the food is absolutely delicious and the whole thing is reasonably priced. No overhead lighting.

If Cafe Ghia was a person, it would be your best friend.

I went with my old friend Alex, who is a beautiful flowing-haired actor who used to be in Glee and Pretty Little Liars (neither of which I’ve seen) but left LA because at heart he is an ethereal, anti-establishment, make-love-not-war sort of a chap, who didn’t want to poison the minds of little girls by becoming a teen heartthrob. Even though they asked him to be.

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Alex now does Broadway and told me he would rather die (literally) than vote for Trump OR Clinton. I might write his character into a book one day.

Central Station

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Also a stone’s throw from my old apartment, I wandered into this bar because I had some time to kill before meeting Natara and needed to get some writing done. Except my laptop was dead.

So this very nice bar tender who looked exactly like Jesus found me a charger and served me some nice wine. He also asked if I wanted ice in my water.

In America, unlike in England, you are always served a tall glass of water full of ice with a straw with a little hat on as soon as you sit down at a bar or restaurant. I don’t like ice in my water because it’s too cold and if you don’t use a straw (men often refuse) then the ice clunks against your front teeth, and why would you want that?

The Jesus bartender asked me if I wanted ice or not because he heard my English accent, which proves that he is thoughtful and worldly.

Soho House

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Cringe-inducing as it sounds, I’ve never had a bad night at Soho House. In fact, some of my best nights in history have been there.

Soho House has outposts all over the world. You have to be a member to get in. And to be a member, you have to be somehow important in the meeee-dyaaah (media) – i.e. an artist or a novelist or in advertising or film – and if you are say, a wanker banker, you can’t get in no matter how much money you throw at it.

I am not a member. But quite a few of my friends are, which is the only time I go.

If Soho House was a person, it would be that friend you have leftover from university who is way cooler and more successful than you and most others. But even though a lot of people roll their eyes (jealously) at the mention of his name, he is actually a really nice person. Busy, yes. But always has time for a catch-up, and someone you’ll probably know at least until you are 50.

I went with my friend Kristen, who I met on safari last year at the best safari in the whole wide universe – which you can read about here – and we talked hurriedly about work, men, and Burning Man.

Next stop? Miami.


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