A shout-out to Starbucks on Park Avenue South

When you stay at the kind of hotel that doesn’t have a kettle in the room, you head out for breakfast.

Literally 30 seconds from our hotel there was a Starbucks.  The New York Times, wifi, loads of space to sit and surf – perfect.

Now, I have been in other Starbucks both in the US and overseas, but this one was a delight.

The staff were charming to a fault, were friendly and welcoming, despite the high volume of customers streaming in every morning.  By Day 3, they all recognised us (think it was my funny Pom accent) and even though I could never remember that a grande  =  medium (have I finally got that right ?) they greeted us with big happy smiles every day of our 10 days stay in Manhattan, and remembered our mispronounced orders.

Well done & thank you.

 

Zana Restaurant, New York City

On a recent holiday in New York, we decided to eat one night in the restaurant at street level, at the bottom of our hotel, the King & Grove.

What can I say ?

Indifferent service to the point of almost insolence.

Indifferent pizza, according to hubby.

My linguine were fine.

But it was the take-it-or-leave it attitude of our waiter that left a very poor impression.

Really wouldn’t bother eating here.

 

KIng & Grove Hotel, New York City

The hotel came recommended by a cousin, who knew it as the Lola, but by the time we arrived in Manhattan, it had changed management and its name, and become the King & Grove.

The location of the hotel is great – 29 E 29th Street – so just about all the major touristy stuff is walkable, be it 20 blocks north or 20 south.  So from that point of view, location, location, location = outstanding.

But.

I don’t think I have ever seen smaller rooms.  The word shoebox springs to mind.  With not even a kettle in the room, it was all pretty basic.  Clean, A/C, teensy safe for passports, but that was about it.

As I said, no kettle.

Cheap and nasty plastic drinking cups, those disposable ones.

Given that we were staying for about 10 nights, we asked if we could perhaps have a bigger room, so they duly moved us, to one that was infinitesimally bigger, but still no room to swing the proverbial cat.

The darkest, longest lobby imaginable, with a corner bar that didn’t seem to function (why waste the space ?  Why not serve morning tea and coffee there, perhaps ?)

I happen to dislike dark interiors, and walls which have curtains in front of them (why ?  what are they hiding behind the curtain ?  peeling paint ? rising damp ?) which is unfortunate given the décor of King & Grove :

 

 

There’s the curtain (above)…

…and the unused always-empty bar in the lobby (below)…

 

Staff perfectly friendly.

But other than location, the King & Grove really doesn’t have a whole lot going for it.

We did, however, a good discounted rate, so can’t complain.

 

www.kingandgrove.com

 

Benihana still going strong

There’s something about holidays that make you do nostalgic-y things.

We hadn’t been to the US in over 15 years, and so inevitably there was a certain amount of “oh, remember we did x, y or z with the children when we were last here.”

One of  “those things” had been lunch at Benihana, which our enthralled children adored.  All that catching of an egg in the chef hat stuff.

So we had lunch at Benihana, and you know what, it was fun.

Yes, it’s a tad touristy.

And yes, the chefs still catch eggs in their chef’s hat.

But the food was good, the service polite and friendly, so what’s not to like ?  And I freely admit, I enjoyed the show.  All that rapid chopping and making volcanoes out of onion rings :

 

I was on a scallops kick that week, and they were delicious.  And huge.

Hubby’s hitachi steak was delish, he said.

 

The only not so exciting thing, funnily enough was the dish of edamame which were, well, not very exciting.

 

 

 

Recommended.  And we (of course) paid our own bill.

 

 

Where can you find THE best ravioli in New York ?

2nd & 74th, according to our good friend and mega-foodie Vikram Tandon.

As an ex-New Yorker, he should know, and so, on a recent trip to New York after far too many years (but that’s another story) we met up for lunch at Zucchero and Pomodori to try these amazing ravioli.

Vodka ravioli to be precise.

And here they are :

But, being brutally honest, they were nice, but sadly not as brilliant as I had expected.  Whether it was the tomato sauce which sort of drowned them, I dunno.  My totally un-cooking-savvy instincts would have preferred a cream sauce, not tomato based, but though they were good, I honestly wouldn’t make a special trip to eat them.

Sorry Vikram.

Apparently hubby’s veal saltimbocca was delish.

The complimentary Caesar salad  –  courtesy of our hosts, who used to be regulars at Zuccero e Pomodoro – was excellent.  And that was a nice touch.

Nice, relaxed feel to the restaurant, that of a genuine, much-loved local place.

 

 

 

For the record, my cappuccino was so-so, but that was actually par for the course everywhere in the US.  Perhaps it’s a European thing after all.

 

 

 

Where to eat in Manhattan’s Meatpacking district

After a long hot morning of walking the streets of lower Manhattan and exploring the High Line, we were ready for lunch.  Excited by the whole revitalised Meatpacking District, which was new to us (visiting New York after far too long) we homed in in Pastis, which had an authentic French brasserie look and was reassuringly packed.

Despite the crowds, we managed a table outside – cramped, but then again, name a French bistro that doesn’t pack its diners in like sardines ?

I was on a moules kick that week, and these did not disappoint.  Excellent.

 

Loved the Belgian style frites mayonnaise :

Hubby declared his calf’s liver to be good, and it was cooked exactly as he had requested :

 

Nice thick all-encompassing table napkin :

Nice touches, like a wide range of European magazines and newspapers to read :

 

 

Enjoyed lunch, thoroughly recommended and we (of course) paid our own bill.

Does Sardi’s in New York still have that buzz ?

I am not really sure, is the honest answer.

Having not been to New York in aeons, nor to Sardi’s in even more aeons, I had no idea of knowing whether the iconic restaurant that I first visited back in the late 1970s was even still considered an icon.

We were wandering through the theatre district on a lovely summer night in late August, without a fixed dinner plan, when we chanced upon Sardi’s.

It was 95% empty which is always a little disconcerting, but then again, it was theatre time, so perhaps all the patrons-to-be were yet to arrive.  I had remembered it being a pre/post-show place.

 

 

The decor is exactly as remembered, all those cartoons on the walls :

 

The staff was perfectly charming, the food was good, the wine was deliciously chilled, so all in all a nice evening.  Despite the emptiness, we enjoyed our meal – starched white linen,  slightly old-fashioned feel to the place.  What’s not to like ?

My husband approved of the pork chops, and my scallops were good.  I was on a bit of a scallop kick that week, so they stacked up well against several other scallop-y meals.

 

 

 

234 West 44th Street  New York, NY 10036, United States  (212) 221-8440

Recommended.

We paid our own bill.  Obviously.

 

Where to find the best (bison) burger in Manhattan

The things you discover about your friends when you travel.

Meeting up with our dear Delhi friends Kiran and Vikram Tandon in Manhattan, which was their old stomping ground for many years, I learned that Vikram is a foodie of note, as in Of Note.

When we decided to meet for lunch, Vikram instantly rattled off a long list of his favourite places from their years in New York, complete with menus and specialities and suggestions and accurate directions, kindly organising the rest of our stay in Manhattan.

Thus it was that we found ourselves in Ted’s Montana Grill, in search of what we were assured was the best burger in New York.  And, Vikram stipulated, it must be a bison burger.

The restaurant was everything I had remembered New York restaurants to be –  large and spacious, luxurious starched white linen, people sitting on bar stools sipping lunchtime cocktails in frosted glasses.  Perfect.

Our waiter couldn’t have been nicer and chattier, and – seemingly like all waiters and waitresses in Manhattan  –  was obviously just waiting for an opportunity to be snapped up as a stand-up comedian or a wisecracking, current affairs TV anchor.

My husband had the burger and said it was very good, but he couldn’t honestly say whether bison is better than beef.  But he really enjoyed it.

 

 

He also said that the Vikram-recommended margaritas were good, though not particularly strong (which is why he had two).

 

Delicious pickles that came with drinks :

 

As a non meat-eater I had the salt and pepper trout which was absolutely delicious.  Truly delicious :

 

The cappuccino was totally underwhelming.  Thin and un-creamy.

 

They have convenient small-sized menus to take away, (as opposed to a take away menu) :

Personally recommended.

 

Where to eat authentic Belgian food in New York

I have long suspected that Belgian is the new French, as far as cuisine goes, and the great Markt restaurant in Manhattan is a case in point.

After a couple of dull, overpriced meals in French restaurants, Markt came as a breath of fresh air.

On a visit to New York after the longest time, we had no cherished old favourite restaurants, and so ate pretty much wherever a place caught our eye.  Walking back uptown after a day exploring the Meatpacking District and all points south, we chanced upon Markt.  Hectically crowded, buzzing with activity, but with one free table outside on the pavement, so how could we resist ?

Delightful service, excellent food, chilled white wine, great people watching on a warm Manhattan evening –  what could be better ?

So much so that 2 days later we trekked downtown, walking all the way, to work up an appetite, and ate there again.

Equally crowded, and the same delightful waitress who recognised us with a huge smile and took us to the same table.

What’s not to like ?

The view :

The ambience – candle, huge napkins and sea salt :

 

My resolutely carnivorous husband had the same thing both times, a pavé de boeuf, saignant, declaring them delicious x 2 :

 

Don’t miss the trademark Belgian mayonnaise to go with your frites.

The first night I had mussels in white wine, which were fabulous :

 

The second time I had scallops with perfectly al dente asparagus and eel mash (yes, eel mash) which were even more delicious than the mussels of 2 nights earlier :

 

Heartily recommended.

I did not tell them that I blog and write reviews, and we paid our own bills.

 

Pet heaven in Manhattan

So there we were, wandering up Lexington Avenue – as one does –  when we saw a crowd on the pavement, surrounding a van.  We stopped (obviously) and saw it was a pet adoption drive.  Since all our critters over the last 25 years have been rescue animals (barring 2 English setters), this spoke to the heart.

As did the new name, which I shall now start using to describe Yoda and Tommy :

 

Anyway, we duly wandered inside the shop (where yet more critters were up for adoption), and what a shop.

Pet heaven.

Everything your dog or cat or budgie or rabbit could desire. And then some.

I love NY T shirts for dogs, anyone ?

And before you ask, the answer is no.

While Tommy is given a discarded coconut husk to play with, pampered NY pooches have this dazzling array (below) to choose from – no, wait, they don’t choose, the owners do.  Who knows, possibly the NY dogs would also like coconut husks ?

A freezer full of treats. Like lollipop shaped granulated rawhide chewies…back to the coconut husk, Tommy…

Oooh,  rawhide sushi rolls.  So Manhattan.

 

Given the way the dogs  – the late Képi and Birdey, and Yoda –  hate all the noise and the firecrackers of Diwali, I was intrigued by the idea of this anxiety thundershirt (bel0w)

 

Now HOW on earth would I find a cat anxiety thundershirt big enough for Tifi (aka Garfield) ?

 

My goodness me, am I glad we don’t pooper scoop here in India, but what a pretty display the bags make…

 

Our shopping was quite restrained, I think, given the abundance of exciting goodies on offer :

 

Great shop.

Staff couldn’t have been more friendly.

 

PERSONALLY TRIED & RECOMMENDED