Friday 21 July 2017

New York: How to Carrie it off

As Sex and the City returns to movie screens, Bairbre Power has the lowdown on New York's most fashionable stores, cuisine and cocktails

Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

Park Avenue and Madison. The Bronx and Staten Island. Coney and Baloney. They go together like other New York stalwarts Cosmo cocktails and Carrie Bradshaw.

The glossy scenes of glamorous Manhattan in the Sex and the City 2 movie will inevitably trigger plots and plans for girlie weekends away. The temptation to go and have fun in the Big Apple is more irresistible than ever, so strap yourselves in and let's get shopping!

Bergdorf Goodman is our shopaholic heroine's favourite store, and visiting this luxury-filled honeypot at 754 Fifth Avenue (001 212 753 7300) is a voyage in voyeurism as well as retail therapy.

Your head spins as you look at the goodies. You'll have no problem finding Carrie's favourite Halston Heritage dresses and vertiginous Louboutins which feature in the new movie, which comes to Irish cinemas on Friday.

Be virtuous and celebrate your purchases with a healthy juice and Lobster Club at the BF restaurant on the fifth floor, or have fun and gossip with the gals over a French 75 cocktail (Champagne, gin and orange bitters) at Bar 111, near menswear on the third floor.

The ladies with perfectly coiffed hair-dos have probably just come from the John Barrett's penthouse salon. This Irish hairdresser is The Man to play with your tendrils. His swish style house, formerly the famous Goodman apartment, is about so much more than having a wash and blow-dry. It's an experience to savour, and the fabulous views over Central Park reinforce that sublime New York feeling.

Next it's off to Carrie's former home territory of Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side, a 40-block mecca for serious shoppers where all the top brands sit cheek by jowl with each other. Christian Louboutin coos to you at 965 (001 212 396 1884), Donna Karan at 819 (001 866 240 4700), Ralph Lauren at 1055; 001 212 434 8000), while Vera Wang's flagship store at 991 has a stunning bridal department on the third floor (001 212 628 3400).

Did I mention that serial dater Samantha was filmed wearing a wedding dress in the new movie?

My retail adventures always yield unexpected surprises, and on my Madison Avenue excursion one unfolded at No 969, Zitomers Pharmacy (E. 76th St; 001 212 737 2016), where the selection of potions and lotions are of candy-shop proportions. Resident cosmetician Luba Glebart takes your breath away.

"Guess my age," she challenged sweetly, proffering me a wrinkle-free hand for inspection. The answer is a jaw-dropping 84 years. Her secret? Heal Fast Repair Cream, which costs $28 (€21.80) for a two-ounce jar.

A girl can't live on shopping alone, so expunge your consumer guilt with some culture and pop into the Whitney Museum at 945 Madison (E. 75th Street; 001 212 570 3600), where the Hooper exhibition, with its brilliant audio guide, is thoroughly spine-tingling.

Later, reward your artistic, foot-weary soul with a cocktail in the Bemelman bar at the nearby Carlyle Hotel (E. 76th St, 001 212 744 1600), where the waiters' smart white jackets gleam under a 24-carat gold ceiling. The bar's Bloody Marys have won awards, and if you ask the talented mixologist to invent a cocktail just for you, he'll happily oblige.

We stayed at the supremely elegant Four Seasons hotel, (57 E. 57th Street, 001 212 758 5700), perfectly located between Park and Madison so you can pop back and forth with shopping bags -- plastic permitting -- after hitting the rails of the four Bs: Bergdorf, Bendels, Barneys and Bloomingdales.

The I.M. Pei-designed hotel, the tallest in NY, oozes style and I felt totally pampered watching TV while soaking in my giant oversized tub, which fills in 60 seconds.

Julia Roberts once boasted to Oprah that her favourite thing to sleep in was a Four Seasons Sealy bed and I can see why. You wake up totally refreshed, like you've slept on layers of comfy clouds. The pillow menu adds to the sense of luxury, and if you are staying in a suite, there are complimentary car drop-offs within a two-mile radius.

The first evening, we headed downstairs to the world-renowned L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (001 212 350 6658) for French-Japanese fusion food. Grab a place at the bar -- the best seats in the house for celebrity-spotting. We feasted on tiny plates of caramelised quail and Omakase, the chef's choice for $45 (€35) for two courses.

The next evening, we used the back door of the hotel to go next door to Tao (42 E. 58th St; 001 212 888 2288), the uber-stylish Asian restaurant where stretch limos and blacked-out cars on the sidewalk are a clue to the VIP clientele. Tao was a regular backdrop for Sex and the City, and the decor, like the food, is impressive. The Kobe beef is the best this side of Japan.

If I'm beginning to sound like we ate our way around New York, the truth is that we did. Carrie may have lost her appetite once at Eleven Madison (11 Madison Ave; 001 212 889 0905) after Big told her he was getting married to skinny Natasha, but ignore this chic restaurant at your peril.

Il Cantinori (32 E. 10th St; 001 212 673 6044) holds unhappy memories for our leading lady too -- no one turned up for her 35th birthday dinner here. But believe me, the food at this Tuscan restaurant is well worth travelling for, especially the grilled squid and homemade pasta with sausages, peas, tomatoes and cream.

It's always smart to find somewhere chic for cocktails after a hard day pounding the pavement. Aim your radar at the Standard Hotel (848 Washington Street at W. 13th; 001 212 645 4646), which stands out like a beacon in the Meat Packing District. Another option is the Plunge bar at the Gansevoort Hotel (18 9th Ave at W. 13th; 001 212 206 6700), where the rooftop pool deck is one of the best places to watch the sun go down.

Speaking of which, Samantha Jones once used false ID to gain access to the pool at the exclusive Soho House private club (29 9th Ave; 001 212 627 9800), but if you have friends with connections then use them, because this one and the Cowshed spa are super for people-watching. A waterside cabana, Cosmo in hand, Louboutins on feet and a girl is in seventh heaven.

In the West Village, shopping options are rich on the ground, and Sarah Jessica Parker is often spotted in real life around her brownstone apartment in Charles Street, coming and going with son James and her new twins. Nearby, drop into cupcake heaven at the Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street, where the Marc Jacobs shop is a magnate for local style queens.

The Meatpacking District is Samantha's home territory. After shopping at the Diane von Furstenberg store (874 Washington St; 001 646 486 4800), have dinner at either Pastis (corner of Little W. 12th Street/9th Ave; 001 212 929 4844) where Carrie brunched with her Russian boyfriend, or up the street at Buddakan (75 9th Avenue, 001 212 989 6699) where she and Big held their infamous wedding rehearsal dinner. The food and décor at both these locations are fab and they just happen to be SATC haunts too.

Afterwards, take a romantic evening stroll on the High Line, the linear park built on a section of unused elevated freight railroad of the West Side Line, along the lower west side. It has commanding views over the Hudson river and if you don't feel like gazing into his eyes, you could always gaze at the stars, especially on Tuesday nights when telescopes are set up from dusk under the Standard Hotel to watch the stars. See aaa.org.

After dark, warm up by heading indoors to the uber-chic Boom Boom Bar in the penthouse of the Standard. It offers spectacular 360-degree views of the city, but if you have vertigo this is not the place for you.

Another option is Sushi Samba 7 (87 Seventh Ave; 001 212 691 7885), a trendy Japanese/Latin venue which fans might remember is where Samantha threw a drink at philandering boyfriend Richard.

If you're still out and about at dawn, walk across to Soho for breakfast at Balthazar (80 Spring St; 001 212 965 1414; balthazarny. com) which is divine. Don't miss the sour cream hazelnut waffles and their sublime brioche.

There's something about this area that attracts me like a magnet.

Maybe it's the light and vista of the river stretching across to Jersey or it could be the sense of achievement you feel managing to walk across those cobblestones in your high heels without falling.

If you fancy seeing the Hudson up close, why not take flight like Carrie did and contact the Trapeze School, which is located on Pier 40 in the Hudson River Park? Carrie's flight in 2003 triggered a surge of interest in this distinctively New York experience; just don't try it after a heavy night on the tiles.

A trip to the Big Apple wouldn't be the same without a visit to Patricia Field's quirky shop at 302 Bowery. This crimson-haired stylist is the genius behind many of the outfits in the new movie and was also a stylist on The Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty. The online shop has stock with attitude, everything from trendy bow necklaces to Carrie's nameplate necklaces (patriciafield.com).

With such a strong emphasis on vintage in the new movie, one store you can't afford to miss is What Comes Around Goes Around on 351 West Broadway (between Broome and Grand Street; 001 212 343 1225). Carrie and Big's finances are stretched in the new movie, so

you can bet your bottom dollar she would check out the sample sales for access to knocked-down designer bargains.

Log onto dailycandy.com for regular alerts on where the best sample sales are taking place.

Of course, it's the borough of Manhattan that is the real star of Sex and the City, and whether you want to follow in the characters' footsteps from the Boathouse in Central Park to the fountain at Columbus Circle, it's hard not to go somewhere that hasn't featured in the cult HBO series.

Far beyond the shiny patina of fabled Fifth Avenue, the boroughs beckon, such as buzzy Brooklyn and lively Queens. Check your whereabouts not by compass but by skyline: the glistening, terraced Art Deco crown of the Chrysler Building in midtown; the rich, golden hue of the New York Life building across from the pointy Flatiron; the floodlit glow of the Empire State.

One thing is sure: the world's most exciting city never fails to disappoint.

Irish Independent

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