It may be jam-packed and jumping at night when fashion week and media launches take over, but the terrace is a lovely, peaceful nook over breakfast. It’s like a wintergarden with ferns, old wicker furniture and enclosed balcony alcoves.

New York is so intense that Sheira and I found it awesome to literally rise above it all and get great city views. The BREAKFAST buffet is REALLY GOOD, with the usual fruit, eggs, cereals and toast;  trapped in the sunshine amongst the greenery is a great way to start the day. We also enjoyed tucking away there one afternoon for a steak sandwich and glass of wine.

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Even in a city as changing and fast-paced as New York this traditional French bistro, right down to the etched glass doors and old-fashioned booths, is still a favourite with New Yorker players who want the artier, downtown version of a power breakfast.
It is right on the edge of Soho, less than a 15-minute walk from the Bowery Hotel. There was a time where you had to beg, borrow and steal to get a table but over the years it has reached a more manageable ‘very busy.’ The buzz, décor and French seriousness about food all create a sense of occasion - people come here for the occasion. I tried their unusual egg- in - puff pastry breakfast with plenty of sides like caramelized shallots and my usual bacon.

Even though we chose breakfast the menu changes throughout the day and looks great for lovers of French cuisine (it’s a bit rich for me; I tend to eat clean and healthy, saving my blow outs for pasta in Italy). The Balthazar kitchen is known for the Seafood Bouillabaisse and bistro classics like Bar Steak with Pommes Frites and Duck Confit. Apparently shoppers indulging in a little Soho retail therapy slide into the booths all day for afternoon bites like the Caramelized Banana Ricotta Tart. The food keeps coming all the way to late-night supper.

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Balthazar| 80 Spring St, New York, New York | +1 212 965-1414 | View web site
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One of the waitresses at Balthazar plus Sydney friends that we had bumped into there, tipped us off on this eatery for lunch! It is at the end of a small back lane near Rivington Street on the Lower east Side - the immigrant area below Houston that was traditionally the province of pickle barrels and kosher grocers and is now the new, kooky neighborhood frontier. If you just walked past you would never work out it’s there: there is a men’s shirt shop called Freemans right in front, and the restaurant is tucked away in the back lane.

The moose heads on the wall and quaint cottage style suit the ‘American traditional’ menu with country house style food - wild-boar terrine, a fat lamb-sausage patty, cheddar cheese toast. It’s one of those too-cool-for-school, secret jokes that New Yorkers love being in on (you can also get a great burger and homemade fries). The maitre d’ was suitably horrified when I pulled out my camera but once we engaged with her she put in a good 20 minutes filling us in on her fave New York places. Maybe she figured, if we found them around so many corners, we deserved to know more!
WELL WORTH THE VISIT.... had a real fun light happy feeling, and an interesting mix of people.

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Freemans| End of Freeman Alley, New York, New York | 1-212 4200012 | View web site
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When we made our first trip out into the burbs there was something we just had to try - the legendary New York steaks. Our guide, Cliff confirmed what we had already heard from friends - that even hard to budge Manhattanites make the trip over the bridge to eat at Peter Luger’s, which is known for having the best Sirloin Strip and Porterhouse anywhere.

There is a real sense of ritual about this place.There are special weighers who select their prime aged steaks by colour, appearance and marbling. But
we loved the honest simplicity as well. Huge, thick slabs of steak or beef burgers are served home cooking style with German fried potatoes and creamed spinach; the steakhouse has beams, scrubbed wooden floors and beer stein decorations. And yes, they were absolutely juicy and delicious.
Boisterous customers sharing a steak for four as a special occasion mixed happily with neighborhood regulars who have been coming here forever. Definitely worth the trip to Williamsburg.

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Peter Luger Steak House| 185 Broadway, Brooklyn, New York | 1-718 387 3523 | View web site
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While the Bowery Hotel has a great, laidback wood-paneled bar scene, no one has to go hungry. This Italian brasserie is pumping all day. We loved the hotel atmosphere and this was the icing on the cake. It’s fresh, rustic, with brass railings and no-nonsense Italian musts like cold meats, regional cheeses, wood-fired pizza and pasta. There are lots of jovial, young brunch groups that seemed to melt into lunch, adding an infectious energy to the atmosphere. After walking around Soho or the Upper East Side all day, a light bite and drink became our ritual.I loved hanging out at GEMMA, and my biggest problem was a toss-up between moving to the bar in the Bowery Hotel, or stay at GEMMA and watch the work crowd fill the restaurant after dark. 

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Gemma Restaurant - The Bowery Hotel| 335 Bowery New York, NY 10003, New York | +1 (212) 505-7300 | View web site
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We had heard about Pastis even before arriving in NY!

My first morning run from THE STANDARD HOTEL in The Meatpacking District, I ran straight passed this French Bistro. The exterior of the building even at 8am in the morning caught my attention. The light brick, low rise building, red signage was calling us to have dinner one night.

It is open from 8 am to 2.30 am and has 5 designated menus. The menu combines authentic French dishes with a relaxed bistro style. The bar serves as the meeting place for Manhattan's after hours', and those waiting for a table.

We made a reservation for dinner through our hotel concierge. We were meeting a NY couple that are close friends of ours.
While waiting for them to arrive, we had a drink at the lively, buzzing bar. The energy in the room was quite electric! it was really busy and even getting to the counter to order a drink required skill !

It took a lot longer than we thought to be seated as it was so so busy, but this was one time we were not in a hurry. We ordered a glass of house wine and local beers, as none of us are big drinkers.

The service was excellent once we had been seated. The food came in really good time. We began sharing a few different salads...Sheira had a goats cheese salad, followed by the "steak frites", and I had the roasted chicken with mushrooms, onions and bacon (called the Grand Mere).

Standing outside the restaurant at midnight, has such a NY vibe to it ! The doorman and valet are working their trade. The smokers outside the restaurant are deep in conversation with each other. This is a hip iconic eatery we were happy to have finally eaten at.

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Pastis| 9th Avenue , New York, New York 10014 | + 212 9294844 | View web site
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Star chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten became famous for his rock star dish uptown at the Trump Tower Hotel - a slow cooked egg and caviar appetizer - but we don’t really follow the trendy gourmet trail. We stumbled on his well known downtown venture, built around Southeast Asian street food culture, purely by accident in the Meatpacking district. The delicious smells and exotic décor were so exiting we just went with it.

The massive, cavernous warehouse space is covered in carved wood and Buddhist temple motifs and warmed up with glowing, red lighting. There is lots of amazing embellishment to catch your eye, with wall murals and marble everywhere. The rich oriental mix of flavours totally lived up to the name, and the kitchen was really creative and accommodating, working around Sheira’s gluten and dairy dietary taboos by coming up with variations on their large menu.

We loved seeing the kitchen staff in action, with all the controlled shouting and bustle over the steaming woks. We trusted them to just bring us a real feast of signature dishes, like steamed crab dumplings in spiced oil with lime and sweet chili; unbelievable crab cakes with bean, coriander and coconut milk, raw shaved tuna in coconut broth. The food here has all those pungent, quintessentially Thai, Malaysian tastes - sometimes sampled in a new way, as with the lemongrass sorbet. They had these wonderful, robustly flavourful dipping sauces made with cucumber, coriander and chili.

The US, being a tipping culture, is known for staff that goes out of their way and our waiter was a prime example. His accent and demeanour was full-on New York; he really reminded me of the actor from the Apple ad.

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Spice Market| 403 West 13th Street, New York | 1-212 675 2322 | View web site
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Some say that the best Manhattan views are actually off the island, looking back. Visiting this famous café confirms that Brooklyn actually has the best Manhattan views! You get an amazing hit: the beautiful span of the Brooklyn Bridge and that unmistakably glamorous New York City skyline. It’s a no-brainer that this spot has seen a lot of wedding proposals.

Normally, Sheira and I are wary of restaurants with stellar, famous views as it can take the focus off the food: they have a guaranteed audience no matter what they serve. But I hear that you can have a great meal here, we just didn’t have time. The menu is American classic: with staples like rack of lamb, lobster and a healthier goat cheese cheesecake. You pay rent for those views though - the prix fixe menu is around $98.

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The River Cafe| 1 Water Street, Brooklyn, , New York | 1-718 522 5200 | View web site
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There is also a huge culinary variety in all the quaint little restaurants of Greenwich Village. We could spend weeks just eating our way thought this neighbourhood! Friends who live there nominate two of the cutest as their favourites - Casa in Bedford Street for amazing, homemade regional Brazilian food and Mary’s Fish Camp on Charles St where the lobster rolls, sardine sandwiches and white anchovy bruschetta are so fresh that there are lines around the block. Café Angelique is a nice pitstop for giant glass mugs of tea that come with equally generous cloth bags.

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Mary’s Fish Cafe| 64 Charles St (between 4th St & Bleecker St), New York | (646) 486-2185 | View web site
Casa| 72 Bedford Street, New York | +1 212 366 9410 | View web site
Café Angelique | 68 Bleeker St, 68 Bleeker St, New York | +1 212 475 3500 | View web site
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We don’t really chase the ‘it’ places. Sometimes we simply seek out what tastes great and is iconic to that area, which has nothing to do with trends. What we love about diners is their classic American appeal - they serve great value, family food in an atmosphere that’s like a trip back to 1950s Americana; the neon signs haven’t changed in three generations. You can always count on the bitter waitress, the massive menus, the overstuffed corn beef and pickle sandwiches and chicken soup.

The Stage Deli was a great place to grab supper after the theatre, when the crowds spill out on the streets and the neon-lit streets are still buzzing.
We had a hearty meal for two and still saw change from 35 bucks.

Friends told us about The Empire Diner way over West on 10th Avenue in Chelsea, which we didn’t get to. I love the look though - it’s like a classic 1930s, deco style dining car (they were hugely popular in the US from that period). The long, narrow restaurant has old style chrome bar stools, booths, even a pianist at night - and classic brunch food like buffalo wings with blue cheese dip and brownie sundaes. Kids love it but the diner’s 24 hours policy and low lighting attracts all kinds of nocturnal traffic like clubbers as well.

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The Empire Diner| 210 10th Avenue # 1, New York NY 10011, New York | 1-212 243 2736 | View web site
The Stage Deli| 834 7th Avenue (between 53rd and 54th), New York | +1 212 2457850 | View web site
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G-d only knows what’s in them, but nothing fast-tracks you back to a New York state of mind like a hot dog from one of the city street vendors. We caved in on 5th Ave, just to say we were officially back! The fluffy white bun and juicy frankfurter, with lashings of ketchup and mustard, is such a perfect marriage of flavours that everyone - from street smart kids in hoodies to the Wall Street millionaires - have them for lunch. There is an urban myth that the guy with the simple silver hot dog cart outside the famous Met museum pays a $1 million a year for that spot. There’s nothing like a little low-brow, instant gratification after taking in centuries of art - and the museum is surrounded only by mansions and quiet streets - so if it’s true I bet he turns a great profit!Did I say that a back to back hot dog is not uncommon for me ? They taste just so darn good.....

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While window shopping in Soho, we saw this amazing little hole in the wall on Spring Street (near Mercer) that sells visually striking, incredibly flavoured cupcakes - in miniature at $1 a pop. Very clever because they look so adorable and it’s hard to resist just the baby version. Each one is better than the last (as if anyone can ever stop at one): cookie dough, tie-dye, cookies & cream and red velvet.

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Rice to Riches is a slightly futuristic looking takeaway bar which sells unconventional rice puddings in every conceivable flavour like cream caramel with titles like ‘sex, drugs and rocky road,’ ‘rest in peach’ and ‘fluent in French toast’ and the obscenely large category 5 caramel. This company has a real sense of fun. As I prefer to keep moving in the daytime when exploring big cities I love places like this where you can pop in, refuel with the locals and keep going.

A much healthier option is WHOLE FOODS on Houston and Bowery: a massive organic supermarket with a buffet of every conceivable salad, vegetable and meat dish that they weigh for you. It was a huge hit with Sheira as she could stock up on aisles worth of gluten and dairy free products (that are usually tucked away in an obscure corner, if at all).

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Rice to Riches| 37 Spring Street, between Mott and Mulberry St , New York | +1 212 274 0008 | View web site
Whole Foods| 95 East Houston St (near Bowery), New York | +1 212 420 1320 | View web site
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