Richard is the perfect guide to New York: he was born in Oklahoma, a classic immigrant from the heartlands. Richard looks disgusted; there is really no such thing any more, no one has the dough or the expenses. In the last couple of years 40, jobs went on Wall Street; tables at restaurants where you could not get a reservation if you sold your mother for it - Lutece, the Four Seasons, the River Cafe - can be had the same day; celebrity chefs, sans jobs, have crept away back to France, or New Jersey, and nobody cares what nationality lettuce they eat.
A hawk for glamour, however, I persist. And why do all these places have names like entries in the Eurovision Song Contest? And what's wrong with Boom, anyway?
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We settle on Felix. The corner of Grand and Broadway, which was recently the cheap end of SoHo, has been frenchified. Also, up the block, is Abyssinia. Felix is athrob. I eat onglet. This tasty, chewy chunk of hanger steak is the food most frequently chewed by the most expensive teeth in town. We are transfixed by the homunculus at the door, all in white, his martini glass held aloft, his pants falling down.
The starched jeans have dropped to reveal the waistband of his Fruit of the Loom underpants. Most of all, Gotham goes to the movies. In line for Batman, three fat girls discuss Aids and hair. AFTER a miserable morning with city bureaucrats over a lost tax form, I cool my temper among the splendours of the courts down by Foley Square - all that statuary, all those wood-panelled courtrooms, the epic murals, the marble, the lawyers shooting the breeze with agents making two- picture deals for the hood of the month. I walk to Little Italy for bread. Prince Street, east of Broadway, smells of pizza where old men snooze in the shadow of the convent.
At Joe's Dairy, the old lady in cracked bedroom slippers cannot get out of her chair now; instead, her grandson ladles up the mozzarellas dripping, milky and unguent, from the vats. He is a sulky fat boy, as if he had sucked up entire cheeses into his chin and cheeks. At the Greenmarket on Union Square, where farmers and fishermen flog homemade goat cheese and fresh lobsters, a notice in Spanish says you can purchase lobsters with your food stamps. Some of the sidewalks are literally six inches deep in garbage.
But there is a family coming out of church after a christening; the baby is in beautifully embroidered robes. Even here, an aspirant flicker remains, the faintest footnote to a city which, at the beginning of the century, built its subways two stops farther than anyone needed to go. There is a street fair. In a debonair suit, a middle-aged man sits at a card table with a bottle of Johnny Walker and keeps time to the music with his glass.
The signs are all in Spanish. Just before I leave New York, replicas of the Santa Maria, the Nina and the Pinta sail into the harbour, part of a 4 July flotilla, part of an October celebration of the th anniversary of Columbus. They are exquisitely frail, these politically incorrect little ships, against the New York skyline. Columbus never made it to New York. Giovanni da Verrazzano was the first white settler. Arriving in , he wrote: 'We found a very agreeable place between two small but prominent hills; between them a very wide river, deep at its mouth, flowed out into the sea.
The river was the Hudson. The natives he saw were 'dressed in birds' feathers of various colours and they came toward us joyfully, uttering loud cries of wonderment'. Chinatown: Most places have OK food. Look for games arcade with the chicken who plays tick-tack-toe noughts and crosses with you the chicken always wins. Dozens of restaurants serve nourishing, spicy, oily food, lots of it; mostly the ambiance is better than the food. Best of kind: Il Cortile, Mulberry Street. Two festivals, San Gennaro in the autumn as seen in Godfather II and St Anthony's in the late spring, provide Italian street life, complete with nostalgia and heartburn.
Hotels: The Carlyle - the best: a suite on Central Park is the very best, but you need a sugar daddy for this. The Royalton - decor by Philippe Starck, pie-eyed Brits at the bar, very chichi, but the single rooms can be very small. The Algonquin - for literary wannabes to reminisce about the good old days. Recently purchased and refurbished by the Japanese. Hotel Chelsea - for rock wrinklies. This is where Sid Vicious allegedly stabbed his girlfriend to death. THE place to try. On and around the river: South Street Seaport.
Brooklyn Bridge bike and foot path. Staten Island Ferry. The Circle Line a three-hour, dollars 16 boat trip that goes around Manhattan island, leaving from Pier The Intrepid Museum the old battleship has vintage fighter planes, etc. Riverside Park. The Boroughs.
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Eating in Brooklyn: The River Cafe Water Street where the food is expensive and good and the views are spectacular - a fish-eye look at New York see below. There is also an outdoor terrace for beer and burgers. Yankee Stadium. Also: the weird, the hip and the ugly. Canal Street: art supplies at Pearl Paint; fake Rolexes, fake Chanel, cheap electronics, those gold knuckle-dusters. Cafes for snacks, and places that won't break the bank: Second Avenue - Jewish Deli for best pastrami etc with Gorby on the roof.
The Savoy, Floren in the meat market where Fatal Attraction was filmed for good meat, eggs only at off-hours. Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station.
Da Silvano, Union Square Cafe. Sparks Steak House for great wine, great meat, plus mythic mob history - the place where John Gotti had Paul Costellano rubbed out. Elaine's - the setting for celebs, the opening scene of Manhattan. Yaohan Plaza, Edgewater, New Jersey. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists?
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