It's time to get glam. There are a couple of quintessential New York dining experiences that must be had - a diner joint, a rooftop bar, a hot street-side pretzel, and of course casually sipping a Manhattan somewhere that screams celebrity and glamour. There are hundreds of places to do this in New York but for me, the scene to be seen is Beauty and Essex on the Lower East Side (146 Essex St, Manhattan).
New York loves a dramatic entrance to a restaurant, and Beauty and Essex will have you walking through a fluorescent-lit pawn shop of used guitars and gaudy vintage jewellery to be welcomed by a dark, elegant dining space, framed by a stretching circular staircase, crystal chandeliers, beautiful hostesses and the musical vibrations of the cocktail shaker.
Choose a cocktail (it's hard for me to resist the Book Burner, scotch bonnet-cherry infused rum, grapefruit and sour cherry jam) and have it in hand while you peruse the sprawling fusion menu. From the glistening raw bar go for the tuna poke wontons with wasabi kewpie - delicate sea-fresh yellow fin tuna decorated with a piquant wasabi mayonnaise. The New York pretzel from the jewels on toast will have you savouring every mouthful - the ubiquitous New York strip steak is cooked rare and tenderly shaved into slender melt-in-your-mouth strips, brought alive by a sheen of mustard aioli. It's then generously folded onto a golden buttery pretzel and scattered with fried shallots. Grilled cheese and smoked bacon dumplings are bathed in a tomato soup, while Maine lobster in a crispy beer batter and stuffed into a soft taco shell filled with poblano cream and red cabbage is satisfying textures of creaminess and crunch. You could graze for hours on these small plates but the pastas, like a garganelli of spicy veal bolognese dressed in snowy splashes of whipped Little Italy ricotta, shouldn't be missed.
Importantly, Beauty and Essex should also be the first stop on any ladies night out on the Lower East Side. Only in New York would you go to a restaurant where free champagne is being served in the seductive surroundings of the rest room. It's an establishment with serious confidence, a place that proves why this city is so exhilarating and such an exciting place to visit and eat. It's glamorous and sceney and the food is outstanding and to me, the perfect way to experience the intoxicating rhythm of New York City.