Five New York favourites

A good bed, great coffee and stars on stage. Among other tings.

The Jane Hotel

If you like to stay at hotels with cream-colored interior, a sumptuous breakfast buffet and large orchids in the lobby, this is not the place for you. But if you, like me, would like to live in a Wes Anderson movie, then The Jane is just perfect. Don’t expect a hassle-free stay – I experienced one water leak and a completely erratic radiator when I slept here last week – but the charm and character of this place make you overlook all that.

This might be the only hotel in the world where I can actually afford the most expensive room. The Captain’s cabin is the larges room category at The Jane and the only one with a private bathroom. Photo: The Jane Hotel

Besides, 150-250 dollars a night is pretty reasonable for a centrally located hotel in Manhattan two blocks from the Whitney Museum and The High Line in one of the city’s loveliest neighbourhoods. If you don’t mind sharing a bathroom, it’s even cheaper. The Jane was once a home for sailors, and the smallest rooms are still furnished like small cabins, but even they have bathrobes, slippers and bathroom products from local apothecary C.O. Bigelow. The rooftop bar (pictures above) is one of the best in the city. And if your legs get tired, borrow one of the hotel’s rickety bicycles and rattle your way across the cobbled streets of Greenwich village, totally free.

The Ethel Barrymore Theatre

When I was a child and imagined what a theatre should look like, it was pretty much like The Barrymore. Plush, gold ornaments and huge chandeliers is what it’s all about, but today this Broadway institution is just as famous for being the stage where stars come to play. It was here that Marlon Brando did his memorable turn in A Streetcar Named Desire in 1947 (an experience so exhausting that Brando never played theatre again) and it was here that Philip Seymour Hoffman did his last role on Broadway in Death of a Salesman in 2010,  just two years before he died.

Marlon Brando and Jessica Tandy in Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire in 1947. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s The Death of A Salesman, directed by Mike Nichols i 2012. Phto: The Schubert Organization

Until mid-March you can see Cate Blanchett starring in a play written by her husband Andrew Upton, based on one of Anton Chekhov first literary attempts. The play was reportedly found in a safety deposit box after the authors death and never performed in his lifetime. When you see the piece, one thinks that it should perhaps have been left in the box, but then all the actors are phenomenal and Upton delivers some really great lines. Besides: How often do you get  to see Cate Blanchett dancing on the table in front of your very eyes while she pours vodka over herself?

Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh and their colleagues at the The Sydney Theatre Company throw a party on stage in The Present at The Barrymore until March 19th. Photo: Joan Marcus

La Colombe Coffee Roasters

This was a new discovery that I did on my way to attend lectures at New York University this month, traveling with fellow students from BI. Every morning I walked past the Lafayette Street branch of the coffee company that originates in Philadelphia, and which is the kind of place where coffee is not just coffee, but art and culture.

The Lafayette Street branch of La Colombe right next to New York University. I had to stick my nose in and the smell of coffee won me over.

“America deserves better coffee” is the chain’s credo, and after hearing several disillusioned media professors talking through the week it was great to see such determination on behalf of the coffee bean. La Colombe has eight branches in New York, a gift to those of us who aren’t wild about Starbucks. Believe me, the brew you get served here is infinitely better.

La Colombe originates in Philadelphia now have cafes in Boston, Chicago and New York. The cups, on the other hand, are hand painted in Italy. Photo: La Colombe

The Morgan Library

Morgan is one of those names which seem to pop up when you walk around New York, much like Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie and Astor. Wealthy families that over several generations have played a great part in building the city both literally and culturally. Pierpont Morgan was a rich banker who lived with his family on Madison Avenue and gradually built up a collection of books and art so large that he had to build a separate house for them.

11. East Room_South East View
Mr. Morgans main library houses books from the 16th to the 20th Century. The stairs that lead up to the mezzanine are hidden behind the walnut book shelves. Photo: The Morgan Library

The library is completely over the top and cozy at the same time, and next to it lies Mr. Morgan’s office, also filled with books and with walls clad in red damask. In 2006, an expansion was added to the museum curtesy of architect Renzo Piano, which tied together the buildings and added four new galleries. This winter one of the exhibitions are devoted Emily Dickinson’s life and works, which I would have loved to see. Unfortunately, it opened five days after I left.

A portrait of Mr. Morgan himself hangs over the fire place in his study. To the right, Renzo Piano’s extension of the museum. Photo: The Morgan Library

McNally Jackson

This is my favourite bookstore in the whole world. It’s a place where digital algorithms don’t exist – the people who work here know nothing about what I’ve bought before or what I might buy, instead, they highlight their own preferences. I always discover something new, and and I always leave with a small bag of books. The café is a lovely place to read or write, although it gets very full because everyone else thinks it’s lovely too.

McNally Jackson Cafe EBM and Upstairs credit Yvonne Brooks 3591a
McNally Jackson sell books, coffee, pastries and pencils. They also publish your manuscript if you pay them too. Photo: Yvonne Brooks.

The last time I was here and asked about a book I was accompanied into the basement by a very nice lady. Only after I had left did I realise it was the owner, Sarah McNally, who had helped me out. I read recently that companies often lose up to half their profit when the owners leave. The fact that Sarah McNally still sits at the information desk in her own shop may explain why it’s still thriving.

McNally Jackson Cafe credit Yvonne Brooks
The café at McNally Jackson with lampshades made of books. The last time I was here I couldn’t get a table and had to turn around. In other words, not only a favourite of mine. Photo: Yvonne Brooks.

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