Manhattan, Beyond Broadway Lights

A preliminary prowl through Manhattan's theatre district is the perfect way to warm up to the mad verve of New York City.  
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It is easy to fritter away the hours at Times Square, people-watching. Photo by: Ricowde/Moment Open/Getty Images

The bright lights of Times Square are on every first-time tourist’s list of places to see in New York. True enough, for those looking to indulge, it is possible to locate the heart of New York right here in the Theatre District. In a six-block area, you have the chance to experience a microcosm of all that the Big Apple has to offer—shopping, peppered with photo opportunities; the chance to catch a Broadway show; and for those looking to base their itinerary out of a central location, a high concentration of hotels. Manhattan packs in the drama of NYC, its glamour and its diversity, and its penchant for accommodating an eccentric range of characters. The neat grid system allows sightlines of the towers that make up a hyper-urban skyline. And then there’s the Times Square, with its electric screens, colourful performers (you’ll find everyone from Batman to Pikachu to pose with) and throngs of camera-wielding tourists.

Check into The Chatwal (doubles from $715/Rs51,000, excluding breakfast) on 44th Street. You’ll find yourself in a glossy lobby which features dramatic red accents in a setting that is opulent but tasteful. There’s ample use of wood, leather and chrome in the lobby for an evolved art deco feel. All of the rooms feature suede walls and cupboards that are inspired by suitcases. The rooms are spacious, a rarity in the city. Every year the hotel ties up with a different Broadway show to offer premium seats and backstage access. Ask the concierge to get you tickets to a Broadway show—favourites include The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Wicked. This year, there’s Torch Song. Also a big draw is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which opened in April this year. (Be warned, it’s a two-part show with a total running time of over five hours.) To accommodate the staging, the interiors of the Lyric Theatre were rebuilt, its entrance moved to 43rd Street. For more serious fare, you can ask for tickets to The Lifespan of a Fact (with Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role) and King Lear (actress Glenda Jackson plays Lear).

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The Lion King (left) is one of the longest-running Broadway productions; Manhattan is a seat of old bakeries (top right) and restaurants; The Lyric Theatre (bottom right) on 43rd Street hosts Broadway shows such as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Photos by: Helmut Meyer Zur Capellen/Imagebroker/Dinodia Photo Library (Street), Russellkord.Com/Age Fotostock/Dinodia Photo Library (Bakery), Patti Mcconville/Alamy/Indiapicture (Signboard)

When it comes to adding some gastronomic theatrics to your tour palate, there is no dearth of good restaurants in the area. While most will seat walk-ins, its better to book ahead, especially if you’ve got your heart set on eating at a certain spot. For stunning views of the famed New Year’s ball and the tall buildings that hem in Times Square, make your way to the Knickerbocker Hotel, built by John Jacob Astor in 1906. Over the years it’s been everything from the offices of Newsweek to a garment hub before being converted into a hotel again. From the hotel’s St. Cloud Rooftop Bar, you’ll be able to marvel at the majestic Paramount Building and watch the sunset bounce off the glass windows that make up the facade of some of the newer buildings in the area.

At walking distance is Gabriel Kreuther, which was recently awarded a second Michelin star. Serving French-inspired fare, diners can choose from a tasting menu of four courses, six courses or nine courses. Some dishes you might find interesting are the citrus-cured local fluke with yuzu yogurt, wasabi and cucumber coulis; red wine risotto with confit egg yolk, toasted walnuts and Herbes de Provence fondue; heritage pork tenderloin with Castle Valley Mill’s polenta; and black truffle coulis with sauce barigoule. If you are dining before a theatre show, there’s also a three course menu priced at $115/`8,400. For those seeking lighter fare like salads and simple savouries, ask to be seated in the bar room and enjoy a dish or two while sipping on your favourite tipple. If you’re seeking something less proper, Friedmans, at the Edison Hotel, offers salads, burgers and mains including the most quintessential of New York dishes—pastrami on rye sandwich. It serves up seasonal fare that’s hearty but not pretentious. A must-eat for a lot of tourists, their artichoke dip is the best way to start a meal.

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Wall murals (top) add to the spunk of Manhattan; The Brooklyn Bridge, completed in 1883, connects the NYC boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn (bottom left); Juicy pastrami on rye bread, laced with spicy mustard, is what New York’s signature sandwich (bottom right) is about. Photos by: Adam Eastland/Age Fotostock/Dinodia Photo Library (Mural), Inge Johnsson/Age Fotostock/Dinodia Photo Library (Bridge), Cooke, Colin/Stockfood/Dinodia Photo Library (Sandwich)

Before setting out to explore the rest of the city the next morning, book a spa treatment at The Chatwal’s Red Door Spa. Run by Elizabeth Arden, its offerings include an array of massages (deep tissue, hot stone, cupping) which will lull you into luxurious comfort. Add aromatherapy or a de-stress gel to elevate the experience.

While most people will be enticed by the massive stores and the ever-changing neon displays of Times Square, also reserve the option of walking over to 5th Avenue, where the merchandise is as plush and plentiful. For those looking to shop around Times Square, you’ll find flagships for brands like Express, American Eagle Outfitters, Sunglass Hut and Levi’s around the intersection of Broadway and 7th Avenue.

 

Specials on the Side

Make your way to Jimmy’s Corner, a bar favoured by in-the-know locals. Owned by former boxer Jimmy Glenn, the walls are covered with boxing memorabilia. Drinks are cheap by Times Square standards (beers for $3/Rs216), and fans are known to stop by for a chat with the owner, who still visits regularly.

For those who love their show tunes, Don’t Tell Mama, located on 46th street, is a must stop. Think: a piano bar, restaurant and two rooms for cabaret performances. Broadway stars such as Kristen Chenowith, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Liza Minnelli have been known to frequent and perform here. There’s no cover charge, and once inside, you only need to order a minimum of two drinks. So come with a full stomach and a love for music.

  • Aatish Nath is a freelance writer based in Mumbai. He has written for Time Out Mumbai, Mumbai Mirror, and GQ India.

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