The Definitive Business Travellers' Guide to New York City

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Jun 29, 2018

by LANCE RICHARDSON, Writer

As a maxim, “all work and no play” is basically forbidden in New York, a city stuffed with so many distractions that even the most routine business trip can become a memorable mini-break with barely any effort. Step out of a meeting, peel off the grey suit jacket and this is what you’ll discover: Korean barbecue, custom neon signs, neighbourhood bookshops and a million bodegas (convenience stores) patrolled by the famous bodega cats. You’ll happen upon speakeasies and restaurants high in the sky, Australian coffee shops and parks stuffed with statues of angels and famous European poets. You’ll find, in essence, the whole world miniaturised onto a single island – Manhattan.

It used to be divided into discrete areas: the Garment District for fashion, say, while Wall Street meant finance. In recent years, this neat organisation has exploded; now Condé Nast lives in the World Trade Center and Bank of America Merrill Lynch is up near Times Square. This scrambling can be confusing but it has also made things more exciting. Bars and restaurants are now firmly rooted in areas that were previously reserved for industry. Business and pleasure have never been as easy to mix.

Wine & dine

Coffee pit stop

Taylor St. Baristas

Located just a short walk from Bryant Park in Midtown, Taylor St. Baristas offers excellent Australian-style coffee. Take a seat upstairs for a Brekkie Sanga or grab a lamington with your perfect flat white for a quick taste of home.

33 East 40th Street 

Breakfast meeting

Norma’s

The rumours are true; Norma’s does offer a lobster frittata garnished with Sevruga caviar for an eye-watering $US2000, daring you to “expense this” on its menu. But that’s where the gimmicks end. Located in the Parker New York building, this elegant restaurant has become a favourite for power breakfasts, with deals struck over award-winning potato pancakes. The servings are enormous, the service is impeccable and reservations are accepted, which means never having to waste time waiting for a table.

119 West 56th Street

Dining alone

Buvette Gastrothèque

Tucked away in the West Village, Buvette is the kind of neighbourhood joint that makes you immediately feel like a local. Bring your laptop or a book then find a seat in the snug dining room and order the best coq au vin in the city. 

42 Grove Street

Business dinner

The Modern

The Modern strikes the perfect balance with a serious meal that is also deeply pleasurable. Housed, as its name suggests, in The Museum of Modern Art, the dining room is spacious enough that the tables possess their own bubbles of privacy, though there are separate rooms for groups. The food (as well presented as the art upstairs) has earned the restaurant two Michelin stars so you know you’re in good hands no matter what your guest orders. Oh, and The Modern is “non-tipping” – hospitality is included – so no awkward calculations when the bill arrives. 

9 West 53rd Street

Drinks with clients

Patent Pending

Guide your colleagues into a turquoise booth at Patent Pending, a sophisticated speakeasy-style bar hidden beneath a coffee shop in the NoMad district’s Radio Wave Building, where Nikola Tesla once lived. Most of the cocktails are appropriately themed – Light Me Up, for example – and the space buzzes with exclusivity. If you’re trying to impress, this is the spot.

49 West 27th Street

Between meetings

If you have a couple of hours…

Squeeze in some shopping at one of New York’s newish department stores. Women should head to the marble-and-glass palace of Barneys Downtown (101 7th Avenue), which is a less crowded version of the Madison Avenue classic. Men can make their way to the Nordstrom Men’s Store (235 West 57th Street), which opened this April and offers everything from Topman to $US3760 Givenchy evening jackets.

If you have half a day…

The Museum of Modern Art is justly revered but MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City) is even better. A converted public school, this satellite museum houses extraordinary solo shows and sprawling artist retrospectives. James Turrell’s Meeting – a small chamber open to the big blue sky – is one of the most beautiful site-specific installations in America.

If you have a day…

The Storm King Art Center (1 Museum Road, New Windsor) is an Edenic parkland of green hills dotted with gargantuan sculptures that seem to have fallen from another planet. Catch the Metro-North train from Grand Central Terminal to Beacon then hail a taxi. Take a picnic with you. It’s definitely worth the effort.

If you have a weekend…

With its hydrangeas, Adirondack chairs and private helicopters swooping over sandy beaches, few places have achieved the prestige (and notoriety) of the Hamptons. Houses here will set you back millions but a two-day mini-break can be achieved for a more modest amount. Check in to the stunning Topping Rose House (1 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike), a restored 1842 mansion complete with a pool, gardens and Lexus cars “for your convenience”. Then head out to explore the neighbouring hamlets, which are filled with bookshops, fashion boutiques and antique shops. Try the clambake at Bay Kitchen Bar (39 Gann Road, East Hampton) or wander down an alley behind Polo Ralph Lauren for the lobster tacos at the Blue Parrot (33a South Main Street, East Hampton). Be sure to drive to the end of Montauk Point to appreciate the lighthouse. 

Switch off

Find peace at New York Zendo (223 East 67th Street), which has been restoring the inner equilibrium of Manhattanites since 1968. The quiet temple offers daily zazen (“sitting zen”) and chanting services, though newcomers should drop by for an introductory class on Thursday evening. No experience necessary.

Walter De Maria’s The New York Earth Room (141 Wooster Street) is exactly what it sounds like: a room filled with 197 cubic metres – or 127,300 kilograms – of dirt. De Maria’s installation has sat there for decades and is one of the city’s stranger spectacles but it’s also wonderful – a calming oasis in the urban bustle.

Best known for its Water Lounge, the Great Jones Spa (29 Great Jones Street) is a luxurious retreat offering day passes to the sociable pools and a range of treatments, from waxing to an Italian blood-orange sea-salt scrub. The signature massage combines hot stones, hot towels and aromatherapy – New Yorkers like to have it all.  

Best co-working space

New York is stuffed with co-working spaces but most demand annual memberships. An exception is The Farm SoHo (447 Broadway), which offers a $US25 day pass to use the communal desks or seven days for $US100.

New hotel

The stylish and well-located Whitby Hotel (18 West 56th Street) has 86 rooms and suites in Kit Kemp’s crafty style that is simultaneously modern and classic. The Orangery event space, with its porcelain pots and embroidered chairs, is a true knockout.

SEE ALSO: The Best Free Things to do in New York