For the last two years i’ve been living in London as a student. Now, suddenly, i’m not. I am now just another unemployed graduate statistic relishing my freedom (and my newly awarded 2:1) in one of the greatest cities in the world. But not only have I been enjoying London, I’ve also explored and enjoyed the eastern islands of Thailand, the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, and the self proclaimed centre of the world, New York City!
From one amazing city to another, New York is somewhere I can see myself living one day. While a country bumpkin from birth, I have rapidly found myself developing into a city girl. I love the hustle and bustle of a busy city – the high rise buildings, the fast pace lifestyle, the incredible shopping, and of course, the abundance of incredible restaurants, bars, cafes and street stalls. All things that New York and London have. So i’m going to go a little off piste here and share with you my NYC discoveries… but i’ll throw a little bit of London in there for you too. Of course, what else would you expect from a London based blog?
NYC vs LONDON: BREAKFAST
London has the greasy spoon, New York has the diner – already, the battle has been won by NYC. But maybe that’s because breakfast isn’t very popular in London. We’re too busy, or too in love with a bowl of Crunchy Nut to want to begin our days with anything fancier than that. But New Yorkers… they do it properly, and almost make lunch redundant! The Brooklyn Diner on West 57th is the place to go if you’re craving waffles or pancakes. I opted for the Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes which were the “healthy” option, and then got massive food envy as my brother’s Red Velvet Waffle with bananas and strawberries with a side of hickory smoked bacon turned up!
This mountain of waffle and fruit was literally that: a mountain! The kind of portion that would normally be served as a sharing platter in the UK! The fruit was fresh, the waffles were just made and a glorious shade of red (e-numbers for breakfast – what more could you want?) and the fresh fruit juices that we ordered too were the most delicious I have ever tried. Tropicana ain’t got shit on this place!
NYC vs LONDON: MEATY LUNCH!
I’ve been to NYC three times now, and each time I have been told that I MUST eat at the Carnegie Deli! At lunch time there is a queue out the door and around the block to get inside this deli which is famous for freshly made sandwiches, stuffed full to the brim (and then some) with the most succulent meats – pastrami, brisket, ham, bacon, corned beef or even tongue!! So we went, and oh Lordy! I’ve never known a ratio of bread to filling be so extreme! With two thinly sliced pieces of bread comes about a pounds worth of meat! There is no possible way that you could eat it like a sandwich. I had to eat half of the meat (accompanied by a bit of mustard and a pickled gerkin) first before starting on the bread, which I eventually discarded anyway. Having said that… I thought my meal was big… my brothers meal was gargantuant! A brisket sandwich (the bread hidden under the huge pile of meat) and home cooked fried chips (actual chips as we know them, not crisps!) all covered in a thick gravy-like sauce! He was defeated about 3/4 of the way through – something practically unheard of with my brother!
But New York isn’t the only place that can provide a meat feast! Bodeans is my favourite ‘deli’ style restaurant in London – not suitable for vegetarians under any circumstances, perfect for those who love wings, ribs and pulled pork. This restaurant can be found in Soho, Clapham, Fulham and my favourite; Tower Hill; the place is huge, and full of city slickers looking to get their protein fix! The pulled pork burger is delicious, succulent and served with a side of fries, but the best thing to order has to be the combo, with burnt ends, pulled pork, ribs, slaw and fries – filling, probably not that healthy, but absolutely delicious!
NYC vs LONDON: FINE DINING PARK RESTAURANTS
Central Park: 840 acres of hand made park in the centre of New York, and right in the middle is The Boat House; an open terraced restaurant overlooking the lake. A romantic setting, especially at dusk – a peaceful place in the middle of the busiest city. We were given a table next to the lake (prime position) and a waiter who was keen to provide an excellent service. The menu had a wide selection of dishes, including a lot of fresh fish. I chose to start with Yellow Fin Tuna Sashimi, accompanied by Green Apple Pearls, Pickeled Radishes, Tobiko Caviar and Jalapeno Wasabi Vinaigrette – a fresh, sweet and rich dish; perfect! And then my main, recommended to me by our waiter, was probably once of the best curries I have ever tried: Panama Bay Shrimp, Diver Scallop Curry, Coconut basmati rice and a spicy fruit (mango) chutney. The scallops are the biggest I have ever seen in my life – the size of small apples! It took 5 bites to complete one, and I had three on my plate! And the prawns were equally large and sumptuous. The chutney was sweet and refreshing, and the perfect accompaniment to a curry. One of the best meals I have ever had.
London’s large park equivilant, Hyde Park, has it’s own romantic setting restaurant at the top of the Hyde Park Hilton; The Michelin-starred Galvin at Windows run by Michel Roux Jnr. A stunning view over London, great service, a large menu… but mediocre food! Late on a Tuesday night after a night at the Theatre with Josh, the restaurant was no way near as busy as we expected it to be – something that I found to be a little disconcerting for a restaurant with a coveted Michelin-star. It made the place lack the embiance, the buzz you want in a restaurant like this. You want to feel the excitement in the room when enjoying exciting food, but despite one of the best views of London in front of us, the excitement wasn’t quite there. When the food arrived, Josh took one bite of his salmon starter before choosing to return it to the kitchen due to a lack of flavour, replacing it with a nicer dish, but the meal had already started badly. My main course was admittedly very tasty, but in comparison to some other Michelin-starred restaurants we have tried, it just didn’t really live up to our expectations. We were fortunate not to pay full price for our meal thanks to a special offer we had been given, but the bill was still somewhat extortionate for the experience we had. But along with the bill came probably the best part of the meal – a jar of homemade marshmallows that managed to irradicate the slightly bitter taste we had in our mouths. Maybe we should try this restaurant again on a busier night (i’m all for giving second chances) but I have a long list of other restaurants i’ll be trying before I return to this top floor restaurant.
NYC vs LONDON: CUPCAKES
You’ve already read my review on 5 of the best cupcakes in London (if not, do so now!), so you know i’m a bit of a cupcake lover. The cupcake craze swept over London a few years ago, and is still sticking to the lips and hips of many Londoners with no sign of a slow down. But we have one city to thank for this tasty hype: New York City. The Magnolia Bakery is probably the one that started this all, and so a taste was obviously a must! They have a store just around the corner from Rockerfeller Centre, but I got my $3.75 cupcake from Grand Central Station. A very tasty chocolate and vanilla marble sponge with a lighter than air whipped blue buttercream frosting, decorated with a white chocolate commemorative Grand Central Station button and gold flakes. Compare this cupcake with the London winner of my ‘best cupcake’ heats and there is a very obvious similarity. Easy to eat without feeling sick too quickly, sweet and light. But it pains me to say, NYC might just have the edge in this cupcake battle. After all, this is the company that began the mania… it’s only right that they be the pro’s!
Having said this, London still tops the leaderboard when it comes to miniature cupcakes. I was recommended Baked by Melissa, which conveniently happened to have a store around the corner from my hotel on West 58th. They pride themselves in having less than 50 calories per cake, but when you see the size of these cakes, 50kcals seems like a LOT. They are literally just a bite. Don’t get me wrong, a very tasty bite – I bought half a dozen and left it up to my server to choose the flavours. I was treated to Peanut Butter & Jelly, Cookies & Cream, Rainbow Vanilla, Chocolate brownie, Lemon and Chocolate Peanut Butter. The PB&J was probably my favourite, but they really aren’t big enough to get the most of the flavour, and so I think if you’re looking for a little cupcake, Lola’s in London is the place to go.
London will always be my favourite city in the world, and while I loved NYC and would love to live there for a year or two one day, there isn’t anything I have found to prove to me that NYC is the Greatest City in the World over London. To me, they both have incredible positives and a few negatives (for example, NY cabbies literally have no clue where anything is!!) – NY has better cupcakes, London has better meaty lunches, NY park restaurants are a lot better, and while London might not have great breakfasts, Londoners don’t really eat breakfasts, so… that one’s a bit moot. And so, in conclusion… there is no winner in this battle. You can compare these two wonderful cities, but you can’t crown a winner.