14 June 2011

NYC: Brooklyn Abridged

In the two dozen-odd trips I've taken to New York over the past 16 years, most of my forays out of Manhattan have centred around morning runs over Brooklyn Bridge and walks around Brooklyn Heights. I have also been to Williamsburg to shop a couple of times (one unsuccessful as it was 10.30 am and many of the shops don't open until noon). On Sunday, though, we took advantage of the unexpected sunshine and spent most of the day and night across the bridge.

Novelty #1. Walking over the Williamsburg Bridge. It's not quite as stunning as its more famous sister but the views are still good, particularly if you like urban wastelands and/or Lower Manhattan. Oh, and the walkway is pink!

The bridge brought us into an area reminiscent of Château d'Eau in Paris but it was only a short walk to the more gentrified part of town, where residential streets are dotted sporadically with cool bars and friendly cafés. Strolling up Bedford Avenue on a sunny Sunday afternoon is a gorgeous experience. I love the boutiques, like Catbird, the funky coffee bars, like the aggressively hip Verb, and the independent bookshop. It definitely has a much more chilled vibe than Manhattan. We stopped for a coffee and a crack pie, of course, at Momofuku Milk Bar. Both caffeine and cake were yummy.

Novelty #2. Off-off-off-Broadway theatre (off-off-off-Broadway in Williamsburg, that is). At the moment, there are a lot of shows as part of the Comic Book Theater Festival and we chose a "web comic in 3D" called Five Things, which is about a lonely would-be ukelele player girl who gets a cat and a life with the help of her fairy dragmother. It was very sharp and very funny (even if some of the references went over my head — what's wrong with the G train?) and for $15, definitely a better bet than some of Time Out's pricier offerings.

Novelty #3. Cocktails, Brooklyn-style. This week's Time Out had a cocktail special and we picked Huckleberry Bar, a sleek, dark place that had an awesome chilled-out Sunday evening vibe. The barman was very friendly and extremely knowledgeable. My drink — Article 57 — was immaculately mixed, all lemon and ginger and tonic. I stayed well clear of the jalapeño-infused tequila though.

For dinner, we went to Five Leaves, back up the top of Bedford Avenue. It's a small bistro with a low-key ambiance and which seemed to be populated mainly with locals. We sat on a table on the pavement to soak up the hipster vibe (and watch some graffiti artists in action). We started with oysters, which really hit the spot. The menu was filled with lots of interesting dishes that nearly succeeded in tempting even me away from the burger. Not quite, though, and the burger was perfectly medium rare. I couldn't manage a pudding but the affogato, with its local ice cream and coffee, is supposed to be among the best in the city.

Walking back to the L train, we caught a glimpse of the distant Empire State Building — blue, green and yellow, in honour of Caribbean tourism — through the fence of a high school sports field. Manhattan ain't so far away after all.

It was a Sunday so near perfect that it will ensure my return to the wrong side of the river...

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