If NYC is a city in love with culture and fashion, with food and beautiful spaces, fascinating people and “the next big thing”, it’s fair to say that its current crush is Brooklyn. This is a borough where Mexican cocinas sit happily next to preppy linen stores and artists’ lofts neighbour furniture upcycling workshops. As one of the most diverse and inclusive melting pots in the world, Brooklyn is where it’s at. So, beginning a Brooklyn adventure has to start with the most hallowed of all New York rituals – brunch. Make straight for Aurora in Williamsburg: there, the laid-back locals love their legendary strapazzate con aragosta, a mind-blowing breakfast platter of scrambled eggs and poached Nova Scotia lobster, or go for the apple compote-stuffed brioche French toast with Amarena cherries, candied walnuts, Greek yoghurt and Vermont maple syrup.
If you can move afterwards, it’s on to Concrete + Water, a concept store where you’ll find ABJ Glassworks Prisms and Portland Apothecary essentials along with Brooklyn-made Good Candles and Dieppa Restrepo brogues (concreteandwater.com). Next door is the fabulous Strawser + Smith, best described as a fancy furniture junkyard collection of restored vintage finds and high-end home pieces (strawserandsmith.com). It’s here, too, that you’ll find the Wythe Hotel (wythehotel.com), a more refined kind of accommodation than the neighbourhood probably needs, on super-cool Wythe Avenue. Check into a Manhattan View King Room for a floor-to-ceiling view of Manhattan that won’t be beaten. (PS Irish designer and current expat Petria Lenehan’s collection is sold in the hotel foyer’s pop-up shop, as if you needed another excuse to visit and hang out (petrialenehan.com).
If your zeitgeist radar is on point, you’ll have heard recent whisperings of Bushwick. The parties, burlesque shows and art performances have made it the latest need-to-know neighbourhood and it’s the place that buzzed-about neon artist Robin Clason resides. Her rainbow-bright single-piece designs have captured the new pared-back ethos of the community here (robinclason.format.com). Bushwick’s foodie calling card is simple, back-to-basics fare, as here the vegetarian and vegan populace reign supreme.
Roberta’s (robertaspizza.com) is the most beloved pizzeria in the city, and about the only thing that draws Manhattanites to the ’burbs. The no-frills diner serves up slices of heaven to throngs of hungry visitors. Indulge in their Famous Original beneath the backyard fairy lights and you’ll understand what all of the fuss is about. Meanwhile, the nearby Bunna Café (bunnaethiopia.net) is having a moment of its own. A vegan Ethiopian pop-up-turned-resident restaurant, Bunna’s Indian-esque flavoured veggie plates served up on crêpe-thin naan bread are the current fare of choice. Make sure you co-ordinate your visit with one of their coffee ceremonies, a social experience that is worth the trip to NYC alone.
Speaking of one-off experiences, Urban Cowboy B&B (urbancowboybnb.com) is the kind of eccentric accommodation Brooklyn excels in. The luxury townhouse is decked out in full cowboy regalia, including a cabin, hot tub, pot-belly stoves – the works. Staying here is a cool flavour of Texas on the East Coast. Once you’ve got a taste for rustic charm, check out Brooklyn artist Ariele Alasko (arielalaskaso.com), whose handmade wooden accessories are coveted by the NY elite. Her bold, signature patterned tables, cutlery and wall hangings are the kind of timeless treasures that will enrich any home they inhabit. Another local treasure is the Sunday Suppers movement, founded by Karen Mordechai, whose concept was simple: create a space where local, seasonal produce could be prepared and shared in a beautiful space – and like-minded foodies will come. Four years, a cookbook and a food range (ILĀ) later, the monthly supper clubs are an institution in the neighbourhood (sunday-suppers.com).
Next, check out the hand-carved beauties at Token Surfboards’ Sunset Park workshop; New York may not immediately put you in mind of surf, but these gorgeous boards find their way from Brooklyn to the waves of Rockaway Beach, the West Coast and beyond (tokensurfboards.com). Next, take a trip to Smith Street, where Swallow boutique offers the most unique homewares, from hand-blown glassware and gilded treasure chests to antique candleholders and mismatched ceramics (dearswallow.com). The best way to slip into the local way of life, though, is by staying in one of Brooklyn’s incredible Airbnb pads. Lila’s brownstone apartment in Clinton Hill is cheek-by-jowl with cool bars, buzzy cafés and countless dog-walking New York natives, and her recommendations will ensure you don’t miss a trick (airbnb.com/rooms/2323714).
Before you leave, stop by Brooklinen, the destination for exquisite sheets and linens. New Yorkers take their bedding seriously, so treat yourself to their insanely soft Bedford Smoke Stripe set (from €100, brooklinen.com). What better way to take a little bit of Brooklyn home with you?
Aer Lingus flies from Dublin to New York (JFK) twice daily and from Shannon once a day; aerlingus.com.
By Jo Linehan.
This article originally appeared in the January February issue of IMAGE Interiors & Living.