I grew up in South Africa, and began my career in Durban before working my way up through the ranks of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and eventually serving as managing director of The Carlyle hotel in Manhattan. It was The Carlyle that brought me to New York originally — Flip Maritz and Lew Wolff, the owners at the time, alongside the Hunt family, offered me the wonderful opportunity while I was living and working in London.
The Carlyle was a pivotal moment in my life where I met some of the most interesting people in the world, including my business partner Chris Burch. It is still close to my heart to this day. When I am in New York, I spend a lot of time there. I love the tradition of the place, the music at Café Carlyle and Bemelmans Bar, the simple elegance and how it exemplifies a feeling of home away from home. It attracts very interesting and eccentric people and has employees that embody that spirit. When you arrive at Bemelmans, be sure to ask for Dimitrios, the manager, to get the best table in the house. Some of my favourite memories there include listening to festive tunes from the iconic Steve Tyrell during the holidays and the late Bobby Short at Café Carlyle, with a side of chicken hash or the dover sole. Jazz singer/pianist Loston Harris plays at the Bemelmans Bar — pure bliss, especially when accompanied by the bar’s sliders.
When in New York, I often start my day with a run along the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park. The 1.58-mile track surrounding it is my favourite destination for a scenic run, especially in spring for the blooming cherry trees and rhododendrons, and autumn for the vibrant changing foliage.
I then take meetings during the day at The Whitby Hotel, in upper midtown Manhattan. I love Kit Kemp’s decor — she has such a unique way of arranging spaces with a colourful and carefree spirit. I like to have my meetings in the drawing room, sitting at a hidden garden table towards the back. It is quieter in the day, with the buzz slowly building in the afternoon and continuing into the evening.
For lunch, I’ll have one of the Whitby’s delicious coal-oven pizzas, and in between meetings I try and walk everywhere, easily clocking up 20,000 steps per day. I often pass some of my favourite shops on my walks, including Belgian Shoes. This store is a New York City institution, showcasing hand-sewn, hand-turned artisan loafers made in Belgium. I love stores that only exist in one place in the world — they are such a rare find these days.
For dinner, I’ll head to Via Quadronno on the Upper East Side — if I had to choose one dish in one restaurant in the world, it would be their San Dona tiramisu. While I’m always on a tight schedule, I make time for what is surely the best tiramisu outside of Italy — it is deconstructed so the mascarpone, espresso and lady fingers are served separately, which means it’s perfect to dip and share. The rye vegetable soup at Via Quadronno is also a must, as well as the caprese panini when on the run. The food here is so consistent, and the produce and bread are of the highest quality.
Some of my other favourite restaurants include Frenchette, a contemporary French bistro in Tribeca, and chef Andrew Carmellini’s Carne Mare, an Italian chophouse that overlooks the East River. Carne Mare offers playful takes on classic dishes (Wagyu strip loin cured with Gorgonzola, for example), and it never fails to delight.
For something more casual, Electric Burrito, an East Village hole-in-the-wall, serves the best California-style burritos. I also can’t resist Shake Shack and remain one of the devotees that stands in line at the original in Madison Square Park, rain or shine. I used to take my son Sterling there when he was a little boy for a malt and burger, and so it’s a special spot that evokes lovely memories.
After dark, my latest spot for evening entertainment is Casa Cipriani, set atop the Battery Maritime Building in the financial district. It is one of NYC’s newest members-only clubs, and its hotel exudes old-world New York with its breathtaking architecture, grand spaces and interiors by Thierry Despont. The jazz bar is absolutely incredible, and no one knows food and hospitality like the Cipriani family, who in 1931 opened the famed Harry’s Bar in Venice.
James McBride is the Partner and CEO of Nihi Hotels, including Nihi Sumba in Indonesia and Nihi Santo Tomás in Costa Rica (opening in 2023)
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