I took a wobbly route down from W 30th Street to Greenwich Village and Christopher Street.
The early morning sun was strong enough to convince me I didn’t need the umbrella L offered me from the small armoury he kept in the cupboard by the door, but by the time I reached the Hudson River, chunky violet clouds were beginning to roll towards Manhattan.
By now I was on Christopher Street, the epicentre of the gay village, and I dropped into a small cafe for a rest. There were a couple of arty types huddled over a screenplay, a yummy mummy on her mobile and a pair of construction workers. Alas, no sailors, Indians or leather clones, so I ordered a coffee, and let a waitress talk me into having a toasted bagel (she didn’t have to try too hard): a lovely, crisp yet doughy indulgence that seems to be one of those things ubiquitous here yet considered a bit niche at home. Heading east, I hopped on a bus going uptown as the first few raindrops hit the sidewalk. L had thoughtfully provided me with a week-long travel pass good for busses and subways.
The Manhattan Mall provided a little shelter, and I let myself be persuaded to browse the suits in a ‘buy one, get two free’ offer. Shop assistant Jimmy tried to flatter me (‘You’ll need a 40 medium,’ he tried to insist, though you’d have to be an Oompa Loompa to think of me as anything other than short), until reality prevailed, and I ended up choosing between a few suits for ‘little guys’ as Jimmy was forced to concede.
I took advantage of the free wifi in the Rockefeller Centre to upload yesterday’s blog and check my emails, walked up as far as Central Park, by which time the rain was getting a bit serious, and I took the subway back to 34th Street, a short walk from L’s apartment.
After a quick snooze – I’m very conscious that to get used to a different time zone, you have to commit – I went out to local Asian-themed cafe Mooncake. A fierce Szechuan-style squid with a side of curried cauliflower made a light and eclectic lunch, and if I got a disapproving look for ordering Amstel at lunchtime, it passed me by.
L had told me to ‘pace lunch – we’re going to a typical New York steakhouse tonight,’ but I couldn’t tear myself away from the cheese counter at Fairway Market. Whatever I thought about American cheese, I was wrong. I asked for ‘the best local cheese you have’ and I wasn’t disappointed – one firm, one soft, I scuttled them back to L’s with a bottle of Root: 1 Pinot Noir, and we forgot the bit about pacing ourselves.
And so, through the driving rain to Wolfgang’s. The cheese turned out to be a good idea, as we weren’t seated until well after our booked time, which is not to pass judgement on the waiters, who were turning over tables with the sort of precision you don’t normally see outside a Formula 1 pit stop. By the time we sat, we had dried out. The place was packed, the bar heaving, the tables crammed into a hot, low-vaulted space that was apparently once the private waiting room of the Astors; some hidden tunnel evidently connected this building to Grand Central Station.
As for the food: very little to say. Simple ingredients – meat, potatoes, spinach – go in. Something amazing comes out. We started with oysters, a dozen fresh little messengers from the sea on ice, fresh as a precocious child. This was swiftly followed by the porterhouse for two, and we managed precisely half of it. My knife went through the meat like a spoon through brie. The place was rammed for a reason, and framed reviews from Italy, France and Greece strongly hinted that people crossed the Atlantic for this sort of thing. I could understand why.
Pudding was out of the question, though a cognac certainly wasn’t and we walked home, me as giddy as a schoolgirl who’s had her first champagne. Argentinian steaks I’ve had, but they didn’t compare. ‘I thought you said that was typical?’ I said to L.
‘Maybe not quite typical,‘ he admitted.
The rain stayed off as we walked back to 30th Street, tomorrow’s lunch in a Wolfgang’s take out bag.