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NEW YORK CITY ON THE LEVEL

North, south, east and west, begone. To take a true reading of New York City, look not left and right, but up and down – from an underground music club sunk below the concrete foundations to a wraparound rooftop observation deck, 70 storeys above the teeming sidewalks

Underground

Life beneath New York City’s streets is intimate by default – there’s a heightened intensity to sharing a confined space with strangers, whether the ambience is discreet, or rowdy, casual and energised.

DESCEND INTO THE CELLAR AT ST MAZIE BAR & SUPPER CLUB

The reflection of an antique picture frame glances off a bevelled mirror, and a cluster of girlfriends leans in close across a copper tabletop in the glow of fairy lights. From the distressed cement floors and stone walls to the beamed ceiling and cubbylike corner bar (which seats just four), the Supper Club is like the physical embodiment of a vintage gramophone’s crackle. (The record? Édith Piaf, bien sûr.) While throngs colonise the restaurant’s lively bar and its ground-floor garden in good weather, the Supper Club’s cellar dining room offers an indulgently slowed-down respite from even the steamiest of New York City dog days. Here, parmesan-spiked portobello mushroom risotto (pictured) and herbed porchetta are always in season, the absinthe menu runs six deep, and a late-night DJ set or an intimate flamenco performance might be the nightcap you never expected – and won’t soon forget.

● Mains from £10; stmazie.com

EXPLORE THE NEW YORK SUBWAY

The early shift comes first, in hardhats and boots, snoozing in moulded-plastic seats while the sun summons the will to rise. Later, waves of commuting office workers start to build, and a squirming squad of schoolchildren file through on a field trip. A cheerful a cappella group, made up entirely of senior citizens, weaves its way from car to crowded car. New York’s sprawling, 24-hour subway system runs to its own, frenetic beat. But beyond the bustle and the buskers, glimmers of glamour and hints of history wait to be discovered – albeit often obscured beneath a few dozen layers of grit. Amateur subway historian and professional NYC tour guide Gary Dennis leads tours to bring them to light. Here, a soaring, vaulted, turn-of-the-century colonnade; there, overlooked installations of large-scale modern art by the likes of Milton Glaser and Roy Lichtenstein. Everywhere you turn, pieces of the city’s past hover in the periphery for a keen observer’s eye.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - April 2018
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