Monthly Archives: May 2010

On romance

What do you want in your chicklit?

My needs are simple. I want to not think the heroine is a drip.

I want her to have a life and a brain. I want her to have friends that I’d hang out with. I want to fancy the dude. I want to find their conversations compelling and surprising and real.

I want to not want to miss a single word because the whole thing is crafted so delightfully.

I want, oh my GOD I want to laugh. And of course, I want an emotionally satisfying, optimistic happy ending. (With most chicklit – mine included – you can usually guess she’ll end up happy in some form or other. I don’t mind knowing the destination as long as I enjoy the journey.)

What I don’t particularly want is romance.

You see, I forgot my book on the way home to London from Cork last night, so I had to pick one up at the airport. I wanted a chicklit book, but there wasn’t much choice, and I’d read quite a few of the good ‘uns, and finding one that I thought would do all that… God, it was a nightmare.

I spent what felt like hours picking up book after book with covers jammed with flowers/hearts/stars/shoes/jaunty foot kicks/script font/cartoons (I try to look past the covers now, for reasons that are a whole other blog post and probable shitstorm), and turning it over to read the blurb. Every single one boasted about romance. And that’s just not what I’m after.

Perhaps I’m callous. Maybe I’m the only one who wants a little bite with her chicklit, who doesn’t want something overtly sentimental. I’m not a particularly romantic person. I don’t like long walks on the beach, slow dancing or the opera. I didn’t love The Notebook*. I will never watch Marley And Me. I don’t like Audrey Hepburn films, especially Breakfast At Tiffanys, or teddy bears holding hearts or surprise picnics with chilled white wine at dusk on Hampstead Heath. That sort of romance is just too contrived for me. It’s predictable, and a bit annoying. Surprise me with a romantic picnic and about three minutes later I’ll be bored, dying for a wee and the grass will be making my legs itchy. I’d much rather go to that bar around the corner and have a real drink.

Romance is boring.

But love is awesome.

And I do want to read books about love. I LOVE love. Real love. Falling in love, and love at first sight, and second-chance love. And I crave books about that giddy, exhilarated, almost unbearable full-of-joy feeling that you get when you realise that the person you know and love more than anyone else in the world knows and loves you even more.

Why is that so hard to find?

The morning after our wedding last month we lay in bed, ate smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, and gossiped about the night before whilst half-watching A Fish Called Wanda. (Kevin Kline! So awesome.) It was brilliant and funny and silly and intimate and deeply satisfying. Everything I think love should be. But was it romantic? Fuck, no.

In the end I bought Jane Fallon’s Foursome, by the way. The blurb said nothing about romance and someone on Twitter said it was funny.

*I did, however, cry at The Notebook, but not at the romance bits. I do cry at quite a lot of things. Brothers and Sisters fucking slays me, every episode, even though I only started watching it when editing The Dating Detox as I thought it wouldn’t distract me. I seem to cry at Glee a surprising amount. And once I cried when I saw a very old man posting a letter. But that is different from romance. Oui?

On New York

So as the plane approached Heathrow after almost a month of wedding fun in New York and Anguilla, I decided to start writing a list of my favourite places in Manhattan.

Now! I’m not a New York expert, just an enthusiast. And I won’t even try to sum up the best places to go when lists like do it so much better, particularly since there are more restaurants in Manhattan than you can poke a breadstick at. I’m just going to tell you my favourites.

After all, it’s hard to get a bad meal in New York – but why take the risk?

We’ve been about six times in the past year and about once or twice a year before that, so I’ve got quite a few favourites to share.

Clearly, I love New York.

I should just move there.

I probably will.

Right. I won’t bore you with obvious things like the Boathouse in Central Park or the Rose Bar in the Gramercy Hotel or Clinton Bakery on the Lower East Side as every guidebook in the world will tell you about them (and they are awesome, it’s true). Instead, these places were all found by a very enjoyable process of trial and error.

DBGB: Bizarre-but-wonderful sausages, the paleron carbonnade was to die for and I WILL be back to taste the peanut-butter-and-jelly-chocolate-cake. Potentially the best meal I’ve eaten in my entire life. Apparently a new Daniel Boulud restaurant is opening at the Mandarin Oriental here in London. I could skip with happiness.

The Monkey Bar: Ahh so cool and (new) old school. I came over all MadMen when I was there. Exceptional burger. I’ll be back here ASAP.

The Bowery Hotel Courtyard: drink beer, read a book and smoke cigarettes with just a neglected graveyard to look at. A tiny, peaceful oasis practically smack-bang in the middle of downtown Manhattan.

The Cupping Rooms: The best brunch in Soho IMHO. The menu is the size of my johnson.

Bonbonniere: Grubby diner, amazing pancakes.

Bill’s Bar & Burger: It’s brand new, but looks old. If you can forgive that, just enjoy the burgers and fries.

The Soho Grand Lobby Bar – okay, I’m biased, this was the hotel all our wedding guests stayed in, and I’ve spent a lot of time there. But the bar is all understated, dusky sexiness, with cocktails that will make you weep with boozy joy. Also, one of the hi-how-are-you guys is a third culture kid like me, so he deserves a shoutout just for that. (Hi Brendon!)

Westville: Great everything. The sweet potato fries are amazing. Why don’t we have them in London?

Paul’s. Greasy little place, unchanged for decades by all accounts, with truly awesome burgers and shakes.

Bar Griffou: Any bar that has a cocktail called the Trophy Wife is a winner.

Commerce: Damn, I like this place. Flattering soft yellowy lighting, great food, interesting menu, lovely waiters, chichi buzz. Will be going back for brunch.

Public: Small but perfectly formed menu with a sprinkling of Asian-Australian magic. And the guava-chili margaritas are sick.

Torrisi: I think this might be the best coffee in New York, and you know that I’m obsessed with coffee. The sandwiches are extraordinarily good, and apparently dinner is excellent too.

La Esquina: The walking-through-the-kitchen thing is, obviously, thrillingly stupid and stupidly thrilling, but the food is amazing. The tequila menu is frightening.

Liquiteria: Okay, so pre-wedding I was on a health kick but I think I’d come here for the amazing jucies, smoothies and wheatgrass shots even if I wasn’t.

Brinkley’s: This place always lets us in for drinks at 2am and that is reason enough to like it. Also you’re guaranteed a seat and my heels are always hurting by that point.

The White Horse and Spring Lounge: you will meet future best friends at these bars.

Aside from the obvious big New York stores like Sephora/Bergdorfs, this is my pick of the US-only high street and smaller independent stores: Club Monaco, Rag & Bone, Ricky’s, Fabulous Fanny’s Frames, Aedes de Venustas, CO Bigelow, Steven Alan, McNally Jackson Books, MOMA Store, Economy Candy, Greenwich Letterpress, Calvin Tran, Moscot.

Hair salons… dude, there are hundreds of great ones. But I get my highlights done by Lola at Space Salon. She. Is. The. Best.

Brazil Bronze gives the most incredible spray tans in da world. Seriously. I am perfectly nutbrown even though I’ve worn SPF50 almost every day since I was, like, born.

And lastly, you can get particularly great manipedis at Dashing Diva in Gramercy.