The modern concierge
NYC, New York, USA


Friday 3.30pm Aire Ancient Baths, Manhattan

Back in Tribeca, I’m ready for some relaxation after my exhilarating afternoon on the yacht. So this hideaway spa, located amid the amazing architecture of a former textile factory, is the perfect tonic. It brings together elements of Roman and Ottoman bathing cultures and has six different thermal baths. I put an end to whatever jetlag I have left in the eucalyptus steam bath and a handsome, skilled masseur rubs away my aches and pains.

Friday 6.00pm Gramercy Park, Manhattan

I have a date. It’s with a lovely lady – very unlike me. But she’s absolutely worth it, as she has a key to the only private park on the island. This is a LOCALIKE exclusive. It’s the only travel company with a key and it offers personal tours of the two-acre gardens behind the famous wrought-iron gates. The lady’s tour is an interesting insight into NYC high society. She’s had access to this bit of green since the 1960s, so she has a story (or 10) to tell about what and who she’s seen here. I am sworn to promise that whatever she tells me in the park stays in the park. I twist her arm for some unembargoed stories with the promise of a dirty Martini (it ended up being five) in the Gramercy Park Hotel opposite. The things I can now tell you about Karl Lagerfeld…

Saturday 8.00am The Metropolitan Museum, Manhattan

Nothing beats having one of New York’s breathtaking institutions all to yourself before opening time and, thanks to my contacts at the Met, combined with LOCALIKE’s choice of guide, I get to try the ‘Empty Met’ experience out for size. It’s an exclusive private tour of this stunning museum. What made it extra special was that my guide turned out to be an old friend, Andrew Lear – founder of Oscar Wilde Tours – who provides a unique inside track to the queer treasures of the Met Museum, as well as a fascinating overview of LGBT+ artists and themes from different centuries. Andrew also runs his tours for the general public during Friday’s late opening, but to have him and the museum all to myself was an unforgettable experience.

Uwern Jong, New York, USA
Private show: Uwern Jong marvels at art at the Metropolitan Museum – away from the crowds.

Saturday 10.15am East Harlem, Manhattan

My car picks me up and soon we’re heading north along Central Park into East Harlem, on Manhattan’s east side. I’ve never been as far east as the FDR Drive or as far north as 124th Street, where we cross the water on to Randall’s Island. It was allegedly once a notorious cruising spot for the city’s immigrant population. We traverse the island north to south into Astoria, Queens.

Saturday 11.00am The Steinway factory, Queens

I asked for something quirky – and something quirky I got. Since the 1880s, Steinway pianos have been made here in Queens to serve the North American market. This tour of how a Steinway grand is made, from a selection of wood to its polishing and final tuning provides an insight into the history of industry, music and European migration to Queens. Two-and-a-half hours is maybe a little long, but I like being surprised by something I wouldn’t usually do.

Saturday 1.45pm Rizzo’s Fine Pizza, Queens

My driver makes an off-the-itinerary suggestion. She wants to take me to one of her favourite local pizza joints, just up the road from the piano factory and famous for its square pies. I dive into a slice of Sicilian thin crust. It’s heaven on a paper plate.

Saturday 2.15pm Brooklyn Grange, Brooklyn

‘When this old world starts getting me down and people are just too much for me to face, I climb way up to the top of the stairs and all my cares just drift right into space.’ I sing Carole King’s famous song as I walk up to the largest urban roof farm in the world. Here, vegetables and salads are harvested on almost 2.5 acres of cultivation space. The farm is fascinating and, beyond all the bio-tech, I love the human story of how its president Ben Flanner and his co-founders came together to create all this in the middle of an urban jungle. It just goes to show that you can take the boy out of the country, but you’ll never take the country out of the boy.

Saturday 4.30pm Kinfolk, Brooklyn

As we drive north through Brooklyn, everything becomes more and more gentrified and decidedly hip. The epitome of this is when we pull into Williamsburg, to my next stop, Kinfolk. It’s a café, event space and menswear boutique stocking a number of hard-to-find labels and one-offs, including Maiden Noir, Bedwin & The Heartbreakers, Bleu de Paname, Maharishi and its own label Kinfolk. Many unisex accessories, home goods and vintage pieces are also on offer.

Saturday 5.45pm Pioneer Works Center for Arts and Innovation, Brooklyn

We make a final dash out to west Brooklyn to show me how this whole borough came back into vogue. After years of industrial growth, Brooklyn’s luck changed when the factories shut down. As with many ex-industrial neighbourhoods, the large, cheap spaces made it a mecca for artist communities, who revitalised the area. These days, in neighbourhoods such as Williamsburg and Greenpoint, many of those communities have gone because of over-gentrification. Artists have been replaced by city folk and their custom-built high-end housing. But here in Red Hook, a contemporary-arts project has taken over an 1886 steel factory. Exhibitions, workshops and residencies for emerging artists take place there.

Saturday 7.45pm Aska, Brooklyn

Everyone loves a Swedish chef – and back in Williamsburg, LOCALIKE has scored me an elusive reservation at this two-Michelin-starred restaurant with just 10 tables. At its helm is Fredrik Berselius, the golden child of Scandinavian cuisine. Like everything else in the area, the restaurant is housed in a 19th-century warehouse, but the food is what impresses: genuine, delicious home cooking without unnecessary frills. The perfect place for an aquavit to prepare myself for the night ahead.

Saturday 10pm 3 Dollar Bill, Brooklyn

This is a last-minute throw-in, again from my driver, when I ask her for an in-between bar. She has a look on her face that says she wants to show me a good time. She’s off the clock at 10pm, so she leaves me at this relatively new space, allegedly the largest queer venue in Brooklyn. The brainchild of Brenda Breathnach, who also owns the Phoenix in the East Village, 3 Dollar Bill aims to buck the trend of queer closures in the rapidly gentrifying borough. Located in a former brewery, the cavernous venue is party city by night and art space by day. My phone is taken away and sealed in a plastic bag. I’m a little on the early side, but as the venue starts to fill, I get the feeling that this is a place where anything goes. I instantly make new friends and know this is going to be one of those NYC nights…

Sunday 12.30am Kunst, Brooklyn

This is a collaboration between queen of NYC nightlife Susanne Bartsch and Gage of the Boone (Dreamhouse).I didn’t know who was spinning but the crowd was going wild. The party was also filled with performers and larger-than-life hosts. It was an immersive visual experience unlike any other.

Sunday 1.00pm The Refinery, Manhattan

My driver picks me up with a knowing look on her face as I don my dark glasses. Without prompting, she takes me up to my one stop of the day, designed to help me recover from the night before, up in the Bronx.

Sunday, 1.30pm An Beal Bocht, The Bronx

But first, a little surprise to get me back on my feet. We stop at a queer-friendly Irish café, a local, artsy gem, for an eye-opening caffeine fix. I’m quite sure I saw the owner Richard slip some whisky into my coffee. It worked, though.

Sunday, 2.15pm City Island, The Bronx

This tiny island, only a couple of miles wide is a quaint little seaside escape – the perfect place to nurse my hangover. It feels a million miles away from the Brooklyn warehouses I spent yesterday at. This Bronx fishing village (sounds wrong, doesn’t it?) is full of yacht clubs and waterfront restaurants famous for its fresh seafood. It’s been a whirlwind, but I’ve really had my eyes opened in more ways than one. Thank you LOCALIKE for helping me discover new sides to the city.

Uwern’s bespoke three-day itinerary of New York City was courtesy of LOCALIKE.

Photography courtesy of Tribeca Sailing and by Martin Perry