A lot on its plate | Monocle

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Hudson Yards is open and despite a few column inches comparing it unflatteringly to a mini vision of Dubai in downtown New York, developer and ceo of Related Urban, Kenneth Himmel, couldn’t be happier with the result. “No matter how much we hoped for a positive turnout, I don’t think we anticipated the sheer numbers of people enjoying the project,” he says, casually equating the quantity of coverage (high) with the quality (varied).

Indeed, since the $25bn complex opened in March, inquisitive socialites, eager shoppers and a hungry lunch crowd have all hauled themselves across town to New York’s long-forgotten west side to see what all the chatter is about. Inside the seven-storey shopping complex are many retailers, such as Sephora and Uniqlo, that shoppers will have seen a thousand times before. However, the food options, dreamed up by Himmel and chef Thomas Keller, are irrefutably more interesting and distinctive. “We wanted to make sure there were many different styles of restaurant,” says Keller. “We’re calling it fun dining, not fine dining.”

Diners will encounter the usual chainy suspects you’d expect from a mall, including ice-cream from Van Leeuwen and burgers from Shake Shack. But there are also some that you might not expect: a Korean joint from David Chang, a Spanish restaurant from José Andrés and a continental dining spot from Keller. Hudson Yards promises much and, if anything, delivers more – and from some of New York’s most influential chefs, no less. “Think about the diversity,” says Himmel. “Everything from Shake Shack to Belcampo.” But while the food options are diverse, the people behind the food are less so: save Kawi’s chef Eunjo Park, there are no female restaurateurs to be seen.

In fact, when it comes to most things relating to Hudson Yards, there are still questions to be answered. Among them: is it any different from Brookfield Place and once the hype dies down, will people actually come back? According to José Andrés, co-founder of food hall Mercado Little Spain, the answer is an unequivocal yes. “For Little Spain alone, you can’t go to all three restaurants and 15 kiosks in one visit,” he says.

Spread over 3,200 sq m on the basement level, Mercado Little Spain is Andrés’, and Albert and Ferran Adrià’s, first bite at the Big Apple’s culinary scene. Here diners drift between bright red-and-yellow paella and patatas bravas kiosks, wine bars and permanent restaurants.

“My goal was to create a space for families, friends and co-workers to come together and eat and drink the kinds of things I grew up with as a child in Spain,” says Andrés, who isn’t at all concerned that the space is located inside an air-conditioned complex. Perhaps that’s because Little Spain is one of the few dining options that has street access. By contrast, to enter the old world European-style TAK Room or Chang’s gilded Korean Keller, diners are unable to avoid Zara, Tory Burch and H&M.

Himmel believes that this convenience is one of the development’s strengths and something that will attract locals. “I think New Yorkers are going to be our best customers,” he says. “When it’s cold and rainy – or hot – outside, we offer a climate-controlled environment.”

And maybe he’s right: sometimes it’s nice not to hail a cab or take the subway in the rain when all you want is to get from Muji to your dinner reservation. New Yorkers are sticklers for convenience but is the cost of convenience quietly creeping up? While Hudson Yards prepares to launch more mega projects (an Equinox hotel, residences, exhibition spaces), New Yorkers still hanker for their quickly diminishing mom-and-pop shops. So we have to ask: is there really space in New York for another mall?

Hudsons Yard in numbers:
number of drinking and dining options
$7.50: price of three fried chicken fingers at Fuku
$85: price of the lobster thermidor at TAK Room
100: number of Greek wines on the menu at Milos wine bar
390 metres: height of the building atop which Wild Ink sits 

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