As soon as we checked in to The Lombardy, Peter, our well-travelled Aussie-English friend in Sydney recommended us a bar nearby, saying: ‘You are very close to the original P.J. Clarke’s. It’s an old building surrounded by skyscrapers, a holdout against development. You must check it out while you are there!’ Knowing Peter and his good taste, we thought it’d be well worth checking it out.
Kent and I came straight to P.J. Clarke’s after our photoshoot in Central Park. And here’s what we saw from across the road – a two-story red brick pub stands among all the high-rise buildings. ‘A holdout against development’… we knew straight away that we had found it. Inside was a classic English pub. Long dark wooden, ornate pressed metal ceiling; timber stools and a brass foot rail. Its interior dates back to the 19th-century. Kent and I liked the instant nostalgic feel very much!
It was not a usual Sunday due to then still new President Trump returned to New York City for the United Nations General Assembly meetings. Police activity was everywhere in Manhattan! The bar was very quiet that afternoon, only us and a fellow out of towner – a doctor from New Jersey. We had great running conversations with bartender Bob while sampling some fresh oysters and drinks. We took over the entire bar area and treated it like our own lounge. The atmosphere was friendly and intimate.
They say time flies when you are enjoying yourselves… Happy Hour went very fast indeed as we became fast friends with our new doctor pal who then invited us to join him for dinner, in the dining room, and we delightedly accepted. That dinner, at the restaurant of the club, located behind the bar, was so lovely and it deserves a separate post! Our first visit at P.J. Clarke’s was surely a joyful and pleasant experience, and so near our hotel that Kent and I kept coming back for more.
During that New York stay, our friend Sanne, a Danish-Korean blogger, creator of Mitzie Mee who split her time between Dubai and New York City happened to be in the Big Apple as well. Kent and I met Sanne and her husband Poul who’s a Pilot in Command (Sanne used to be a pilot herself) in Sydney back in 2015. We hit it off, so it was great to be able to catch up again at P.J. Clarke’s, where she had never been.
Sanne met us at the lobby of The Lombardy and we took the short stroll together to P.J.’s. It was a very different scenery that night from our first visit. Weeknight, the pub was full of locals, mostly men and women in their business attire. We told Sanne about our excursion to a friend of Kent’s art opening in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Only to find out that Sanne was renting there and had lots of Brooklyn tips to share. When Kent went out to take a photo for us from outside the building, and a cigarette… he was approached by a local woman whom, we saw complimenting him on his Panama hat and linen suit…
‘Look, she is asking him for a selfie with her!’ Sanne and I looked on from the pub window and we were both amused by this New York energy and enthusiasm!
Although our meetup was brief, we were glad that Sanne liked this venue and has apparently, made more visits too. ‘Oldie but goodie… it takes an old soul to appreciate it.’ As I often say. You can read Sanne’s take on the pub and our catch-up here.
Apart from one evening that we chose to dine at the American Cut, Kent and I came to P.J. Clarke’s every night until we departed. We even dropped in here for a last drink before hopping in a taxi to the airport. It became our favourite place to hang out during our last days in Manhattan. Surely it’s not just good burgers or fresh oysters or cool beers that kept us wanting more.
‘This place has a soul. It’s authentic and the staff are charismatic!’ I have come to a conclusion during a conversation about why we had come to adore P.J. Clarke’s so much.
Kent nodded and agreed. Yes… from the moment Bob welcomed us, we felt like we had been coming here for years… We were drawn back to the hospitality and pleasantly nostalgic feel; the warmth we received at this cool yet old established establishment.
A Traveller’s Note
If you have a chance to visit P.J. Clarke’s, please do yourself a favour by heading to the original one (thank you Peter), which is located on Third Avenue, at 55th Street in New York City. More from our dining experience at the restaurant will be shared in a future post. Stay tuned.