Elegance, artistry, status, style. These epithets perfectly describe not just Bally, but also the location of its latest boutique: Madison Avenue, in New York City’s fabled Upper East Side
Loosely defined as the section of Manhattan between 59th and 96th Streets and east of Central Park, the Upper East Side is one of New York City’s most name-droppable neighbourhoods. First lent prestige and glamour during the early 1900s by residents called Roosevelt, Rockefeller and Kennedy, it’s now the Big Apple’s undisputed luxury retail hub with gleaming stores, a city-leading museum scene, thriving food-and-drink culture and proximity to world-class green spaces.
It all adds up to perfect territory for Bally’s new store, located at Madison Avenue and 62nd Street. Set to sell a full assortment of men’s and women’s shoes, leather goods, accessories and ready-to-wear when it opens in May, the store is designed by David Chipperfield Architects. Amid a residential building protected by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the venue will once again see David Chipperfield fuse his elemental ethos with Bally’s modernist legacy.
Bally’s neighbours include two New York legends: the 260,000sq ft Barneys flagship store, and fellow luxury department store Bloomingdale’s, its Art Deco frontage impressing the gentry since 1930. Venture northwest and you’re on Museum Mile. This Central Park portion of Fifth Avenue is so named because of the slew of galleried institutions on its flanks: the Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka ‘The Met’) and the new Met Breuer, the Frick Collection and the incredible Guggenheim among others.
Nouveau cultural spaces await deeper in the Upper East Side. Most are fairly minimal, housing exhibitions covering a host of mediums and themes. Examples include the Broadway 1602, whose white walls chiefly promote avant-garde female artists. The same marriage of classic and contemporary underpins Upper East Side gastronomy. Vintage New York eats are served in Viand Coffee Shop, one of the city’s great diners, with turkey omelettes the staple order. Just as legendary is Northern Italian restaurant, patisserie and gelateria Sant Ambroeus, plumly positioned on Madison Avenue. Try the insalata di Nettuno, combining succulent squares of king crab meat with orange and sliced fennel.
Need a pick-up? The Upper East Side’s legion of cool coffee shops includes the bijou 62nd Street branch of Birch Coffee, its easygoing vibe achieved by low lighting, bar stools and modern-art prints. Grab a takeaway soy latte and hibiscus doughnut and point your Bally sneakers towards Central Park, where an ice rink awaits among the woods and water.
Far more boisterous are the Upper East Side stretches of Second and Third Avenue, nerve centres of post-sunset raucousness. You won’t find glitzy clubs here, but rather karaoke lounges, Irish pubs and dive bars of the most unshowy variety. There are some fancy dens, though, if you know where to look. Take Seamstress: this fantastic speakeasy hides behind velvet curtains at the rear of a leather shop. Order from its impressive cocktail list and worry about tomorrow tomorrow. For romance, nothing tops – literally – the Met’s rooftop bar, looming above Central Park, with its sculptures and expert mixologists.
Lay your head down at The Carlyle, an upscale boutique hotel just off Madison Avenue. Its Art Deco themed interior also contains a clubby bar, and the venerable Café Carlyle. More modern in look is the Loews Regency on Park Avenue, only a block from Bally’s new store. A recent makeover has resulted in bright rooms and a high-ceilinged lobby. There’s also a vast Julien Farel Restore Salon & Spa that’s perfect for exhausted Upper East Side pavement-pounders, as is the Regency Bar & Grill’s famous ‘Power Breakfast’ – a tradition stretching back to the 1970s that sees big names from the worlds of finance, entertainment, media and politics gather to eat and discuss business.