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Peter James: meeting up with Lee Child in New York and how taxis in the Big Apple compare to the ones in Sussex

PUBLISHED: 11:38 12 October 2015 | UPDATED: 11:38 12 October 2015

Peter James (right) with Lee Child

Peter James (right) with Lee Child

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Bestselling crime writer Peter James talks us through his gastronomic adventures and keeps us abreast of everything relating to his fictional detective, Roy Grace

You’re probably wondering why fellow thriller writer Lee Child is sharing my photo this month… well it’s because he had a dig at me that I seem to be constantly in Sussex Life and he rarely is, so I’m being nice to him! Lee has homes in New York and near Rye in East Sussex. His delightful wife Jane is an American Anglophile who prefers to spend time here and Lee, a born Brit, is the reverse. He’s a great and hugely successful author, and a genuinely nice guy.

We met up a few weeks ago at the US’ biggest crime and thriller conference, Thrillerfest, in steamy New York in early July. It’s a city you love or hate and I love it – and have set major scenes in many of my Roy Grace novels there. Lara and I had lunch with Detective Investigator Pat Lanigan – who has appeared as himself in many of my books – in a great downtown waterfront restaurant, The District. Go on a nice day and ask for an outside table. I had magnificent oysters and an exemplary lobster fricassee, al fresco by the Hudson.

New York is a city defined as much by its eateries as by its skyline. I always eat in the Standard Grill, as buzzy and vibrant as a NY restaurant can get, and a great fun German-style beer hall and garden attached. And if you are down there take a walk on the High Line – the most amazing elevated leafy park.

There are too many restaurants I love in the city to list them all, but lunch at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station is a must for the experience – and you can have fun in the “secret” whispering gallery just above it. Sara Betts on Central Park South is great for breakfast. Try the Gramercy Tavern or the Monkey Bar for a classy dinner, China Grill for great upscale Chinese. The River Café in Brooklyn, on a converted boat, provides inventive food in a stunningly romantic location. For steak lovers, The Old Homestead is my favourite. I was taken there a decade ago, with my “real life” Roy Grace, former Detective Chief Superintendent David Gaylor, by two NYPD cops, when we were on a research trip, and I’ve not yet found a better steakhouse. And a favourite and regular NY haunt of mine is the Carnegie Club, one of a handful of legal cigar bars in the city – where you can have a drink with a cigar and at weekends listen to terrific live jazz.

One secret joy of New York is how cycle-friendly parts of it are. We rented bikes – $50 for a whole week – cycled Central Park, my favourite park in the world, and then a large way around the whole of Manhattan on cycle tracks along the waterfront.

One downside of NY is their famous yellow cabs. There are decent ones, but they’re few and far between. Mostly the experience is to be shoehorned into the rabbit-hutch back of a yellow cab, glassed in, with scratched Perspex inches from your face making you feel like a prisoner, while you bake in the heat as an asthmatic aircon wheezes lukewarm air around your knees, and your driver talks non-stop throughout the journey on his phone.

So what a joy to return to the UK to open the great new HQ of Brighton and Hove’s Streamline Taxis! It brought home to me just how lucky we are with taxis here in Sussex, and generally in the UK, compared to New York.

A tearful farewell to the cast of the play of Dead Simple, (which ended its six-month UK tour at the Connaught), at a simply superb dinner at Giuseppes in Worthing. What a great, great restaurant, staying open late for us, giving the most terrific service and superb food. I also visited a much recommended Brighton restaurant, The Set. It was fun, quirky and inventive – but you do need to have your wits about you to figure out the different menu combos.

And finally no summer would be complete without a return to my favourite fish and chip restaurant on the planet: The Palm Court on Brighton Pier, superbly run by manager David Cockayne and overseen by the pier’s brilliant general manager Anne Martin. Heston Blumenthal once called it the spiritual home of fish and chips. I’ll drink a mug of tea to that! 









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