Elaine's. Just saying it makes you think of New York; of Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese and Norman Mailer, quarrelling over their early evening drinks and talking about money and girls. Makes you think of Woody Allen (who shot the opening restaurant scene in Manhattan here), makes you think of Warren Beatty, of Michael Caine and Jackie O. Makes you think of cocktails, of tortoni, spumoni, zabaglione and puntarelle, of large desserts and proper Upper East Side royalty.
For nearly 50 years, Elaine Kaufman's saloon has been one of those places that defines a certain type of Manhattan experience, a place where, according to Candace Bushnell, "You can get incredibly drunk, get out of hand, and nobody bothers you." Some say that Elaine's has always been about testosterone, that it is a "men's club" (Nora Ephron), and as Elaine herself is fairly rambunctious (12 years ago, after an altercation with a customer, she was arrested and spent part of the night in custody), this indeed may be the case. Everyone ends up in Elaine's eventually, and not just the great and the good, either. "If hookers were banned from New York restaurants, half of them would close overnight," Elaine famously once said.
I went to Elaine's last week for dinner with my friend Larry Schiller (while I knew it was uptown, I didn't realise quite how uptown – although it's officially in Yorktown, it feels as though it's in Spanish Harlem. We ate a lot of Italian food, drank a little Italian wine, and plotted and planned for the future. And halfway through our meal we were joined by Elaine herself. Suffice it to say, she was charm personified, greeting everyone who passed our table as though they were old family friends. She appeared to know about everyone's back problems, or their book deal or their divorce.
"Do you come here every night?" I asked the New York institution, perhaps a little naively.
"Of course," she said, looking at me as though I were a rube just off the tourist bus from Midtown. "Every night, usually till two. Come on, baby. What else am I gonna do? If I stayed at home I'd die."
Good point Elaine, good point.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'