A local’s guide to Brooklyn

British journalist Heather Hodson relocated first to Manhattan and then to Brooklyn, and has never looked back. Here, she introduces the neighbourhood that became a brand

I have only made one inspired decision in my life and that was to move to Brooklyn. It was a decision, like most New York decisions, motivated by space. My husband and I had no sense of the borough’s impending transformation into a hip suburbia with world-class restaurants, and art and design scenes. All we knew was that our baby’s crib took up the entire living room of our Manhattan high-rise and we needed a more liveable space. So we cut our losses and moved to Carroll Gardens, into a 17-foot-wide Civil War townhouse with lead-paint encrusted radiators and ceilings that sagged. We’ll never get our money back, we said.

But that was before Brooklyn became a brand. Now you can’t walk a block in our Italian-American neighbourhood without tripping over the generator cables of another crew filming a show set in “brownstone Brooklyn”. You can still get delicious pizza, but walk along Court and Smith streets and the restaurants are at the forefront of the national farm-to-table movement. Brooklyn is now a byword for the artisanal and ethically-sourced, a hand-crafted, gritty authenticity that the French call “très Brooklyn”.

To understand what all the fuss is about you have to sample the food. The neighbourhoods of Carroll Gardens, Green Point and Williamsburg all have restaurants committed to sustainably raised, local and seasonal products and butchering, curing and making nearly everything in-house. Two pioneers in Carroll Gardens are chefs Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli, childhood friends who own and run Frankies Spuntino, an Italian-influenced eaterie, and the steakhouse Prime Meats. I come here with my kids for weekend breakfasts; the homemade pork sausages are out of this world. For my morning shot of coffee I often stop by Frankies’ Cafe Pedlar, whose baristas are trained by Stumptown Coffee Roasters’ Duane Sorenson. If you walk along Carroll Gardens’s Smith Street, the destination restaurants jostle with each other. My favourites are Seersucker, owned by chef Rob Newton and his partner Kerry Diamond, their new Vietnamese restaurant Nightingale 9The Grocery, and Battersby.

What about drinks? Henry Public is a cosy bar between Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill. The sepia-tinted interior is like a 19th century saloon, albeit with a Grateful Dead soundtrack. I always go for the Sancerre accompanied by oysters; my friend Katie swears by the dry martinis. The Long Island Bar (110 Atlantic Ave. at Henry St. in Cobble Hill) has opened after a six-year-hiatus to great jubilation among my friends. This Art Deco neighbourhood landmark is retro-glamorous, and its bartender, Cecchini, is a legend.

Photo by Getty Images

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