It wasn’t easy to find the entrance to R17, a new rooftop bar at Pier 17 in New York’s downtown Seaport District. There’s no signage outside the building, so I hopped into the nondescript elevator trusting I was in the right place. The sleek, cosseting Rockwell Group-designed interiors that greeted me confirmed I was. The rooftop is currently shared with an outdoor skating rink, but ensconced at the blue onyx bar or lounging beside one of the two fireplaces, you’d never know it. Perched on a prime spot on the East River with views of the Brooklyn Bridge, R17 feels like a deliciously secret spot, free from the throngs of tourists that swarm this area.
This will no doubt change once restaurants helmed by star chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten, David Chang (Momofuku) and Andrew Carmellini (The Dutch) open here later this year; but until then I’ll be taking full advantage of R17’s under-the-radar status. And the cocktails here are very good. On my first fleeting visit, I couldn’t pass up on the F Dirty R ($16) – R17’s version of a gin martini, albeit with brine and a prosciutto-wrapped-olive garnish (an idea I will absolutely “borrow” for future use).
On my second visit we let our server take the lead. I personally would have never ordered the Royal Mail ($19), made with eight-year-old Bacardi rum, Veuve Clicquot champagne and Earl Grey tea and garnished with a bruléed grapefruit, but it was a fantastic light drink with notes of bergamot. Ditto the London Mule ($14). Made with Pimm’s No 1, lemon juice, celery, cucumber and ginger beer, it had much more body than any other “mule” I’ve had and went down dangerously easily. A friend who was pondering a Manhattan was steered towards The Edmont ($15) instead, a warming blend of Laphroaig, rye, white vermouth, honey and lavender.
There are wine and champagne on offer, too, as well as impressive light bites like a hamachi crudo ($22) and Wagyu beef skewers ($14). We ended our evening with one of the on-tap nitro cocktails – there are two, which will change seasonally. I chose the vanilla Espresso Martini ($15). Made with Grey Goose vodka, La Colombe cold brew and hazelnut, it was as light and flavourful – the ideal way to end a meal.