TWELVE YEARS ago Nicky Perry began dreaming of creating the ultimate English restaurant in the heart of New York. Today the English-born entrepreneur presides over one of the hottest spots in the city, counting Rupert Everett, Kate Moss and scores of Manhattanites as permanent fixtures at her tables. As the owner and brains behind the endearingly named Tea and Sympathy, both Perry and her success have come to symbolize the possibilities and realities available to ambitious Brits eager to strike gold across the Atlantic.
Forget the worlds of Harry and Tina, Liz and Anna, the highest profile Brits here by virtue of media influence. In New York there are Brits making an impact across the strata of the city, parlaying equal parts intellectual acuity and British charm into glorious, albeit hard working, lives.
An estimated 100,000 Brits currently make their home in New York City (up from a documented 64,000 in 1990). Many of these expats believe those triumphs could not have been manifested back in the UK. Talk to enough of them and you hear the same refrain on a continuous loop - that New York celebrates ambition and success, that it's still ripe for savvy Brits to conquer, that said conquest is achievable if you adopt and revel in the work ethic and brashness of the Big Apple. "For anybody who wants to work hard, this place is still absolutely the land of opportunity," gushes Nicky Perry (an illegal alien for nine years before securing papers) who has turned Tea and Sympathy into ground zero for the fashion flock.
As well as providing bangers and mash and shepherd's pie to Liz Hurley, Naomi Campbell and scores of British and American stylists and editors, Perry has expanded the business to catering fashion shoots, often exclusively requested by British models. "New York is fantastic, especially for British people who are entrepreneurial," she continues. "In the UK you are not encouraged to get up and go. New York gave me a real sense of being able to achieve something, that anything is possible." Be it catering, fashion, advertising or finance, the story from expats across the board is eerily similar. Whether motivated by higher salaries or a just a taste for the frim and the pace of the Big Apple, they came to New York to realise ambitions they felt would be dismissed in Britain.
"There is no better place in the world to cut your teeth than on Wall Street," says a British trader with a major financial house, who spoke on condition of anonymity (his employers wouldn't like it, apparently). The trader, who transplanted himself four years ago and has since met plenty of Brits who have done likewise, said he too believes New York is an irresistible lure for Brits wishing to exercise their capitalist muscle. "I find in England in general people are very disapproving of success, and taking initiative is looked down upon. On Wall Street, those exact traits are admired and rewarded." Financially, he is earning close to what he would in the City, so his choice to live here is about lifestyle and connecting with the New York mindset. "New York is significantly more convenient than London. There are fantastic restaurants here. I think London is very rich culturally, but I prefer the energy here. There is no doubt Americans work longer and harder, but the way I view work is that I want to go at it 100 per cent."
Another Brit in finance remarked that he and his cohorts left the City for Wall Street because there is strong buzz in London that New York is "the place to be", even if the transition may be less than smooth. "In London I lived on a quiet street in Highbury, near Arsenal stadium. The only traffic you heard was on Saturday afternoon. Here I get woken up by screeching New York cabs every day. I know where I am even before I open my eyes. There are culture clashes for us, no question. The corporate culture here is more strict. I know …