Pinkies Up for the Best Afternoon Tea in New York
Aside from the Spice Girls, the Bard, and the Harry trinity (Potter, Styles, and the Prince of Wales, of course) there is perhaps no better cultural British export than high tea. A leisurely afternoon meal of warm beverages, finger sandwiches, and petite pastries covered in lemon curd? I’m there, and I’m upping the ante with a glass of bubbly.
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Luckily for this New Yorker, restaurants and hotels in the Big Apple have embraced the concept wholeheartedly, with tea experiences specifically designed for children, true brew connoisseurs, and even themed events tied to the holidays or happenings in the area.
Whether you prefer a simple cup of oolong, or the whole shebang complete with champagne and truffles, there’s an afternoon tea for every type of traveler, and, as they say, a lid for every (tea)pot.
The Plaza Hotel
Embrace your inner Eloise with an afternoon of tea inspired by the Plaza penthouse resident herself. At the hotel's Palm Court you can snack on sandwiches filled with cream cheese and cucumber or classic pb and j, then treat yourself to a selection of pastries and sweets. And if tea isn't your tiny traveler’s favorite, opt for a less traditional drink (think a root beer float or chamomile ginger ale) off a menu of “rawther delicious beverages.”
Prefer a more grown-up dining experience? Try the classic New Yorker tea paired with a literary-inspired cocktail—the Gatsby Mint Julep comes highly recommended.
Ritz Carlton Central Park
Re-fuel after a morning stroll in Central Park with a spread of dainty sandwiches, housemade scones, and specialty brews at the Ritz Carlton’s daily afternoon service. Stop by the hotel’s famed Star Lounge (reservations are suggested) from now until mid-October for an Alice in Wonderland-themed fête—complete with heart-, diamond-, and spade-shaped bites, cookies emblazoned with “try me,” and a Mad Hatter black tea blend—to correspond with both 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s novel and the current exhibit at the Morgan Library. Or, wait until December for a holiday-themed affair.
The Russian Tea Room
Founded by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet, this midtown institution is known for its indulgent afternoon tea menu. Come for the pop-culture references—not only is Madonna a former employee, but the restaurant also appears in numerous classic New York films like Manhattan, When Harry Met Sally, and Tootsie—but stay for the champagne and American caviar. Gluten free? Vegetarian? Traveling with kids? Worry not, the tea room has menus specially curated just for the occasion.
The Carlyle Hotel
The Carlyle Hotel honors the most popular beverage in the world with a traditional English service of sandwiches, scones, and exotic, imported teas in The Gallery, an impressive space with decor inspired by the dining room at the Topikapi Palace in Turkey. Or, for a more family-friendly event, take little Madelines and Pepitos to a special afternoon of tea and treats in the Bemelmans Bar, all set to the tunes of the Madeline Song Book, an experience which runs from November 7 to December 26 on Saturdays.
Unlike the traditional English service of scones and sandwiches found at many afternoon teas, Cha-An’s pre-fixe menu features a seven-grain rice porridge, a dessert, and a savory side dish, like kinpira, a Japanese-style cooked root vegetable. But what keeps tea connoisseurs coming back to this tiny East Village spot is the selection of blends, including matcha, oolong, and pu-erh teas in addition to the more well-known black, green, and white varieties.
Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon
If you’re headed to tea at Lady Mendl’s, come armed with the address and a map. Tucked inside a townhouse sans-sign near New York’s storied Gramercy Park, the Victorian-style salon serves a five-course menu of artisanal sandwiches, pastries (including the restaurant's signature cake) and chocolate-covered fruits on its collection of carefully curated vintage China. Defrost in the winter with a cup of Spring Dream Rooibos, a warming blend of green rooibos flavored with Bavarian chocolate, cinnamon and hazelnuts.
Tea & Sympathy
For a true English experience in the city, head to this Greenwich Village restaurant serving British favorites like bangers and mash, Welsh rarebit, black pudding, and an afternoon tea of scones with clotted cream, a selection of cakes, and a steaming pot of brew. After your meal, head next door, to browse the attached shop’s collection of cheeky t-shirts, imported groceries, teapots and other China, and all things emblazoned with a Union Jack.