The high tea concept (that afternoon break when you elegantly sip on cups of tea while snacking on cakes, finger sandwiches and perhaps a glass of champagne) may be a British invention, but there’s no shortage of it in New York City’s finest restaurants and tea houses. And now that the weather in the Big Apple is beginning to cool down, the best way to refuel from a busy day of shopping, museum-hopping and sightseeing is a relaxing, fuss-free couple of hours at these six tea-obsessed spots. Pinkies up!
Measure at Langham Place
Executive Chef David Vandenabee turns the afternoon tea concept on its head first by presenting it in a custom-made bento box with a sliding compartment that reveals the desserts. The tea sandwiches, which are placed atop the box, are also some of the most unexpected — the trio usually includes a king crab roll, a warm Scottish egg sandwich with chopped chorizo and topped with a curry mayo, and finally, a hummus gougers with vegetable provençale. Choose your tea from a small selection courtesy of In Pursuit of Tea.
Bosie Tea Parlor
This charming West Village tea house offers three different afternoon tea services: a standard offering, another that includes champagne and the chef’s Royal Tea service, which is a fantastic gourmet experience. With that, you get your typical afternoon tea setup (scones, pastries, tea and champagne), but instead of tea sandwiches, Bosie’s chef will prepare fabulous selection of canapes that could include egg salad, black truffle and mayo, crab rolls with capers, and yuzu with duck.
Two E Bar/Lounge at The Pierre
This elegant hotel’s stylish lounge — designed by Alexandra Champalimaud — is the perfect spot for a shopping break from Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue’s high-end boutiques. Smoked trout sandwiches, blinis and more make up a wonderful savory course, but the sweet stuff is entirely addictive with recipes like coffee rum opera cake, mini lemon meringues and caramel eclairs usually adorning the trays. This October, things get more luxurious still when the option to add unlimited glasses of Tattinger Rosé is introduced, making every afternoon a potentially bubbly one.
Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon
Tucked inside the Inn at Irving Place, this Victorian-style salon immediately transports you to a Downton Abbey-esque setting with its roaring fireplace, dramatic molding, and mix-and-match floral upholstery. The afternoon tea service is one of the biggest around: the five-course spread, which is served in a 90-minute (enforced) seating, is capped off with what truly makes this experience stand out — Lady Mendl’s signature Mille Crepe cake, 20 layers of tissue-thin crepes held together with French vanilla mascarpone. It’s very possible that you will be stuffed (with freshly baked scones, salad, turkey and cranberry tea sandwiches) by the time you get to the cake, so make sure to pace yourself.
Russian Tea Room
Any meal at this storied Manhattan dining room is as much about soaking in the atmosphere as it is about the actual food. Spend a couple of hours cocooned inside one of the restaurant’s red leather booths, surrounded by all things gilded and the occasional phoenix motif. Afternoon tea comes in many forms at the Russian Team Room: There’s Afternoon Tea, which can be upgraded to include champagne and more caviar, Children’s Tea Vegetarian Afternoon Tea, and Gluten Free Afternoon Tea. You’ll love the options available for the tea sandwiches, which includes shrimp salad with rémoulade, artichoke with red pepper, sun-dried tomato and goat cheese, and a ham and turkey croque monsieur topped with black truffles. It’s the Russian Tea Room, if you can’t be excessive here, you can’t do it anywhere.
On the seventh floor of Bergdorf Goodman, this see-and-be-seen restaurant gets buzzy in the afternoon, so best book ahead and ask for one of the cocoon-shaped chairs against the windows where you can get great views of Central Park. Premium tea blends from France-based Dammann Frères are accompanied by your typical (but delicious) afternoon tea fare such as cucumber sandwiches, warm cranberry scones and sweet petit fours. When you finish, several floors of high fashion await.
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