Since I was 5 years old I’ve been going to afternoon tea. I was even a tea girl once at my grandmother’s club in New Orleans. (see pic) We mostly had tea at the Windsor Court in New Orleans. They served an English style tea to the sounds of either classical piano or harp live. The standard menu there hasn’t changed much over the years (why mess with perfection?), but it is still the tea experience I compare all others to. Usually, I am disappointed either in the service, brewing of tea, or in the food.
In the last year, I have had tea in New York City at The Baccarat (most expensive, best food, poor tea selection), The Whitby (best spot for celebrity sighting, lovely decor), Tea and Sympathy (don’t bother, overpriced and not good), The Carlyle (decent but nothing special) and The Prince Tea House, East Village (best value, $65 for 2, French/Asian chain). Each has pros and cons, but finally I found a well rounded tea experience in New York City to highly recommend. Thanks to Sarah of Sarah Brennan Events for the invitation and suggestion!
While there wasn’t live music, I still very much enjoyed my recent experience at Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon near Union Square in Manhattan. The salon is located in a renovated double Georgian brownstone dating to the 1830s with a chic and whimsical decor. The cost is $78 per person. (Current menu and pricing here) The menu was mostly traditional English style with a hint of Middle Eastern or North African influence. It is open Wednesday-Sunday and no children under 12 are allowed.
As opposed to simply dropping off a 3 tiered stand with all the food and a pot of tea, we were served 5 courses one at a time. Service! The courses were: a soup, tea sandwiches, scones, crepe cake, concluding with petit fours, macarons and chocolate covered strawberries. All were delicious and sized just right.
One could also pair different teas with each course, which resulted in properly brewed cups on demand and the fun of trying different blends. (As opposed to having to pick one tea and pouring it yourself while it over brews.) There was something for everyone, Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Moroccan Mint Green, Toasted Coconut Oolong, Lemon Verbena, Wonderland Rooibos (chocolate).
Everyone in the salon was also having tea, which is not always the case these days. Many hotels have stopped their afternoon teas, or limited it to weekends or serve it along with regular lunch or bar service. It is a labor intensive service, but well worth it in my opinion to deliver an actual tea service and properly brewed tea. It just seems odd to be having tea next to a table full of tourists in track suits ordering burgers and vodka. You will thankfully NOT find that at Lady Mendl’s.
Have you had an excellent tea experience in New York City? Please let me know!