What’s up, teacup?
“Tea to the English is really a picnic indoors.” – Alice Walker
On a visit to London last year, my friend Susie (who was studying there for her MFA at the time) introduced me to my favorite English-ism – afternoon tea (also known as high tea, pip pip!). She took me to the restaurant at The Wallace Collection (phenomenal museum, divine tea with stacks of little sandwiches, plus scones with clotted cream that would clot your arteries in its wonder). I immediately adored this overly civilized indoor picnic and so we tried yet another place, The National Café at The National Gallery. Also amazing, and as it turns out they’re both run by restaurateur company Peyton and Byrne – that’s quality control for you.
So when I came back Stateside, needless to say, I wanted to recreate the London tea experience. There must be enough snooty people in New York trying to play lord and lady to have some great options for a decent tea. My instinct didn’t lead me astray; I went right to the heart of the matter at the famous Plaza Hotel’s Palm Court. Not only was the people watching great, but the tea was really, really good. The service was exquisite too; my friend Blair and I felt more like debutantes in the 20s than tired advertising gnomes in the 2000s (which perhaps was in itself worth the pricetag). No wonder Eloise went to the Plaza, she felt like a Princess.
But I’m not Duchess Kate, and squarely in the 99%, so spending $67+tax+tip for tea, as wonderful as it was, does not allow for me to even make a yearly habit out of such a visit. So M and I decided to try another option and we hit up chef Gordon Ramsay’s midtown home base at The London Hotel’s The London Bar.
The glorious tiered-stand set-up for our afternoon tea adventure at The London. Earl grey for A, organic mint for M.
The tea for two, served on the classic 3-tiered stand, was delicious and at $20/person was the recessionista’s answer to The Palm Court. However, the restaurant is living the recession up close and personal… You can tell it was at one point quite chic with a lovely sea blue and chrome accent combination, but the scales are now teetering it toward shabby. The upholstery is showing its wear and the floor is scuffed more than my pre-war’s, but we were willing to overlook these minor flaws as we sipped our yummy tea because it is such a charming and tasty custom. M’s company isn’t so bad, either. Bottom’s up, teacup!