Not much can distract from the opulence and elegance of afternoon tea in New York City, especially when you’re clinking darling teacups and munching on sugar-dusted petits fours.
The British ritual of teatime has found a home in New York in many forms, with a host of price tags. (Prices can range from $39 to $155 per person.) From lavish tea ceremonies boasting French pastries and dollops of clotted cream to Japanese-inspired teahouses where matcha is hand-whisked into bright-green drinks, these are the best places for afternoon tea in New York City.
Located in the heart of Greenwich Village, Tea & Sympathy has been serving up a taste of England since 1991. Afternoon tea comes with dainty finger sandwiches, scones crowned with clotted cream and jam, a selection of cakes and, of course, a pot of tea. (Choose from a wide array of signature blended teas like mango and blackcurrant.)
Little distracts from the luxury of The Pembroke Room, a secret tea room on the second floor of The Lowell Hotel; crystal chandeliers glisten above as you pluck smoked salmon and caviar sandwiches off three-tiered platters. Dammann Frères’s loose and herbal teas steep in silver teakettles, flanked by scones cloaked with lemon curd, petits fours and fruit tarts. Splurge for the $110-per-person set, which comes with a glass of champagne and caviar service.
Perched above Central Park, BG Restaurant is located on the seventh floor of Bergdorf Goodman. The department store, steeped in elegance, certainly sparkles at its namesake restaurant, especially during high tea. You’ll dine on white tablecloths, pinky up for glasses of champagne and transport yourself to London as you slather colorful fruit preserves on freshly baked scones – all against the backdrop of Central Park’s nest of verdant trees.
Hidden inside an unassuming Irving Place townhouse, Lady Mendl’s offers a $59 five-course tea service in a wonderfully cozy setting, peppered with fireplaces, a kaleidoscope of armchairs and delicate china cups and saucers. This set-up and friendly service make you feel as if you’ve been welcomed into someone’s home, not a restaurant. Choose from a collection of teas (think lychee black tea and berry green tea), accompanied by tea sandwiches, a soup or salad, sugar-studded scones and a slice of crepe cake layered with vanilla cream.
Tucked up a flight of stairs, Cha-An is the hidden gem of East Ninth Street. Designed to look like a Japanese teahouse – with a few cozy bamboo lodges to sip tea in to boot – Cha-An boasts hand-whisked matcha and house-made Japanese desserts like black sesame mochi and hoji tea jelly with sweet black syrup.
At the Ritz-Carlton’s Star Lounge, tea remains the star: the menu lists a slew of black tea, white tea, green tea and herbal infusions, curated by the resident tea sommelier. Pots of tea pair perfectly with a feast on silver, towered trays: there are soft rectangles of white bread hugging egg salad and smoked trout, petits fours like chocolate passion cake and pumpkin cheesecake, and sugar-dusted scones rife with seasonal fruit preserves and clouds of clotted cream.
At Alice’s Tea Cup, afternoon tea is geared toward everyone, not just those with an overflowing wallet. The Alice in Wonderland-themed restaurant delightfully leans into the beloved franchise: the three afternoon tea styles are dubbed The Nibble, The Mad Hatter and The Jabberwocky, each overflowing with unlimited tea in charmingly mismatched cups, scones, sandwiches and mini cookies.
This 22-seat West Village tea parlor mirrors France’s intimate tea salons, but with a simpler and non-frilly decor. Here, the resident tea master has curated a collection of 100 hand-sourced loose teas, and the French pastry chef bakes a slew of desserts every morning. Three-tiered platters grace tables brimming with squat scones, cucumber-and-cream-cheese sandwiches, colorful macarons, éclairs and Paris-Brests, teeming with praline cream.
There’s no better place to pinky up like Eloise than at the Plaza Hotel’s famed Palm Court, home to an elegant and splashy high tea. The storied, luxe court – decked out with its namesake palms and ornate gold chairs – provides guests with a taste of old New York, along with decadent dishes like foie gras mousse sandwiches, warm seasonal scones, sugar-dusted French pastries and toffee-scented tea.
The husband-and-wife team behind this Taiwanese tea shop sources loose-leaf oolong tea straight from Taiwan, offering a selection of around 30 teas. Simply stop by for a pot, served in a clay teapot, or reserve a guided tea tasting: five different types of teas are flanked by house-made treats like chocolate cake and pineapple linzers, the house special.
Hovering above Columbus Circle, this London import channels all things British during high tea. There are mugs aplenty filled with English breakfast tea, carted along with towering trays of victoria sponge cake, H Forman & Son smoked-salmon finger sandwiches and house-baked scones nestled under strawberry jam and clotted cream. Clink teacups as you gaze out at Central Park West.
During high tea at The Williamsburg Hotel, tea, like wild persimmon and aromatic quince, is gently poured into multicolored, one-of-a-kind teacups. On the food side, the usual sandwiches and sweets are subbed for lemon meringue tarts, squat squares of carrot cake and hefty wedges of avocado toast, all baked at the Brooklyn Bread Lab. The $60-per-person spread is available only Friday through Sunday.
Melt into lavishness at The Gallery, The Carlyle Hotel’s living room that’s been frequented by the rich and famous. Tables are dressed with pleated white tablecloths, and you’ll lounge on red velvet armchairs. Here, herbal and black teas, like peppermint and hot cinnamon spice, mingle with handheld tea sandwiches, golden-brown scones and pastries dusted with a showering of powdered sugar.