The best way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city? Why, pausing for a proper afternoon tea, of course! Here’s a comprehensive list of all the tea houses I’ve personally been to in NYC, and a bit about my experience at each. I’ve bolded my absolute favorites.
Fancy and Classic:
The Palm Court at The Plaza (note: they have an adorable tea service for children, too, so it’s a great place to take your favorite little one on a special date.)
The Baccarat Hotel (note: out of every place on this list, this definitely wins for being the most modernly luxurious in my book. the crystal stemware, paired with a fresh spray of red roses everywhere, elevates the experience to something special. so while the food doesn’t rank at the tippy top of my list, the atmosphere is hard to compete with.)
The Gotham Lounge at the Peninsula Hotel (note: my favorite part about tea at this place is that it never feels overly precious, crowded, or rushed. the gotham lounge is set apart from their main dining room, and it’s quite easy to get even a same day tea reservation. couches encourage you to sink in and stay a while.)
The Pembroke Room at The Lowell (note: these guys were FANTASTIC with accommodating for both gluten-free and vegetarian services. it’s also much quieter than any of the other services I went to on this list, providing an intimate experience.)
The Whitby (note: love that they serve afternoon tea ALL DAY, not from specific hours like most of the other places. also, you can opt for the “healthier” version of an afternoon tea, getting gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and sugar-free, if you’d like.)
The Crosby Street Hotel (note: this spot is owned by the same people who operate The Whitby, so you’ll get a similar vibe, with an option of a healthy menu. main differences is this has been around longer, so is typically pretty crowded, and is in Soho, while The Whitby is in Midtown. you also have the option to receive tea on the outdoor terrace during the summer months.)
Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon (note: nestled in a beautiful downtown townhouse complete with a fireplace, this truly gives you the experience of what a proper tea service must have looked like back in the day.)
BG at Bergdorf’s (note: go here for the full “ladies who lunch” experience.)
St. Regis (note: the decor here is enchanting, with the ceiling painted with clouds and a harpist performing during tea)
The Pierre Two E (note: for being the legendary Pierre Hotel, I think I was expecting to be blown away by this tea. don’t get me wrong, it was fine, but had we not had a Groupon for this particular experience, I would have been disappointed with the service. although it’s worth noting that maybe it was BECAUSE we had a Groupon that service was so/so? regardless, it wouldn’t be at the top of my list for fancy hotel teas going forward.)
The Russian Tea Room (note: this is by far my least favorite on this list, as I didn’t find the staff to be very accommodating with my vegetarian diet ((all the savories had meat and they didn’t offer any substitutions OR reduction of price)) nor were the treats very memorable…but since it’s such a NYC institution, I felt I had to add it to the list;-)
Fancy and Whimsical:
Garfunkel’s (note: this afternoon tea is held in a 1920’s speakeasy that is a bar in the evenings. at $40 for the full elegant setting, it still ranks as one of the best deals for classy afternoon tea in manhattan, and I love that they have a strict ‘no phones’ policy to keep the atmosphere in tact.)
Laduree in SoHo (note: they don’t have the traditional tiered tea setting, but you can order separate desserts along with your tea. they also have a gorgeous back garden, enclosed during the cooler months.)
Kings’ Carriage House (note: nestled in a beautiful uptown townhouse, this is the UES version of Lady Mendl’s…only erring more British. i loved their mismatched china, and in fact, this is where my mother-in-law hosted my baby shower!)
Rose House (note: located in Flushing, Queens, this spot is a little bit of a trek, and it’s located in a shopping mall, so not exactly your traditional tea house. BUT. that being said, it’s truly one of my favorites if you’re up for a commute. it’s decked out in pink, they serve the best milk tea I’ve ever had, and since there’s not the same space restrictions as tea spots in Manhattan, it feels really roomy. it’s also a steal, as last time I went you could get tea for two for $35! just know going in that English is limited, and they are not great about accommodating food restrictions–in lieu of vegetarian savory sammies, they just gave me more sweets–which I was A-OK with!)
Casual and Cute:
The Morgan Library & Museum (note: while located inside the Morgan Library & Museum, you can have tea here without paying for museum entrance. the dining room is large and spacious and absolutely drenched in sunlight which is a huge perk not found at any of the other spots on the list. they theme their tea based on their current exhibition, which is a really cool added bonus for literary lovers. and at only $37, it’s truly one of the best values for afternoon tea you’ll find in the city.
Alice’s Tea Cup (note: if you’re REALLY trying to make a meal out of afternoon tea, go here, and for $100 two people can have unlimited tea, scones, sandwiches, and sweets. you’ll also run into the most children at this place, so if it’s a grownup vibe you’re going for, this is probably not the best choice.)
Podunk (note: this place has the best food on the list, in my humble opinion. family owned and operated in the East Village, it’s truly adorable, but tiny –so make a rezzie–and has no bathroom. UPDATE: while, sadly, the original teahouse is not open currently, they are said to be relocating, so keep an eye out)
Tea & Sympathy (note: you WILL wait for this place, and rezzies aren’t accepted, but they have a great selection of British food, along with tea service, so it’s something fun to experience at least once!)
Lilly’s Victorian Establishment (note: while many of you will recognize this as being a popular after work/pre-theater drink spot, you probably don’t know that they now offer an afternoon tea from 11am to 4pm, Monday through Friday! priced at $66 as a TEA FOR TWO or $35 for one, this is surely one of the most affordable places on the list–plus the decor is adorable and perfect for teatime!)
Best Place to While Away an Afternoon Alone With a Book:
Radiance Tea House & Books on 55th Street (note: I’ve literally gone in here and spent HOURS nursing one pot of tea, and they’re completely cool with that. they don’t have the traditional tiered setting, but have a huge selection of chinese and herbal teas that the other places don’t, as well as really good chinese food.)
Pink Moose (note: at the time I went, they weren’t offering the traditional 3 tiered version of afternoon tea with the sammies, scones, and sweets, but did have a solid a la carte menu and lots of teas to choose from. it’s a quiet little midtown east spot where you surely won’t feel rushed.)
Prince Tea House (note: there’s a few of these around the city, but I experienced the one on the Upper East Side. both times I went during the day and it never felt crowded…a great spot to go solo and catch up on some reading. make sure to order the rose milk tea, it’s my favorite thing on their menu.
I’ll be sure to update this list as I continue to explore more tea services in NYC (there are so many!)
And do tell…anywhere not on here that I should run out and try immediately? Where is your favorite place for a special tea service? Share below!