Tea time in NYC: New places offer loose-leaf service
Forget stuffy old rooms filled with pinkie-raising crustagenerians and stale sandwiches—tea has never been this hot
Tue Mar 11 2014
Photograph: Filip Wolak
From China to Britain, steaming brews and light bites have made tea service the ultimate pick-me-up for centuries. In this still-chilly weather, four New York restaurants—including Betony and the Peacock—are bringing back the tradition, updating the concept of age-old tea time and pouring on the personality.
The setup: Revved-up coffee service may be de rigueur among the city’s haute restaurants, but at this ambitious midtown newcomer, the warming after-dinner ritual is Chinese-inspired tea.
The steep: Reminiscent of Eastern ceremonies, the leaves are scraped off compact, fermented cakes, steeped briefly in a glass teapot and then poured into a clay cup several times. The successive pours develop in flavor—no sipping is allowed in the bland first round, but by the third time, the leaves have expanded to release full-bodied flavor ($15).
The bites: For lunch, choose from light plates, like grain salad with labna and sprouts ($18); dinner offers artfully composed mains, like the TONY-approved grilled short rib with baby leeks ($38), and mignardises or small desserts, including a frozen root-beer macaron ($4). 41 W 57th St at Sixth Ave (212-465-2400)
The setup: Go ahead and fake a Brigitte Bardot accent at the Soho outpost of this chic Parisian bakery. In a Versailles-like setting of sky-painted ceilings and bright macaron towers, downtowners sip tea from gold-rimmed pastel cups and saucers with Ladurée’s own dark-chocolate squares on the side.
The steep: House blends ($7) bear ooh-la-la names, like thé à la Vanille (Madagascar vanilla), thé à la Rose (rose petal), thé Cheri (black tea with caramel notes) and oolong à la Violette (violet oolong).
The bites: The French company is known for turning out some of the city’s best macarons ($2.80) in flavors like orange blossom, pistachio and salted caramel. But the other high-flying pastries, such as the mille-feuille praline ($10.50) and éclair au chocolat ($9), would make equally fitting teaside bites. 398 West Broadway between Broome and Spring Sts (646-392-7868)
The setup: When the Bowery’s cutting-edge art institution revamped its café offerings this past October, it recruited Lower East Side indie food bazaar Hester Street Fair to curate. The contemporary art space’s sleek eatery is outfitted with polished concrete floors, tree-trunk-like stools and a wraparound pastel mural by artist Laure Prouvost—a chill setting for refueling after perusing head-scratching conceptual pieces on the upper levels.
The steep: While the art may lean off-kilter, the tea service—which includes a pot, three sandwiches and pastries—is straightforward. Choose from seven varieties of McNulty’s loose-leaf teas, ranging from herbal (chamomile, peppermint) to strong (pan-fired green, Keemun black), all served out of minimalist white or glass pots.
The bites: The four varieties of tea sandwiches are filled with egg salad, salmon and dill, cucumber and chives, and tarragon chicken salad. Café Grumpy displays edible works of art like shortbread tea cookies, chocolate rose Bundt cake and seasonal scones. 235 Bowery at Prince St (212-219-1222). Full tea service: $20, for two $35.
The setup: With a nouveau gents’-club vibe, the William hotel’s just-opened restaurant pays tribute to England’s upper crust. Take your cup in a tufted wing-back chair in the Library lounge, or with dessert under a massive crystal chandelier in the oil-painting-decorated dining room. Later this spring, an afternoon tea program—with tea cakes—will roll out.
The steep: Dapper servers pour classic selections, like Earl Grey and English breakfast ($5), into flowery china tea sets.
The bites: U.K.-born chef Robert Aikens is behind the Anglo bill of fare, featuring nibbles such as deviled eggs ($9) and toasts topped with chicken-and-duck-liver parfait ($18). Dessert couldn’t get more British, with options like sticky toffee date pudding ($11). 24 E 39th St between Park and Madison Aves (646-837-6776)
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