The Anglophile's guide to NYC
Have a cuppa, don your best mod gear and pretend you're a Brit for a day.
Wed Jul 18 2012
The Anglophile's guide to NYC
It's fitting that Brits tend to fly under the radar in New York—after all, waving the flag of St. George from balconies or pushing esoteric tea-drinking ceremonies (milk, two sugars) on the Starbucks-swilling masses wouldn't be very...well, English, would it? But thanks to the London 2012 Olympic Games, which kicks off July 27 and runs through August 12, expats and Anglophiles alike have a chance to engage in more than two weeks days of Britain-related revelry. Fill yer boots at our favorite bastions of Englishness around the city.
Sit down and have some sugary tea
Pop in to Tea & Sympathy (108–110 Greenwich Ave at Jane St; 212-989-9735, teaandsympathynewyork.com) if you are English, or just want a proper cup of char. There's always a devoted community of Brits and wanna-bes at this cramped but homey space, where, over the clinking of china, you can strike up a conversation with the diner sitting right next to you. Order the afternoon tea ($35 for one, $65 for two), which comes with assorted finger sandwiches, scones and a selection of cakes—plus a steaming pot of the only beverage more sacred to the English than beer. "It's the actual tea-drinking that we do so well. When I first came here, I couldn't believe it—I'd go to other places and the tea was just revolting," says Nicky Perry, a former Londoner who opened Tea & Sympathy in 1990. "I'm very, sort of, 'This is it, this is how it is.' You walk in the doors, and you're in my living room. But our tea is very popular, made fresh to order. And I always tell people to come hungry!" You can never go wrong with the classic English breakfast or Earl Grey, but Tea & Sympathy has 41 other varieties to choose from, including Yorkshire Gold and rose petal.
Still, drinking your tea without your pinky finger crooked is deemed positively scandalous by a certain high-class set. (Perhaps this shocking lack of proprietary is what caused Oasis's extraordinarily well-bred frontman Noel Gallagher to call England a "fuck dump.") Etiquette demands you educate yourself with a posh afternoon tea ($38 per person) at the London Bar, Gordon Ramsay's sleek fine-dining space tucked within the cosmopolitan London NYC Hotel (151 W 54th St between Broadway and Eighth Ave; 212-307-5000, thelondonnyc.com). Offered daily from 3 to 5pm, the service features a selection of tea sandwiches, raisin scones and other pastries, and your choice of char—go with the Darjeeling, if you're feeling bold.
Podunk (231 E 5th St between Second and Third Aves, 212-677-7722) owner Elspeth Treadwell is Scandanavian, not British, but this miniature East Village teahouse is one of the most charming spots in New York City to relax with a mug and the latest edition of the Currant Bun (the proper Cockney way to refer to daily tabloid The Sun). The mismatched vintage chairs, shelves of books and cozy knickknacks are a delight, but the teas and accompanying sandwiches or treat trays are even more so: Try the Tittle-Tattle tray ($12), which comes with some dainty cupcakes and cookies, along with a pot of tea. However, we suggest you ask to substitute coconut-flavored tea for the Lady Black; royal labels are unnecessary if you can trade them for tea leaves that taste like liquid ambrosia.
You dream of protein on a plate
England may not be famous for its cuisine, but one culinary technique the Brits excel at is frying just about any foodstuff until it tastes good. The Brooklyn chainlet Chip Shop (129 Atlantic Ave between Clinton and Henry Sts, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn; 718-855-7775 * 383 Fifth Ave at 6th St, Park Slope, Brooklyn; 718-832-7701 * chipshopnyc.com) showcases this skill with a full slate of golden-crusted goodies, including Mars bars, mac and cheese, bangers and, of course, fish—choose from cod, haddock or plaice, cooked to perfection beneath a thick layer of malty batter ($12–$12.75). The small hangout is also a great place to quaff British beers (like Old Speckled Hen) and hard-to-find soft drinks like Lilt ($3) and the blackcurrant-flavored Fizzy Ribena ($3).
Fish and chips may seem as English as it gets, but any Brit fanatic worth his weight in sterling knows that curry is the country's national dish (at least according to former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who proclaimed it as such). Brick Lane Curry House (306–308 E 6th St between First and Second Aves; 212-979-8787, bricklanecurryhouse.com) takes its name from an East London street famous for Bengali-style Indian food, and it specializes in the dangerously spicy phaal ($14–$21) that's popular along the 'hood's restaurant row. The menu wisely warns that the curry, which is made from 10 different chilis, is "more pain and sweat than flavor"—those who demonstrate a stiff upper lip and make it through the agony get a beer of their choice (such as Kingfisher, Taj Mahal or Stella).
Trendy gastropubs like the Spotted Pig (314 W 11th St at Greenwich St; 212-620-0393, thespottedpig.com) and the Breslin Bar & Dining Room (Ace Hotel, 16 W 29th St at Broadway, 212-679-1939) do a valiant job of giving British-style cooking some sex appeal, and April Bloomfield, the Birmingham-born toque behind both ventures, deserves every bit of praise she receives. But while foodies have been frothing at the mouth for decadent dishes like fried pig feet and breaded scrumpets (sort of like a fish stick made out of lamb), a better-kept secret at the Breslin is the bang-up breakfast menu. Stop by when most of the hipper-than-thou clientele is still asleep for one of the city's best full English brekkies ($23), featuring English bacon, homemade sausage, garlic-laden mushrooms, slow-roasted tomatoes and organic sunny-side up eggs.