Indulging in afternoon tea NYC-style is for those who fancy a scone or crumpet alongside a piping hot kettle of tea as a midday pick-me-up. For nap shirkers and doldrum evaders, it may be old hat to chase the yawns away with iced coffee and hot java at the best coffee shops in NYC, but the luxury of tea o’clock serves the same function whilst making you feel like the Queen of England herself. From hotel restaurants to proper teahouses, here’s where to go for the best afternoon tea NYC’s got to offer.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in NYC
Best afternoon tea in NYC
This reborn socialite center has never looked—or tasted—better. Nostalgia buffs will be happy to hear that nothing’s happened to the gilded-bird friezes or the famously tacky crystal-bear aquarium. Take your afternoon tea in the glitzy confines from 2pm to 4:30pm daily, with brewing ranging from classic English breakfast to rooibos chai, and accompaniments like assorted scones, petits fours and sandwiches (sturgeon with dill and sour cream, curried chicken salad).
The Ritz offers everything you'd expect from a deluxe Manhattan hotel: Central Park views, luxurious bedding (choose from seven types of pillow!), a destination restaurant, BLT Market, and an indulgent La Prairie spa. Afternoon tea takes place from 2pm to 4pm inside the Star Lounge and is equipped with seasonal selections (wild strawberry green tea for summer, say) and assorted snacks, like a watermelon-feta tart and wasabi-salmon crostini.
You have to climb a flight of stairs and peek behind a curtain to find this tranquil teahouse, which offers a succession of deftly crafted plates accompanied by a thoughtful list of teas and sake. Each night features two special “sets” that take you from an amuse-bouche like creamy soy-milk quiche through a selection of tiny bites (pickled eggplant, marinated lotus root), to entrées such as tea-smoked salmon with sliced radish, Dijon mustard and tarragon. It's a great escape from the East Village crowds.
The iconic atrium at the Plaza returns after six months of renovation with a focus on breakfast and afternoon tea. Afternoon tea service, a collaboration with Palais des Thés, features leaves from across the globe such as London Early Grey (bergamot, cornflower), Geisha green tea (cherry blossom) and Mekong black tea (pear, mint). A tribute to the hotel’s literary heroine, the Eloise tea includes a collection of childhood-favorite sandwiches and savories like bite-size grilled cheeses, chocolate mousse and even cotton candy.
The 1930 landmark overlooking Central Park became part of the posh Indian Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces in 2005, setting in motion a $100 million overhaul—but it retains delightfully old-fashioned elements such as elevator operators, original fireplaces and, yes, afternoon tea service. Opt for the brew solo or bump it up with champagne, and choose from a selection of pastries (red-cherry financiers, lemon-meringue tarts) and sandwiches (devilled eggs with red sorrel, boursin cheese with asparagus).
Mandarin Oriental's five-star New York property perches 280 feet above street level in the Time Warner Center—the luxurious rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows to make the most of the spectacular views. Take in the scenery at the hotel's Lobby Lounge, which offers afternoon tea daily from 2:30pm to 4:30pm with a wide array of options, from a rose-infused high-caffeine black tea to a low-caffeine jasmine-perfumed white tea. Offset the brews with bites like coconut cream puffs, chocolate macarons and burrata mousse sandwiches with basil pesto.
This cozy but cramped (think Grandma’s living room—if she were British and had a fondness for tiny tables) restaurant serves British comfort food that satiates locals and ex-pats. You’ll find the usual suspects: bangers and mash, Welsh rarebit, assorted pasties and shepherd’s pie. Come Sundays for a dinner special of roast beef flanked by fluffy Yorkshire pudding and bubble ‘n’ squeak – a mash of leftover roasted vegetables fried like hash browns. Be sure to visit the adjoining shop for UK imports ranging from Cadbury chocolates to ornate teapots perfect for brewing a traditional British “cuppa”. If you’d rather leave the work to the waitresses, there’s a solid afternoon tea spread which includes finger sandwiches, cakes and scones to accompany your fresh pot.
Inspired by Elsie de Wolfe, famed socialite and former neighbor of 56 Irving Place, the rooms of this brownstone (an inn since 1994) are decorated in parlor pinks, soft greens and florals, with antiques tucked into every corner. The fancy five-course tea service begins with a mixed greens salad, followed by a sampling of tea sandwiches (standard cucumber as well as salmon with cream cheese, and goat cheese with sun-dried tomato). Then come the scones with raspberry preserves and clotted cream, cookies, cakes and dainty petit fours. It’s all accompanied by a pot of tea, naturally, or you can opt for a demurely rebellious concoction (gin, grapefruit juice and Cointreau) called the Pink Lady.
As tea parlors go, Bosie has a lot going for it. First, there’s the selection of more than 100 loose-leaf teas from co-owner Nicky Dawda’s retail company, L’Age de Thé; it’s curated by co-owner Kiley Holliday, the youngest American female to be awarded the title of tea master. To go with the teas are sweets like macarons and tea cakes from pastry chef Damien Herrgott, who’s logged hours at Paris’s famed Pierre Hermé and as executive pastry chef at Bouley Bakery. Finally, a savory menu of soups, quiches, salads and sandwiches is available for those with larger appetites.
Opened in 1930 as a residential hotel, the elegant Carlyle is best known for its classy cabaret room, Café Carlyle, and Bemelmans Bar, which features charming murals by Madeline creator Ludwig Bemelmans. The Gallery dining room serves a complete English tea from 3pm to 5:30pm daily, padded out with exotic options (Assam, Verveine), tea sandwiches and scones with authentic Devonshire cream.
The first outpost of this local company helps tea sheds its grannyish rep. A hip crowd gathers at the dark-wood bar to savor more than 50 brews, infused cocktails and a tea-based food menu. Although cubes of barley jelly in an appetizer of crab, olives and matcha tea reminded us of agar, our entrées were winners, especially plump pillows of caramelized gnocchi luxuriating in a jasmine-tea–accented brown-butter sauce dotted with dried cranberries and baby squash. With fare like this, having a cuppa may become a dining ritual.
If your tot has ever dreamed of taking tea with the Mad Hatter and March Hare, then this restaurant is worth a trip down the rabbit hole. Tykes under age 10 can sample Alice's special “wee tea,” which includes tea, a scone, an entrée and the appropriately oxymoronic "white rabbit" dark-chocolate mousse. (Feel free to bring baby along: The restaurant also offers a "puree of the day.") Next thing you know, your kids will be asking if they can have their next unbirthday party here.
Need a caffeine boost?
Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant
The oyster bar inside iconic Grand Central Terminal has been serving commuters, tourists and diners since 1913. After going bankrupt and falling into disuse in the 1970s, it reopened with a renewed focus on seafood and a newly renovated interior. Today, Grand Central Oyster Bar serves 25 to 30 varieties of oysters and fresh seafood sourced from local purveyors across the Northeast. There’s the raw bar, of course, and plenty of other appetizers like oysters rockefeller ($16.45), grilled Spanish cuttlefish ($16.95) and broiled Peconic Bay sea scallops with casino butter ($11.95). Move on to the specials of the day, which on a recent visit, included tempura-fried catfish with spicy teriyaki sauce ($23.95) and grilled jumbo shrimp over penne with puttanesca sauce ($30.95). Thirsty? Pair your meal with something from the extensive wine list or one of the legendary martinis.
Venue says: “For over 100 years we have been serving the freshest oysters & seafood in NYC! Our Oyster Happy Hour features Bluepoint Oysters, $1.25/each”