The most expensive high tea in New York.
Midtown Manhattan is an enigma. For tourists and newly-arrived would-be New Yorkers, nothing compares to the pandemonium and neon lights of Time Square, and the litany of historic old-school restaurants, bars and other venues that abound. Yet for those who have lived here for a while, many treat Midtown as one would Chernobyl, and stay f-a-r away. For these Dessert Correspondents, we venture for the occasional 5th Avenue shopping, the melodies of Broadway and also when we want to escape over-hyped places in downtown Manhattan, to find solace in the (usually quieter) old-school establishments in Midtown, and their associated high tea offerings. One such establishment that offers high tea is the Baccarat Hotel, located smack-bang in the centre of the Midtown cacophony. Stepping inside the hotel however, is akin to what one might imagine stepping inside some of the brand’s cool, sparkling crystal ornaments – a quiet, gilded space styled with a modern sensibility in contrasting hues of black, red and white, and with a pervasive sense of great affluence and great privilege.
On our visit, the Baccarat’s tea menu was probably the most extensive, and thoughtfully-crafted, of all the tea menus that we have so far seen in New York. It listed two types white teas (so rare in many New York afternoon teas), and several variations of black and green teas. Of the white teas, we loved both the slightly citric, slightly sweet Moulin Rouge, and the intoxicating Ombrelle de Papier with hints of pineapple. Of the green teas, the Lychee and Peony balanced the usual vegetal twang of green tea. There were three afternoon tea food menus on offer. The “King Louis XV” high tea was a dessert-only option for $65 per person, the “Prince of Wales” a traditional English three-tiered affair for $90 per person, and there was an eye (and wallet)-popping “Tsar Nicholas II“-caviar-focused extravagance at $400-600 depending on the champagne pairing selected. We proceeded with the “Prince of Wales” option which arrived on a beautiful crystal centrepiece.
On the bottom tier, there were five savouries, of which we loved the tomato tart, with its large popping tomato, the most. The other savouries comprised a blini pancake sandwiching quail egg and caviar, a gougere pastry puff stuffed with morel mushrooms, a white asparagus tart and a very English, cucumber sandwich. No limp finger sandwiches here.
The scones were served separate to the crystal three-tier setting. Of two varieties (blueberry and plain), they were dusted with icing sugar, and were of the crumbly, denser texture that seems to be an unfortunate predilection of scones in New York. Such a pity as the accompanying Devonshire Tea and strawberry jam were exquisite. As per our usual tradition, we left the scones to last, so as to ensure sufficient space was available for dessert consumption. :p
The sweet irresistibles of the afternoon tea were perched on the two remaining upper tiers of the crystal set. There was a bluebbery tartlette, another filled with a light apricot custard cream, and also a meringue vacherin embellished with a scoop of tiny diced strawberries. There was also a little choux pastry religieuse snowman, filled with lemon earl grey custard, and a pretty ombre-shade blood orange white chocolate mousse teardrop.
Across the numerous afternoon teas that we have experienced over the years, MoMo & Coco believe that there are two broad categories that one can classify any afternoon tea: i) the afternoon tea that you visit for the traditional or historic vibes, and ii) the afternoon tea that you visit for a creative culinary affair. Suffusing old-school European luxury into the glamourous modernity through which one commonly views Manhattan, afternoon tea at the Baccarat is unquestionable, sumptuous opulence. The food offerings are faultless, as is the service, being of the precise standard befitting such a place. High tea at the Baccarat is in short, an encounter with another world – one of glitter, and sparkles, and crystals, but yet, one which feels very much surreal. One must be grateful for having had the opportunity to indulge in such a sweet experience, yet one perhaps can’t help but wonder whether it was all worth the very premium asking price in the end.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Baccarat Hotel, 28 West, 53rd Street, Midtown Manhattan, New York.
- ☑ Budget: $$$$ ($90pp, plus tip/tax, for the “Prince of Wales” option).
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: High Tea.
- ☑ Must-eat: The dessert selection are faultless.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: The most expensive high tea in New York.