A Viennese afternoon tea moment in historical FiDi.
Long-time readers of this dessert blog will know that we have moaned on a few previous occasions that many a restaurant in New York, overwhelmingly fail..and fail tremendously… at executing memorable dessert epilogues to an otherwise wonderful meal. A careless plate of cookies, a stale slice of cake or an uninspired bowl of ice cream does not constitute a proper dessert in a restaurant. It’s a tragedy that leaves these Dessert Correspondents especially, in a bamboozled state. Why the anti-climax?! 😦 It has thus been our mission to seek out the restaurants who do afford more considered attention to the dessert menu. One of our reliable favourites would have to be Augustine, a French-style braisserie in the glamorous Beekman Hotel. It recently introduced a Viennese-inspired afternoon tea session.
The restaurant space is quintessential Old Europe – rich oak and teak tones highlighted by golden light cast off from moonball lighting, antique-finished mirrors lining the length of the walls, and closely-spaced tables and chairs (always a slight grumble of ours, but… *shrug shoulders*… this is NYC, where rent and space is at a premium). During the afternoons, Augustine offers five desserts, and if you are a coffee-addict, three fanciful coffee concoctions with towers of whipped cream, which altogether may prove to be a doubly, enticing proposition. On our visit, the “Viennese Sachertorte” ($12) was an extravagantly moist slice of chocolate, layered with apricot confiture. The “Duck Egg Creme Brulee” ($11) was textbook perfection, not too watery, not too egg-y. Yet, if we had to choose a favourite of all the desserts at Augustine, the honour must go to the “Esterhazy Torte” ($12), a dream of sponge cake, hazelnut, almond and butter cream.
On our very first visit to NYC almost a decade ago now, we recall a very early wintry morning traipsing through the Financial District, before the crowds descended on the brassy bronze bull sculpture, before the traders and suits commenced business on Wall Street and Broad Street, before the commuters flooded the trains and ferries. Perhaps, quite unlike any other part of Manhattan, there is a very pervasive sense of history in FiDi. Maybe, it’s the twisty labyrinth of new roads and cobblestone roads. Maybe, it’s the way the sun timidly filters through laneways between the tightly-spaced buildings, a mix of old drinking taverns that once saw seafaring voyagers, intermingled with sleek contemporary spaces that house hundreds upon hundreds of office workers. Ten years later today, as our day-time work is situated in this area, we sadly, scurry from FiDi as soon as the work day is done. On occasion though, such as when we visited the glorious Manhatta, these Dessert Correspondents have been tempted to spend our off-work hours in FiDi, albeit with slightly thumping, PTSD-like anxiety. And, Augustine — with its exquisite afternoon tea cakes — is certainly one such place that deserves re-visits — it is an escape to one moment in Vienna in New York.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Augustine, 5 Beekman Street, Financial District, Manhattan, New York, 10038.
- ☑ Budget: $$.
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Cake afternoon tea.
- ☑ Must-eat: Esterhazy torte.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: A Viennese afternoon tea moment in historical FiDi.