All the elegance and decadence of New York.
High tea is not a NYC forte — after quite a number of high tea experiences in NYC, we have yet to come across a venue that offers the lavish dessert spreads seen in Asia and Australia, or the cultivated creativity of desserts seen in London. After celebrating the end of our fifth year in NYC with high tea at the Russian Team Room, we decided to start our sixth year in NYC with another high tea that is high on every tourist’s hotspot list — high tea at the Plaza.
The Plaza Hotel is, without a doubt, a New York icon. Draped in gold leaf, crystal chandeliers and extravagant floral arrangements at every corner, there isn’t another hotel in the city furnished at this level of opulence. Under a soaring stained glass ceiling, afternoon tea is taken at the hotel’s Palm Court. The Plaza’s signature afternoon tea is available daily and is served by very attentive, if slightly bothersome, wait staff. For USD $115 pp (plus tax/tip), it is slightly less expensive than high tea at the Baccarat Hotel. On our visit, the tea menu was average in length, listing 12 different types of tea, including a variety of black and green teas, and herbal infusions. In the American fashion, one had to ask for milk to accompany the black tea. On the day we visited, there was also a special “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” themed tea set (USD $99 pp, plus tax/tip), with different savouries and sweets on offer.
The afternoon tea itself was presented on a three-tiered silver stand. For each person, there was a selection of five savoury bites: a cucumber finger sandwich on rye bread; cheese and shallots on multigrain; cured salmon and horseradish creme; foie gras on brioche; and also, an extravagant morsel of lobster, truffle and caviar. The “Mrs. Maisel” set switched out a few items for a chicken sandwich; a pastrami toastie; and a deviled egg.
The uppermost tier of the high tea stand featured some of the most elegantly-crafted high tea sweets that we have had the pleasure of nibbling in NYC. The “Signature” tea set included a chestnut macaron; a berry fruit tart with yuzu lemon curd; a kalamansi banana cake; a trompe l’oeil apple creation with cloud-like mousse surrounding a caramelized apple centre; and a very memorable custard egg with red tea and mandarin jelly and a touch of mango. The “Mrs. Maisel” set consisted of a macaron spliced in black and white (seemingly to mirror the city’s iconic black & white cookie); a little tart with pomegranate jelly; a pink strawberry creme mousseline creme puff; a rich chocolate nutella babka cheese; and a zinging yuzu lemon meringue tartlet. Scones were served warm, wrapped in a thick white napkin. They were accompanied with properly luscious Devonshire cream, yuzu lemon curd (our favourite!), and strawberry preserve.
After the disappointment of The Russian Tea Room, high tea at the Plaza certainly revitalized our hopes for the high tea tradition in New York. Whereas we would struggle to recommend the Russian Tea Room’s high tea to someone visiting the city, we have no hesitation in recommending the Plaza’s version. That said, make a booking for a week day, and later in the day, if at all possible, to avoid the crowds.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: The Plaza Hotel, 768 5th Avenue, Midtown East, Manhattan.
- ☑ Budget: $$$$ (USD $100-120 pp+ tip/tax).
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: High tea
- ☑ Must-eat: The cakes.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: All the elegance and decadence of New York.