Crowding into the Carlyle for Christmas.
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. At the end of each year, our New York Christmas tradition has been to partake in an afternoon tea. This year, we visited the Carlyle Hotel for a Christmas-themed afternoon tea.
Afternoon tea at the Carlyle Hotel is hosted in the Gallery, a space that is described as a “private retreat” inspired by the “sultan’s dining room at the Topkapi Palace in Turkey.” Words can be deceiving. To our complete dismay, the Gallery is nothing more than a corridor — a very crowded corridor — between the hotel lobby and the famed Bemelmans Bar. No amount of beautiful wallpaper and opulently red velvet upholstery can detract from how disappointing the ambience of the Gallery was. A reservation is difficult to snag as there are just 6-8 tables here.
Afternoon tea at the Carlyle can be taken a la carte, or in the traditional three-tiered style. Outside of the Christmas season, the standard afternoon tea is priced at $65 pp (plus tip/tax). For the Christmas season, it is just under $100. On our visit, the Carlyle Hotel offered a solid tea menu, with a range of black, green and herbal tea infusions. There was a selection of classically-made ribbon sandwiches. Scones with a slightly chunky texture were served with double cream and berry preserve. The dessert tier of the afternoon tea was Christmas themed, and included a mini chocolate pudding, chocolate tart and a pretty gingerbread yule log.
Afternoon tea at the Carlyle Hotel was almost the opposite of our afternoon tea experience at the Russian Tea Room last year during the Christmas season. The Russian Tea Room was a stunning venue, but with forgettable food. By contrast, the Carlyle’s high tea food offerings, even if not particularly creative, could not be faulted, but its ambience was a far cry from the promised “private retreat” espoused by the hotel itself. Unless you don’t mind talking very loudly in order to be heard over the raucous crowds of tourists and locals that traipse through the corridor space where the high tea is set, we would recommend that you visit the Carlyle for Bemelmans Bar only, and for a more memorable and relaxing high tea, visit the near-by Lowell Hotel instead.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th Street, Upper East Side, Manhattan.
- ☑ Budget: $$$-$$$$ ($65 pp off-season, $90 pp Christmas season + tax/tip).
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: High tea.
- ☑ Must-eat: The chocolate cake.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: Crowding into the Carlyle for Christmas.