Trade in rainy days for cascades of hot custard on English cakes.
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. Simpler tea rooms on the other hand, are more strongly consistent in NYC. You may recall our review of Prince Tea House with its slight Asian sensibility and delightful mille crepe cakes, and Alice Tea’s Cup for the most plump scones in the city but utterly dismal service. Another cottage-style afternoon tea may be found at Tea & Sympathy in the West Village. We recommend reserving a table in the under-cover outdoor area, as the original indoor space itself tends to be claustrophobic and cacophonic.
A three-tiered afternoon tea is on offer at Tea & Sympathy, starting at USD $45 per person. In the year 2022 when inflation has ballooned out eating-out costs to an exorbitant level, it’s a reasonable price. However, when compared against the countless high teas we have had before, it’s largely forgettable. Not purporting to be creative in any sense, Tea & Sympathy’s afternoon tea features crustless finger sandwiches, chunky scones and three large cakes. On our visit, the slice of Victoria Sponge cake was dry as sandpaper, but there wasn’t anything particular to cavil about the chocolate date cake and the puffy lemon-infused cake.
We prefer Tea & Sympathy’s English cakes over its afternoon tea tower. There are just under 10 different cakes on offer, and each is served perched in a pool of warm custard. Whereas the “Sticky Toffee Pudding” ($12) somewhat lacks that deep flavour that we prefer, the pillowy-soft “Treacle Pudding” ($12) is our favourite and a must-order. Overall, Tea & Sympathy makes for an adequately cozy escape from the winter chill and rains in NYC, but look elsewhere for a fancier-style of high tea service.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Tea & Sympathy, 108 Greenwich Avenue, West Village, Manhattan.
- ☑ Budget: $-$$.
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: High Tea and cakes.
- ☑ Must-eat: The “Treacle Pudding.”
- ☑ The short and sweet story: Trade in rainy days for cascades of hot custard on English cakes.