Despite the Big Apple’s reputation as a fast-paced, cosmopolitan capital, it also offers a more relaxed and proper experience. We are talking about afternoon tea. Today we share the best places to enjoy afternoon tea in New York City.
Across New York ladies and gents gather daily at various salons around town and leave all their hurriedness at the door. They genteelly nibble on canapes, petit fours, finger sandwiches, scones, and caviar gracefully displayed on elegant triple-tier platters. While also sipping chamomile, oolong, Ceylon, and fruit-tinged tea from delicate porcelain, gold-rimmed cups.
Welcome to afternoon tea in New York City, a sophisticated pastime that’s been around for decades and continues to thrive. If you’ve ever been curious about the afternoon tea trend, New York provides plenty of choices to sate that curiosity. Brush up on your etiquette––that means no pinkies up according to Emily Post––before visiting any of these spots for afternoon tea in NYC.
One of the most elegant properties in New York, Baccarat Hotel hosts afternoon tea in its Grand Salon every day from noon until 4 p.m. The gorgeous space is inspired by La galerie des Glaces in Versailles, so guests should expect an abundance of beauty and bling during this afternoon tea experience.
Catering to different culinary preferences, Baccarat provides several unique tea menus. The Prince of Wales English Tea at Windsor features sweet and savory tea sandwiches, and the Sultan Abdülaziz Turkish Tea at Dolmabahce Palace showcases Middle Eastern flavors in its canapes. Try the Red Moon––for red fruit enthusiasts––a perfect tea pairing with the decadent scones served alongside Devonshire cream and seasonal jelly. Prices range from $140 to $210 per person, depending on the menu and Champagne selection.
The Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel
This spectacular space in one of New York’s legendary hotels makes afternoon tea an unforgettable affair. Available daily from 10:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., tea at the Plaza Hotel is elaborate, pricing from $82 to $194 per person, with The Grand Imperial Tea costing $599 for two.
The Palm Court features an extensive menu, with Tie Guan Yin from China, Margaret’s Hope from Darjeeling, India, and Jukro, a grand cru tea from South Korea. Guests can choose from the Manhattan Tea or the Signature Tea, a more upscale option, or splurge on the Grand Imperial Tea, which includes caviar service and Louis Roederer Cristal. Swoon! A selection of pastries–-think tarts, macarons, and custards––and sandwiches like savory herb-roasted chicken with sun-dried tomato and honey ricotta with pesto, pair wonderfully with the tea and bubbly.
The Palm Court also hosts a Children’s Eloise Tea, honoring the beloved storybook character Eloise, The Plaza’s most renowned resident.
The Russian Tea Room
This regal restaurant on West 57th Street next to Carnegie Hall is perhaps the most iconic establishment for afternoon tea in New York City. Founded by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet in 1927, the Russian Tea Room has long been a destination for the city’s elite and continues to draw distinguished guests and visitors from across the globe. Swathed in rich ruby fabrics with Art Deco nuances, the Russian Tea Room is worth a visit for the interior design alone, where the décor will transport you to an earlier era for a few hours.
Scheduled every afternoon until 4:30 p.m., the tea includes typical finger sandwiches and sweets, blinis and caviar, mint verbena, and Moet & Chandon rosé Champagne. At the Russian Tea Room, prices range from $60 for Children’s Afternoon Tea to $150 for Royal Afternoon Tea.
The Gallery at the Carlyle
Elegance abounds at The Carlyle, one of Manhattan’s most upscale, storied hotels. Lavish décor––think antique kilim-upholstered banquettes, colorful wallpaper patterns, and red velvet armchairs––is a highlight in the Gallery at the Carlyle. A parlor-style space reminiscent of the Sultan’s dining room at the Topkapi Palace in Turkey.
Tea lovers gather here each afternoon to enjoy exotic teas alongside sandwiches, pastries, Hudson Valley foie gras torchon, and scones with Devonshire cream. While tea service can be an all-day affair, afternoon tea at The Carlyle has a short window from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The cost is $65 per person and $85 with a glass of Champagne.
King’s Carriage House
An English-country home in the middle of Manhattan? Yes, it exists on the Upper East Side, and it’s called King’s Carriage House (251 E 82nd St). At just $29.95 per person, afternoon tea here is the most affordable on this list. Choose from High Tea (non-vegetarian), or Vegetarian Tea. Both teas provide a scrumptious lineup of savory and sweet triangles, pinwheels, and tea cakes. Plus, for an additional fee, you can add an entrée like a chopped salad or seared salmon to your afternoon tea and make a meal out of it.
Teas range from jasmine to white peach matcha to pomegranate oolong. King’s Carriage House serves tea from noon until 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, but also allows guests to take their afternoon tea to-go or order a spread for delivery.
The Whitby Bar at the Whitby Hotel
If there’s one New York establishment serving tea that will feel decidedly British but with contemporary flair, it’s The Whitby Bar. Designer and hotelier Kit Kemp imagined this chic Midtown respite, one of the top luxury hotels in NYC, also a great spot to see and be seen while partaking in afternoon tea in NYC.
Guests can indulge in coronation turkey salad and pear and ginger layer cake, among other delicious sweets and savories. Pair them with a cup of Jade Spring green tea or caffeine-free peppermint tea, served at a white-cloaked table adorned with Sailor’s Farewell Wedgwood china by Kit Kemp. The cost of afternoon tea at The Whitby Bar is $60 per person or $75 per person with a glass of Pommery Brut Apanage NV.
Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon
A Georgian brownstone marked by scores of rich wood and layers of patterns is the home of Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon (56 Irving Pl) in the Gramercy Park neighborhood. Tea choices include English breakfast, Moroccan mint green, creamy toasted coconut, and Wonderland rooibos, a decaf option.
Seasonal soup or salad, smoked salmon, egg salad, and cucumber sandwiches are some of the savory dishes served here. Scones with lemon curd; macarons; chocolate-covered strawberries and the famed Lady M crepe cake round out the sweet options. Lady Mendl’s afternoon tea is available on Thursday and Friday from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. and from noon until 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The five-course high tea menu is priced at $78, and wine and cocktails are additional.
Insider’s Tip: Lady M makes our list of the best bakeries in NYC, which you can visit directly to enjoy their mille-feuille cakes again and again!
Tracy Kaler is a freelance journalist focused on travel, food, wine, and design. She fell in love with New York as a child and began writing about the city when she moved there in 2007. When Tracy’s not glued to her laptop, she’s likely planning her next food-filled adventure, uncorking a bottle of red, or wandering the streets of NYC.