Afternoon Tea at the Plaza has been on my NYC bucket list since I moved here almost 5 years ago. Being that it’s so very pricey, I thought it was something I’d just fantasize about but never actually do. I was beyond excited when I got an email from my dear friend saying that she’d scored a Groupon deal for tea for two and was going to take me there. When we went to the Food Hall downstairs at the Plaza for lunch a few months prior, we’d gone up to take a peak at the Palm Court where tea is served. It’s such a gorgeous, quintessential, NY setting, that stepping into the room feels like a little sample of another time in history.
When we arrived, the hostess seated us at a large table in the back and told us that a lot of people were there using their Groupon deals since they were expiring soon. The waiter came over within a few minutes, took our order, and returned a few moments later with our tea. I ordered the Montebello Apple Spice tea which was a lovely bright pink color. It had a subtle cinnamon taste with just a hint of ginger, and the apple taste was fruity and slightly tart. When I added a small cube of brown sugar it was perfection.
About 10 minutes later, a waitress brought over our 2, 3-tiered displays of treats. We’d ordered The New Yorker and The Chocolate Tea to share. We started with the adorable savories and sandwiches on the bottom tier of The New Yorker. All of them were quite tasty, but my favorite was the prosciutto, mozzarella and pesto. Also pictured are the following: cucumber/radish/herbs, smoked salmon/endive, Roquefort/red grapes/watercress, and roast beef/horseradish. Although tiny, these were all delightful, creative and beautifully prepared.
On the next tier were the scones. Fresh-baked and served with (not pictured) the most wonderful spreads: a lemon curd- which was divine, a Devonshire double cream, and raspberry preserves. I found that combining all 3 of those toppings resulted in a flavor and texture party that I was happy to attend.
At that point, we moved over to the chocolate side and started with the awesome fondue. The little red, cast iron pot heated over a flame and the chocolate became shiny and melty. We enthusiastically dipped the strawberries, pound cake, homemade marshmallows, pineapple and bananas in the chocolate, each bite more wonderful than the one before. The pretzel rods were slightly stale and we both left most of them behind.
On the top tier of both displays were the sweetest cakes/pastries/truffles/cookies etc. so even though we felt like we’d already eaten plenty of sugar, we decided that was really our dessert. I have to say, it was this tier that was the disappointing one, when in my mind, it should have been the best. The cakes were slightly dry, the pastries overly sweet, the cannoli was so stale that the knife we used to split it in halves basically mushed right though it with no flaking. The black & white cookies, a classic NY staple, was not a classic black & white at all but merely a shortbread cookie with icing. What? This is how you represent a black & white to tourists? Nooooo. That’s just wrong. I liked the little fruit tart and the chocolate truffle the best, but even those were no more exciting or impressive than a typical wedding dessert table.
At this point, realizing that my tea and water glass had both been bone dry for more than 20 minutes, I realized just how much the service was lacking. Maybe it was because we were Groupon customers, but I was pretty surprised that no one had come by to ask how everything was after we were served. When we still hadn’t received a check another 20 minutes later, we decided to just leave a tip on the table and go. It was only then that our waiter practically chased us down, receipt in hand, telling us that we had $19.50 in taxes left to pay. The bill also stated that the gratuity had been included in our Groupon payment. When we explained that we’d just left a 20 on the table for the tip and that he could use that to settle our tax bill, he agreed and let us go.
Overall, I am sort of bummed to say that this whole experience was kind of so-so. Yes, the room is exquisite. Yes, the feeling of history in the Plaza is very special. The food, tea, and service however left quite a bit to be desired. I left feeling that the whole tea-at-the-Plaza thing is really just a lot of hoopla and totally overrated. I must say, the tea service at Alice’s Tea Cup is much less expensive and about a million times better. Save your money and try that instead…but definitely swing by the Plaza to gaze at the lovely room.