If you think Afternoon Tea is for silver-haired ladies wearing white gloves and carrying Gideon bibles, think again. High Tea, an almost century-old tradition, is one of the best "it's-so-old-it's-new" foodie experiences at the Palm Court in the Plaza Hotel. This is the perfect spot to get together with friends for a luscious treat. Everything is prepared fresh at the hotel with the best organic and local ingredients, sourced from a variety of New York regions.
Every day from 2 to 5 PM, you can enjoy their special 3-course meal with tea in The Palm Court ’s elegant space, where your privacy is measured by the large gap between tables and whisper quiet service. Add to that, tuxedoed waiters that respond to you with the utmost care and grace.
There are two main Afternoon Tea food choices, The Classic and The New Yorker. We chose one of each, so we could taste everything, of course. Realistically, one selection is more than enough for two people.
There’s a menu full of tea choices, including several premium teas which are rare, exotic and a bit more pricey. We stuck with the house teas, flavorful blends served perfectly steeped in thick teapots to retain heat. Dennis had hot tea; Marilyn prefers iced drinks and chose a refreshing and delicious pear-flavored tea.
As we relaxed a bit, sipping our teas, the waiter silently showed up at our table with the classic three-tiered trays, brimming with our selections. Each tray consisted of a beautiful assortment of items on each level. Could they possibly taste as good as they looked? The answer was a resounding, YES!
The bottom tier was filled with their famous tea sandwiches, all updated by Executive Chef Willis Loughhead. The middle tier had a variety of scones, wrapped in a white napkin to keep them warm. Accompanying the scones was fresh clotted cream, lemon curd, and a delectable strawberry preserve. The top tier contained a selection of pastries, so appealing we almost skipped the first two tiers to start at the top!
The Classic Tea sandwiches included cucumber and watercress on buttered white bread; smoked salmon with cream cheese and chives on pumpernickel; lobster salad with caviar; and egg salad in pastry shells. The New Yorker Tea featured additional items such as organic roast beef on a pretzel roll and prosciutto with mozzarella.
Pastry Chef Jasmina Bojic created a tantalizing assortment of pastries including mini-cannoli, chocolate cakes, cheesecakes, mini-cupcakes, fresh macaroons, jelly squares, and black & white cookies. Of course, they’re all completely low calorie. Just kidding! But certainly worth going off your diet, just this once!
We managed to eat all the sandwiches and some of the scones (heavenly with the lemon curd!). In no hurry to leave the comfort of the Palm Court, we sat longer than we should have, sipping our tea and over-indulging in the absolutely blissful desserts, feeling no remorse for enjoying such guilty pleasures. The waiter gladly boxed up the leftover cakes, which we shared with friends later. Lucky them!
The Afternoon Tea is $45 for the Classic Tray or $55 for the New Yorker. Even if you consider it a splurge, it’s worth it, just to feel divinely decadent, impress your friends, or simply enjoy one of the oldest and most delightful New York traditions. Additional tea options include a Chocolate Tea ($55), which boasts a sumptuous chocolate fondue, and the Eloise Tea ($28), based on The Plaza’s most famous six-year-old hotel guest.
The Palm Court is open daily for breakfast and lunch in addition to the Afternoon Tea. There is an a la carte brunch menu offered on Sundays, and the room is available for special events in the evenings.
The Plaza Hotel has been substantially remodeled in recent years and now boasts a fancy food court and a glitzy, open bar, on the mezzanine overlooking the south lobby. Untouched, the Oak Room retains it traditions and remains a popular destination for the ‘who’s who’ of the political, theatrical and business worlds.
The food court is actually Todd English’s Food Hall. We discovered it when we first entered the hotel, and saw a sign pointing downstairs, simply stating, “Food Hall.” Heading down the stairway, we were pleasantly surprised to find this cool new food emporium.
The Food Hall offers a diverse range of specialty foods prepared and served at different dining areas or packaged for take-out. Some of the specialty cuisines include the Sushi Bar, Burger Bar & Rotisserie, Cheese & Charcuterie Station, Wine Bar, Brick Oven Pizza, Fish & Seafood Grill, Asian Noodle and Dumpling Bar, and an Espresso and Tea Bar.
The Plaza Hotel is a New York institution. It’s steeped in tradition with elegant furnishings and fixtures, but is far from stodgy. In fact, it has become quite trendy, and even offers guests who dine at The Palm Court an Apple iPad, loaded with an array of business and leisure applications and “NY-specific” apps, catering to out-of-towners. How much more up-to-speed can you get these days?
If you’re new to New York, The Plaza is simply a must-see, must-go-to place. It's like a beautiful palace -- you don’t have to stay there to enjoy it; you can just visit for a day and revel in the elegance and tradition.
So what’s left to say? Tea, anyone? See you at The Plaza!
The Palm Court in The Plaza Hotel
Fifth Avenue at Central Park South
New York, New York 10019