Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lady Mendl's Tea Salon, New York, NY

After reading splendid reviews on yelp, I was quite excited to try out this rather pricey, traditional afternoon tea. My grandfather and his wife, both avid tea drinkers, invited me and best friend, Amita, to accompany them this afternoon. The tea room is located in a lovely old brownstone on Irving Place in The Village. It has gorgeous Victorian charm both inside and out. A doorman opened the door and led us into the gorgeous first floor lobby where we were promptly greeted. We were a bit early for our 2:30 reservation, but we were taken right away to our table. We were led up a staircase. The main dining room was being occupied by a bridal party, but looked quite nice.

The upper room had only three tables and was gorgeously decorated in antique furniture and beautiful wall hangings. China teaware was displayed behind a glass case. Each place setting included fine bone china matching sets (white with golden rim). Sitting on the saucer was a beautiful sugar cube, delicately adorned with a sugar daffodil. The surroundings were too much to ask for! SO lovely.

The tea service promptly began, and this is where the review takes a rather negative turn. I had read such lovely things about the tea room, so I was looking forward to a traditional afternoon tea like what I had just one month earlier at The Dorchester Hotel in London (an extremely wonderful tea). The tea menu was set at each place. I ordered the Lady Mendl Blend, a Darjeeling infused with scented oils. I had to ask for milk and sugar, as it was not offered when the tea came. The tea had a rather bitter aftertaste, although it was not over brewed. I tried Amita's Assam, and although better than my blend, it still lacked the body of other Assams I have tried in past. My stepgrandmother ordered an Elder Flower tea which smelled delicious, so perhaps it was the black teas that were troubled.

We were quickly served an amouse-bouche of artichoke quiche with sun-dried tomato topping. It was quite good and a nice way to start off the meal.

The Sandwich course followed. The staple finger sandwiches included cucumber and mint creme fraiche on brioche, a turkey cranberry sandwich on white, smoked salmon and cream cheese of wheat, and egg salad on grain tea bread. The sandwiches were a bit bland. Cucumber, my favorite, lacked body and the bread tasted a bit dry, as though it had been sitting out for a bit, and not freshly made. The turkey cranberry was quite good, and different from what I had expected. I also enjoyed the smoked salmon, but for the most part, they were plain and certainly not as fresh as they could have been.

Scones followed. We received two varieties, a typical plain scone, and a cranberry-raisin scone. These scones were done right for an afternoon tea. They are the smaller variety, just like what I received when taking tea in London. The texture was nice and crumbly, and the clotted cream and raspberry preserves were delicious. This was probably my favorite course of the tea. The setback was that the scones were not warm. The texture and consistency made up for the lack of warmth, however I wish they brought around seconds.

The dessert course came next. We were served a layered crepe cake, divided by a fresh whipped cream served over raspberry coulis. I had never eaten a crepe cake, so it was quite new and refreshing. Light and moist, just as any tea cake should be, it was. However, I did not love it. That is not to say I didn't like it, because I did. I just would've preferred Victoria Sponge or something of the like instead.

The last course included Belgian dipped strawberry and vanilla-fondant and sugar-brushed cookies. They were all very good. Keep in mind, these are sweets hard to screw up. I particularly enjoyed the heart-shaped vanilla-fondant cookies. They had a nice sweet flavor that went quite well with the tea.

While finish our pots of tea, we all enjoyed conversation regarding Ted Kennedy (RIP), foreign culture, and travel. We were rather surprised when the waiter came over to tell us that we had to leave in five minutes. The whole tea felt rather rushed to begin with (one course right after the next) but no one was really complaining. It was just rather disheartening to be rushed out.

In totality, I would give Lady Mendl's full points in appearance. The dining room and whole facility are just beautiful. But in food quality and service, the tea room would be wise to improve. I expected an afternoon tea that would so beautifully match my surroundings, however I was disappointed with the final result. And, with a $35.00 price tag per person, plus tax, plus tip, this is no cheap affair.

I will not be going back any time soon, but perhaps if I hear things are changing over there, I will revisit the facility.

It was quite an enjoyable afternoon in all. We followed tea with a walk through the Union Square Green Market. After parting ways, Amita and I strolled along Greenwich Ave to my favorite haunt Tea and Sympathy, where in the store we purchased loose leaf teas (T&S English Breakfast, and Serendipitea Coco Loco) along with a china teacup for me, and a brown betty teapot for her.

Thanks for reading and come check back soon!


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