Tuesday, December 21, 2010

High Afternoon Tea?!, Queen Vic, NYC

I should have been alarmed when I read the title. High Afternoon Tea. What on earth...? A new British Pub, the Queen Vic, recently opened in the East Village on 2nd Ave and 4th St. A bit of an anglophile myself, I was very surprised to pass by it a few months ago. Even more surprising to me was that, on their menu, after the bangers and mash and meat pies on offer, there was an afternoon tea. High Afternoon Tea, but I wasn't alarmed. I was excited to see this cute little British pub promising "finger sandwiches, scones with cream and jam, and cakes".

The semester ended and finals were done with. Sarah and I were ready to have a lovely afternoon tea. We decided we wanted to try somewhere new. Of course Podunk is on the top of the list, but it's important to give all of the tea spots in this city a chance. I contemplated the Crosby Street hotel that serves what looks like a very traditional and delightful tea, but then remembered the Queen Vic and at ten dollars cheaper, it seemed a good deal.

The space itself was well decorated. A small pub with photos of the Queen on the wall, Christmas decorations brightening up the dimly lit space. The only waiter/bartender in the space paid us no mind on entrance, so we seated ourselves and picked out our teas. The tea list is small, but they have three traditional British blends on hand: Typhoo, PG Tips, and Yorkshire Gold. I went for Yorkshire Gold. Sarah decided to order Earl Gray, her favorite. I went up and ordered, mentioning that the sandwiches for Sarah had to be vegetarian. The bartender/waiter seemed a bit confused when I even said afternoon tea, but here is where the journey began.

We watched as he took down two oversized china pots and two cups and saucers. Okay, I thought to myself, no worries so far. Sarah's pot was a tall China, actually used for coffee, but a little creativity is never an issue. It was when we saw him throwing teabags into the pot that we jumped a bit. The menu states "all our teas are loose leaf". The pots came over and my Yorkshire gold was loose, but Sarah had two bags floating in her pot. Luckily, she's not hard to please and we just decided to accept it. It was then, a minute later, when the waiter came over and put down an extra bag, Twinings Brand, saying "in case you want it stronger". We had a good laugh over that...but seriously, Twinings bags.

The food would be better, I told myself, trying to be positive. We waited for a while, as the bartender sat up at the bar with his friends, drinking wine and flirting with patrons. Finally we heard a bell ring and he left and reappeared shortly with sandwiches.

Neither of us said a word. We just immediately laughed out loud as soon as he left. Mini white bread sandwiches, cut up like club sandwiches with the frilled toothpicks sticking out of them lined the plate. As if we were to be watching a football game or something! I was shocked. Sarah's very small portion of vegetarian sandwiches had cucumber, tomato and onion, and the meat ones had a thick ham and orange cheese. They were pressed and warm, and didn't taste bad, but for afternoon tea, I do not want wonder bread and grilled cheese! The waiter came over again and said "this is our first time serving afternoon tea, so we are going to give you guys half off. Let us know if you need anything else to add to it."

Well...At this point I had lost hope. Sarah ordered some french fries, because, let's face it, this wasn't a real afternoon tea. I was ready to switch over to gin and tonics as soon as the pots ran out. Surprisingly, about ten minutes later, warm and homemade scones emerged from the kitchen. They were dotted with fresh dates, three on a plate. It was almost a shock to receive this after what we had gotten so far. To remind us though, that this was no real afternoon tea, canned whipped cream swirls were placed between each scone and there was no jam. No cakes ever came to follow the scones. The chips eventually came out for Sarah and they were decent.

All in all, this was a laughable experience, and I really hope this little British Pub gets its act together. If they want to tout a "high afternoon tea", they better do it right, or not serve it at all. I seldom give negative reviews, but with the service and with the food and quality, I must say I was not pleased. For the two of us, the bill came out to a total of $25. We split it in half, and sure, we saved some money, but in all honesty, I would have been willing to double what I paid to go to the Crosby St. for a real tea. I'll be surprised to learn of how the next few months changes the Queen Vic and maybe I'll go back when I return to NYC in July.

Hot Taro Milk Tea, T-Kettle, NYC

Sometimes, the only way to get through one of these bitter New York City days is to stop into one of the numerous bubble tea cafes for a hot milk tea. This past Saturday, after a two-show day, I was exhausted and needed a bit of hot comfort. I settled into T-Kettle on St. Marks, and ordered my favorite milk tea, taro, hot without tapioca. The beverage came out promptly, served in a modern glass mug. Strong taro flavoring meets with tea and milk to created a wintertime oasis in a cup. Hot milk tea: a perfect excuse to get out of the cold!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hong Kong Style Milk Tea

A perfect breakfast accompaniment, HK Style Milk Tea is a strong black tea brewed in a long "sock-like" bag, then mixed with sugar and evaporated milk. This overflowing cup came with a the handsomely priced $3.60 breakfast special at M. Star Cafe on Division Street. A perfect way to start the day.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Old Friend's Tea @ Podunk

Podunk, my favorite tea room in the city, has all sorts of crafty names for their various set teas. The classic British tea, complete with cucumber sandwiches, scones, and a sewing of the various sweets of the day is entitled "Old Friend's Tea". On a recent visit with a friend, Elspeth explained to me the logic behind the title. Originally, her menu didn't have the British sampler, but people kept asking for it, so Elspeth decided she would pay homage to our British neighbors and add the set to the menu, hence our "Old Friends" (the Brits) tea!

I enjoyed this lovely afternoon tea with a pot of Ceylon, simple and robust!

E. 5th St (btw Bowery and 2nd Ave)
New York, NY