Friday, June 22, 2012

NYC: A Cuppa Rosie Lee at Tea & Sympathy

In the heart of the village, just a few blocks from Magnolia bakery, is Tea & Sympathy, a small tea shop that takes the art of British comfort food to a holy event. Now, some claim that there is no such thing as British cuisine, that you have brown sauce in a bottle, beans from a tin, and dodgy sausages mocking the art form of the hot dog. Well, having lived in England, all I can say is that it grows on you. And it won't be too long until you too want your fry-up with a side of beans and sausages. So see if you can grab one of the tables with waxy floral table clothes, squeeze in, and savor the kitsch. Tea nick-nacks, commemorative Charles & Di plates, a mask of the queen...tongue is clearly in cheek at Tea & Sympathy, and they have every right, given that almost everyone associated with the restaurant is British, including a bevy of tartish, good-hearted lasses at the counter.

On the menu are classics such as Welsh rarebit (a glorified grilled cheese sandwich; there's not actually rabbit in it, before you ask), fish pie, sausages, and a mammoth array of baked goods. On the day I was visiting, there were two Victoria sponge cakes on the counter (two plain yellow cakes that sandwich a thick layer of jam and whipped cream), a pineapple cake, and a bevy of sticky toffee cupcakes.

If you order the full tea, a three-tray bonanza of cake and sanwiches will appear on your table, along with a marvelous pot of tea. It may well be as close as you will get to "real" tea time in NYC. I say "real" because the essence of British tea time rotates around comfort food, chipped china and all. You should in fact, feel that you have been stuffed to the gills with simple luxness, then have a few cups of tea and see if that doesn't clear the way for another cucumber and butter sandwich. It can be, in its purest form, one of the most comforting food rituals that I know of. And Tea & Sympathy is THE place to try it.

One of my favorite memories of Tea & Sympathy was going near to Christmas time and finding that they had mince pies on the menu. And when I inquired if there was brandy butter to go with, the waitress embarked on a rhapsody of how she too thought brandy butter was akin to godliness. When she brought flaky little pies filled with raisins, nutmeg, and cloves, it was with a glob of brandy butter the size of a softball. I think I may have gotten a little tipsy from that brandy butter, but it stands out as one of the most wonderful treats I've ever had. That's the sort of magic that happens at Tea & Sympathy. And if you want to take the recipes home with you, they have an excellent cookbook you can buy in the little store, which is stacked from floor to ceiling with British goodies that you may or may not be longing for. Personally, it was with great self control that I walked out without buying ten of their hand-crocheted tea cozies and Staffordshire teapots. Such are the strange thrills of a bakery babe.


  1. What a great shop! We have nothing like that here and I'm completely jealous. I've added a couple more item to check off on my list of things to do before I die. One of them is to experience brandy butter! Thank you for sharing. Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Wonderful! As a Brit this would be the ideal place to go to get a real taste of home from home!! And I do concurr that a fry up is a true British treat, not to be knocked until people try it!! X

    Lovely blog by the way x