British food isn’t exactly the type of cuisine you find yourself having a hankering for very often, but when you do and you’re in New York, Tea & Sympathy offers a nice way to satisfy it. The squishy 23-seat establishment isn’t without its flaws – just read some of the Yelp complaints – but it’s probably as authentic as its gets.
So some gals and I caught up over a bunch of steaming pot pies and warm custard and cake this rainy Thursday. Rain is a great way to avoid the lines and crowds that still bombard this restaurant after years of existence while its east village surrounding morphed through the years.
It’s probably no longer accurate to characterize its block on Greenwich Avenue as Little Britain, though thank goodness A Salt and Battery and its freshly fried fish and chips are still right there next door. But once you enter Tea & Sympathy – and remember, per house rules, only to do so when your whole party has arrived – it’s an instant transport to a little slice of Great Britain.
Teapots adorned with British flats. Plates plastered with Kate Middleton and Prince Williams’ faces. It’s all part of the charm.
Of course the food is great too. I had the chicken and leek pot pie, which comes with mashed potatoes and peas. The pie has this freshly baked, flaky, golden-brown crust, just light enough to offset the scrumptious cream filling oozing with strips of chicken and leek.
The desserts are the perfect dreary-day remedy. We shared the stick toffee, this warm dense cake, and a truly crumbled down rhubarb pie, both doused with steaming custard.
I can say my memories of brunch here, back during NYU, have been everlasting. Just simple afternoon tea, with a set of their buttery scones smeared in clotted cream and jam — unparalleled, even with the rise of commercially successful places like Alice’s Teacup.
Tea & Sympathy isn’t for anyone in a rush. The house rules will annoy some people, so the stars have to align for a party to get in, get seated, get served. But once you do, it’s quite worthwhile.