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Afternoon Tea At The Plaza Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be

Where: 5th Avenue and 59th Street [map], New York, ny, United States, 10019
December 11, 2009 at 8:59 AM | by | Comment (1)

We went to afternoon tea at The Plaza last Sunday. Whoopdee do. It was perhaps the worst and most expensive tea service we've ever had, and yet this was The Plaza, for Pete's sake. We were excited, we were going with two friends, and we knew the hotel would be in full holiday regalia so that we'd get the full, heartwarming experience. But so many things went wrong that our tea, and the over $100 check, left nothing but a bitter taste in our mouth.

First, we understand that the hotel may have been busier than normal, seeing as how it's a holiday season Sunday. Second, the hotel used to have tea in the opulent adjoining Palm Court, but when that idea failed to make a profit despite costing $60 per person, they moved it to where we had the $35 version: in the lobby, in the area they call the Champagne Bar.

Perhaps the first sign of trouble was when we noticed everyone drinking bottles of Dom Perignon around us, at noon on a Sunday...

At first, our party of three was rushed. We were brought The Plaza's special tea blend without being asked what sort of tea we wanted, and then we never got a third place setting the entire time. The scones, macarons, mini egg salad sandwiches and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus were good, but lacked the panache you'd want from a grand dame property like The Plaza. There was nothing special about this afternoon tea at all, save that we were sitting in the lobby of a historic hotel, which—by the way—had dirty carpeting and kids constantly running through it, toting multiple American Girl bags.

And then, when we did quickly finish our $35 each few mini sandwiches and 1-2 cups of tea, the waiter decided that that was the time to ignore us, leaving us to stare into the bottom of our empty porcelain teacups for an uncomfortable half-hour while the staff attended to the champagne sippers.

We had such high hopes, as we should since it's the frickin' Plaza, but they were swiftly dashed. Perhaps the hotel expects us to be awed at the tea service simply because it's inside The Plaza? We don't think so. But, if The Plaza or other hotels that think they can rest on their laurels are listening—it would be a good idea to have a seasonal tea menu, to offer lemon curd (we could lick that plate clean, were there lemon curd), and not to treat the tea drinkers as though they belong on a lower rung from the others having alcoholic drinks.

Oftentimes, afternoon tea is a planned occasion, something looked forward to and saved up for that has more significance than someone who just drops in for a bubbly. We rest our case; we do not recommend tea at The Plaza.

[All photos: HotelChatter]

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Afternoon Tea at the Plaza

We went to have afternoon tea at the Plaza in June, as part of our visit to New York to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria, which was fine, but went to the Plaza's Palm Court for tea on the actual day. Admittedly the people who wrote the above review went while the Palm Court was shut, which might explain their jaundiced opinion. We had a memorable afternoon, with beautiful surroundings, excellent tea and service. And we still had our arms and legs intact when the bill arrived. We had been before in the 90s when we were staying at the Plaza rather than the Waaldorf, and it was every bit as enjoyable as we had remembered.

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