So let’s get this out of the way first — The Palm Court at The Plaza is expensive. But what’s the point in stressing about prices at The Plaza? It is, practically by definition, a destination for indulgence. And the Afternoon Tea Service, just reinstituted after a long period of renovation, is the ultimate in pinky-lifting luxury, so if you go, resist the urge to worry unduly about the bill to come.
Iron Chef and Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian was put in charge of the recent revamp; a surprising choice, considering he’s also behind baroque, uber-male establishments, like The Lamb’s Club and The National. But perhaps the idea was that he’s an expert at making well-to-do guests of any gender feel appropriately coddled — and with the help of architect Thierry Despont, who restored the domed, stained glass-ceilinged room to its celebrated green and pink glory, The Palm Court at The Plaza effectively inspires any visitor to imagine themselves as Eloise, spunky and girly and fabulously frivolous, nibbling on scones and clotted cream.
While little Eloise’s can go for a set “tea” served with lemonade, ladies who lunch will undoubtedly prefer to pair their pots of Darjeeling, Pu Erh, Rooibos or Oolong with bubbly flutes of Veuve Clicquot. A silver-handled, triple tier of goodies courtesy of Geoffrey Zakarian arrives alongside; choose between The New Yorker — a classic assemblage of tea sandwiches on crustless rectangles of white bread, filled with tuna salad, egg salad, turkey, ham, or cucumber with cream cheese (the non-Brit addition is a squishy mini bagel with lox), or the high-falutin’ Champagne spread, which boasts bite-sized lobster rolls, delicate crab toasts, and Lilliputian potatoes, carefully cradling dollops of black caviar. Both come with a linen napkin cloaking three golden scones, meant for demurely dabbing with clotted cream, raspberry jam and lemon curd, and a parade of tiny, jewel-like pastries makes up the top shelf; doll-proportioned éclairs, cream puffs, key lime pies, chocolate bavarois, and tarte tatin, many of them crowned with painstakingly positioned flecks of gold leaf.
Few of us will ever have the opportunity to dwell, Eloise-like, in the penthouse apartment of The Plaza, or even manage to book one of their more “budget-friendly” rooms for the night. But for the price of a pot of tea (and we’re still not divulging how much that actually is), you can still feel like a devil-may-care, high society New Yorker, for one lovely, leisurely afternoon.