Some things just don’t translate. You have to experience them for yourself. Like, why you should only eat tomatoes in the summertime and never from a grocery store. Why you can catch fruit flies with amazing accuracy so long as you wet your hands first. And, most relevant to this post, why the British are obsessed with tea time. I once asked an American friend raised in England about this ritual and she told me – with that particular brand of British nonchalance – that around 3:00 in the afternoon people take a few minutes to sit down for a tea and biscuit. Really? A tea and biscuit? Is this like the government-sanctioned smoke breaks I took as a waitress just to get some down time? Something I didn’t enjoy but did just to break up the day? Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for a caffeine injection in the afternoon, but tea has never provided a proper jolt. And I always imagined the “biscuit” served alongside as one of those boring, crusty, brown crackers with no flavor. Then, I traveled to England and was greeted in every hotel room – no matter how shabby – with a hot water pot, English breakfast tea, and ….cookies. Suddenly, it all made perfect sense – they break for sweets! This is a pastime I can embrace. If you happen to be in NYC, there is no better place to embrace it than Tea & Sympathy in the West Village.
I usually have my tea with homemade scones, jam and clotted cream. Then, despite my best intentions to branch out, I usually end up ordering the Welsh rarebit (which for some reason always makes me think of a rabbit, but is really just like an elevated grilled cheese or croque monsieur).
The rhubarb cobbler and warm custard I take home. Although Tea and Sympathy definitely has the feel of a cramped cozy cottage, it is a full service restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can have some really traditional British comfort food here: bangers and mash, shepherds pie, chicken and leek pie (amazing!), and even a Scotch egg. Here’s to making tea time an all day affair!