19 October 2009

She's No Lady Mendl

Sometimes you just need high tea. Yes, it's fussy, affected, disturbingly anglophiliac and drags having a cup of tea out to a two-hour affair, but there's still something delightful about it.


And so a languid Sunday afternoon was spent at Lady Mendl's (56 Irving Place), where a lovely five-course tea ($35) slowly unfolded in a plush, cozy space.


The restaurant is named for Lady Mendl (née Elsie de Wolfe), a prominent, turn-of-the-century interior decorator whose motto was, "Never complain, never explain." Far from just another high-society aesthete, however, Lady Mendl practiced yoga, dyed her graying hair blue, and lived in an openly gay relationship- not quite who you'd picture sitting docilely, pinkie extended, through afternoon tea.


The menu here is very traditional: an appetizer of a mushroom-goat cheese tart was followed by delicate finger sandwiches of smoked salmon with dill cream cheese, and cucumber with mint creme fraiche; tiny, moist scones, served with clotted cream and a rich raspberry jam, were next.

By the time the crepe cake- oozing with layer after layer of vanilla pastry cream- and then tender shortbread cookies and strawberries dipped in chocolate arrived, I was feeling a bit overindulgent.


But that's what the tea is for. The selection is decent, although a bit too skewed toward black and herbal teas for a sencha addict's tastes. With the brazen spirit of Lady Mendl in mind, I chose a pot of Russian caravan, and the smoky, deep Chinese tea was a welcome counterpoint to such rich food.

It was brewed perfectly, and served with grace. I'm curious as to whether they treat green and white tea as well- I suppose I'll just have to go back next week.

9 comments:

Jason Witt said...

This review makes afternoon tea sound rather appealing to me. I must admit that often when I am going to comment on such tea room talk it can get a little disgusting to see the excess. But the disclaimer helps to balance it off so its charm can fight for its rights. Anglophiles at high tea? There doesn't seem to be much really wrong with that. --Teaternity

Anonymous said...

They should have blue tea to match t'hair.

avra romanowitz said...

"...I suppose I'll just have to go back next week."

can i come?

marlena said...

I love teas like this - once in a while. They just take me away from anything like ordinary life. A mini-vacation. And grace is always a welcome part of life.

montague said...

i miss a place called l'orangerie behind kensington palace in london... i'd go for high tea when friends were visiting...

Penelope said...

I think I will have to re dye my hair blue for my first trip here! I love the way you integrate history and tea.

Heavenly Housewife said...

Fabulous post. I've wondered about this place.
My motto is "always complain, never explain."

VeeTea said...

Oh! Jealous! I miss Lady Mendl's so much (having moved away from NYC earlier this year). Did you happen to see that Ellen Easton will be giving a lecture series there soon?

Christa said...

Wonderful blog, Ana! I'm glad I found it. Love love love Mendl's motto, and like others have said, it makes me want to (maybe) go for high tea somewheres... I was thinking of taking my daughter to an upscale place in Toronto when she's older (she's only 2.5 now) and having a tea party. We can privately laugh at all the other stuffies, and try to guess who is actually enjoying the tea. Thanks for this!