The Russian Tea Room is an iconic restaurant in New York City. It’s one of those restaurants that you just know by name. My friends (Moz and Loreal) and I finally decided to give RTR a try during the holiday season.
When I think of High Tea, I think of endless delicate finger sandwiches with a pot of good tea. We made sure to eat breakfast early so that we would have empty stomachs for our meal. My friends and I also decided to dress up for the event seeing that it’s not every day that you go to the Russian Tea Room.
We booked reservations for Afternoon Tea on a Saturday afternoon. My first impressions of RTR were great. The dining room was opulent and inviting. Unfortunately, our experience went downhill from there.
I quickly noticed that our server was not very attentive minutes upon sitting down. My friends and I were kind of confused as to how the Afternoon Tea service worked. As our first time at RTR, I would have thought that the service would have been more welcoming. No one really came to explain the menu until our server asked if we were ready to order 10 minutes later.
On the bright side, it wasn’t long until we received our order, but the reason for the speedy service became clear to us as soon as we saw our meal. I should mention that it took another 5-10 minutes for our server to return to explain which finger sandwiches were which. The presentation of the sandwiches on the tiers looked… sparse. The portions were extremely small and I already had doubts as to whether or not the meal would be satisfying.
Upon the first bite of our sandwiches, we knew that the Russian Tea Room was not going to live up to our expectations. The curried chicken sandwich was extremely dry. The bleu cheese was tasteless. The shrimp sandwich tasted like tuna that came from a can. (Actually, since Loreal has a seafood allergy, she can attest that the shrimp was not fresh because she was able to eat it without any allergic reaction). I doubt that any of the sandwiches were freshly made.
If we thought our first course was disappointing, our second course was even worse. When we got our dessert, we didn’t even want to touch it. The dessert consisted of two chocolates, two cupcakes, and three scones. The scones were warm but I doubt that they were baked on the premises. The chocolate was mediocre. The cupcakes were a mess. It looked like someone had taken off the wax paper off the cupcake and put it on the plate. Clearly they were not freshly baked. I took a bite of each cupcake, a red velvet and a chocolate, and did not bother to finish it. Not worth my calories. Dessert was pitiful.
All things considering, at least the tea should be decent, right? Nope. The tea was extremely weak. I ended up getting the English Breakfast. At first I wondered why my English Breakfast wasn’t served with milk. But once I poured my first cup, I realized it was because the tea was so weak that if I had added milk, it would taste like warm milk and sguar. The tea did not get any stronger the longer I steeped it. When I checked the pot to see the level of my tea, that’s when I noticed that they used a tea bag. Seriously? The Russian Tea Room doesn’t even use fresh tealeaves? Disappointing. To make it even worse, when our dessert round came about, our server did not serve us fresh pots with fresh tea bags. She simply poured even more hot water into our pot of tea. My cup of tea barely had any color in it and I had to ask for a fresh pot.
So the Russian Tea Room has become a tourist trap. For $50 per person for Afternoon Tea, the Russian Tea Room is not worth it. The food was barely edible and the tea was watery. I’ve read reviews where people try to justify the price for being a New York experience, but to be honest, the Russian Tea Room is a poor representation of the culinary experiences that the city has to offer. Save your money.
We’re sticking with Alice’s Tea Cup for our next tea outing. Quality food and tea we can actually trust.