December 7th, 2021
Today was Kates Birthday and the first time we had spent it in New York, we once spent it over the Atlantic on the way back from New York, but this is the first time we actually had the day here in the City. So we spent it doing the things she most loves in the City.
Empire State Building
The First stop was the Empire State Building. With all the competition in the city from the other Observation Decks, The Empire State Building is still our favorite. The Top of the Rock is a Close Second, but there is just something so Iconic about being on top of the most famous building in the world.
There were very few queues and our journey to the top was very fast and efficient. We had some complimentary tickets for the Building so did not use a pass, but there were plenty around us that did and your pass was your ticket. At the minute you do need a pre-booking to go up to the top and those that didn’t were directed to machines where they could book the next available. We even saw people in the queue booking online via their phones. We had booked well before so no issue.
The Journey to the top has changed a little with some really fun interactive displays including King Kong, the Famous New York construction beams, and a photo gallery of the celebrities that have visited the Empire State Building.
At the top, the view was stunning, as it always is. The Building is right in the heart of the city and offers great views 360° around. The morning was really cool but the winds were light and we just took our time and enjoyed the view. It was pretty quiet and we had plenty of space to take in the simply stunning view of NYC. There were a few clouds around and it was not the best conditions with some pretty flat light, but it wasn’t raining so it was ok.
After a few laps of the 360° Deck, we headed back down. We had a bit of shopping to do and then we headed off for our Tea Reservation at the Plaza Hotel.
Tea at the Plaza
The Plaza Hotel is a truly Iconic Location and a must-visit place in the City. Hugely popularised by Kevin Mcallister in Home Alone 2 the hotel sits right on the edge of the park in absolute prime location.
While we have always dreamed of staying here the nightly rate is just a snatch out of our price range. For this stay, we would have seen little change from $10,000 and we just can think of a better way to spend that! However, we still wanted to do more than just take a peek at the Lobby of this Grand Hotel and decided Afternoon Tea at the Iconic Palm Court would be a suitable treat for Kate’s Birthday.
We often hear the question asked if Tea at the Plaza is worth it? The price is pretty eyewatering, so it needs to be pretty special to justify the cost. We look at this later, as it’s a complex answer, first let’s just take a look at what a Plaza tea consists of.
We arrived at the Palm Court a little early and were fairly abruptly told to go away and return at our reservation time, this gave us time to explore the plaza and take in the iconic lobby. When we returned to the restaurant there was a huge queue/rabble with people amassed everywhere and we had no idea what was going on, having already visited the concierge when there was much less chaos and queueing we felt a little aggrieved.
Until our name was called and the rabble was parted as we were taken to be seated. We figured most of these were walk-ups hoping to grab a table if one became free. It was all a little chaotic.
We received a nice table, fairly central with a large Palm overlooking our table and with plenty of space to enjoy our experience. The table setting was wonderful and the Waiter was along very promptly to offer us menus. It did not take much deciding as there are only 2/3 options for Afternoon Tea. The Regular Manhattan Tea, The Signature Tea, or the Imperial Tea which is just the Signature with a Caviar service.
We are not that fond of Caviar to pay $595 for some, so it was just between the Signature and Manhattan, Due to the Time of Year, the Signature had a Holiday theme and also contained Lobster so was an easy winner, the cost, $125 per person, or $149 with a Glass of Champagne, which of course we added.
So, just shy of $300 for Tea, it best be a good one! And as we are British we know a thing or two about Tea! The Menu is certainly a good start.
The Champagne Arrived very promptly followed by the Tea. A large pot filled with our choice of tea, which we chose the English Breakfast. Finally, the Sandwich Tray Arrived filled with all the wonderful delights of the menu.
The really feels like a wonderful treat. And we got stuck right in. The Sandwiches were a touch dry, a common issue for mass-produced Teas such as this. The fillings improved as we went along with the Salmon, Fois Grois, and Lobster amazing. We got a little serving of Caviar on the Lobster which is more than enough for us.
The Scones were served warm and passed out twist test (Good scones twist in half and do not require cutting), the Curd and preserve were excellent but the Cream was whipped and not Clotted, which is a bit of a crime in our book, that’s twice this trip we have been denied out Clotted Cream!
Finally, we were onto the Petit Fours, the real highlight of the tea. These were so pretty to look at it felt a shame to eat them and indeed, it was a slight letdown. The Macaron, well that was incredible, but the others tasted less incredible than they looked. There were all very sweet with fairly plain and none descript flavors, apart from sugar. They were not bad just not as yummy as they looked.
We also cast envious eyes over to the Children who seemed to get a really fun and exciting Tea with Cotton Candy and Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches…oh to be 5!
There was a particular incident where the Server decided our table was the best location to lean over and take photos of the table next to us. Not a huge problem but a bit of an imposition and we wouldn’t mention it but he failed to ask permission or even apologize or say thanks, or even recognize what he was doing was a bit rude. A simple nod, or thanks would have surfaced but he acted as if we were not even there as he leaned right over our table, remember this was a server, not a rude guest.
This aside the service was pretty good, and we even revived a complimentary box of chocolates complete with Birthday candle and Happy Birthday rendition. Not quite what we expected at a place like this but very welcome, so make sure you let them know if you are celebrating.
Finally, when the bill arrived we had a bit of an issue. Yesterday my credit card had been declined when trying to order Chinese on GrubHub, and as it turned out Halifax had now put a complete block on my card so it was rejected by the Plaza. We have a selection of cards like most people but the Halifax is the one that gives the best rates abroad (by a long way), so we needed to pay on a different card and incurred some pretty nasty transaction fees.
So is Tea at the Plaza Worth it?
This is a really double-edged statement. As frankly no. Not from a culinary perspective. $149 got us a tiny sampling of some very high-end ingredients and some very pretty but ultimately disappointing petit fours. Our total bill at Gallagher’s Steakhouse was only slightly more than one person at the Palm Court, and that meal was orders of magnitude better.
But Tea at the Plaza is far more than a purely gastronomical experience. It’s about the theatre and aura that surrounds the act of dining in the Plaza. It is iconic dining, more akin to Disney dining than a full-on fine dining experience. You are part of something, part of history, and it feels special from the moment you walk in till you pick up your coats to leave. The meal is a journey as you pick your way through the tray and always feels special and enthralling. There is always something going on in the restaurant and the stunning decor and lofty decorated ceilings and skylights all add to the majesty.
So while from a pure food standpoint, not it isn’t worth it, that money could easily get you 2-3 far better meals, but if you understand New York and what Dining at the Plaza really means then it’s worth every penny. We certainly have no regrets about it, and if you are looking for a really special experience then High Tea at the Plaza is definitely worth considering. While the food may not Dazzle, the overall experience certainly does!
Relaxing and packing
This was our last full day so we headed back to the Apartment to relax and get a bit organized ahead of our departure tomorrow. We also had to get in touch with Halifax and unblock the card. It turns out they ad tried to call and text several times, but as I was using a 3-sim for the roaming Data, and not my usual Sim, nothing had got through…oops. Anyway, the card was unblocked and a lesson learned.
After an afternoon of packing, sorting, a little relaxing, and maybe a little sleeping off the Tea, we started to get ready for our night out.
We first found 230 Fifth in 2016 and have made it out must-visit location every time we visit and our top rooftop bar in NYC. However, in winter it pulls even further away from the competition as they withdraw from the cold weather 230 embraces it. Igloos, Chalets, Outdoor heaters, dressing gowns, and warming drinks all under the twinkling lights of the Empire State Building.
It is a magical setting and a really unique and fantastic way to spend a night out in New York.
We use the subway pretty much all the time in New York, super cheap and convenient, and just works really well most of the time. The big exception is on nights out. No one wants to get all dressed up and then hike down to a dirty Subway Stop. So for nights out, we use Uber.
We ordered the car which picked us up right at the door and dropped us off right at the 230 fifth door. There was a bit of a queue, which seemed a bad sign, but a lot of this was due to the Vaccine Checks and there was a large private event on. Once we got to the deck it was only fairly busy and there were plenty of free tables.
We got a nice table up on the terrace overlooked by the Empire State and wrapped ourselves up in several of the Dressing Gowns available and spent the evening drinking Martinis and Cosmo’s with one of the best views in the City.
After a few hours and slight squiffy, we headed off. There are plenty of measures to help ward off the cold but eventually, it gets to you, and we retired for warmer climes. An Uber back to the Apartment and I headed out to get some drinks and 99c Pizza and we finished the evening off in our New York Apartment.
Walking Total – 11,036 Steps – 5.6 Miles
A really easy day with no notable walking at all, but we still clocked up 5.6 miles which really shows just how much incidental walking you do when in the City!
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