"Manliness is not all swagger and mountain climbing. It's also tenderness".
"Years from now when you talk about this - and you will - be kind".
"All you're supposed to do is once in a while give the boys a little tea...
tea and sympathy".
Tea and Sympathy 1956 —Vincente Minnelli
Oh, I do love a full English Breakfast and a pot of tea. Especially when shared with friends. I tracked down the location of Tea & Sympathy in Manhattan this November, after my East Coaster sister-in-law Francesca posted a timely reminder of her own recent breakfast visit on Facebook a few weeks prior.
I've long since heard tell of the various delights of this famous little Greenwich Avenue throwback of a 1950s traditional English tea room, higgledy-piggledy framed pictures of the royal fam, knitted tea cozies, HP sauce and all.
There are no reservations at Tea & Sympathy (open seven days a week) so we took our chance on a pre-holiday weekend morning and managed to muster the group organizational skills to pop by before the masses. Jane and Gail wore their new hats, looking particularly put-together at such an early hour!
Next time I'm in New York I'm going back for a cup at tea-time and a sneaky slice of treacle pudding or Bakewell Tart, perhaps. With custard. Of course. Lunch would work equally well — How about Bubble & Squeak Pie with roast potatoes and leek gravy?
Owners, Brits with all the right credentials, Nicola Perry, a former tea lady at the London Stock Exchange and her husband Sean have built a quite a mini-empire of all things Anglo-tastic in New York over the past couple of decades and more. I first heard of the tea room from the covers of its eclectic 2002 book, which, according to Sean, was also optioned as a film. The movie hasn't yet materialized, but I'd picture a Notting Hill/Four Weddings and a Funeral sort of script. With lots and lots of pots of tea. Colin Firth and Minnie Driver. Why not?
Incidentally, Tea & Sympathy's matriarch is the grandaughter of Bill Naughton – (William John Francis Naughton), who according to Goodreads was a: "Popular ‘working class’ author and playwright who was born in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, Ireland in June 1910 and died in early January 1992 in Ballasalla, Isle of Man. He was four years old when his family moved to Bolton, Lancashire, where, after leaving school around 1924, he worked as a weaver, coal-bagger and lorry-driver, enjoying a variety of experience and knowledge before starting to write with a rare honesty and perception about ‘ordinary’ people. Although ‘Alfie’ is the play with which he will always be associated, mostly because of the film starring Michael Caine, he was a prolific writer of quality work".
We spent a well contented half hour post-breakfast pottering around the couple's shop, next door to the eaterie. With Christmas approaching, it was packed to the rafters with selection boxes, teas, choccie biscuits, advent calendars and the likes. By mid-November, the cafe's ovens are stoked around the clock to keep up with demand for mince pies and sausage rolls.
Store opens daily from 11.00am - 10.30pm.
108 Greenwich Ave, NY NY 10011. Telephone 212 989 9735.