For those who don’t know, there is a very small area of Greenwich Village in Manhattan that is sometimes known as Little Britain. It’s mainly due to a couple of fine eateries and a couple of fine shops. Tea and Sympathy is a tiny bistro (which finds itself expanded during covid because its outdoor seating is bigger that its indoor!). T & S also has its adjoining shop, ‘Carry On Tea and Sympathy’ and then next to that is its fish and chippery, A Salt and Battery (also excellent). Nearby is another British food shop, Myers of Keswick (the ‘w’ is silent).
We’ve been to them all a few times in the past.
Yesterday, Saturday, we were excited for our first time back in Manhattan since my birthday in February! We had a restaurant voucher for Tea and Sympathy that my sister Lisa and her family bought us for Christmas. It was now finally time to use it!
We’d heard Manhattan is a little weird right now in the covid era. When you think about it, there are very few tourists! Any that are there would be from maybe New England or PA? And we’d also heard it’s lacking in its usual buzz and vibe. Also that some areas are temporarily a little shabby by comparison.
I think it’s getting better though, plus we were heading to the attractive Greenwich Village.
We set off at about 2.30 from Auburndale Rail Station, our table reservation being for 5pm. At Penn Station some shops and cafes/delis are closed but that isn’t necessarily down to covid. Penn Station is being rebuilt, with the grand old post office opposite Penn Plaza being the frontage for it. The Post Office facade will be left in its traditional glory I believe. Marie is reading the early 20th century novel, ‘A Tree Grows In Brooklyn’ right now and that post office is sometimes mentioned.
At last, redemption! The very beautiful old Penn Station had been torn down in…the 1960s I believe (the 60s was amazing for culture, terrible sometimes for architecture). It was as impressive as Grand Central Station pre 1960s and hopefully it will be again when it’s complete but in a modern way.
We decided to walk from Penn – on around 32nd Street – to Greenwich Village near 14th. Walking along 8th Avenue it did feel off-kilter. A lot of shuttered businesses around, despite there also being a lot open. Quite a lot of homeless people too, even in Chelsea. It gradually got smarter, and towards GV it was to a large extent chic, clean and lively again. Not quite right, but close. We enjoyed the walk though. We shopped at Myers of Keswick! It has very delicious sausage rolls, pork pies, British sausages, Scotch eggs etc and we bought some of those and some off-the-shelf products. Heinz has new canned beans varieties, even a curry beans! We left with two shopping bags full!
Then we arrived at Tea and Sympathy. Its outdoor seating looks great, and decidedly British. It seems to be doing well, as popular as ever. We last went to T & S about 4 or 5 years ago I think, when we also walked the High Line. It’s a little expensive, but a treat. We needed to wait until about 5.40 for our table but we didn’t mind, and were sat in a nice bench in the sunshine just outside the restaurant and shop.
You can order from its T & S menu or from A Salt and Battery, but we wanted the meat pies today. By the way, Tea and Sympathy has been popular among lots of ex Pats and celebrities (ex Pat or not!). The first time we ever went, in about 2008, Mike Myers was at the table next to us. Considering that the indoor seating is so tiny you could easily get your elbow in someone else’s mashed potato it makes it even more interesting if someone famous is next to you. Anyway, back to today! You have a lot more space at the outdoor tables, and of course it’s essential to have that space right now.
We ordered up for Marie a glass of sauvignon blanc, for me a Fuller’s London Pride and then we ordered chicken and leek pie for Marie, steak and Guinness pie for me. They come with mash and peas. The pies were absolutely superb. The chicken and leek in a rich, creamy white sauce, the steak and Guinness in an equally rich beef and tomato gravy. Honestly even better than they’ve ever been! And, whilst it was getting dusky with lots of string lights along the street outside other restaurants, I had warm rhubarb crumble and hot custard. With the $19 left over on the voucher, I added about $3 and bought a T & S t-shirt from the shop, “The Dog’s Bollocks” on the back of the shirt! Don’t ask about that phrase! No wait, I’ll just briefly explain to American readers that “bollocks” means testicles. So in polite terms, “the dog’s testicles”. But in England that is a great compliment, and infers that something is amazingly good! Us Brits are just a bit weird I suppose!
Anyway, we had a fantastically enjoyable meal and intend to go back relatively much sooner. The afternoon tea looked terrific too as we watched many order it (expensive but it looks one of the best we’ve ever seen). The street looks great too, and we enjoyed watching life go on around us and lots of dog walkers pass through. We largely feel reassured than in the right parts of Manhattan like this, it all looks safe and appealing even in these odd times. Walking back to Penn afterwards, we chose to go along 7th Avenue instead and that looks much nicer than 8th and much more interesting. But still many, many businesses closed down. The city was mostly busy and bustling around here though.
Marie bought some doughnuts at The Donut Pub (not a pub!) on the walk back, as she couldn’t handle a big British dessert at T & S (she has a smaller appetite).
We’d really had a delightful afternoon and evening in every way, and thanks again to Lisa, Neal, Alistair and Nathan for the voucher!