Do New Yorkers care about the Royal Wedding? You bet. Nicky Perry of Tea and Sympathy leads the charge
By Melissa Whitworth | April 20th, 2011
Nicky Perry has been serving Sunday roasts and cream teas to homesick Brits in NYC for the last 20 years. Her restaurant, Tea & Sympathy, is a beloved expat institution, here in Greenwich Village. In fact, it’s the only place in the city where you can get a decent cuppa.
“I’ve done more for British food in America than Jamie Oliver – where’s my MBE?” she asks. Local rumour has it that when the British Consulate here gets a call they can’t deal with, they redirect it to Perry.
My friend, Circe Hamilton, a British photographer who has been living in NYC for 19 years says, “Perry is the local mayor, her reputation precedes her and she’s a force to be reckoned with. She’s never afraid to shout at her punters and get them all in line. I love a woman where you know what she thinks immediately. It’s very comforting knowing there’s a little bit of England around the corner.”
On the 29th April, Perry and her friend, fellow-Brit Penny Bradley, will be hosting the street party to end all parties in celebration of the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. They plan to close down part of Greenwich Avenue outside their restaurants, and have the celebrations spill out onto the streets.
Bradley is the co-owner of Lyon, the French restaurant next-door to Tea & Sympathy. Her business partner, François Latapie, has agreed to be British for the weekend (as long as Penny helps him celebrate Bastille Day later in the year with a few games of Pétanque).
The restaurants will be serving full English breakfast, kedgeree, Spotted Dick, Eton Mess, Brown Windsor soup and Pimm’s. Perry has been trying to hunt down the menu they’ll be serving at Buckingham Palace on the day, so she can recreate it for her New York customers. In the meantime, she has her chef baking Prince William’s favourite pudding, a kind of chocolate biscuit cake with raisins.
Next door, Nicky is selling Royal wedding memorabilia: tea towels, football scarves, teapots, cups and saucers (alongside Marmite, Walker’s crisps, and the city’s biggest collection of Cadbury’s chocolate).
Nearby shopkeepers will be decorating their stores with Union Jacks and bunting. In fact, at the moment there is a huge Andy Warhol-style painting of the Queen in the window of the local chemist. A charity raffle will include a return trip to London courtesy of Virgin Atlantic, and clothing donated by Elizabeth Hurley. A Pearly King and Queen will perform songs in the evening; there will be Morris dancers. Perry has spent $1800 on bunting.
At Lyon there will be two large screens where live coverage of the Royal wedding will commence at 6am (because of the five-hour time difference).
“It’s going to be a right Royal knees-up,” says Perry.
It’s been an incredible few months of intense Anglophilia here in the US during the build-up to the wedding
Melissa Whitworth | 29 April 2011
Brits here have been besieged with questions about details of the wedding. I have fielded questions on every aspect of British Royal culture for weeks. American news networks, all covering the event live, have been scrambling for British journalists to go on their shows and explain it all, in their best BBC English accent, of course.
“Is she allowed to be smiling that much?” asked my American friend watching from Milwaukee. She is on a business trip, but both she and her husband here in New York got up yesterday morning at 5am to watch the wedding live.
“Even I, a Yank, get chills during God Save the Queen”, another friend said. It would have been nice if Buckingham Palace had posted copies of the program online we could download them and follow along, he added.
“I love Jerusalem,” said an American friend watching with me in New York. “It’s a lovely song, very evocative.”
Another American said of Catherine Middleton’s dress: “Divine, the most sublime and elegant and pristine wedding dress ever. Alexander McQueen would be proud. [Sarah Burton] you deserve all the accolades – you have set a new and formidable standard for brides around the world.”
Royal Wedding: America goes mad for Kate
Melissa Whitworth | 09 April 2011
It started over the Christmas holidays, here in New York. My American relatives began congratulating me in the most heartfelt way at family lunches and cocktail parties. Their best wishes were warm and sincere. There was a solid handshake from the men; a kiss on the cheek from the women. What they were congratulating me for, I could not fathom. “Congratulations on the engagement, of course!” they all said. Not mine, Kate Middleton’s.
For many New Yorkers, Britain is a quaint little isle populated by people who all care deeply about the personal transactions of the Royal family. Would I be returning to London for the wedding, I was asked? I must be so thrilled, they all said.
New York is gripped by Kate Middleton fever that would rival the enthusiasm inside Clarence House. Starved of any glamour from the Royal family since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales – and remember what a superstar the princess was in the US – Kate Middleton is the perfect dose of dignified English celebrity in a sea of outré American glitz. Add to that, a city that exists entirely on ambition and reinvention. For New Yorkers, the story of a commoner who becomes a princess is about as good as “making it” gets.
Over the past three months, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing in our New York office with requests from American news channels and daytime talk shows. Producers are desperate for Brits to go on air and reveal every last detail of what will happen during the royal wedding and what Kate’s life as a princess will be like.
On the Nate Berkus show – a daytime chat-show, hosted by a designer who was a regular contributor on Oprah Winfrey for nine years – I am greeted by a live audience wearing Union Jack T-shirts and waving British flags. Two Beefeaters stand beside an image of Buckingham Palace projected onto the studio wall. I am then grilled about every detail of the couple’s courtship and what life will be like for Miss Middleton. An etiquette expert also appears on the show, explaining how to host afternoon tea.
“It’s no surprise to me that William and Kate’s wedding is what we’re all talking about in the US,” says Berkus, whose royal wedding themed episode will air on April 27. “We don’t have royals to get caught up in. So, the first chance we get to daydream about marrying a prince and picking out the dress to go along with it, we take it!”
On the day Prince William and Kate’s engagement was announced, the website for New York’s Natural Sapphire Company crashed within minutes. At first Evan Guttman, the company’s chief information officer, had his developers and technicians trying to find out why their traffic had suddenly increased 100 fold.
“One of our staff saw the engagement news and that’s when we realised we would be having the ride of our lives,” says Guttman. After rebooting the website, and adding more servers, the orders started pouring in and they haven’t stopped since. They have now sold over a thousand replicas of Kate Middleton’s engagement ring, which the company first put on sale in 1982 following Prince Charles’s engagement to Diana.
“We have asked a few customers why they are buying this ring now, and they have replied that it is because of the fairytale ideal of a commoner becoming a princess. Because, after all doesn’t every little girl grow up wishing they could become a princess?
“When Prince Charles gave Diana that ring, our chief executive Michael Arnstein knew that he needed to create a replica ring as soon as possible. It was very difficult to do because while the ring was shown in photographs on her hand, we had no further details. So, through the use of hundreds of pictures of different angles of Diana wearing it, we were able to recreate this stunning piece.”
The company’s chief executive returned last week from Sri Lanka, where he acquired an even larger inventory to keep up with demand. The company has also just announced the creation of a 69.35 carat sapphire ring, surrounded by 16 round diamonds (eight carats in weight). It’s the largest sapphire ring for sale in the world, and priced at $1.5 million. “It is worthy of a queen,” says Guttman.
Meanwhile, hairdressers across the Big Apple have been inundated with requests to recreate Kate Middleton’s hairstyle. More than 50 clients a week have been asking for Kate-inspired looks at one salon. “There is so much buzz concerning Kate Middleton’s beautiful flowing locks,” says Kelsy Osterman, a stylist at the Cutler/Redken salon. “It has brought mania to the salon. Ever since the engagement was announced, women across the city have been asking for her lovely, long hairdo. Women love it for its elegant ease and strong shape, which accentuates your best facial features. It a beautiful look that is easily customised to the masses. Hundreds of women have become Kate Middleton hair fanatics.”
Katherine Hooker, one of Middleton’s favourite designers known for her custom-made tweed jackets and coats has seen her US client base grow exponentially over the last year. She will spend much of the spring in America this year, selling her designs through privately hosted, and public trunk shows. She has hosted three in New York this month alone. While Hooker is discreet about her famous client – Middleton began wearing her designs in 2005 – her royal connection has New Yorkers fawning over her designs.
“Kate is so elegant. Her style’s so appealing because it’s very subtle,” Hooker told me last month. “She doesn’t take her style too seriously, but she really knows what she likes and what she wants. She knows exactly what works for her.”
So how will New Yorkers (and expats) be celebrating the happy day? At the English restaurant Tea and Sympathy, in Greenwich Village, British owner Nicky Perry is busy preparing a street party on the day of the wedding with fellow British ex-pat Penny Bradley, co-owner of a French restaurant next door.
Perry has been serving Sunday roasts and cream teas to homesick expats for the past 20 years. “I have done far more for English food in this country than Jamie Oliver. Where’s my MBE?” she says.
On April 29, she will be serving Scotch eggs, kedgeree, her version of “Eton mess”, and “Brown Windsor” soup. There will be a champagne breakfast, wedding cake, Morris Men dancing and two Pearly King and Queen singers performing in the evening.
Meanwhile, Penny Bradley’s French business partner has agreed to be British for the day, and together they will be serving full English breakfasts, toad in the hole, spotted dick, English beer, bucks fizz and Pimms. From 6am they will have two screens on the wall so customers can watch the wedding live. Local enthusiasm doesn’t stop there. Other shopkeepers in the area are decorating their stores with Union Jacks and bunting, too.
Perry has also organised a charity raffle, for which it seems every high-profile Brit in New York has contributed a prize. Virgin Atlantic has donated a round trip to London, Ted Baker a custom-made suit, while Elizabeth Hurley and India Hicks have also made contributions. Royal souvenirs at Perry’s gift shop next door, which include mugs picturing the couple, are selling “brilliantly”, she says.
“This wedding is going to be unbelievable,” says Perry. “It’s going to be a right-royal knees-up here in New York.”