British food takes Manhattan

We’re part of a movement here at Tea & Sympathy. Food and lifestyle journalist Katy Salter interviewed Nicky as an expat bringing the best of British food to Manhattan.

From lovefood.com

With Sean’s black cab sitting outside, and the interiors covered in nostalgic memorabilia, from regal teapots to signed photos of the EastEnders cast, this small block is New York’s own little Britain. ‘I don’t miss much about the UK,’ says Nicky ‘but I do miss M&S food. It’s the first place I go when I land at the airport – I love the lemon curd yoghurt and ham and mustard sandwiches.’ But neither can hold a candle to Nicky’s famous fluffy scones, served with proper clotted cream and jam. Her cream teas and other classic British dishes have won Tea and Sympathy legions of loyal regulars and celeb fans like Jake Gyllenhaal and Mila Kunis.

‘Americans think British food is mush and overcooked meat, and that just isn’t true’ says Nicky, who grew up in London and moved to New York in the early 80s. Rave reviews for Tea and Sympathy and Assault and Battery have helped changed those perceptions, as have the 1000s of cuppas poured by Tea and Sympathy’s British waitresses over the years. ‘I’ve single-handedly turned New Yorkers on to good tea,’ says Nicky, who hopes her new range of Tea and Sympathy teas will encourage even more Americans to enjoy the pleasures of a proper brew.

You can read the full piece here.

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Tea & Sympathy in Yorkshire Gold Advert

While to the casual visitor, Little Britain may seem a bastion of English tranquility, a fierce debate rages beneath the surface that, at points, threatens to tear the British expat community apart. Indeed, in epic terms worthy of the Bard, whole households are riven of this particular point of contention. But fear not, it is an argument that surges in our veins, and has divided and united Great Britain along battle lines for many years now, and shows no signs of letting up. The big question is: what’s your favorite cuppa?

Each and every member of staff at Tea & Sympathy has their own perfect brew. Type of tea; length of steeping; order of hot water, sugar and milk; along with a thousand other variables play their part. As harmless as it seems, you should never ask a roomful of Brits the question ‘fancy a cuppa?’, without due preparation. Especially when you consider the reprecussions of serving someone a cup of Assam with milk and two sugars, when actually they were after a black Earl Grey with a slice of lemon…

Delicious... but divisive!

But there’s no denying that Yorkshire Gold is on our all-time short list. Devilishly strong, packed with character, and quintessentially British, it makes a great go-to cup. Which is why we couldn’t possibly have said no when they asked us to appear in this advert, in which their tea van reunites US Brits with a proper mug of chai:

The New York Times: Charles & Camilla’s 2007 Visit to NYC

They’ve even got her commenting on the bleedin’ Royals now! Here’s Nicky’s take  on Prince Charles and Camilla’s New York visit back in 2007.

On Your Toes, Blokes, 2 Highnesses Coming — Charles and Camilla

By ERIC KONIGSBERG
Published: January 27, 2007

Nicky Perry, owner of Tea and Sympathy, a British tea shop, recalled London papers’ criticism of the royal travel arrangements.

It has been just over a year since their Wellington boots last sloshed about on these shores, and it’s not as though that trip — billed as their first official overseas tour since being married in April 2005 — came off so smashingly that they, or an adoring American public, ought to be crying out for another.

“They” would be Their Royal Highnesses, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall — Charles and Camilla. During that trip, in early November 2005, The New York Post ridiculed Charles for failing to make eye contact with his wife throughout a 9/11 memorial event in Lower Manhattan (“maybe they’ve just grown accustomed to sneaking around”); and in The Washington Post, Tina Brown, ostensibly praising Camilla, wrote: “She’s smaller, prettier, more delicate than all those cruel horseface snaps would have you believe.”

Even so, the royal couple haven’t had enough of the United States, it would seem. They have arranged another American publicity tour and will be spending today, the first day of this jaunt, in Philadelphia (Liberty Bell, Commodore Barry statue, National Constitution Center).

Tomorrow, it’s on to New York, where they will tour the Harlem Children’s Zone, a nonprofit educational organization in Upper Manhattan, and attend a black-tie reception at the Harvard Club in the prince’s honor. At that event, Al Gore will present him with the Global Environmental Citizen Award, and Charles, according to a schedule put out by the British Consulate in New York, will deliver a speech “on environmental issues.”

In and around Greenwich Village, where a good number of Brits work in the fields of fashion, media and design (having taken glamorous and low-paying jobs from their American counterparts), the prince’s countrymen viewed the royal visit — not to mention H.R.H. himself — with something less than awe…

…To much of the British public, Charles, old-fashioned and aloof, has had little success in his attempts to present himself as a man of the people.

“There was a horrible thing in the London papers in advance of this trip” when it came out that he was considering flying a private jet to bring 20 people to New York with him, said Nicky Perry, who owns Tea and Sympathy, a British tea shop on Greenwich Avenue. “They went on and on about the preposterous size of his carbon footprint. It was cruel.”

Whatever happened to the British invasion?

The British are Coming!... Delta Airlines new transatlantic offering.

Here’s a nice article from way back when in 1999 from The New York Times. Jesse McKinley outlines how: “British culture has of late been flooding these shores with almost colonial aplomb.” She gives a pretty exhaustive write-up of the British expat scene in NY at the time, and is very kind indeed about Tea & Sympathy:

“I chose the unofficial embassy of all British expatriates: Tea and Sympathy. This tiny restaurant in the Village is the city’s best-known outpost for complexities of British cuisine, from bangers and mash (sausage and potatoes) to shepherd’s pie (meat and potatoes).

With only about 10 tables, the restaurant is almost always packed. But at 6 P.M. I found a spot for myself and two friends, near a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.

We started with a delicious Stilton rarebit (melted cheese on toast). My friends had shandy (ginger ale and beer), while I chose Ribena (black-currant concentrate and water). Bangers, lamb and chicken followed, all with a deep mushroom gravy and assisted by products like Branston Original Pickle and Colman’s Classic Mint Sauce.

As the meal settled, I felt a wash of satisfaction. The weekend had left me feeling full. I had only sampled the local British fare, but it was a loverly taste.

And as I pushed away from the table and into the night, I realized the best part of enjoying England in New York: being able to walk back home.

That Scepter’d Isle . . . Manhattan.”

Well, as the ‘unofficial British embassy of all British expatriates’, may we take this opportunity to thank all you lovely New Yorkers for being so welcoming. We bloody love it here. Please don’t make us go back…

Once upon a time in Little Britain…

Does this sign look familiar, yet somewhat inaccurate? While the seasoned West Villagers of you may be able to place Patchin Place and Minetta Lane, where exactly is Little Britain Boulevard? Well for the time being, this sign takes pride of place in the window of Carry on Tea & Sympathy, our neighbouring produce store.

Have we ever told you the story of Little Britain? No? Well, if you’re sitting comfortably, let us begin… It all began a long time ago (1989, to be precise). Back then Greenwich Village was something of a wilderness, packed with the interesting characters and vibrancy that we’ve grown to love but lacking in a certain something. That something was a bit of sanctuary; a bit of – dare we say it – English refinement. Armed with nothing but a teapot and a vision, Nicky Perry worked tirelessly to bring her tea-making skills from the floor of the London Stock Exchange to the Village.

Very soon, with the help of other Brit and Irish establishments, such as Meyers of Keswick over on Hudson Street, and Fiddlesticks down the way, and numerous expats, the area begun to gain a distinctive British character.

Unrelenting in her quest to carve a piece of home in the West Village, Nicky and her husband Sean, launched a campaign to rename the area ‘Little Britain’. Very soon, the cream of Blighty’s crop was on board, and none other than Richard Branson very kindly endorsed the effort. With his backing, and that of many other supporters, the campaign was able to produce this shiny video:

Although ultimately unsuccessful, city Commissioner Brian Andersson was very kind to gift us this mocked-up street sign to commemorate the campaign.

Modelled by the lovely John Herring

While for the time being the sign remains in our window and the maps don’t yet read ‘Little Britain’, we feel it represents the contribution of the British community in making this a truly special corner of NYC.

God Save the Queen!