The British Invasion
Tue 26 Apr 2011 @ 08:52 | story by Ashley Van Buren

Royal wedding fever has made its way across the pond to America. To prepare for Friday’s festivities, I sat down with Nicky Perry, who introduced New Yorkers to delicious, home-style British food and a proper cuppa when she opened her first shop, Tea & Sympathy, in 1989. Two year later, she added Carry On Tea & Sympathy, an emporium of British-imported food stuffs, China, and British-themed paper goods. She followed that act up with her fish and chips shop, A Salt & Battery, all located next to each other on Greenwich Avenue in New York City’s West Village.

In addition to putting British food on the map in America, Nicky Perry and her staff (which includes waitresses who have worked in the shop for 16+ years, and chef who proudly told me he’s been in the kitchen since day one) have turned the cuisine and the restaurant into a destination spot for tourists and a hang out for locals. “We don’t hire the staff, they hire themselves,” says Nicky. “They have to love each other and the customers because they look after each other here and that shows.” In a restaurant that has ten tables and twenty seats, everyone is forced to develop a close relationship, even if it’s with the stranger at the next table during teatime, so everyone is dedicated to making it work in close quarters and keeping up the convivial atmosphere.

In honor of the royal wedding, Tea & Sympathy is pulling out all the stops. Nicky informs me of all their plans: “We’re going to decorate the street with bunting, we’ve commandeered the French restaurant [Lyon] on the corner, since we’re so tiny, and they’re going British for the day and we’re serving a British breakfast and broadcasting the wedding live on a large screen near the bar, which will play on a loop all day. All of the stores on the block even got into the act by decorating their windows and giving in to our incredible raffle, which is raising money for the royal couple’s charity. It’s nice to see every local shop getting into the spirit of it all.”

As for the wedding day food, Nicky isn’t cutting any corners, “We’re making Devils on Horseback, smoked salmon quail Scotch eggs, and samosas, lamb chops and mint gravy and kedgeree, which is very hard for us to make, and I’m not going to make any money off it, but I want to make it proper,” says Nicky. “For dessert, we’re doing Eton mess, and bread and butter pudding … and champagne, of course!”

If you can’t make it to Tea & Sympathy’s stateside celebration of the royal wedding, use Nicky’s menu as inspiration, search the recipes on JamieOliver.com for more ideas, and check in with our forum topic dedicated to sharing at-home royal wedding celebration menus.

While I talked with Nicky, an elderly British woman came in with a present she had been meaning to give Nicky for ten years. It was a small, vintage tea tin. Inside the tin was the tea company’s motto, which Nicky read out loud: “Celebrated for great strength, delicious flavor, and uniform good quality. Once used, always used.” Without missing a beat, Nicky remarked, “It’s like Tea & Sympathy, darling.”

If you are in Manhattan on Friday, April 29th, the festivities kick-off at 6:00am at Lyon (118 Greenwich Ave NY, NY) and go between Tea & Sympathy (108-110 Greenwich Ave) starting at 10:30am and Lyon throughout the rest of the day (and well into the weekend). From tea and scones to bagpipers, pop musicians, and even a bit of a block party, a British invasion indeed.