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.

Iced Tea

Wowee, it’s getting hot! With 100F+ temperatures set to hold for the next week and it being teatime – classically indulged in between 2pm and 5pm back in Blighty – we thought it only fair to share our recipe for Tea & Sympathy’s delectably refreshing Iced Tea. While something of an Americanisation of the British cuppa, we take our hats off to this fine creation’s impressively delicious ability to hit the spot when the mercury rises. And while we don’t like to blow our own trumpet (terribly un-British, don’t you know), we do receive many a compliment and return visits from scores of satisfied customers as soon as we crack out our first batch of the year in the spring months. So, we’re more than happy to do our bit as New York swelters. Take note, then sit back and take a long, thirst-quenching sip!

Iced Tea

For truly fantastic iced tea, make it strong. For better results use a flavored loose tea such as blackcurrant, apricot, or mango, which are particular favourites. These, and many other interesting flavours, are available from our produce store, located next door to the restaurant. With summer sticking around, why not make a large batch and keep in in the refrigerator – it will last several days.

Serves 6
Preparation time: 30 minutes

6 heaped tablespoons of loose tea per pot
1 large teapot
Fresh boiling water
1 tea strainer
1 large heatproof pitcher
Sugar (opt)

  • Heat the pot by swirling a little boiling water in it.
  • Spoon the tea into the teapot and cover with boiling water. Let it stand for a good 5 minutes.
  • Give the tea a stir then strain it into the pitcher.
  • Refill the pot with more boiling water and the same tea leaves and again let stand for 5 minutes before straining it into the pitcher. This will give you approximately 10 glasses of tea with ice.
  • If you are making a lot of tea, repeat the process and keep adding it o the pitcher, then chill.
  • It is quite difficult to dissolve sugar in iced tea. A good tip is to mix some sugar with a little water and stir until the sugar dissolves. You may serve this on the side for those who like their iced tea sweet.
Other ideas
  • If you wish to serve the tea immediately: Cool it down by filling a zip-lock bag with ice and placing the bag in the hot tea until the ice cubes have melted. This will cool the tea without diluting the taste. Repeat until the tea is cold.
  • Another great idea for serving the tea: Fill some ice trays with the tea mixture. When ready to serve, fill the glass with the tea ice cubes and the iced tea. As the cubes melt, they will not weaken the tea.
  • If you wish to have something a little more exotic: You may add a little fresh fruit or mint sprigs to the tea. For example, if you use a peach tea, a couple of slices of fresh peaches added to the glass give it that little bit of extra flavor. Also, slices of mango in mango tea taste luscious!

Who would have thought so much effort went into a cup of iced tea! Remember, we sell a wide selection of imported china teapots and tea strainers, as well as a delicious selection of fruit and herbal teas. And for those who want the gulp without the graft – we sell a different flavored iced tea to-go every day for only $2!

If you have any questions, or would like to order for shipment, please give us a call on: (212) 989-9735.

* As with all recipes featured on our blog, this comes from our book ‘Tea & Sympathy: The Life of a Teashop in New York’, by Nicola Perry and Anita Naughton. Please call the above number, or come by the store, if you are interested in purchasing one of the last remaining copies.