Alice’s Tea Cup
is, quite simply, the best brunch and lunch restaurant I’ve found in New York City.
Smoked salmon & scones.
First, there is tea. You must have tea. Alice’s offers a comprehensive book of tea choices, ranging from common to exotic. Each brightly hued pot of tea is a different shape and size, and is brought directly to your table, with a sponge secured to the spout to catch dribbles.
Second, there are scones. Where else can you have scones and tea on a regular basis? (Starbucks doesn’t count.) The best is the pumpkin scone, judiciously spiced and very moist. The mixed berry scone, also good, has a snappy, sugary crust. Some of the scones, especially the ham & cheese and buttermilk scones, tend to be on the dry side. Remedy this with the clotted cream and raspberry preserves served with each choice; the flavors pair well and melt in your mouth.
The entrée menu is short and sweet. Puréed soups change daily. A few dainty combinations of veggies and protein are available in either salad or sandwich form. The smoked salmon on black bread is the best of the sandwiches; the lapsang chicken, served with apple slices and tea-infused hard-boiled eggs, works best as a salad. However they are prepared, the entrees are cute, classy, and consistently delicious, combining unique ingredients to keep things interesting.
If you’ve gone to the trouble of getting an early afternoon table at Alice’s on the weekend, forget calorie counting with the mundane watercress sandwiches and indulge in the luxurious brunch menu. Pumpkin pancakes are fluffy, moist and intensely flavorful. Smoked salmon and scones are layered with tender poached eggs and a tasty Hollandaise sauce. The Curious French Toast gooey with syrup and chocolate sauce and sprinkled with fresh berries; this decadent entrée should be listed as a dessert. Top off your meal with a morning cocktail: Alice’s apéritifs are fun, spicing up classics like Bellinis with peach-infused tea, simple syrup, and a single bobbing raspberry.
Alice’s Curious French Toast.
With all the girly girls in New York descending on brunch restaurants every weekend, Alice’s is incredibly popular. The wait at any of its three locations is consistently one to two hours on weekends, and longer around midday. (Reservations are taken for parties of six or more ladies. I say ladies, and I mean it. Don’t try to bring men here. They just don’t understand!) All of the locations are whimsically painted with illustrations and passages of Lewis Carroll’s classic story, for which the restaurant is named. Chapter 1, on the Upper West Side, feels like a magical rabbit warren, hidden below street level. Chapter 2 is a tall building on the Upper East Side, with cream and burgundy décor, a winding staircase, and a wonderfully inventive bathroom. Chapter 3, also on the Upper East Side, feels a bit boxy at times, but features a sweet outdoor garden.