20110116 - 138236 - The Tea Set - Afternoon Tea.jpg

[Photo: Kathy YL Chan]

The Tea Set opened in the West Village late last year, earning a short article in the New York Times and not much press after. And it's for that reason this place remains a quiet gem. A sliver of a spot right off Greenwich Avenue, the entrance is blocked by construction right outside and health nuts at Equinox across the street. But make your way to this colorful restaurant/tea shop and you'll be glad you did.

The owner is Jacques, a chatty and knowledgeable Frenchman clearly passionate about tea. The Tea Set serve its own brand of teas (loose leaf is available for purchase), and the Afternoon Tea meal runs $29.90 a person. Instead of pots and tea cups, the tea is presented in a single tall mug with its own infuser. Not classic, but gets the job done stylishly. The two-tiered tea begins with a trio of sandwiches. Jacques noted that he decided to replace traditional soft white bread tea sandwiches with his idea of traditional: baguettes.

And what's not to love—they're served warm, the baguettes toasty, with white cheddar and b├ęchamel melted over tomato slices; and on another, avocado with sliced chicken (dark meat only!) and mayo. My favorite was a simple ham and cheddar where the ham was not sliced but cut in thin ribbons and tangled around the cheese, that glorious b├ęchamel smothered on the bottom half.

Those will fill you up plenty. But have another sip of that earl grey tea, and dive into slices of a lemony pound cake. Slightly crunchy at the surface and buttery all the way down, it's a whole cake cut into four slices. There are no scones with this tea set, so this is what you will pair with chunky strawberry preserves and little bowls of whipped cream (in place of clotted or Devonshire cream). One chubby streusel-topped blueberry muffin finishes the bottom tier, and above, a fresh berry tart, its nutty almond shell brushed with chocolate and filled with an custardy pastry cream.

If it tastes familiar, Soho's Ceci-Cela is responsible for pastries at The Tea Set. Very appropriate. Finish on a quartet of petite macarons, two each of chocolate and vanilla, and then lean back and relax. This is a place where you can linger all day with a constantly refilled tea mug and not a worry on your mind.

The Tea Set

235 West 12th Street, New York NY 10014 (map)

About the author: Originally from Honolulu, Kathy YL Chan writes A Passion For Food, where she chronicles her eats and travels adventures between Hawai'i, New York and beyond. She firmly believes that there is always room for dessert.

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