Like visiting an English grandmother’s house, dining at Tea & Sympathy is steeped in cozy nostalgia. At this tiny spot in the West Village you will find classic British favorites, from the namesake tea to bangers and mash to shepherd’s pie.
The crowded, 23-seat dining room is charmingly kitschy, with crooked frames holding photos of the British royal family, a green-shaded lamp shaped like a bulldog, and other vintage knickknacks. Shelves at the back display an impressive collection of novelty teapots—we spotted one shaped like a strawberry and another like an Elizabethan nobleman in a frilly collar—and the small tables are covered in floral plastic tablecloths.
The menu offers hearty breakfasts, like the cheekily named Full Monty Breakfast comprising all the elements we picture in a morning spread: scrambled eggs, buttered toast, bacon, and sausages, with the addition of a juicy roasted tomato half cut into a flower shape ($16.50). This is clearly the ancestor of the American diner breakfast, proving that our breakfast culture is still British at its roots. For vegetarians, there’s the Full Veggie Breakfast, with sautéed mushrooms and Heinz baked beans made for the British market ($16.50).
If you are carnivorously inclined, you will delight in the English-style bacon, crispy on the edges, chewy throughout, and akin to sliced roast ham in its meatiness. Then there are the Cumberland-style sausages: Press your fork against the crispy casing and it bursts, releasing the rich scent of the crumbly chopped pork and seasonings inside. The skin crunches with each bite.
Both breakfasts come with freshly squeezed orange juice, refreshingly bright with just the right amount of pulp, and your choice of tea or coffee. When in Britain (or its closest equivalent), opt for the tea: It comes in a novelty teapot, along with a charmingly mismatched teacup and saucer, just like grandma would pull from her overcrowded cupboard. On a recent visit, our pot was “Alice in Wonderland” themed, which was fitting as it seemed bottomless, pouring out cup after cup of aromatic and finely balanced Earl Grey (Tea & Sympathy’s house blend).
The café has over 30 teas to choose from, including three house blends, which can also be purchased next-door at their sweets shop, Carry On Tea & Sympathy.
Aside from the full breakfasts, there are the bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes), which you can order with onion gravy, bacon, beans, toast, or a combination. The Bangers, Mash & Beans arrives with a pool of velvety smooth potatoes on one side and orangy red beans-in-sauce on the other, with two scrumptious sausages in the middle ($15.50).
Less familiar to us from across the pond is the Welsh rarebit, a classic pub food that instantly hits the spot. Cheese sauce is slathered on toast, then baked, and served with slices of fresh tomato on top. The sauce has a slight bite from the sharp cheddar and seasonings, reminiscent of a rich mac and cheese. Get it on seven grain, and the nutty sweetness of the bread contrasts and enhances the savory creaminess of the cheese ($11.50).
Sweet tooths and Anglophiles alike will enjoy the traditional scones, served with strawberry jam and clotted cream (like richer, heavier whipped cream) ($7). For an even sweeter option from the dessert menu, try the Bakewell Tart served with Bird’s Custard. It arrives submerged in the warm vanilla custard sauce, and each bite includes layers of pastry crust, raspberry jam, sweet almond, and crunchy almond slices ($8.50).
Tea & Sympathy fills up fast and there’s no room to wait inside, so be sure to get there early and with just a few, punctual friends, as they don’t seat incomplete parties. You’ll bump elbows with your dining neighbors while sipping your tea—all part of the charm.
Tea & Sympathy
108 Greenwich Ave. (between 12th & Jane streets)
Monday–Friday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday 9:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m.