*Update: Harlem Tea Room served their last cup of tea in 2008.
A member of the Uptown Flavor community recently visited The Harlem Tea Room and had a pretty lukewarm experience. He was disappointed at the lack of attentiveness from staff, the apparent inability of the establishment to know the difference between biscuits and scones and ingredients of questionable quality. In his own words:
“We paid our $10 tab and left–a little sad that what could have been such a lovely experience fell so far short because of inattentive service, a lack of readily available, authentic ingredients, and censure by a stranger hawking bedding in a restaurant. We probably won’t be back. But those biscuits are tasty…”
Click below to read his entire review. Have you been to The Harlem Tea Room? What was your experience?
EDITOR’S NOTE: Reviews we receive from readers are the opinions of the authors not necessarily of the site. We welcome well-written reviews of Harlem establishments, whether they are positive or negative. (Though we do love to support our neighbors whenever possible.) Personally, I have never been to the Harlem Tea Room, but I will be going there to form my own opinion about the place.
My girlfriend and I have been anxious to try The Harlem Tea Room for the better part of a year. It’s big picture windows offer a cozy view of seemingly happy customers enjoying pots of tea and sweet treats. Every week, one of us would invariably say to the other ‘We really should stop in to the tea room.’ As is so happens, tonight was the night.
The restaurant was bustling, as it is on most nights, and the hostess was waiting by the door ready to seat us at one of the last available tables. Except that woman was not, in fact, the hostess. We only realized this after spending a minute or so waiting for a greeting which would never come–not from the mystery woman nor the restaurant staff. We asked the waiter behind the counter if we could sit, and got a unenthusiastic ‘Sure.’ Ok…thanks.
Menus were delivered by a mute waitress, and a few minutes later the waiter from the counter took our order–notepad in hand. We ordered the Cream Tea with two scones. ‘Darjeeling tea, please,’ we offered when it became apparent that he wasn’t going to ask our preference. No matter. I was particularly excited about our order because my Gran makes incredible scones and I’ve been missing them lately. Buttery pastry with clotted cream and preserves is a simple, delicious indulgence, and I was psyched about having a taste of home in Harlem.
As we waited, and waited, and waited for our tea and scones, we noticed that our table was a little wobbly. No big. However, the little things were beginning to add up and this was yet another annoyance. We decided to fix the problem ourselves and grabbed a couple of flyers laying on a cardboard box next to our table. As we were sussing out which corner was out of sync, the mystery woman appeared out of nowhere. ‘Um, those are my cards. Yeah, those are mine. Well they’re kind of useless now that their folded. They’re mine.’ So sorry. Our mistake. As it turns out, she’s there to sell the orange, lime green and yellow satin pillow cases displayed in the window, and we’d disrupted her business. Seriously. How could we have possibly overlooked an entrepreneur at work? I’d noticed the manual, 1980s credit card imprint machine on top of the cardboard box as well, but assuming I was in a tea room, not a Tunisian bazaar, I thought nothing of it. She was angry and so was I. I just wanted my tea and scone, but here came the waiter, empty handed. ‘So, the scones are coming, but what kind of tea did you order?’ Ah, how about consulting your trusty notepad? ‘Darjeeling, thanks.’ When he stopped by our table a second time with sugar, my girlfriend asked for milk which he assured us was coming. A moment later he came back with approximately 1/1000 of a cup of milk. Slightly less than a thimble full. ‘Oh, do you want enough for two?’ Yep, that’d be great. By this point, our ‘scones’ had arrived. This may not be a sticking point if you haven’t grown up with scones, but they are not biscuits. They just aren’t. Biscuits are lovely things, but you cannot claim to sell homemade scones and serve biscuits. It’s just wrong. But we tuck in, because they’re good currant biscuits. Except. Except…is that whipped cream out of a spray can instead of clotted cream? This is bad. I am not a food snob, but this is just lazy. The bad service, silent waiters, wobbly table, fake scones, and now this? Not clotted cream at all, but some synthetic mess from a tube. I’ll readily admit that any one of these relatively minor issues could have been overlooked on their own, but as they continued to mount we were more and more anxious to get out of there. It reeked of someone who’d maybe read a book about English tearooms and thought ‘I can do that…cheap.’
We paid our $10 tab and left–a little sad that what could have been such a lovely experience fell so far short because of inattentive service, a lack of readily available, authentic ingredients, and censure by a stranger hawking bedding in a restaurant. We probably won’t be back. But those biscuits are tasty…