Is your child a fan of the Eloise books? Then you might be thinking of taking them to the Eloise Tea at The Plaza Hotel in New York City. Here’s our review of the experience.
It was my birthday, and a rare occasion when both my sisters—who live in Hong Kong—were in town, so I decided to treat them and my daughters to a super-girly afternoon tea at The Plaza Hotel‘s Palm Court. (Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book here)
My daughters aren’t hardcore Eloise fans, but they enjoy the books and cartoons enough, so I thought they’d have fun experiencing a bit of Eloise in the real world.
But when we got to the Plaza, things got off to a rocky start.
First, there was a 10-minute line to even speak to the hostess. I checked in with her and she found our reservation, and asked us to wait on the side.
Five minutes in, I could see there was a table for five that had been cleared and readied for new guests—almost certainly it was ours. Yet no one approached us for another ten minutes.
I got tired of waiting, so I went to speak to the hostess again. She acted flustered, and it was obvious she had forgotten all about us even though we’d been standing just five feet from her the entire time. And sure enough, she showed us to that same table I’d been eyeing.
After we were seated with our menus, the waiting game continued. It was about 20 minutes before our server even came to the table.
If you’re good at math, you’ll have figured out that by the time we ordered, we’d been waiting for a total of 45 minutes. And that was with a reservation. Not fun when you’ve got a squirmy 3-year-old and an impatient 6-year-old with you.
All five of us ordered the Children’s Eloise Tea. My daughters ordered the Cold Cold Pink Lemonade while my sisters and I ordered various pots of tea. I also tried a House Tonic With Gin, since I’d heard Palm Court was famous for its craft cocktails.
The gin and tonic was fantastic. When that cocktail is made well, it feels like you’re sipping summer itself from a glass. The fresh ingredients they used at Palm Court certainly created that feeling for me.
The girls enjoyed their pink lemonade, but I was dismayed to see that it was served in a highball glass. I spent the next hour trying to prevent my 3-year-old from spilling from or breaking the glass.
It’s strange that the Eloise Tea at the Plaza is aggressively marketed toward children, yet is presented in such a child-unfriendly way. Just about everything on the table was fragile: the lemonade glasses, the water glasses, the china plates, even the tabletop itself was made of glass!
I’m not expecting an upscale afternoon tea to be served in ugly plastic sippy cups, but if you’re creating a dining experience just for children, you can probably find a middle ground between elegance and safety.
It was also a little strange that none of the Palm Court staff—from the hostesses to the wait staff—spoke to or even acknowledged my daughters. About a third of the tables had children with them, and from what I could see, none of them were getting much interaction either. To tolerate kids instead of welcoming them is, again, a little surprising for a restaurant that appears to be actively courting families. Perhaps there’s a disconnect between the Plaza’s marketing team and their front-of-house staff.
The Palm Court itself is a lovely space. Even though the restaurant is fully enclosed, its palm trees, high ceilings, and stained glass dome give it an outdoors feel. The trellised bar in the center anchors the room, and looks like a comfortable place to enjoy a fresh cocktail.
There were lots of oohs and aahs when the food came out. I have to say, the presentation was truly superb.
Each person’s set was served in three-tier tray. The top tray housed the desserts, the middle tray housed the tea sandwiches, and the bottom tray housed the scones.
The crowning glory was a huge mound of cotton candy tucked into the side of each tray.
While the food looked great, the flavors were rather mediocre. I enjoyed the scones and the turkey tea sandwiches, but I thought the rest was a bit bland.
The girls, though, were in heaven.
They absolutely loved the holiday-themed sweet treats: gingerbread man and snowman cookies.
And cotton candy? You can never go wrong with that.
If you’re planning to try the Eloise Tea at the Plaza, here are a few insider tips:
1. Plan ahead for the bathroom
Hopefully your child has an iron bladder, because the bathroom facilities at the Plaza are absurdly lacking. First, there is no bathroom at the Palm Court itself. Instead, you have to walk through the lobby and up the stairs to The Rose Club bar, where there are only two stalls. Incredibly, those two stalls serve the customers of all three restaurants on the entire first floor of the hotel. As you can imagine, the waits are long.
Your only other option is to take a walk around the perimeter of the hotel, and down to the concourse level where there’s a high-end shopping mall and food court. But while there are more stalls available there, the mall is always mobbed with shoppers, so you can expect long lines to form for the bathroom.
If your child is still potty-training, definitely put them in pull-ups to avoid any accidents. But even if your child is well past potty training, you should let them know to expect a 20-minute wait for the bathroom, and plan accordingly.
2. Bring a sippy cup
If your kids are aged 6 or older, they’ll be fine. But if you have a younger child, you might want to bring a sippy cup with you. As I’ve mentioned, the table settings are all extremely fragile.
Even better – just leave the little ones at home. That way you won’t spend the entire afternoon tea stressing about them breaking everything. The bottom line is that this place isn’t toddler-friendly.
3. Stop by The Eloise Shop downstairs
If your child is an Eloise fan, or just a fan of pink stuff, you should definitely visit The Eloise Shop on the concourse level.
The back room is a nice place to hang out, as they play Eloise videos on the TV.
There’s also a party room where they host birthday parties and other private events.
So is it worth trying the Eloise Tea at The Plaza Hotel?
Overall, the Eloise Tea at The Plaza Hotel was an underwhelming experience, especially considering its premium price.
If your kid is an Eloise fan, I’d recommend skipping the afternoon tea and heading straight for the concourse level. Buy them a few things from the Eloise Shop, pick up some lobster rolls from Luke’s Lobster and a few cupcakes from Billy’s Bakery, and then go have a picnic in Central Park instead.
It won’t be as fancy, but it’ll be less frustrating.
About Carmen Sognonvi
Carmen Sognonvi is a luxury family travel content creator at Top Flight Family, named a top 10 family travel Instagram account by Time Out New York and Brit + Co. Her insights on travel have been featured in The Washington Post, INSIDER, Huffington Post, Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, and more. Carmen firmly believes that you can (and should) travel with your kids from a young age. She offers families practical solutions for travel, as well as tips on how to travel in luxury for less. She lives in New York City with her multiracial and multicultural family of four. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
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