I’m forever trying to curate a life that spells for luxury–and therein lies my problem–living significantly above my means. I’d first learned about the Baccarat Hotel, which lies a stone’s throw away from Bergdorf’s and the Plaza Hotel on 53rd between 5th and 6th, on a shrekworker’s Instagram page. To stay at the hotel will cost you a minimum of $800, but to dine there is *~~priceless~~*.
So I invited L, a long-lost friend of mine from Art History at Fordham, to accompany me to afternoon tea. These days, I’m in New York rather sparingly, so I try to make my adventures count. A bonus to inviting L was that she was going to bring her precocious 6-year-old son (who I hadn’t seen in years) to the affair. Unfortunately, L and O succumbed to Omicron (as I suspect we all eventually will) and were unable to join me.
But I’m impatient by nature and was simply buzzing to go–so I went alone. I packed an arsenal of dining-stag activities into my navy Lanvin tote: letter-writing materials, a tiny journal, Micron pens, and two types of cameras (lately, I feel like I’ve been rolling the dice with my new-old Pentax K1000 so I borrowed my mother’s digital).
The Baccarat Hotel’s lobby was stark, complete with black lacquer with a standing chandelier. I watched a woman who looked like Seema from And Just Like That enter the tiny lobby (really the space is just a suggestion of a lobby) with her husband and son as a friendly doorman checked my ID and vaccination card. I was then ushered into an elevator that took me to the Grand Salon, which is decorated both minimally and decadently in shades of beige, gray, and red. The vibe is exclusive and upscale with an ogle-worthy amount of Baccarat crystal dangling from the lofty ceiling.
The hostess was friendly and showed me to my seat. I was pleased to find another solo experiencer next to me in the form of a 30-something woman. I tried to incite conversation with her but she just wasn’t having it.
So I breathed into my Extraverted-Intuitive-Feeling-Judging aloneness. At a minimum of $110 a pop (although the final tab came out to be much more), I would have to find a way to enjoy this very luxurious and very solitary experience. And thus I began to observe.
I watched the floral-clad women adjacent to me take selfies and sip champagne. The maitre’d, a chignon’d blonde in a tweed pantsuit, strode purposefully across the parquet floors. A wealthy older couple behind me sipped Pellegrino and champagne and good-naturedly lamented the late arrival of their caviar to their server.
I ordered a Mile High cocktail (which consisted of haku vodka, kalamansi, creme de violette, maraschino, and rose petals) along with my Casablanca Breeze tea (a delightful elixir of green tea with mint and unspecified spices) and watched a balayage’d brunette in bubblegum pink cashmere recline into a beige leather armchair several feet away from me.
I scribbled notes fastidiously as I waited for my “Vegetarian, please!” Prince of Wales tower. When the sweets, scones, and savories arrived, I dutifully snapped digital and 35mm photos. I then dipped my knife into a gold-leafed butter and coated my powdered sugar-dusted scone with jam. I took a tentative bite, finding it surprisingly delicious (“baroque pastries” as my father calls them, are seldom “delicious”).
I then stared at the spheres of real red roses on the table in front of me and tried a cream puff–it was good, crisp, but not as good as my grandmother’s. Why do rich people prefer bittersweet chocolate? I wondered to myself as I sampled a small cocoa tart. I continued to sip both my Mile High cocktail and my green tea intermittently, hoping that the caffeine would balance out the alcohol and leave me both soothed and energized for my late dinner at Peacefood with M. I reclined into the opulence of my solitude and texted L a quick message–something along the lines of “Wish you were here.”
In short–my high tea experience was downright lovely and oh-so-luxurious. Although my debit card doth protest, I am eager to return, to absorb by osmosis some of that ever-elusive, Upper Crust, Upper East Side splendor.