A History of Elegance and Culture at The Russian Tea Room in New York

image credit mark_k_nj/flickr
image credit mark_k_nj/flickr

In New York, the Russian Tea Room has been a beloved and popular gathering place since 1927, offering fine cuisine and beverages to locals, tourists and celebrities.

Located in the Manhattan borough, between Carnegie Hall Tower and Metropolitan Tower, the luxurious décor and historical atmosphere continues to intrigue all who visit.

The History of The Russian Tea Room in New York

A view of NYC's Russian Tea Room next to Carnegie Hall from 7th Avenue.
A view of NYC’s Russian Tea Room next to Carnegie Hall from 7th Avenue. (image credit: kensurfer/flickr)

This Russo-Continental restaurant was opened in 1927 as a destination for Russian expats, by the former members of the Russian Imperial Ballet.

It was the place to go for those in the entertainment industry and continues to be a beacon for artistic types and those who appreciate high culture and old-world charm.

The Russian Tea Room has changed hands several times over the years, with Albertina Rasch listed as the original President, whose name is also associated with Russian Art Chocolate.

The present location was an Italianate brownstone building, which was built by a German tea and coffee merchant, named John F. Pupke.

From 1933 to 1948, Siberian-born Alexander Maeef ran the Russian Tea Room and was the main personality associated with the business during that time.

After many ups and downs, including the closure for renovations and subsequent re-opening in 2006, the original glory and splendor of the establishment has been maintained.

A Cultural Icon

For over 90 years, the Russian Tea Room has witnessed many cultural events and has been a host to many of New York’s elite patrons, including politicians, business insiders, members of high society and the arts.

Offering continental fine dining, a celebrated vodka selection and elegant high tea, this restaurant exudes the decadent Russian style. There’s more to Russian tea than adding jam in tea!

Many visitors advise that stepping through the antique revolving doors makes them feel like they’ve wandered into another world and one patron stated that she felt like one of the extras in the Anna Karenina movie.

Famous for a variety of celebrity visitors, it also has a cozy and welcoming atmosphere.

Famous Guests at the Russian Tea Room

A scene from Tootsie shows Dustin Hoffman at the famed tea room.

From Dustin Hoffman taking a break during the filming of Tootsie to Madonna’s first job as a coat checker, this establishment has hosted countless celebrities and famous socialites throughout the years, as well as being featured in films and tv shows. Notable mentions include:

  • Rowan Atkinson, who married Sunetra Sastry there in 1990
  • Scenes from movies such as When Harry Met Sally and Manhattan
  • TV shows such as Will and Grace, Sex and the City, Friends and Saturday Night Live

Tea at the Russian Tea Room

A shot of the outside from the early 2000’s. (image credit: delasco/flickr)

This restaurant is renowned for its sumptuous menus and events, including Afternoon Tea or Royal Tea – offered daily between 2pm to 4:30pm, you can choose from a variety of Blinis, sandwiches, salads, continental platters, desserts and pastries.

They also offer Champagne, but if it’s tea you want, you can choose from:

  • English Breakfast
  • Formosa Oolong
  • Chamomile
  • Mint Verbena
  • Rooibos Chai

Their Children’s Tea includes a child-friendly menu consisting of Blinis, Grilled cheese, pigs-in-a-blanket, mini-BLT’s and desserts. Their decaf teas on offer for children are:

  • Raspberry Zinger
  • Mint Verbena
  • Rooibos Chai
  • Lotus Green
  • Ginger Tea
  • Chamomile

The Russian Tea Room’s Signature Hot Chocolate is also available and they have gluten-free and vegetarian afternoon teas.

One of the world’s most celebrated restaurants, The Russian Tea Room in New York is a place that should be on everyone’s bucket list, especially if you’re a big fan of luxurious décor and a colorful, unique history while sampling great cuisine and decadent beverages.