There is really two ways I find out about cool places in New York City: Instagram or my friends. When it comes to Lillie’s Victorian Establishment, both contributed to convince me to go. A friend recommended it and then, I started to see the place everywhere on Instagram. As a lover of pretty things and Instagrammable places, of course I had to go!
To this day, I have been there three times: the first time for brunch with a friend, the second time during the holidays with my husband (also for brunch) and the third time recently with my husband for afternoon tea in their Alice’s Wonderland set up. Like most Insta-worthy places, decorations and displays change with the season so there is always an opportunity for a good photo.
The cherry trees in the spring as well as the overload of Christmas lights during the holidays are always great. However, this new Alice in Wonderland theme is absolutely mind blowing. Everything from floor to ceiling is exquisitely decorated and perfect for photo ops. The outdoors, the entrance and the entire establishment. Queen of Heart, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the White Rabbit and more, the theme feels closer to the Tim Burton’s movie than the Disney version.
Note: Lillie’s Victorian Establishment has two locations, Times Square and Union Square. I have only been to the Union Square location.
Afternoon Tea At Lillie’s Victorian Establishment
As mentioned earlier, I have been to Lillie’s three times so far. The first two times for a regular brunch, but this third time, I decided to give the afternoon tea a go. I am on a mission to try out as many afternoon teas in New York City as I can and report on all of them.
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Afternoon tea for one is $45 and for two, it is $90. It comes with unlimited tea as well as three tiers of desserts, sweets and savory treats:
- Tier 1: Assorted pastries, scones, muffins, jam.
- Tier 2: Cucumber & cream, Prosciutto & fig, chicken salad & mint pesto, smoked salmon, cream cheese & shives sandwiches.
- Tier 3: Creme brûlée, assorted mini sweets.
Cocktails at Lillie’s Victorian Establishment
You can either go for a sober afternoon tea, or make it boozy by ordering some creative cocktails. The Sangria Down the Rabbit hole is a whole tea pot of sangria for two for $28; while Mini-osa In Wonderland are four variations of mimosas served with four chocolate dipped strawberries, for $45. Lillie’s Victorian has a large cocktail selection, and this is the two we decided to go for:
- Bullet the Blue Sky, a gin based cocktail with grapefruit and rosemary tonic.
- Northern Nightingale with Mezcal, Tequila, banana and Campari, with orange and lime juice.
Let’s start with the drinks. Bullet the Blue Skye, an elevated gin and tonic, was very strong. So strong it took me by surprise and I actually was not able to finish it. Because the gin was so prominent, it overpowered any other flavor, so I can’t say I enjoyed it. This is the first time I don’t like a cocktail at Lillie’s. Every other time, I have found the cocktails fantastic.
My husband, who loves Mezcal, got the Northern Nightingale, and loved it. I had a sip and loved it too. The flavors were fantastic and the smokiness of the Mezcal complemented the citrus so well. Both cocktails were beautifully garnished and perfect for photos of course.
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The afternoon tea itself
Now to the food. The thing was afternoon tea is that quite often, everything is small and dainty. Thus, I am always a bit scared I will still be hungry by the end of it. So I was very surprised to see that the sandwiches were actually pretty big and so very filling. The bread was a bit dry on some sandwiches I have to say, but the flavors were fantastic. I loved the ham & fig jam sandwich, such a nice combination. I was basically full after that.
The scones were nice and the clotted cream was imported from England, which was a nice touch. It is pretty difficult to make or find clotted cream here in the US, since everything has to be ultra pasteurized. The few pastries I got to try were decent but nothing special. I was so full that I was not able to eat much after those sandwiches, but I did try to get a bite of everything.
Like a lot of Instagrammable places in New York City, it is not so much the dining experience itself that makes the venue worth it, but the decorations. Lillie’s Victorian Establishment’s cocktails are fantastic. Of the three times I dined there, it is only this once that I was not super happy with my choice. All other drinks I had were great.
Food wise, the afternoon tea at Lillie’s Victorian is cheaper than other places that I have been to and reviewed. While there is a lot more to eat on the cake stand, the quality is a bit lower than other tea houses in my opinion. However, you will for sure be full by the end of your meal. Having eaten there before, I have enjoyed items on the brunch menu more than the afternoon tea, and I feel the quality is higher.
In conclusion, if I had to choose between the afternoon tea and brunch at Lillie’s Victorian Establishment, I would recommend the brunch menu. It was in my experience more enjoyable and higher quality than the high tea. Cocktails are great either way, the decorations are insane, and the staff is great and always so on point in my opinion.
What do you think of Lillie’s Victorian Establishment? Have you been there before? Or heard about it? If you’ve been there, did you try the afternoon tea and went for regular brunch? How was it decorated when you went?
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