Looking for a low key holiday outing? Preferably one that involves outdoor activities, warm beverages, and decadent pastries? A couple of weeks ago the legendary Angelina, which since 1903 has been serving the likes of Coco Chanel, Marcel Proust, and hordes of tourists on Rue de Rivoli, opened its first American outpost right near Bryant Park in Midtown.
Angelina, in case you're unfamiliar with famous Parisian tearooms, is known for two things in particular: their Hot Chocolate "l'Africain," a rich, sludgy, dessert-worthy beverage made with beans from Ghana, Niger, and the Ivory Coast that is right up there with the best our city's ever served; and their signature pastry, the Mont-Blanc, a cup of melty meringue and sweet whipped cream topped with a mound of chewy chestnut "vermicelli" that tastes delicious.
Both the Hot Chocolate and the Mount-Blanc are available at Angelina's busy takeout counter up front, and make for a lovely, indulgent treat while sitting at one of the many well-distanced tables around the recently opened skating rink at Bryant Park. Heck, the skating itself looks great right now, with the rink's new pandemic protocols of reduced capacity and reservations-only policy to get on the ice.
There are lots of other things to eat and drink at Angelina as well, but my personal level of excitement dropped off pretty precipitously the deeper I got into the pastry case. The Tarte au Citron, a disc of lemony mousse inside a thin crust of gluten-free shortbread, is fine I guess if you don't want something chocolatey, but the vanilla Millefeuille was way too subtle (read: flavorless and a little stale) for my taste.
The biggest disappointment was the Paris-New York, created especially for this location but involving things which don't really scream New York City to me, like choux pastry and pecan praline cream. There are Chocolate Tarts and classic Eclairs, a selection of Macarons, Croissants and Financiers, and a hazelnut-heavy beast called the Trocadero at the counter as well. Sandwiches, soups, and salads are also available for takeout.
Angelina sits at the base of the glassy new luxury residential tower on Sixth Avenue just south of the park, and the exterior is basically a big empty window, with no signage of any sort. But Angelina has a lot of room inside, and once you get past the ordering counter/bakery area the place turns into a full service, Belle Epoque-vibing tearoom, with elaborate molding, decorative cornices, murals, and... way too many people indoor dining during a pandemic.
Angelina feels like one of those weird places that caters almost entirely to tourists, even though it has nothing to do with New York. I'm not sure how they calculate their 25% capacity, but there sure were a lot of people eating back here on Wednesday afternoon.
One extremely NYC footnote to all of this: Angelina Paris was founded by the Austrian Anton Rumpelmayer, who for many decades also ran an eponymous fancy-dessert spot at the Hotel St. Moritz on Central Park South, which was a great place to go in the 1970s with your grandmother when you were like eight years old.
Angelina Paris is located at 1050 Sixth Avenue, just south of 40th Street, and is currently open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and weekends from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (585-438-5347; angelina-paris.fr/en)