Imagine tumbling through a rabbit hole and landing slap bang in the middle of the Mad hatters tea party, featuring trinkets from Ariel’s trove. Serendipity 3 offers gorgeous, enchanting desserts behind a backdrop of meticulous madness. If Baz Luhrmann and Vivienne Westwood co-designed a restaurant, it couldn’t be quite as bizarre and glamorous as this. The restaurant is simply magical and can bring out the excitable Alice in the most stoic of diners. If you like your evening out to be more fantasy than reality, this is most definitely for you.
The buzz surrounding this small restaurant on the Upper East Side is incredibly seductive, as it has long attracted some of the most famous individuals on earth. Opened in 1954, Jackie O was a regular visitor when John F. Kennedy was Senator, hopefully booking outside of Marilyn Monroe’s frequent stops. The icon that was Grace Kelly passed by, whilst this is a frequent date spot for Cher and her various lovers. Modern day famous fans include Jay and Bey, Taylor Swift, Mariah Carey and me. The restaurant made it into the Guinness book of world records after creating the world’s most expensive burger; a steal at $295.
It’s therefore unsurprising that Serendipity 3 is a tourist Mecca, with the kind of queues and prices to match the demand. We headed to the restaurant and were met with a crowd spilling onto the street. Despite being unnaturally ravenous we put our names on the waiting list and agreed to return in a few hours. Squeezing into the tiny walkway gave a good opportunity to gaze at the hotch potch bric-a-brac and plain craziness. Shelved units by the door showcase everything from sweets to hand sanitizer all with weird labels and styles.
I began my dining experience with the legend that is their Froooooozzzzzen hot chocolate. It’s incredibly difficult to articulate how wonderful this was. Diners are presented with a huge frothy bowl of luxurious heaven…
A perfect concoction of cream, hot chocolate powder, ice cream and the essential chocolate shavings to finish. I am by no means a chocoholic and would normally prefer a warm Apple crumble or other hot pudding, however this was just delicious personified. The mammoth portion appears ridiculous at first, but from the first sip it makes perfect sense; this experience should last forever. It is worth every single one of the 1,200 calories.
Jackie O personally asked the chef to come to the White House and serve these to her high profile guests. I can see why. I would book a flight this very evening, just for a sip of this syrupy dream. Whilst you can purchase the hot chocolate powder, nothing will be as good as the real thing. A quick Google search will bring up hundreds of similar reviews, and the hype is definitely to be believed. I tried a Mint variety that was sublime, although its Peanut Butter flavoured sibling is supposed to be just as good.
I was bowled over by the variety of the menu and the array of dishes on offer. After a long week of cornbread, fried chicken, burgers and shrimp I opted for what I hoped would be a healthy option (the arteries were ever so hard). The sandwich section of the menu offered a wide range of options, with the ‘Summer Bries’ catching me instantly. Featuring the super lean meat, Turkey and salad, I had hoped my taste buds were in good hands.
I was served up a generous portion of smoked turkey, sliced apples and alfalfa sprouts on a bed of raisin Pumpernickel bread. This was all topped with huge slabs of Brie, and a light Russian dressing. The open sandwich also came with a vibrant side salad and a large Orange slice. However, for $14.50 I expected Beyonce to hand deliver it to my table, before singing ‘Halo’ on my lap. Seriously, a sandwich for $14.50!
Whilst the dish looks impressive, it was definitely style over substance. The turkey was freezing cold and didn’t really taste of much at all. It had been layered on the driest bread known to man, beneath slabs of bland Brie. I would have preferred some Bernard Matthews turkey ham (or perhaps some Turkey Dinosaurs fresh from Iceland). As ghetto as it sounds, I much preferred my rendezvous with Pop-Eyes fried chicken; I dream of those biscuits daily.
I had been visually tricked into thinking the cheese was slightly melted but it was as icy as everything else. I love nothing more than a good cheeseboard and grapes (Rule Britannia) but this was the most processed, mild ghost of the dairy goodness. I can’t recall the apple tasting of anything and the dressing was nothing to whatsapp about. Despite being the most colourful thing I had eaten all week, it was as flat as a cardboard box.
The savoury dishes themselves are decidedly average to be completely honest. A pizza delivery that we had ordered earlier in the week was far better then what I was served here (New York pizza is the stuff of dreams). My cousin ate less then half of her meal; a Hamburger with Chilli served with French fries, lettuce, tomato and coleslaw ($16.50). My other cousin struggled through a messy hotdog after the gigantic hot chocolate.
I wasn’t blown away by my food but welcomed the first vegetables I’d had on my trip. I may have been a victim of my own bad choice. I wouldn’t judge the whole restaurant based upon this one dish as hundreds of thousands of visitors adore the meals.
From trawling through dozens of reviews it looks like Serendipity is a dish best served as dessert. Indulge in some New York street food, or visit some of the best burgers bars in town, then visit here for the infamous desserts.
The thing is, you’re not going here because they have the best meals; you’re going for the experience and perhaps the prestige. My meal was ok. Just ok but I left with a huge smile on my face, because the atmosphere and the vibe make it all worthwhile.
This was the perfect end to the holiday to send me back to the cold streets of Lewisham with misery in my soul and dejection in my heart. Aunt Bessie and custard simply wasn’t going to cut it anymore…