High Tea near Lincoln Center
At the mandarin oriental is good, not great though...
I had great afternoon teas at the bar of the Plaza and of the Pierre hotel.
They are on the other side of the park, but it's only a 15 minutes walk...
I heard good things about the afternoon tea at the bar on the 5th floor of Begdorf Goodman on 58th and 5th as well, and of course at the bar of the St. Regis, the Lowell and the Ritz Carlton.
All within walking distance and all offering sumptuous afternoon tea.
alepenazzi, Good thing you stopped by! Should have just left it at asking for a clarification of the timeframe.
Sorry, kam0424, Ignore my post about the dearth of possibilities if you want a traditional fancy tea service. But what time do you need to be in your theatre seat for the ballet?
Alice's Tea Cup on W. 73rd serves what they call "afternoon tea" from 11am onwards. You might find a number of families with children in there.
Here is some blog reports about tea at the Mandarin Oriental
One definition of "high tea" is an early evening meal -- but you say you are going to the ballet in the afternoon but want to eat "beforehand". What hours you are looking for?
People sometimes use "high tea" to describe a British-type ritualized service of tea plus fancy finger sandwiches and fancy cakes. There are not many places in Manhattan that do that, and the Mandarin Oriental is the only one within walking distance of the Lincoln Center.
If you would like an informal light meal of sandwiches and cakes at an unconventional hour near Lincoln Center and are a tea-lover, consider going to Argo in Columbus Circle. They specialize in tea, but there is nothing fancy about it.
Indie also serves light foods and cakes and it is right inside the Lincoln Center complex, but they are more interested in serving a variety of wines than a variety of teas. I would expect it to be crowded before any performance, and they don't accept reservations. (Neither does Argo, but it is unlikely to be so crowded you can't get a seat.)
But if you are looking for an experience of a British-type "afternoon tea" near Lincoln Center, there's not much of that in the nabe.