Established in 1926, the Russian Tea Room boasts rich and diverse history that contributed much to the restaurant's popularity. In 1955, it was purchased by Sidney Kaye, who left it to his wife Faith Stewart-Gordon in 1967. In December 1996, the place was bought by Warner LeRoy and closed down, much to New York high society's despair. After about $36 million in renovation, the restaurant was reopened four years later, however, it was never the same. After declaring bankruptcy in July 2002, the Russian Tea Room closed with little notice. The September 11, 2001 attacks have had a tremendous impact on the national economy that couldn't recover quickly to make payments for renovations.
In December 2002, the property was acquired for $16 million by the United States Golf Association, whose members have planned to reestablish it as a dining room and museum, in which large collection of golf memorabilia was initially planned to be showcased. However, the building was sold to Russian Tea Room Funding Group in 2004, which plans now to replace the current restaurant building with 29-storey condominiums designed by Costas Kondylis. The existing restaurant is a six-storey building, which, according to the New York Post, is planned to be completely renovated and enlarged.
For nearly eight decades, Russian Tea Room has been regarded by its visitors as home away from home, an elegant and light-filled place with all the glamour and intelligence of this fantastic city. In addition to being a gathering place for renowned personalities, the restaurant has been subject to many art masterpieces. In 1990, the British comedian Rowan Atkinson married here Sunetra Sastry, while a number of scenes from Tootsie and Manhattan were filmed in Russian Tea Room and the restaurant is even depicted in paintings by Beryl Cook.
Excessive extravagance and luxury are just some of the features of this renowned Midtown hot spot. Since a tremendous makeover, the four-level restaurant has become even more glamorous, attracting celebrities and visitors alike. Each of its levels resembles a wonderland renowned for several glitzy touches, a polar bear aquarium among them. Bright hues of yellow, red and royal blue highlight wonderful creations, such as etched glass scenes, bear chandeliers and hand blown glass eggs. A long banquet hall is marked for atmosphere, with mirrored walls, golden candelabra and a balcony where a small orchestra plays the theme from The Godfather, Moscow Nights and Lara's Theme from Doctor Zhivago.
Contributes to the exclusive atmosphere is a gold tree with large decorated eggs hanging from its branches. Regarded as one of the first and most beautiful of New York's theme restaurants, Russian Tea Room is associated with the magic world of Afanasyev's fairy tales and grand halls of the Peterhof Palace. Featured on the menu are plentiful dishes of Russian cuisine that has its charm, including sturgeon, caviar, duck tabaka and borsch.
But perhaps the most popular menu item is tea, made according to the traditional Russian tea recipe by using samovar.