Dine in style at Tiffany’s Blue Box Café
Having a meal at the New York cafe leaves visitors immersed in the Tiffany brand experience. It's the closest you might get to feeling like Holly Golightly
In the movie Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly pulls out a croissant from a paper bag, and munches on it standing outside the Tiffany store, looking longingly at the jewellery in the display window. Now, thanks to the The Blue Box Café, which opened last year on the fourth floor of Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue flagship in New York, we are having breakfast inside the store, munching on a mini-croissant—made by celebrity chef Daniel Boulud—served on an elegant blue-and-white plate, accompanied by little pots of honey butter, rhubarb jam and Nutella.
But that strange feeling of being inside a movie persists— the fact that we are having breakfast at 5pm adds to the sense of play-acting—as if it’s one never-ending shot where the director has forgotten to say “cut". You could easily be on a specially constructed set. Everything around us is in Tiffany’s signature blue—the walls, the leather seating that runs along the edges, the fabric-covered chairs, even the stone wall at the entrance, Amazonite perhaps, has beautiful natural streaks of Tiffany blue. All the props are blue and white—the menu cards, the plates, the cups, the teapots, the salt and pepper cellars, one blue, one white. The servers sport blue ties. Even the statutory poster of what to do in a choking emergency is illustrated in blue, black and white.
Cheesy? Kitschy? Branding gone berserk? It could have easily ended up that way, but somehow this surfeit of blue manages to walk some whimsical fine line, and serves up a magical experience instead. I have no idea why but I grinned like an idiot through most of the meal. Guests at other tables seemed to be in auto-smiling mode too. The food was examined carefully, and there were plenty of oohs and aahs—what else would you do if, for example, you were presented with a miniature bird’s nest with two robin’s eggs nestling inside? (The nest was made from thin strands of filo pastry, the eggs were marshmallow coated in blue confectionery.) There was plenty of picture-taking all around—in fact, The Blue Box Celebration Cake (think Tiffany box come alive as a cake, helped with blue icing and a white chocolate ribbon) was brought to the table specifically for photographing, and then whisked back into the kitchen to be cut.
Whatever its magic, the café seems to be pulling in the crowds. Getting a reservation is next to impossible—bookings open up online 30 days in advance and are promptly snapped up. We got lucky—someone cancelled, and, suddenly, we had a table for three at 5pm, a time that is not suitable for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea (the three prix fixe menus on offer) so, of course, we decided to have one of each. We shared it all—it’s the only time in my life that I have had three meals at one go, and it felt just fine.
The food is fresh and delicious, and the menu is thoughtfully constructed with what I suppose are American favourites with a sophisticated healthy twist, of course never missing a chance to layer in some Tiffany branding. For example, the scones, which come as part of the tea service, are not round, but square (think small Tiffany box) —they were possibly my favourite item, especially the savoury ones with Cheddar cheese and chives. Or the “Charles Lewis Tiffany" CLT Club Sandwich—the gentleman founded Tiffany in 1837, but CLT also captures the ingredients: “all-natural chicken salad, bibb lettuce, beefsteak tomato".
What did breakfast at Tiffany’s actually consist of? Besides the all-important croissant, there was a bowl of elegantly cut fruit and berries, a choice of four mains: smoked salmon and bagel stack, coddled egg, avocado toast, buttermilk waffles. I went for the avocado toast, which had four pillowy square toasts, layered generously with mashed avocado, with different toppings—thinly sliced radish, sunflower seeds, nasturtium and sorrel. It was a treat to look at, and to eat.
Notwithstanding the central role of breakfast here, I think the most dramatic offering was the Tiffany Tea, served on a traditional three-plate tower with a variety of finger sandwiches, little sweets, and scones with clotted cream and fruit preserves. It is pure joy—presented as beautifully as a small collection of exquisite jewels—and you nibble and savour every miniature creation. Besides the aforementioned bird’s nest, the sweets plate offered a glossy little blue box petit four, a key lime tart, coconut brownie, chocolate ingot, lemon jelly square, all delightful. Finger sandwiches were topped with herbed chicken salad, smoked salmon cream cheese, cucumber goat cheese, romesco and asparagus.
The “tea" part is taken equally seriously with a wide choice from Bellocq—which sources mostly organic teas from high-elevation estates—and they are described in language that you would normally associate with wine. For example, the Tiffany Blend, which I had, was a “fragrant floral infusion of Chinese and Ceylon black teas with gentle notes of lychee, rosebuds, lavender and vanilla". I am not sure I could catch all those notes, but it was absolutely delicious.
I have eaten at other “brand" cafés—the Armani café in Dubai, for example, which serves Italian food—but The Blue Box Cafe is different in that it totally and unabashedly immerses you in the brand’s experience. For those couple of hours, you are inside an imaginary Tiffany Blue Box, reminded at each turn—and every bite—that this is Tiffany’s world. And while there is fine food made from fine ingredients, the key ingredient is the brand itself, and the dreams it symbolizes, the notion of romance and celebration, desire and yearning. The same notions that Audrey Hepburn symbolized, standing at the window with her croissant, more than half a century ago.
Radha Chadha is one of Asia’s leading marketing and consumer insight experts. She is the author of the best-selling book The Cult Of The Luxury Brand: Inside Asia’s Love Affair With Luxury.