I’ve heard of Serendipity and its reputation. I’m not sure from where, I’m thinking it has been referenced in many an American romantic comedy. I imagine I’ve seen scenes where a couple had a first date there or two girlfriends met to discuss their boy troubles. As I walked up I was preparing myself for one thing; sweet. I expected everything about Serendipity 3, the smell, the atmosphere, the people and of course the hot chocolate, to be over the top, possibly unappetizingly sweet.
At first I couldn’t find it. Turns out it is on a street obviously known for selling old furniture, a most unlikely place for it. It has a tiny entrance (I had imagined it as a sort of Disneyland), and when you walk down a few steps and into the main entrance, you walk through a tiny store selling what seemed at a quick glance to be lots of unrelated, random bits of junk, maybe little collector items, some New York paraphanalia. As the host brought me to my table, “only one?” he said, more surprised that I wouldn’t want to share this fantastic place with someone else and instead chose to keep it all to myself! The staff all did a great job at making me think that they absolutely loved their jobs, working in this tiny little space serving people huge plates of sugar. And the place is really tiny, much tinier than its reputation. I was taken to a little table right in the middle and sat down to take it all in.
The place is equal parts overwhelming and fascinating all at once. Every inch of this tiny hallway is covered in furniture, details, people, waiters and food. All ceiling space is taken up by dozens of gorgeous old tiffany lamps with their multicoloured stained glass shades. There are mirrors everywhere, while the back room has a disco ball (because, I agree, every room should have a disco ball). It is equal parts antique store and restaurant, perhaps more antique store than restaurant. But the families and kids at every table are there for one thing, the desserts. Their parents are responsibly requiring them at this hour to start with dinner and surprisingly Serendipity offers a whole menu of pretty decent looking food to prepare your system before the sweetness arrives.
They have a sundae which can be yours for just $1000, and not surprisingly is in the Guinness Book of World Records. The Golden Opulence Sundae is a combination of three scoops of vanilla bean ice cream covered in 23k edible gold leaf, chocolate syrup made from Amedei Porcelana (one of the world’s most expensive chocolates) and is covered with chunks of rare Chuao chocolate from Venezuela. It is also covered in exotic candied fruits from Paris, chocolate truffles and marzipan cherries, and as if that’s not enough, comes with a small bowl of an exclusive dessert caviar called Grand Passion Caviar. Apparently they sell one a month!
I hate sweet hot chocolates. If I review them, it’s only to share their locations and stories with you, but I never finish them. So you may not even believe me when I say that Serendipity does not have a sweet hot chocolate. I finished the whole thing, every drop and I wasn’t even in the mood for a hot chocolate that day. It was very unique, and not nearly as over the top as I had expected (in a good way). Presented in a tall white mug with thick walls, it is the perfect amount. There was a good inch of thick whipped cream on top which, surprisingly (everything was surprisingly), was completely unsweetened. This was topped with chocolate shavings and bits of candied orange peel. What I loved about this hot chocolate was that you got a little piece of slightly bitter candied orange peel in every sip of the slightly sweetened hot chocolate, which made it as intriguing as the location it was served in.
Will I be returning to Serendipity? Probably not. It was pretty overwhelming and the candied orange was a beautiful touch but not enough to bring me back. But it should be on your list of places to visit if you are in New York and definitely if you are in the area. Even if sweet things is not your thing, perhaps the paintings of naked Italian statues wearing thongs on the wall is. A little something for everyone.
Verdict: Candied orange peels and hot chocolate are a match made in heaven, and you find them at Serendipity 3. (Price: $7.61) Serendipity 3, 225 East 60th Street, New York, USA