Afternoon tea is quite possibly the most British of all institutions. But once in a while, an egg and cress sandwich and a scone need a little jazzing up. These are the current best afternoon teas in the city, from the traditional to the innovative.
The Best Afternoon Teas in London
World-renowned for its iconic High Tea, The Savoy is constantly updating its menu to ensure its guests enjoy the very best of the season. Served in the magnificent Thomas Foyer and accompanied by live piano music, The Savoy’s afternoon tea is a London classic with its seasonal cakes and pastries created by executive pastry chef Ludwig Hely. From £65 per person, daily.
Served since 1910, Afternoon Tea at The Goring in Victoria is particularly special. As the only hotel to hold a Royal Warrant from HM The Queen for hospitality services, you can be absolutely certain that everything upon your visit will be impeccable. The afternoon tea is classic in style, reflecting The Goring’s dedication to tradition as the only luxury hotel in London still owned and run by the family that built it. Why mess with perfection? Expect dainty and delicate finger sandwiches, homemade scones and pastries, and unparalleled service. Enjoy your tea in the garden during the summer months for a quintessentially English experience. From £49 per person, every day.
The Wolseley, St James’
You can’t help but feel that you’re a ‘someone’ from the moment you step inside the classic and timeless Wolseley, which is a British institution in itself. Where better, then, to enjoy a ‘Best of British’ Afternoon Tea? The Wolseley recently launched just that – featuring individual Victoria Sponges and Sherry Trifles alongside traditional scones with clotted cream and homemade jam. You won’t find jazzed-up finger sandwiches, either – they stick to the classics for a reason. Traditional fillings of Coronation Chicken, Beef and Horseradish, Cheddar and Pickle, and Smoked Salmon are delightfully nostalgic while being of unquestionably superior quality to what you grew up on. A place so good, AA Gill wrote a whole book about it – and this new Afternoon Tea is another excellent (and delicious) chapter in The Wolseley’s ever-glorious repertoire. From £29.95 per person, daily.
The Lanesborough, Knightsbridge
It seems that Frida Kahlo fever has been sweeping the nation as of late, including at classic London hotel The Lanesborough which has reinvented its afternoon tea in her honour. Finger sandwiches, fluffy scones and delectable pastries remain, of course, albeit with a Mexican twist. Expect smooth guacamole and chipotle-spiced chicken sandwiches in amongst the British classics – and it’s worth noting that they will happily replenish the savoury plate as many times as you want, though you should be careful to save room for what’s next.
The new wave of pastry creations features moreish corn sablé biscuits filled with dulche de leche, a passion fruit and raspberry éclair topped with an edible image of Frida, and a Margarita Baba which comes with a pipette of tequila (drink as a shot or add to the cake, they won’t judge). All of this in the majestic surroundings of Céleste, The Lanesborough’s exquisite and majestic white and blue dining room. Perfection! From £39 per person, or £49 including a glass of Champagne or a Margarita.
Hotel Cafe Royal
Just around the corner from the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly Circus, the Hotel Cafe Royal’s classic London Royal Tea, is a welcome escape set within the opulent Oscar Wilde Bar. The menu has been curated to represent afternoon tea through the ages. Highlights include the traditional Battenberg and macaroons inspired by the London Underground. The hotel has collaborated with diptyque for a special afternoon tea, which comes with a glass of champagne and a Baies candle. Available from £42 per person, from midday until 5pm.
The High Palms High Tea at The Landmark is an afternoon tea with a twist. It isn’t served in the afternoon and isn’t focused on the quintessentially British cucumber sandwiches and scones we are accustomed to. Instead, this is a more substantial, warm evening meal (served daily between 6-10pm) that draws upon Middle Eastern influences (think lamb kibbeh with cous cous, pomegranate and tahini sauce) and is accompanied by a choice of iced teas (the hot variety is also available). The lemon chicken is melt-in-mouth and a particular highlight, and the assortment of desserts is the cherry on top, because why choose one when you can have all three? From £55 per person. 9 July to 2 September.
Rosewood Art Tea
Art lovers can’t miss the highly visual and colourful afternoon art tea at the Rosewood. Served in the beautiful ‘Mirror Room’ restaurant, each item in the tea is influenced by Pop Art artists such as Andy Warhol and the abstract figures of Cubism. The Cubism & Pop Art Tea features creative twists on three classic pastries; a 1970s Black Forest Gateau is transformed into Warhol’s iconic Campbell soup can, a blue banana cheesecake mirrors the work of Roy Lichtenstein, and sitting upon a biscuit base is a decadent spotted treat, an ode to the great Yayoi Kusama. The tea is almost too good to eat… almost. From £50. Mon-Sun 12-7pm.
The Ampersand Hotel
Set in the gorgeous light-filled (and velvet armchair-scattered) Drawing Rooms at the Ampersand Hotel, the hotel’s new take on the famous Science Tea is new in time for Afternoon Tea Week. A grown-up twist on the neighbouring Science Museum-inspired menu, this new addition includes a cocktail flight, and is to be served between 6pm-9pm Thursday to Saturday.
Drinks on offer include Darwin’s Draught – with Lalani & Co Earl Grey infused Chase vodka, Kamm & Sons, cucumber, apple and ginger – and Marie Cure-All – Lalani & Co Premium Genmaicha infused rum with Aperol, Antica Formula & Amer Picon – all suitably scientifically presented, in smoking teapots and the like. This is a novelty afternoon tea done really, really well, with seriously good food (the cheddar and thyme scones served with truffle butter are the star) and a really clever drinks menu. £49.50 per person, www.ampersandhotel.com.
Another classic afternoon tea spot on the London scene is The Dorchester on Park Lane. Serving one of the finest in the city for over 85 years, head pastry chef Sarah Barber is constantly adding new treats to the menu. Their Traditional Afternoon Tea features a signature Dorchester blend tea as a palate cleanser, then to follow a selection of sandwiches on artisan breads and delicate pastries and scones to finish. The hotel is renowned for its beautiful floristry, which serves also as inspiration for new creations such as the Mayfair Rose mousse and Berry Blossom compote. It’s by far one of the prettiest High Teas in town. From £60 per person, daily.
COMO The Halkin
The departure from British tradition is a very welcome change at COMO The Halkin, where the afternoon tea has been given a distinctly Basque twist. Finger sandwiches are replaced with a variety of ‘pintxos’ (Basque tapas) that reflect the skill of the Michelin-starred kitchen of Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, featuring savoury foams, the creamiest croquetas you’ll ever have and a delightful miniature waffle topped with a perfectly fried quail’s egg. The second serving gets even better, as the table is filled with a selection of beautifully presented desserts that are almost too good to eat, and handmade melt-in-the-mouth chocolates. The menu is sophisticated and beautifully thought out, as is the tea selection which includes a memorable Jasmine Pearls green tea. Available daily. From £34 per person
The Four Seasons, Trinity Square
Whilst you sit in the grand Rotunda in the company of London’s élite, the staff at The Four Seasons Trinity Square make it so you don’t have to lift a finger. From the moment you walk in the grand entrance you’re greeted by blissful live piano music, awe-inspiring architecture and highly attentive staff. The newly-launched Heritage Tea is inspired by the buildings’ history as the old Port of London Authority and begins with a refreshing palate cleanser. From then on, the champagne is chilled, the tea is hot, and the decadent food served on themed crockery adds to the alluring journey. This classic London landmark is the height of elegance, and with its beautiful food (as pleasing on the eye as it is on the palate), Champagne buzz and light chitter-chatter in the background, it makes for a most soothing and comfortable afternoon that could easily turning into evening… The Heritage Afternoon Tea is available daily, from £35 per person
Dominique Ansel Bakery
The French pastry chef Dominique Ansel, of cronut fame, has produced an afternoon tea that traces the path of a flower from savoury, earthy flavours at the bottom to sweet, flower-like delicacies at the top. As well as warm, freshly-baked scones with jam and clotted cream fashioned into the shape of a strawberry, you can also expect avocado and feta mousseline on squid ink choux and steak tartare atop brioche toast. Then, delight in the lavender meringue with chocolate petals and brown butter financier found at the top. Choose from a selection of teas or indulge in a glass of champagne, and if you feel like really pushing the boat out, order the Splendid afternoon tea which comes with butter-poached Canadian lobster rolls and caviar blinis, too. Book in before 12 August to take your afternoon tea beneath a glorious wall of flowers. From £42 per person. Thursday-Sunday 12-4pm.
Tradition lies at the heart of this establishment as one of the oldest hotels near to Buckingham Palace – and its afternoon tea is no exception. Served in the Game Bird room, expect immaculate, old-school service from the charming team who are particularly knowledgeable on their wide selection of loose teas (we recommend the White Apricot). Small touches are key: there are both plain and raisin scones, the teapots and jugs are perfectly-polished silver and the sandwiches are crustless (of course).
The fillings transport you back to childhood picnics – cucumber and cream cheese, roast beef with horseradish and egg mayonnaise. Their selection of top-tier delights includes The Stafford’s twist on the Jaffa Cake and a feather-light strawberry and cream macaron. Moët by the glass is the cherry on top of this classic hotel that gets afternoon tea just right. From £36 per person
OXO Tower Not Afternoon Tea
For those of you who are fed up with the conventional afternoon tea, you’ll love the Not Afternoon Tea menu at The OXO Tower. Choose from a selection of rum cocktails, each matched with rum-infused desserts. Because who would ever choose tea over rum? The new Summer version even includes a Pimm’s plate inspired by the iconic tipple. Available for £22 per person. Mon-Fri 3-5pm, Sat 2-4pm and Sun 2-4.30pm.
Fortnum & Mason
An institution since 1707 and still one of the best, Fortnum & Mason’s iconic afternoon tea is an absolute must-try. It’s finger sandwich, cake and scone heaven, with trademark eau de nil china and the biggest selection of fine teas you will ever see. Tea experts are on hand to help you choose – and be sure to pick up a pack to take home, too. Available for £44 per person (£48 with Rare tea). 181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER.
Corinthia Hotel London
Truffled egg mayo sandwiches? Rhubarb and tonka bean jam? Irish coffee éclair? All our favourites with a twist. Corinthia London has just launched their new afternoon tea menu, served amidst glorious fresh flowers and to the sound of the grand piano in the Crystal Moon Lounge. Make sure you keep a lookout for Nigel, the charming Crystal Moon Lounge Manager who can tell you the story behind the bespoke William Edwards teacups and the red crystal in the heart of the chandelier.
The experience begins with the antique champagne trolley being wheeled over to your table, and continues in the same sumptuous style until the very end. Having gorged on sandwiches then scones with cream and jam, you probably won’t be able to fit in all of the cakes and delicacies. Luckily, your delightful waitress or waiter will box up any that you can’t finish and you can trot off, a Corinthia bag full of goodies swinging by your side. Traditional afternoon tea from £45 per person.
The latest place du jour for the fashion crowd happens to house the prettiest afternoon tea out there. So pretty and thoroughly pink the interior (by India Mahdavi) is a confection of dainty scalloped chairs and plush banquettes, witty bespoke ceramics by British brand Caverswall in collaboration with David Shrigley, and over 200 illustrations jostling for space on the dusty pink walls. Every bit the Marie Antoinette dream you imagine, Sketch embodies her famous saying, ‘let them eat cake’ with its afternoon tea menu. Featuring caviar and quail’s egg sandwiches, and all too beautiful pastries, Sketch is a must visit parlour of pink and frivolity. Corset and humongous wig optional. Daily, from £58, 11.30-3.30pm.
Aquavit Nordic Afternoon Tea
The NYC export opened in London’s St James’s Market late last year, but now it’s launched a Nordic Afternoon Tea. Expect an array of fika, open rye bread sandwiches and Swedish pastries including semla (cardamom buns), punsch-roll (crushed cookies and punsch liqueur with marzipan and chocolate) and delicious teas and Swedish coffees from Johan & Nystrom. From £27.50. Mon-Fri 3-5.30pm, weekends 3.30-6pm.
The Sanderson, Fitzrovia
For an afternoon tea with a difference, fall down the rabbit hole to Sanderson’s Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea. A little gimmicky, but in the best possible way, this fun afternoon tea offers delicious teas (which are also available to purchase) named after Lewis Carroll’s characters, from Alice to The Queen of Hearts; delicate patisseries and cakes; excellent savoury options with a difference (the parmesan croque-monsieur was a highlight) and lovely, crumbly scones. There’s also a host of themed cocktails and drinks to be enjoyed with your tea, in case you needed any further persuading.
A recent collaboration with Laurent-Perrier and mothers2mothers sees the launch of the Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé courtyard garden at The Sanderson. Enjoy the pink haven full of flamingos and floral accents whilst indulging in your afternoon tea. For the perfectly Instagrammable moment, take a photo on the seated swing adorned with pink roses (holding a glass of Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé, of course) and thank us for all the likes later… From £48 per person (excluding service and dependent on choice of drink accompaniments). Available daily, Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé courtyard garden is on until 23 September.
Wyld Tea at Dandelyan, Mondrian London
Head to Dandelyan, the award-winning bar at Mondrian London, for a unique afternoon tea with a botanical twist. Their new Wyld Tea is made up of 4 delicious courses comprising of finger sandwiches, savoury bites and retro cakes paired with exclusive botanical themed cocktails. And so pretty, too! Thursday – Sunday, from £35 per person.
Desperately needing a breath of country air and a finger sandwich simultaneously? The English Country Garden Afternoon Tea at 108 Pantry is the ticket. It launched on 1 March to mark the first day of spring with grass meadow serving boards, terracotta pots, edible flowers and fork and spade fashioned cutlery. Smoked salmon served on Guinness bread, lavender pannacotta served with sparkling wine jelly and chocolate and rose opera cake… Bet you wouldn’t have guessed that there’s also a gluten-free menu. Daily 3pm – 6.00pm, from £32 per person. BL
Tale as Old as Time at Town House at The Kensington
Themed afternoon teas have been sweeping the capital as of late, but Hotel Kensington’s Tale as Old as Time offering is particularly special. A slice of your childhood reinvented in the best way possible (including tea, cake, and of course, champagne), guests are greeted on arrival by Cogsworth and Lumière as a fairytale afternoon like no other awaits. From Cheese Soufflé to bite-sized Arancini, a plate of unique savoury options is served and sprinkled with rose petals to add to the magic. After choosing from their delectable tea menu, the (almost) too pretty to eat sweet treats are served – think Vanilla and Gold jelly with rose petals inside, a Chocolate Clock Tart with Cogsworth’s face on, and a Spiced Snow Ball Macaroon.
There are sandwiches galore as egg, salmon, chicken and cucumber bites take over the middle tier, as a glass of Perrier Jouët helps you along. A unique (and still delicious) alternative to scones, enjoy Belle’s favourite, Marie’s Sweet Brioche Baguettes with a mix of apricot preserve and a chocolate pot. For those who don’t fancy a cup of tea, unlimited hot chocolate, coffee, iced coffee or iced tea is available.
Beauty and The Beast fan or not, the whimsical Tale as Old as Time afternoon tea is certainly worth a visit. £42 per person or £54.50 with a glass of Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut NV Champagne.
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