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 16 best afternoon teas in the city, from the traditional to the innovative, and a few Christmas specials…
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. This season, they have paired up with Penhaligon’s to bring the scents of Christmas to the hotel, with delicate pastires using notes of cinnamon, oranges, juniper and pine needles to evoke guests’ festive nostalgia. Add a glass of Louis Roederer Vintage for that extra sparkle. Served in the magnificent Thomas Foyer and accompanied by live piano music, The Savoy’s High Tea is a London classic. From £68 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 famous afternoon tea in The Palm Court with a Christmas twist. Enjoy your afternoon tea accompanied by the sound of carol singers and surrounded by tasteful Christmas decorations. Choose from 18 different types of tea, delicate sandwiches and traditional scones. Adults receive a glass of champagne and children a Ritz teddy bear. £80 per adult and £50 per child, make a reservation here. 150 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1J 9BR.
To celebrate turning 5 this year, Balthazar has curated the ultimate Afternoon Tea. Head pastry chef Régis Beauregard has recreated the best and most popular cakes from the past five years, and they don’t disappoint. Brought out on a towering stand misting with dry ice you are treated to a selection of the fluffiest scones, a range on finger sandwiches and lastly but possibly most excitingly the sweet treats. The Golden Bomb and The Balthazar Icon not only taste magnificent, but they look it too – the latter is a lovely replica of the iconic Balthazar awning. Paired with tea or champagne, or if you’re feeling truly indulgent adding in some caviar, this is not to be missed. From £29.50. balthazarlondon.com
Nestled 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. Available from £42 per person, from midday until 5pm.
For the festive season, you can also enjoy an exclusive diptyque afternoon tea in collaboration with the leading French perfumer. It’s a treat for all the senses with cakes inspired by diptyque’s iconic scents, as well as a gorgeous Baies candle to take home – all with a sprinkle of Christmas magic. From £60 per person, available daily
Art lovers can’t miss the highly visual and architectural afternoon tea at the Rosewood. Served in the beautiful ‘Mirror Room’ restaurant, each item in the tea is recognisable as being influenced by one of five artists: Yayoi Kusama, Alexander Calder, Mark Rothko, Damien Hirst and Banksy. The chef Mark Perkins’ art-inspired afternoon tea will combine the very best of tradition and contemporaneity, in a selection of beautiful and artistic creations, each one immediately identifiable as being influenced by a famed work of art or revered artist. The tea is almost too good to eat…almost. From £50, Mon-Sun 12-7pm.
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 David Girard is constantly adding new treats to the menu, recently including an artisanal ‘Flowering Tea’ palate cleanser to follow a selection of delicate pastries. 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. For Christmas, try the festive version, with special additions including Laurent-Perrier bubbly and live carol-singing. From £55 per person, daily.
Inspired by the recipes of the head chef of the St. James’s Club in the early 1800s, William Drabble, executive chef of Seven Park Place, will be serving up a historical themed afternoon tea. The British institution became firmly entrenched in the daily routine of the upper classes in 1840 when the Duchess of Bedford, a friend of Queen Victoria, felt the need for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up to see her through the day. Drabble seeks to replicate the afternoon tea of that time, adding a modern twist. Highlights include tipsy cake, soaked in sherry and served with custard, Cheshire cheese scones, as well as the traditional savoury sandwiches. Wash this down with a pot of The East India Company loose tea blend, created especially for the hotel, or a glass of the St James’s finest champagne. From £40 per person.
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.
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.
The ultimate Afternoon Tea with a view. Enjoy the vistas from the 31st floor of the Shard, accompanied by a rather impressive selection of high tea treats. There are the classics, as well as some special additions to the menu, including a wonderful lobster finger sandwich, black pudding and sausage roll, as well as a truly unique Marmite milk chocolate, rose raspberry jelly and pistachio crunch. They certainly don’t do things by halves here! From £45 per person. Weekdays 1-5pm, Weekends 1-4pm. Book here.
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.
Cutter & Squidge’s fabulous Signature afternoon tea has been temporarily put on hold to welcome the limited edition Genie’s Cave Afternoon Tea. London’s favourite all-natural bakery has transformed its Secret Garden into a magical setting for a special afternoon tea experience, complete with genie’s lamp, precious treasures and ornate decoration. And this is definitely not your average, traditional High Tea experience… Tea begins with a ‘Genie’s Welcome’, followed by ‘Magic Carpet Cookies’ and other mysterious magical treats, while the bakery’s trademark Biskie has been transformed to contain a pearl and 24 carat gold. Be sure to try it before it sinks back into the sand… From £29.50 per person. Book here.
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.
Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at Sanderson Hotel
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… From £48 per person (excluding service and dependent on choice of drink accompaniments). Available daily.
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.