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 London, from the traditional to the innovative to the quirky.
The Best Afternoon Teas in London
Following their Van Gogh-inspired afternoon tea, Rosewood London is launching a new offering – this time to co-incide with the new Antony Gormley exhibition at The Royal Academy of Arts. Executive Pastry Chef Mark Perkins has created an intricate and entirely unique collection of pastries inspired by Gormley’s works: a chocolate mousse, for instance, is based on Body and Fruit: an impressive piece displayed at the centre of the exhibition, hanging centimetres from the floor and weighing several tonnes. There’s also a ginger jaconde sponge with a latticed chocolate decoration inspired by Matrix II, made of intersecting dark steel mesh grids suspended above head height, as well as a series of four different apple pastries designed in homage to Gormley’s One Apple. A work of art in itself, this afternoon tea is almost too beautiful to eat… From £60pp. Available from 21 September until 31 January 2020. rosewoodhotels.com
For the ultimate luxury afternoon tea experience, reserve a table at Brasserie of Light and delight in a limited-edition Pink Pegasus Afternoon Tea, the ideal afternoon affair for lovers of all things decadent, pretty and pink. Indulge in a selection of picture-worthy savoury treats, including lobster, mango and avocado cocktails and smoked salmon on rye bread, followed by the piece de resistance desserts; pink meringues, a mini Pegasus Pie, passion fruit and butterfly meringue, and a glorious chocolate bubble dessert. In keeping with the pink theme, a bottle of Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé will be served alongside. Ensure to book on a Wednesday where there’ll be an array of pink-themed music and entertainment. Until 5 October, £65.00 per person including a bottle of Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé. brasserie-of-light.co.uk
Serving up traditional ‘tea ceremonies’ in its delightful Taiwanese Teahouse, Rupert Street’s XU offers a delectable selection of eastern-inspired treats. Fill your boots with sweet potato taro dumplings, roasted turnip and chive oil steamed eggs, followed by an array of sumptuous Taiwanese pastries such as fried cinnamon mochi and steamed red bean buns. What’s more, the restaurant is unveiling a collaboration with London’s Lily Vanilli Bakery in celebration of East Asia’s Mid-Autumn harvest festival. Delight in the patisserie’s specially curated Bakewell mooncake, available from the new mid-Autumn set menu, as well as their afternoon-tea takeover, where dishes such as Lily’s fool’s gold chocolate truffle with sichuan and mini dried plum celebration cake will be added to the menu. The Mooncake Afternoon Tea Takeover will be available every weekend until 29 Sept, £35 per person. xulondon.com
Mixing up afternoon tea traditions is Momo, the recently reimagined North African restaurant in Mayfair. Here classic finger sandwich combinations are given a Moroccan twist: halloumi croque with tomato and basil, Tunisian fricassee with egg, tuna and olives, and cucumber with labneh and mint all feature. Mediterranean flavours are infused throughout the menu, with desserts including Muhalabiya, a Middle Eastern milk pudding delicacy with strawberry rosewater, and date scones with quince and prickly pear jam. All this can be enjoyed on their new palm terrace, dotted with mimosa plants, lanterns and traditional rattan chairs. £32pp with tea, £42pp with a glass of Champagne. momo.london
Taking inspiration from its view over the Tower of London, Rotunda’s Crown Jewels Afternoon Tea celebrates the most visited artefacts in Britain. While the classically British finger sandwiches like egg mayonnaise with truffle oil or minted cucumber are expectedly delicious, the main affair is courtesy of the restaurant’s executive pastry chef who has created a selection of pastries inspired by the Crown Jewels themselves. A Griotte Amarena cherry and liquorice macaron topped with silver jewel is among the array of tasty delights. Of course, homemade scones with seasonal jams and Devonshire clotted cream are the closing event. For an afternoon tea fit for a royal, book a private roof terrace where the British pastime can be enjoyed overlooking the iconic landmark and the River Thames. £35pp. fourseasons.com
The OXO Tower has been a recognisable London institution since it was built in the 1900s, but what’s inside it is by no means antiquated. The OXO Tower Restaurant has tapped into the undeniably huge spike in demand for plant-powered food by launching a vegan afternoon tea. The creativity behind this menu is clear and appeals to vegans and non-vegans alike. If you’re not completely stuffed from the array of sandwiches on the first tier, which includes homemade ‘cheese’ and pickle and golden beetroot with aged balsamic in rosemary Russian rye bread, continue on with the second tier which holds an ‘avocado shot’ made with creamy avo and almond, chestnut and mushroom ‘sausage’ rolls, and Bajis packed with flavours I’d never tasted before. All this is to be enjoyed with the homemade piccalilli, and a minty-coconutty dip. The sweet selection, meanwhile, includes scones with clotted ‘cream’ and jam, and mini lemon ‘meringue’ pies – perfectly light and fluffy. To top it all off, the view from the OXO Tower Restaurant, along with the ultra-friendly staff, make this afternoon tea experience a memorable one. £45pp (including a glass of prosecco). harveynichols.com. Reviewed by Kerri Stolerman.
An afternoon tea experience has launched at the recently opened Belmond Cadogan Hotel in Chelsea, designed by award-winning restauranteur Adam Handling. The menu is inspired by happy memories at Adam’s grandmother’s house, designed to evoke nostalgia and feelings of warmth – of course, with an elegant touch. Savoury offerings include sausage rolls with brown sauce and salt cod croquettes, alongside a selection of traditional sandwiches such as roasted chicken with lemon thyme mayonnaise on malt bread. Sweet delights, meanwhile, are inspired by the story of notable scientist, collector and traveller Sir Hans Sloane, in honour of the building’s historic location on Sloane Street. Quintessential British ingredients are set alongside international elements: desserts include a Granny Smith apple & lemongrass cremeux, a white chocolate & raspberry mousse, and a passion fruit curd tart. Tea offerings are equally exciting, with an extensive selection available from Newby Teas, including two signature Adam Handling assam and breakfast blends, available exclusively at the hotel. To celebrate the launch of the new Matthew Williamson range from Newby Teas, a special offering will be available throughout Afternoon Tea Week, with pastries including Orange & Lemongrass Cremeux, Passion Fruit Curd Tart with Coconut Mousse and Salted Caramel Sacher with Milk Chocolate Chantilly. Served daily from 1.30-5.30pm. adamhandlingchelsea.co.uk
This London-inspired afternoon tea takes inspiration from historic and iconic landmarks around the city such as a telephone box, Big Ben, The Gherkin and The Shard, with treats including a rhubarb mousse, lemon curd tart, bridge rolls and more. £42pp or £54.50 with a glass of Champagne. townhousekensington.com
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 Daniel Pearse. Their summer afternoon tea runs in partnership with JING Tea, with whom they have worked closely with to ensure an optimal tea drinking experience. Light, floral pastries herald the finest ingredients of the season, from the British strawberry to the mirabelle, creating delicacies like The Savoy Seasonal Summer Fruit Tartlet, Mango and Passionfruit Jelly and Banana Cremeux. fairmont.com
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. thegoring.com
The team behind the afternoon tea in the elegant Chinoiserie at Jumeirah Carlton Tower in Belgravia have been awarded the coveted number one spot in ‘Afternoon Tea of the Year 2018’. The competition process had stringent timings and, due to the fact that they didn’t have access to a freezer, even involved the team biking their sorbet from their hotel kitchen to the competition’s headquarters – dedication to the cause. It is easy to see how they nabbed their prize – the mouthwatering Symphony Afternoon Tea is not only a feast for the senses but also a clever concept, fashioned on the four movements of a symphonic orchestral experience. It was further inspired by the resident harpist who serenades guests in the Chinoiserie as they enjoy the afternoon tea.
All the traditional trimmings have been given a twist, beginning with a selection of savoury cones filled with beetroot hummus or the Indian spiced chicken and mango and followed, not by the classic triangular sandwiches, but treats such as a Brioche bridge roll with Loch Fyne smoked salmon and duck egg mayonnaise. Of the delicacies, our favourite was the Sicilian pistachio éclair with cranberry compote. The famed sorbet that was rushed across London ends the experience to soothe your palate with coconut and lemongrass. Ask your server which tea pairing they recommend, or go for the 90 minute bottomless Laurent Perrier champagne accompaniment. Can’t decide? Drink your tea, then your champagne. True British luxury. £39 per person, or £49 per person for 90 minutes of bottomless champagne. jumeriah.com
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 £29.75 per person, daily. thewolseley.com
Just around the corner from the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly Circus, the Hotel Cafe Royal’s ‘Queen of Afternoon Teas’ celebrates the history of the historic English tradition of afternoon tea, within the opulent Oscar Wilde Bar. The Queen of Afternoon Teas has been curated to pay homage to British monarch Queen Victoria, as 2019 marks her 200th anniversary. Enjoy a sumptuous menu that features ingredients and dishes that came into fashion during her reign, including some of her personal favourites, accompanied by teas, champagne, and a live pianist. The Queen of Afternoon Tea is available daily from 12-5:30pm by reservation only, £55 per person. hotelcaferoyal.com
Afternoon tea at The Landmark is served in their Winter Garden, a beautifully light and airy glass-roofed atrium complete with palm trees. Sandwiches are traditional: think smoked Scottish salmon, organic egg mayonnaise and mustard cress, and coronation chicken on walnut bread, followed by a delectable selection of desserts – our top pick is the hazelnut and coffee opera cake. From £45 per person, £52 with a glass of champagne. landmarklondon.co.uk
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 launched earlier this year. 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.
If you’re looking for a child-friendly afternoon tea option in London, look no further than the Chesterfield Mayfair’s The Original Sweet Shop Afternoon Tea. With pastries and cakes the flavour of retro sweetshop favourites, delicious chocolate-chip scones and a host of savoury treats, it’s a must-try for both adults and children with a sweet tooth. Highlights include the Coca-Cola slice, the enormous peanut-butter cup and the fizzy apple mousse. And of course, the trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the retro sweet cart manned by the in-house Candyman who will help young guests fill a bag with old-school penny sweets and pick-and-mix favourites. Younger guests can enjoy the afternoon tea served alongside a milkshake or tea, priced at £21.50. Adults can opt to add a glass of something sparkling with the Champagne Tea (£47 per person), including a glass of brut, rosé or white label Lanson Champagne. For £40 per person The Original Sweet Shop Afternoon Tea is served with loose leaf or flowering tea, coffee or hot chocolate. chesterfieldmayfair.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. dorchestercollection.com
Set just off the bustle of Hyde Park Corner is the tranquil sanctuary of COMO The Halkin, a luxury hotel where the British tradition of afternoon tea gets an exciting (and very welcome) twist, courtesy of the Basque Country. As opposed to the classic cucumber finger sandwiches, you’ll find savoury treats take multiple shapes and forms here; savoury foams, creamy croquettes and crispy txistorra granary sandwiches. Reflecting the skill of the hotel’s kitchen of Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, the afternoon tea offers Michelin-starred cooking in itsy-bitsy proportions – all beautifully presented and served with a succinct but informative description from your server, of course. Following a brief intermission you’ll be presented with a platter of almost too-pretty-to-eat miniature desserts, among which include a delightful Catalan cream, passion fruit cheese cake and a mango torrija – sweets so delicious you won’t miss the traditional scones and jam. Like any good afternoon tea, COMO The Halkin puts an equal emphasis on the latter part of the custom’s name, and with the recent launch of their bespoke tea pairings by Tea Leaves, you won’t be left wanting for choice. Alongside the standard options, you’ll find herbal infusions, green, and white teas, as well as a bold Mountain Berry one that’ll make you reconsider your usual English Breakfast. For something with a little more oomph, opt for COMO’s specially designed cocktail menu curated in associated with NOVELTEA, a spirit which masterfully blends tea and botanicals to produce wonderful combinations like gin with earl grey, or oolong with red rose petals, papaya and mango flakes. Afternoon tea at COMO The Halkin reaffirms the adage that sometimes tradition needs a shake up. Available daily, from £25 per person including tea pairing or £33 with a Noveltea cocktail. For Afternoon Tea Week, they’re offering a 25 per cent discount. comohotels.com
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… Available daily, from £35 per person. fourseasons.com
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. From £42 per person. Thursday-Sunday, two sittings at 2pm and 4.15pm. dominiqueansellondon.com
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. thestaffordlondon.com
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. They’re now offering afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason at The Royal Exchange, too. Available for £55 per person (£58 with Rare Tea). fortnumandmason.com
Truffled egg mayo sandwiches? Rhubarb and tonka bean jam? Irish coffee éclair? All our favourites with a twist. Corinthia London recently 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 costs £55 pp, Champagne Afternoon Tea costs £65 pp, and Rosé Champagne Afternoon Tea costs £75 pp. corinthia.com
The Picoli Dolci menu has just launched, serving up an Italian take on the classic afternoon tea (sans the sandwiches). Five miniature desserts including a mini Salted Caramel Tiramisu are served with a glass of bubbly or a cup of tea. It’s ideal for an afternoon pick-me-up after braving the shops on Oxford Street. harrys-bar.co.uk
Is there any place as quintessentially English as Claridge’s? Over 150 years, the esteemed hotel has perfected the art of afternoon tea. None of the gimmicks, all of the flavour; you can expect excellent food and a faithful rendition of this English ritual. Choose from 24 loose leaf teas served in jade-and-white striped china. Raise a toast to tradition and tuck in to tiny treats. From £65 per person. claridges.co.uk
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. sketch.london
In keeping with their daily menu Farmacy’s High Tea is all plant-based, meaning “free from dairy, refined sugars, additives and chemicals”. Rest assured though, you’ll still savour every delicious bite. The little fancies are beautifully presented on a three tier stand that’s appropriately decorated with foliage. Taking plant-based eating one step higher, Farmacy are the first London restaurant to serve CBD, which you’ll find infused in their welcome cocktail, chocolate truffles and their hemp leaf tea. From £42 per person. farmacylondon.com
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. morganhotelsgroup.com
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 celebrates spring with grass meadow serving boards, terracotta pots, edible flowers and fork and spade fashioned cutlery. Smoked salmon served on wholemeal bread, lavender pannacotta served with sparkling wine jelly and rhubarb profiterole… Bet you wouldn’t have guessed that there’s also a gluten-free menu as well as a delectable vegan alternative featuring the likes of smashed avo on wholemeal bread, barbecue baked sweet potato with cashew mayo, salted caramel slices and lemon drizzle cake. Daily 3pm – 6.00pm, from £32 per person. 108brasserie.com
Try not to pocket the handsome crockery at this new opening, or lose your dignity asking for a goodie bag with the abundance of elaborate cakes. Palm Court at the majestic Principal Hotel on Russell Square, is polished splendour at its best, a vast atrium alive with plants and flanked by two charming courtyards. The expected rituals of afternoon tea are performed with traditional panache, steering guests through classic to exotic teas, a truffle potato soufflé, a light sandwich trio, scones and puddings. Contemporary twists on old favourites, from matcha scones to beetroot bread play to the wellness crowd while the old-timers can expect mouth-watering cream teas and a selection of puddings resembling more ‘work-of-art’ than pastry. In colder months, their warming open fire will be a welcome pairing. From £38 per person. kimptonfitzroy.london