This great British custom was started by the Duchess of Bedford in 1830 when she ordered a light meal to stave off hunger pangs between lunch and dinner. Now London revives the Afternoon Tea tradition to the tinkle of teaspoons, slurping of tea and swooning over scones
Claridge’s Afternoon Tea
Utterly English award-winning afternoon tea
Brook Street, Mayfair, London, W1A 2JQ
Tube: Bond Street Station
Named the Tea Guild’s Best Afternoon Tea in 2006, 2011 and 2012, and presented with an Award of Excellence an impressive five times, Claridge’s is one of the top locations for Afternoon Tea in London. Served in the Foyer and Reading Room, the hotel boasts all the details needed for the traditional British custom. The Art Deco interior of Claridge’s saw a stunning refit in 1999, bringing it back to its awe-inspiring former glory and worthy of its affectionate title “the extension to Buckingham Palace”. The centre piece of the Foyer is a huge glass chandelier by Dale Chihuly, adding to the magic of the venue, and the Reading Room is ideal for intimate occasions. Diners are accompanied by a pianist and harpist while they choose between more than 40 different blends of tea from around the world and devour classic finger sandwiches, pastries and moist, fluffy homemade raisin and apple scones served with Marco Pollo jelly and Cornish clotted cream. There are three delectable options: the traditional Afternoon Tea, the Champagne Tea and, for really pushing the boat out, the Rose Champagne Afternoon Tea. Seasonal options for the Chelsea Flower Show, Lawn Tennis and Christmas are also available, as well as a Children’s Afternoon Tea. If you want to join the ranks of princes, politicians and personalities, this is the only place to sup afternoon tea.
Continuously voted the best place for Afternoon Tea in London by The British Tea Guild.
15 Beeston Place, Victoria, London, SW1W 0JW
Tube: Victoria Station
Continuously voted the best place for Afternoon Tea in London by The British Tea Guild, The Goring Hotel sits cheek by jowl with Buckingham Palace and has been owned by the same family for three generations. Appropriately, given its royal neighbour, Kate Middleton spent the night before her wedding here and David Linley is responsible for the decor in the restaurant, his signature classic yet elegant style making the dining room surprisingly unstuffy. The Goring was praised by The Tea Guild judges for the flexibility of the venue where guests can enjoy tea by the fire in colder winter months or take tea in the garden outside when the sun shines. But it’s The Goring’s “elegant surroundings, faultless presentation and friendly, efficient and knowledgeable staff” that really impress.
The Dorchester Afternoon Tea
With over 70 years experience, and a closely guarded scone recipe, The Dorchester is the cream of the crop
53 Park Lane, Mayfair, London, W1K 1QA
Tube: Hyde Park Corner Station
Winner of numerous awards, this hotel has been a byword for style and comfort for over 70 years. Served in the famous marble and gold Promenade entrance lounge of The Dorchester, diners can chose to indulge in a Traditional or Champagne Afternoon Tea before drinking in the extravagance of the lavish setting. Palm tree fronds flutter above elegant couches while bright sun-light streams through the windows. There’s also the option of a Vintage Afternoon Tea, served on the intimate balcony overlooking the iconic lobby, or a selection of themed afternoon teas, such as Wimbledon or Mad Hatter’s. Choose from a varied selection of 20 imported teas, or go for the Dorchester’s very own delicate blend. The hotel employs its very own tea chef, solely in charge of the afternoon’s selection of finger food, not to mention the 15-strong team of pastry chefs who intricately fold together the mouth-watering range of sweets. Their scones have been made to the same delicious recipe for over 50 years, and we can tell why. The Dorchester is perfect for those traditional afternoon tea takers for whom glamour and glitz coupled with eyeing up fellow diners is part and parcel of the whole ritual.
The Ritz Afternoon Tea
It doesn’t get more British than afternoon tea at The Ritz
150 Piccadilly, St James’s, London, W1J 9BR
Tube: Green Park Station
Tea at The Ritz has to be the London equivalent of Breakfast at Tiffany’s – a world-famous brand that captures the essence of each city’s history and culture. Synonymous with the comfortable colonialism of the old British aristocracy, for Londoners afternoon tea at The Ritz conjures an image of luxury, indulgence, formality and impeccable service. Detailed in delicate shades of gold, pale green and pale pink, the Palm Court, where afternoon tea is served, is an exemplar of soothing sophistication combined with lavish Louis XVI luxury. Lofty ceilings, glittering chandeliers, gilded trellises, marble columns, deep cornices and draped floral curtains all combine for a visual treat of the old Establishment. Waiters, dressed immaculately in tails, serve up tea in fine bone china with exact precision while a pianist tinkles the ivories and a harpist plucks away in the background. Views of the Green Park royal gardens are a stunning reminder of a time when King Edward VII, Winston Churchill and Charles De Gaulle formed part of the regular stream or royal, aristocratic and noble visitors taking tea at the hotel’s Palm Court. It hardly needs saying but dress smartly – a jacket and tie are essential for men. Early booking (as far in advance as 12 weeks for weekend sittings) is essential.
Feast on quintessentially British cakes under a magnificent crystal chandelier.
The Lobby Lounge, Corinthia Hotel , 10 Whitehall Place, Westminster, London, SW1A 2BD
Tube: Charing Cross Station , Embankment Underground Station
Served in the grand Lobby Lounge, afternoon tea at the Corinthia is a classy affair. Diners are initially greeted by the magnificent sight of the ‘Full Moon’ chandelier, created by Parisian designer Chafik Gasmi and made up of 1001 glistening Baccarat crystals. The menu focuses on quintessentially British cakes, including Battenberg, Eccles cake and Bakewell tarts. Taking into consideration Londons major events, special seasonal options are also often added, such as floral fancies inspired by the Chelsea Flower Show or couture biscuits in honour of the latest catwalk trends from London Fashion Week. Sandwich options include smoked salmon, coronation chicken, Lancashire cheese and piccalilli, and cream cheese and chive while a selection of plain and fruit scones are served with house preserves and clotted cream. Guests can choose between an array of teas, including bespoke blends created especially for Corinthia London’s Tea Palace, and there is also the option to enjoy a glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne.
The Connaught Afternoon Tea
Enjoy traditional afternoon tea in the Jean-Georges restaurant.
Carlos Place, Mayfair, Mayfair, London, W1K 2AL
Tube: Bond Street Station
The Connaught in Mayfair was originally intended as an oasis of calm for the landed gentry of England to retire to during their hectic visits to the capital. Little has changed since the opening of the hotel in 1897 – doormen in top hats and white gloves still usher guests into the majestic entrance hall with its magnificent mosaic floor and grand wooden staircase, and the age-old tradition of afternoon tea is still re-enacted daily. The Connaught’s afternoon tea is served daily in the Jean-Georges restaurant. Choose from a selection of fine teas served alongside a menu of finger sandwiches, pastries, and plain and raisin scones serves with homemade strawberry jam, lemon curd and Cornish clotted cream. For an extra dash of luxury, opt for the Champagne Afternoon Tea experience. If you’re feeling a little over-indulged, then skip the lifts and enjoy the traditional country house feel of the mahogany staircase that winds up through this grand century-old hotel. The Connaught is a traditional slice of Mayfair grandeur that takes its design cue from the English country house while offering facilities that are absolutely up-to-date.
High tea is served, accompanied by the Savoy’s resident pianist
The Savoy, Strand, Covent Garden, London, WC2R 0EU
Tube: Holborn Station , Covent Garden Station, Tottenham Court Road Station
Founded by the owner of the nearby Savoy Theatre, this hotel has been at the centre of entertainment and celebrity in London for over a century. Down the years silver screen idols from Elizabeth Taylor to Nicole Kidman have stayed here. Right in the heart of Theatreland, on the banks of the Thames, the hotel’s setting is imposing. Fabulous views of the river even have Monet’s seal of approval – he painted them during a period of residence there. The Thames Foyer, where tea is served, is surrounded by a fabulous collection of Art Deco mirrors. Watch yourself tuck into a delectable afternoon’s worth of bite-size delights, reflected in their highly-polished surfaces. Served on delicate Royal Doulton bone china, the attention to detail is superb. Don’t forget to try the Savoy Blend tea either, it’s quite unique. The resident pianist finishes off the ceremonial atmosphere. As well as the traditional afternoon tea, The Savoy now also offers an indulgent alternative Art Decadent Tea in the Beaufort Bar where the delicate tea and accompanying sandwiches can be enjoyed with chilled champagne or a cheeky tea time cocktail.
The Berkeley Prêt-à-Portea Afternoon Tea
Contemporary cuppas for forward thinking fashion darlings.
Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, Belgravia, London, SW1X 7RL
Tube: Hyde Park Corner Station , Knightsbridge Station
Served in the Collins Room, afternoon tea at The Berkeley is a modern, stylish affair. From the contemporary design of the room to the unusual, striking design of the cakes and pastries this is an afternoon tea experience for those who like to mix tradition with innovation. While the traditional elements of the meal still remain, the Berkeley has added its own creative twists to the ritual, bringing this century’s old institution into the 21st century by producing cakes and pastries inspired by each fashion season’s catwalk designs. Eclairs, cupcakes and shortbread biscuits are all set for a makeover in the styles of top fashion designers such as Emanuel Ungaro and Diane von Furstenburg. Prêt-à-Portea – the Fashionista’s Afternoon Tea – consists of a choice selection of loose leaf teas and herbal infusions together with a delectable selection of cakes, pastries and savouries all presented in a cutting-edge style to match the current catwalk. Past Prêt-à-Portea collections have included a Stella McCartney polka dot sponge cake plus Lanvin’s bavarois dress with crème de mûre jelly topped with folded meringue. A gold Dolce & Gabbana chocolate éclair sprinkled with festive stars and Miu Miu winter spice sparkly shoe biscuits. For those true fashionistas, it pays to upgrade and follow a warming cup of tea with an invigorating taste of Moet & Chandon NV Champagne served in a Baccarat crystal glass.
Indulge in some mad and delicious afternoon tea at The Sanderson Hotel.
The Sanderson Hotel, 50 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 3NG
Tube: Goodge Street Station , Oxford Circus Station, Tottenham Court Road Station
Sanderson Hotel gives visitors the chance to climb down a rabbit hole and explore the wonderland beneath at their Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea. Served in the hotel’s Courtyard Garden, an open-air retreat with flowering trees, fountains, mosaics and a reflecting pool, diners are fully encompassed in the magical affair. Creating a twisted version of the traditional British afternoon tea, menus are hidden inside vintage books and napkins are wrapped with riddles, while teapots adorned with kings and queens and sandwich plates featuring birdcages, carousels and ticking clocks play host to wondrous fare. Re-launched in 2015 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the menu is a heady mix of colourful savoury dishes and striking sweets. Offering something more than just finger sandwiches, the savoury options include a crab éclair and a croque-monsier, while traditional flavours still feature with a smoked salmon and caviar scotch egg and a cucumber and cream cheese sandwich on fresh lime bread. Each of the sweets are beautifully intricate, with every aspect carefully constructed and perfectly matched with the Alice in Wonderland theme – the menu took four months to finalise and the level of detail is apparent. From the red velvet ladybird and blue caterpillar to the Queen of Hearts Oreo cookie soldier and magic marshmallow mushrooms, each addition tastes as good as it looks. Scones are light, delicious and generously portioned, the themed teas perfectly balanced, and the Alice drink me potion a refreshing conclusion. It’s all gloriously bonkers.
Aqua Shard Afternoon Tea
A modern take on afternoon tea with unrivalled views of London.
Level 31, The Shard, Bankside, London, SE1 9RL
Tube: London Bridge Station
For afternoon tea with a view it doesn’t get much better than Aqua Shard, located on the 31st floor of The Shard – Western Europe’s tallest building. Head Chef Anthony Garlando has put a modern twist on the British tradition, which is served in The Tea Wing and the restaurant’s atrium. Sandwich options include native lobster and lobster mayonnaise on brown bread and cured smoked salmon with dill crème fraiche in a brioche bun while further savoury options are a spinach and goat’s cheese mini quiche and a black pudding sausage roll with Yorkshire chutney. The freshly baked scones are flavoured with vanilla and white chocolate chips and come served with homemade jam, toffee and Cornish clotted cream. There’s also the option of accompanying your tea with a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne.
Eat the Trend 2019