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Best Afternoon Tea in London
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.
Utterly English award-winning afternoon tea
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.
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.
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.
53 Park Lane, Mayfair, London, W1K 1QA | Tube: Hyde Park Corner Station
With over 70 years experience, and a closely guarded scone recipe, The Dorchester is the cream of the crop
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.
150 Piccadilly, St James's, London, W1J 9BR | Tube: Green Park Station
It doesn't get more British than afternoon tea at The Ritz
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.
Served in the grand Lobby Lounge, afternoon tea at the Corinthia is a classy affair. Diners are initially greeted by the magnificent site 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.
Carlos Place, Mayfair, Mayfair, London, W1K 2AL | Tube: Bond Street Station
The Connaught's 'Chic and Sheek' tea is a slice of unadulterated luxury
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 'Chic and Shock' afternoon tea is served in the Espelette, a pretty room overlooking architect Tadao Ando's water feature. Delicate finger sandwiches are served alongside a wide range of classic and modern teas. Scones come fresh from the Connaught Bakery, and are joined by an incredible menu of over 16 home-made jams and a spread of cakes and pastries. 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
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.
Contemporary cuppas for forward thinking fashion darlings
Served in the appropriately themed Caramel Room with its low-lighting, chocolate coloured wall coverings and snappy faux-crocodile fabrics, afternoon tea at The Berkeley is a modern, stylish affair. From the contemporary design (courtesy of Alexandra Champalimaud) 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. The Spring/Summer 2013 Prêt-à-Portea collection includes a Dolce & Gabbana Sicilian chic pistachio green and vanilla striped pannacotta dress topped with chocolate ring, an Alexander McQueen whimsical yellow honeycomb cream oversized dress topped with marzipan bee and a Jonathan Saunders ombre polka dot lemon and orange blossom dome shift dress set on a shortbread biscuit. 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 is giving visitors the chance to climb through 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 will be fully encompassed in the magical affair. Creating a twisted version of the traditional British afternoon tea, the chefs at the hotel have mastered an unconventional and adventurous experience for all taste buds. Offering an 'Eat Me' Queen of Hearts which holds strawberry and cream mousse as well as an intriguing 'Drink Me' bottle containing a concoction of Apple Pie, Lemon Curd and English Toffee this brew will engage your senses in a bizarre yet enjoyable sensation. Further gastronomic adventures will include blueberry lollipops that turn your mouth from hot to cold, hazelnut praline ice cream, chocolate rabbit clocks and finger sandwiches presented in a rainbow of colours. Taking a step back towards tradition, scones with clotted cream and jam will also be on the menu enabling visitors to enjoy a slice of familiarity.
Level 31, The Shard, Bankside, London, SE1 9RL | Tube: London Bridge Station
A modern take on afternoon tea with unrivalled views of London.
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 chicken perfumed with lavender mayonnaise, hen's egg with smoked curry mayonnaise, and Earl Grey tea smoked Loch Duart salmon with caviar and dill scented cream. The freshly baked scones are creatively flavoured with vanilla raisin and orange blossom and come served with Jersey clotted cream and Garlando's seasonal fragrant homemade jams, while cake options include lemon meringue tart, chocolate truffle, and cassis and yoghurt panna cotta. There's also the option of accompanying your tea with a glass of Veuve Clicquot 'Yellow Label' Brut champagne.
Award-winning afternoon tea that offers an indulgent and intimate experience
Having received the Tea Guild's prestigious award for 'Top London Afternoon Tea 2012', the Athenaeum promises a delectable dining experience. Known for their quintessentially English food, the hotel offers diners an indulgent yet frivolous experience. Visitors can choose between the Evergreen Tea and the Regent's Park Honey Tea, both served in the intimate Garden Lounge. The Evergreen tea offers a sumptuous menu of rose petal champagne, a range of rare teas, traditional English finger sandwiches, scones, crumpets, homemade pastries and, of course, a generous serving of clotted cream. While the Regent's Park Honey Tea, ideal for those with a sweet tooth, has been created using honey gathered from the bees of London's Royal Parks and provides a number of honey based treats. Starting with a glass of honey fizz, diners will then be served a selection of sandwiches, scones and crumpets. However, the highlight is the finale: a constellation of honey based desserts that include a moist honey cake, rich honey cheesecake and light but creamy lavender macaroons.
Euston Road, King's Cross, London, NW1 2QR | Tube: King's Cross Station
Afternoon tea is served within the former taxi rank at this grand hotel.
The Hansom Lounge at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel occupies the former cobbled driveway where Hansom cabs used to drop off and pick up their passengers. With glass panels and a vaulted high glaze ceiling, the lounge combines Victorian splendour with contemporary style and offers a unique location to enjoy afternoon tea. Served daily from 1.30pm, the Classic Afternoon Tea menu comprises of a range of sandwiches that put a modern twist on the traditional selection. Options include crayfish cocktail on toasted brioche; cucumber, mint, lemon and curd cheese on beetroot bread; roast beef and horseradish cream on onion bread; and egg mayonnaise and mustard cress on cranberry bread. Plain and fruit scones are served with Devonshire clotted cream and strawberry jam, and sweet treats include a mini Victoria sponge, pavlova and mille-feuille. Guests can also choose to opt for the St Pancras Afternoon Tea, which provides the option of enjoying either a cocktail or a glass of Perrier Jouet Champagne with their tea.
A tranquil heaven hidden within London's famous department store.
From the day Fortnum & Mason opened its doors to the nation back in 1707, tea has been one of their main concerns and the St James's Restaurant opened just a few years after the British discovered their now beloved cuppa. However, in 2012 the restaurant was given a grand refurbishment and, opened by Her Majesty the Queen, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge, was renamed The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. Fortnum's is the original London tea house. The fabulous food hall downstairs stocks over a century of blends including India, Nepal, Japan, Sri Lanka, along with their own in-house infusions, green teas and all sorts of fruity numbers. Tea tasting really is a fine art and these are the experts with nearly 300 years' experience. The calm atmosphere, pacifying piano and broad view of Piccadilly makes the fourth floor Tea Salon a tranquil haven away from the sea of shoppers outside. The reputation of the food hall precedes it, and the sandwiches and pastries live up to expectations. Choose from a Traditional Tea, a Savoury Tea or the more substantial High Tea.
Langham Hotel, 1C Portland Place, Regent Street, Marylebone, London, W1B 1JA | Tube: Oxford Circus Station
Lavish and luscious, the perfect way to wind down the afternoon
There's a long tradition of taking tea at the Langham Hotel. Afternoon Tea has been sipped here since the mid-19th century, originally served for the princely sum of 1/6d (now 7 1/2p) to the cream of Victorian society. Following a lavish £80m refurbishment, this landmark hotel - the first grand hotel in London - serves up tea, once again, at the Palm Court restaurant. Thanks to elaborate designs by architect David Collins, you can enjoy your tea and cake in sumptuous crystal chandelier lit surroundings, perched on plush velvet seats. An almost ridiculous level of attention to detail means the day's progression is marked by subtle changes in lighting, linen, chinaware and the staff uniforms. An aroma of ginger flower wafts over perfumed teas and delicate cakes while live piano music plays in the background. There are over 30 blends of tea to choose from including home grown tea and pre rain Jun Shan (Imperial Mountain) silver needle yellow tea at £40 a pot. Utterly decadent and delightful.
Afternoon tea is served in two contrasting rooms at Sketch.
There's one traditional afternoon tea menu at Sketch but it's served in two very different locations: Glade, a fairytale dining room that features ethereal woodland murals and earthy wicker furnishings, and the Gallery, designed by India Mahdavi. Originally featuring work by Martin Creed, the Gallery now displays work by David Shrigley as part of a long-term programme of artists-conceived restaurants. The afternoon tea menu is the same for both experiences with towering assortments of sketch sweet pastries, dainty macaroons and delicious savouries offering true afternoon tea innovation. Diners can also choose to add either a glass of champagne.
Enjoy a very British tradition within a New York Parisian-style brasserie.
Afternoon tea at Balthazar provides diners with the chance to enjoy a very British tradition within a New York Parisian-style brasserie. Having spent over a decade specialising in the subject of afternoon tea at The Ritz, Balthazar's head chef Regis Beauregard has now put together a tempting menu of traditional favourites such as cucumber, smoked salmon and egg mayonnaise sandwiches alongside freshly-baked scones, prepared to a traditional Irish recipe using buttermilk, with Devonshire clotted cream and strawberry jam. The menu of tarts and parties include rose water macaroons, banana and spice cake and fresh fruit tartelettes, all accompanied by critically-acclaimed Postcard Teas, herbal infusions and, for those who are after true indulgence, a glass of Gaston Chiquet Champagne. Located in Covent Garden, it's the perfect location for West End shoppers and theatregoers.
Afternoon Tea or High Tea
What's the difference?
Afternoon tea is not to be confused with high tea. Afternoon tea is served around 4pm and was originally introduced as a stop-gap between lunch and dinner at a time when dinner was served at 8pm. The original intention has become somewhat lost as today we treat afternoon tea as a treat, an excuse to eat scones laden with clotted cream, pastries and cucumber sandwiches. High tea, by contast was, for many workers, the main evening meal of the day. Taken between 5pm and 7pm, or after work was finished, it consisted of savoury dishes such as pies, cold meats, cheeses and bread. Many people still call their evening meal 'tea' - which they take instead of a later supper. The one thing afternoon tea (low tea) and high tea have in common is that they're both accompanied by a pot of hot, freshly brewed tea. 'Low' and 'high' refers to the table height at which tea is taken. While afternoon tea was typically taken on low seating, high tea was at the main kitchen table.
The History of Afternoon Tea
Anna Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford is often credited as the person who started the trend for taking afternoon tea. Eating habits in the 1830s meant it was usual to have a long gap between the relatively light 'luncheon' served around midday and dinner served around 8pm. So, feeling a bit peckish, The Duchess of Bedford, who was a close friend of Queen Victoria and a prominent figure within London society, requested that light sandwiches, tea and cake be brought to her boudoir in the late afternoon because she had a 'sinking feeling' due to the long gap between meals. Other social hostesses followed her lead and the pause for tea became a fashionable social event. During the 1880s upper class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between 4pm and 5pm. This centuries-old tradition has been revived lately and London's top hotels are among the best places in the country to enjoy an award-winning afternoon tea.
2nd August 2015
In this article
- Claridge's Afternoon Tea
- The Goring Afternoon Tea
- The Dorchester Afternoon Tea
- The Ritz Afternoon Tea
- Corinthia Afternoon Tea
- The Connaught Afternoon Tea
- The Savoy Afternoon Tea
- The Berkeley Afternoon Tea
- The Sanderson Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea
- Aqua Shard Afternoon Tea
- The Athenaeum Afternoon Tea
- St Pancras Renaissance Afternoon Tea: Hansom Lounge
- The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon
- The Langham Afternoon Tea
- Sketch - Afternoon Tea
- Balthazar Afternoon Tea
- Afternoon Tea or High Tea
- The History of Afternoon Tea
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