Afternoon tea (here are our favourite afternoon tea recipes) was apparently introduced to Britain in the 1840s by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, who complained of hunger during the late afternoon… something we can relate to!
What’s the difference between afternoon tea and high tea?
And in case you didn’t know, there is a difference between afternoon tea and ‘high tea’ the former is taken in the late afternoon (between lunch and dinner) and involves cakes, scones (here’s a recipe for you), cream and sandwiches; while high tea is a substantial evening meal, usually entirely savoury. A traditional afternoon tea is often called ‘high tea’ in other parts of the world though, which probably explains the confusion.
Best afternoon teas in London at a glance
Best traditional afternoon teas
- Best traditional tea for tea and shopping: Fortnum & Mason The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, from £62.50pp
- Best traditional afternoon tea: Claridge’s, from £75pp
- Best afternoon tea for art lovers: Mirror Room, Rosewood London, from £72pp
- Best American-inspired afternoon tea: Gatsby’s Room, The Beaumont, from £62pp
- Best afternoon tea for bohemian glamour: Petersham Nurseries, from £45pp
- Best afternoon tea for theatre lovers: Theatre Royal Lily Vanilli afternoon tea, from £49pp
- Best for luxury menu options: Corinthia Hotel, from £65pp
- Best kept secret: The Parlour at Great Scotland Yard Hotel, from £55pp
- Best afternoon tea near Buckingham Palace: The Goring, from £65pp
- Best iconic afternoon tea: The Ritz, from £67pp
- Best value iconic afternoon tea: The Wolseley, from £16.75pp
- Best Asian-inspired afternoon tea: The Rosebery Lounge at Mandarin Oriental, from £68pp
- Best afternoon tea for pretty surroundings: The Landmark London, from £59pp
- Best afternoon tea: The Savoy, from £65pp
- Best for chocolate lovers: The Park Tower Knightsbridge, from £39pp
Contemporary afternoon teas
- Best quirky afternoon tea: Sketch, from £75pp
- Best afternoon tea with a theme: The Kensington, from £58pp
- Best afternoon tea for dessert enthusiasts: Cake & Bubbles, from £45pp
- Best afternoon tea for cocktail lovers: Lyaness, from £43pp
- Best al fresco afternoon tea: Number Sixteen, from £40pp
- Best afternoon tea with a view: TING at Shangri-La Hotel, from £69pp
- Best afternoon for kids: The Ampersand Hotel, from £49.50pp
- Best Scandinavian afternoon tea: Aquavit, from £25pp
- Best contemporary riverside afternoon tea: OXO Tower, from £45pp
- Best savoury afternoon tea: Cinnamon Bazaar, from £27.50
Best traditional afternoon teas in London
Fortnum & Mason, The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, London W1
Head to Fortnum & Mason for a traditional London afternoon tea, taken in an elegant salon opened by HM The Queen to mark her Diamond Jubilee. Fortnum’s pitch-perfect finger sandwiches – with not a curling corner in sight – are filled with the usual suspects, only far more luxurious: Suffolk cured ham with piccalilli, and rare bread hen egg with cress. Thick slices of soft smoked salmon, available in Fortnum’s food hall downstairs, are also excellent. Plain and fruit scones come warm, fluffy and served with whole pots of spread – the best of which was a velvety lemon curd (available to buy in the food hall) – and even more clotted cream.
Individual patisseries change with the seasons, with standouts including a subtly floral rose éclair, a modern take on Eton mess and lighter-than-air meringue topped with fresh berries. These are followed by more sweet treats chosen from the cake carriage (this time serious cakes, such as battenberg and matcha layer cake). Fortnum’s tea varieties include the famous smoky Earl Grey (the original blend to be sold at Fortnum’s and The Queen’s personal favourite); a sweet and floral New Zealand oolong; and an unusual sparkling tea. For champagne, highlights include a light Brut rosé, Fortnum’s Brut Sparkling from Cornwall and a perfectly smooth Blanc de Blancs.
Click here to read our full review of afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason
Available from: Fortnum & Mason
Price: £62.50 for afternoon tea with a pot of Fortnum’s Tea; £62.50 for vegetarian afternoon tea with a pot of Fortnum’s Tea; £65 for savoury afternoon tea with a pot of Fortnum’s tea; £68 for high tea with a pot of Fortnum’s tea.
Address: Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London, W1A 1ER
Claridge’s, London W1
Afternoon tea has been a ritual here for almost 150 years and this luxurious redoubt for the rich and royal (no flip-flops, no intrusive photography), has turned it into an art form. In the stunning art deco lobby, guests are treated to a parade of perfectly rectilinear finger sandwiches, warm scones and beautiful, tweezer-precise cakes, delivered to linen-clad tables by staff who operate as smoothly as a Swiss timepiece.
Every detail is exquisite. Corn-fed chicken on rye comes with truffled mayonnaise. Chocolate choux are made with fine Valrhona chocolate. Claridge’s even stresses the heritage of the cucumbers (English, organic) which, dressed with chamomile-infused buttermilk, go into its version of that summer classic: cucumber sandwiches. Rare Tea Company expert Henrietta Lovell curates Claridge’s menu of loose-leaf infusions.
Available from: Claridge’s
Price: Traditional afternoon tea £75pp, champagne afternoon tea from £85pp, children’s afternoon tea £45pp
Address: Brook Street, Mayfair, London, W1K 4HR
Mirror Room, Rosewood London, London WC1
The Rosewood London is renowned for its theatrical and refined portrayal of the city’s best artworks in the form of an exquisite afternoon tea. The David Hockney-inspired art tea in particular captures elements of the artist’s most notable works, seamlessly blending nature-inspired designs with classic British flavours. The essentials are all still there – sandwiches, scones and patisserie, served in the grand Mirror Room – but there are plenty of contemporary twists throughout, too.
Starting with the savouries, seasonal flavours are showcased in the delicate cucumber, asparagus and soft cheese finger sandwich, plus a generously filled lobster and crayfish roll. The two other elements offer some welcome textural variation in the form of thin, crispy sourdough and rye crackers topped with smoked salmon rillet and chicken avocado on spiced tomato relish, respectively. Glossy, neat mini scones (plain and raisin) are served warm and are some of the best we’ve tried – very soft and light. Alongside jam and cream, they are served with a stand-out homemade lemon curd which is smooth, buttery and rich.
Appropriately for a tea inspired by Hockney, the final two rounds of patisserie resemble mini works of art. A colourful illustrated menu outlines the inspiration behind each creation. These are incredibly intricate, with layers of mousse, sponge and jelly – some positioned on a delicate almond sablé, and others embellished with chocolate vine leaves. First, a lighter duo of pre-desserts playfully combine flavours such as chocolate and passion fruit with earl grey tea. Then, the final trio showcases some of Hockney’s best works, from ‘A Bigger Picture’ to ‘The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate’.
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There are a range of drinks options to accompany the tea, from champagne to a fruity cocktail, and an extensive selection of Mariage Frères teas. Service is speedy and friendly, guiding you through each element with confidence.
Available from: Rosewood London
Price: Art afternoon tea £75pp
Address: 252 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EN
Gatsby’s Room, The Beaumont, London W1
Enjoy a transatlantic afternoon tea in the luxurious Gatsby’s Room at The Beaumont hotel. The atmosphere is relaxed and intimate, with stunning art deco decor and live piano music. Located in the heart of Mayfair, it’s a great escape from the hustle and bustle of central London.
The menu consists of traditional afternoon tea classics with a subtle American twist. Tuck into coronation chicken, oak-smoked lox, devilled egg mayonnaise and salt beef. Choose from fluffy raisin or plain scones, and finish with delicate desserts – think salt water taffy, yuzu cream pie and vanilla pudding. Vegan alternatives and a children’s afternoon tea are also available.
The immaculate setting, friendly service and incredible food make The Beaumont a fantastic option for afternoon tea.
Available from: The Beaumont
Price: Traditional afternoon tea £62pp, champagne afternoon tea from £77pp, children’s afternoon tea £25
Address: 8 Balderton St, Brown Hart Gardens, London W1K 6TF
Petersham Nurseries, Richmond
Petersham Nurseries is an eclectic mix of sculptures, vintage furniture, artfully decorated greenhouses and beautiful displays of plants and flowers. It’s quintessentially British with a hint of eccentricity. Adding to the bohemian glamour is the imaginative and beautifully presented afternoon tea, which is served from a handblown cake stand adorned with a bunch of seasonal flowers. The seasonally changing menu makes the most of locally sourced ingredients. We were served roasted red pepper & almond tarts, focaccia with burrata and nasturtiums and orange polenta cake with fig and crème fraiche – each bite is fresh and unique. Wash it down with a glass of rose petal prosecco for the ultimate treat. Browse the shop on your way out for trinkets, glasses and chic gardening wear.
Available from: Petersham Nurseries
Price: Garden afternoon tea £45pp, with prosecco £55pp.
Address: Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, TW10 7AB
Theatre Royal Lily Vanilli afternoon tea
With its sophisticated millennial pink and green marble-lined room with shining chandeliers, the Grand Saloon shares the grandeur of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane that it’s located in. As you enter, the glamorous Regency era scene is set by a speaker playing a string quartet versions of popular songs. This style is replicated throughout the afternoon tea with intricate smooth buttercream piping chocolate sponge cake, which is a signature of ‘queen of cakes’ Lily Vanilli at the Columbia Road bakery. The texture of the cake is perfection as it’s packed with a crunchy biscuit and salted caramel. From miniature fluffy canelés with pickled beetroot to smoky lapsang souchong glazed salmon on madeleines, the tea’s inventive savoury options, steering away from the traditional sandwiches, takes it to the next level.
A surprisingly quirky standout was the final dish, an absinthe mint chocolate chip ice cream which was inspired by the Regency era’s trend of exotic ices. Adding a touch of theatre, this was served on an opulent wooden ice cream trolly. The subtle aniseed flavour of the absinthe complemented the creamy mint ice cream. This is an afternoon tea full of sophistication and luxury.
Available from: Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Price: £49 for adults and £35 for children.
Address: Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, Catherine Street, WC2B 5JF
The Crystal Moon Lounge, Corinthia Hotel, London SW1
Afternoon tea at The Corinthia is set in the glamorous Crystal Moon Lounge dominated by a striking Baccarat crystal chandelier, underneath an array of fresh flowers. Traditional afternoon tea (£65 pp) comes with a choice of house blend teas served in three different strengths, including No 1 Aromatic, a delicate combination of flowery earl grey and soothing oolong; and No 3 Robust, a full-strength blend of assam, oolong and earl grey (stronger smoky notes with light tones of honey). Add a glass of refreshing Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée Brut champagne for an extra £10. Or go all out with the Laurent-Perrier rosé champagne afternoon tea at £85 pp, both served in Baccarat flutes. For ultimate luxury, there is even a caviar afternoon tea option.
A gold board showcases modern takes on classic British finger sandwiches – fine slithers of cucumber, light egg mayonnaise with mustard, smoked salmon with subtle hints of lemon curd, and salt beef with creamy horseradish on soft sundried tomato bread. Light, fluffy scones with honeyed glaze tops are kept warm in a small wooden presentation box. Accompaniments include classic strawberry jam, moreish rhubarb and Tonka bean jam and thick clotted cream. Patisserie change with the seasons: we had small dainty canelés kick off the sweet round (they were slightly overdone but packed a good kick of rum), followed by exotic passion fruit choux buns encased in a craquelin shell, a boozy trifle with crunchy apple and calvados chantilly cream, and a delicate dark chocolate brownie topped with a chocolate crémeux.
Available from: The Corinthia
Price: Traditional afternoon tea £65 pp, champagne afternoon tea from £75 pp
Address: Whitehall Place, Westminster, London SW1A 2BD
The Parlour at Great Scotland Yard Hotel
British elegance and exciting patisserie in an afternoon tea designed in collaboration with royal perfumier Floris.
The Parlour Room is sophisticated yet modern, with printed wallpaper and checked flooring. The waiting staff were knowledgeable, discussing each tea and recommending pairings for each course – we tried a classic earl grey that was floral and citrussy.
The afternoon tea starts with an assortment of savouries, which were classics with a twist, using tarragon in the chicken mayonnaise, and pairing cheddar cheese with Guinness in gougères. We liked that the perfectly shaped scones arrived warm and with plenty of clotted cream and jam for all of them. Diving into the star of the show, five intricate pastries are meticulously layered and decorated. The fruity, fragrant strawberry and jasmine tartlet was the highlight, closely followed by a zingy blackcurrant and frangipane gateaux.
Available from: Great Scotland Yard Hotel
Price: £55pp, champagne afternoon tea £65pp
Address: 3-5, Great Scotland Yard, London SW1A 2HN
The Goring, London SW1
Traditional afternoon tea (£60pp) comes with a choice of Jing teas including the strong, slightly smoky Goring blend, and a floral oolong tea. Add a glass of refreshing Bollinger for an extra £10. Or go all out with the Bollinger rosé champagne afternoon tea that comes with fresh British strawberries and cream. A vibrant pea purée amuse bouche topped with crème fraiche and a cube of smoked salmon started the afternoon tea, followed by salty shredded chicken with fresh tomatoes on fluffy white bread and fresh salmon with crisp slithers of cucumber.
Warm with a soft middle and golden on top, the scones came with syrupy strawberry jam and thick clotted cream. For the sweet round, a soft choux bun encased in a craquelin shell was filled with whipped strawberry cream on a thick crunchy biscuit base, a dense lemon and poppy seed cake was topped with a dollop of zingy lemon curd and piped torched meringue; mini pistachio and raspberry loaf was moist and nutty; a sticky lemon macaroon with sweet tangy cream was incredibly moreish; and a silky dark chocolate tart with hibiscus had a crunchy bottom.
Available from: The Goring
Price: Traditional afternoon tea £60pp, champagne afternoon tea from £70pp
Address: 15 Beeston Place, London, SW1W OJW
The Ritz, Palm Court, London W1
The Ritz is as iconic as the Queen, and this institutional British hotel keeps up tradition by serving 350 afternoon teas every day. It’s only fitting that afternoon tea at The Ritz is a lavish affair; the formal dress code requires men to wear shirt and tie, doors are opened for you by folk in top hats, and the resident pianist, Ian Gomes, who flutters away most days during afternoon tea service, used to play with Frank Sinatra.
Afternoon tea at The Ritz is taken in the Palm Court, an area raised up from the rest of the hotel’s lobby like a marble-floored stage. The Louis XVI-style set is beautifully ornate, with pristine white tablecloths laid out beneath intricate chandeliers, giant palms and gold-gilt mirrors. Choose from the 18-strong tea menu that has been curated and exclusively blended by The Ritz’s tea sommelier, Giandomenico Scanu. There are black tea blends, fermented Oolongs, herbal fruit teas and even The Ritz’s own Chai. We tried The Ritz Royal English, a classic black tea blend, combining aromatic Ceylon orange pekoe and rich Assam.
Available from: The Ritz
Price: Traditional afternoon tea £67pp, champagne afternoon tea from £82, children’s afternoon tea £48pp
Address: 150 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9BR
Click here to read our full review of afternoon tea at The Ritz
The Wolseley, London W1
The classic room at The Wolseley has become an institution over the years – choose a simple cream tea for £16.75 (scones and tea), the classic afternoon tea for £36.75, or go all out and order the champagne afternoon tea, complete with a glass of Pommery Brut Royal NV (£49.75). Neatly cut finger sandwiches are made with various breads – succulent beef and horseradish on white, as well as cucumber (which was a little bland), smoked salmon on squishy brown bread, and Branston pickle on tomato bread. The coronation chicken sandwich was exemplary, with a lightly spiced curry mayo and plump sultanas.
Scones were pleasant and fluffy, but came on the stand with the rest of the sandwiches and cakes – by the time we got to them, they were a little less fresh than desired. Simple strawberry jam and clotted cream came in generous portions. A silky lemon meringue tart was finished with a shiny blow-torched meringue dome; well-spiced Dundee cake came packed with juicy fruit; and the sherry trifle included a fragrant vanilla set custard, topped with a tart, shiny sherry jelly. If you’re still peckish, the smartly dressed staff bring round trays of the tart of the day, on our visit, a large blue cheese and caramelised onion one, with a dark crunchy crust.
Available from: The Wolseley
Price: Cream tea £16.75, classic afternoon tea from £36.75pp, champagne afternoon tea £49.75pp
Address: 160 Piccadilly, St James’s London, W1J 9EB
The Rosebery Lounge at Mandarin Oriental, London SW1
Afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is taken in The Rosebery Lounge, a grand yet unstuffy dining room with high ceilings and a small, stylish bar offering a selection of wines and spirits, including Chêne Bleu Domaine De la Verrière rosé, Goose Island IPA and Hendrick’s gin. Speckled antique mirrors and contemporary abstract art line the walls, and individual metal coat stands (tree-like) are brought to intimate, low, dark-wood tables. Elegant chandeliers and large windows facing onto Knightsbridge high street make the lounge bright, and a rose and ginger scent infuses throughout the room.
We were greeted by a friendly and informative waiter who explained the options available: beer afternoon tea, teamaster’s choice, sake (read our guide to sake here) afternoon tea, mini afternoon tea (for children under 12) or traditional champagne afternoon tea. We opted for the latter, which came with R de Ruinart rosé champagne and R de Ruinart white champagne, both smooth, chilled and crisp, the rosé leaving slight floral notes after each sip.
Available from: The Rosebery Lounge
Price: Traditional afternoon tea £68pp, extra supplement for champagne, beer or sake pairings
Address: 66 Knightsbridge Green, London, SW1X 7LA
Click here to read our full review of afternoon tea at The Rosebery Lounge, Mandarin Oriental
The Landmark London, NW1
Towering palm trees, giant orchids and an elaborate glass roof – you may mistake the Winter Garden atrium at The Landmark London for a luxury hotel in Dubai. But comfortable armchairs, soft lighting and crisp white tablecloths brings a bit of British to the table, and helps provide the perfect setting for an afternoon tea.
Adding to the elegance of it all, the William Edwards chinaware is adorned with an elaborate gold pattern and trim and the teapots are kept on a beautiful bespoke stand next to the table. The Landmark London has a variety of special blend teas – the Landmark Blend has a subtle sweet hint of Bourbon vanilla, while the Winter Garden Blend is a more traditional and aromatic afternoon tea blend (we highly recommend both)…
Available from: The Landmark London
Price: High Palms Afternoon Tea £59pp, Champagne Afternoon Tea £69pp
Address: 222 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 6JQ
Click here to read our full review of afternoon tea at The Landmark London
Thames Foyer at The Savoy, London W1
The Thames Foyer room at The Savoy is the perfect setting for afternoon tea. A glass-domed ceiling floods the room with natural light and an impressive gazebo encasing a stone fountain full of pink flowers and greenery takes centre stage, to form an elegant winter garden. Start with a glass of Champagne – rich Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV with a long finish, or step up and with a coppery pink Moet & Chandon Rose NV with zesty, wild strawberry notes. The extensive tea menu can be overwhelming, but the waiters are on hand to guide you to the best blend for you.
The Savoy Afternoon Blend combines Ceylon and Darjeeling in a crisp, refreshing tea with a hint of citrus. For something a bit different, though, try white peony & rose – a pretty brew of white tea buds and leaf with whole rose buds that add a subtle hint of fragrant Turkish delight. Lemon verbena with whole leaves is aromatic, with lemon zest pungency and mint-like freshness.
Available from: The Savoy
Price: Traditional afternoon tea £65pp
Address: The Savoy, Strand, WC2R 0EZ London, United Kingdom
Click here to read our full review of afternoon tea at The Savoy
Best modern afternoon teas in London
Sketch, London W1
Aside from the other-worldly surroundings, the highlight of afternoon tea at Sketch has to be the tea itself. Waitresses scoot golden tea trollies around the room, each one stacked with glass jars of aromatic loose leaf teas – there are at least 40 to pick from, including whole rosebud, matcha, white peony and Taiwan red jade. Feel free to sniff before you choose, and refills are complimentary.
Sketch’s new caviar afternoon tea begins, as expected, with a spoon of rich, creamy Oscietra caviar (from Russian sturgeon) – vegetarians get little pearls of cold cauliflower as a clever substitute. Even more enjoyable was the accompanying take on boiled egg and soldiers: a 63 degrees egg yolk nestled inside a deeply flavoursome ‘egg white’ made from comté cheese mornay. Utterly indulgent, and one of the most exciting, innovative ways to kick off an afternoon tea that we’ve ever seen…
Available from: Sketch
Price: Classic afternoon tea £75pp, champagne afternoon tea from £89pp, children’s afternoon tea £45pp.
Address: 9 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XG
Click here to read two reviews of afternoon tea at Sketch (classic afternoon tea and caviar afternoon tea)
The Kensington, London SW7
If you’ve been to a few afternoon teas and are bored of the familiar flavours of sandwiches, then The Kensington hotel afternoon tea could be for you. The ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ tea is inspired by the character Phileas Fogg and his attempt to travel the globe. Although the tea itself takes place in the rather sedate hotel lounge, the aim is to transport you through the food.
Sandwiches, an extra savoury course and the patisserie are inspired by London, Rome, Paris and Cairo – from a warm mini beef pie to a classic Italian tiramisu, with falafel, hummus sandwiches and much more along the way. Opt for the additional glass of champagne, take your pick of teas from The Rare Tea Company, sink into the dangerously comfy armchairs and spend a few hours snacking your way round the globe.
Available from: The Kensington
Price: from £58pp, £76pp with a glass of Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut
Address: The Kensington, 109-113 Queen’s Gate, South Kensington, London SW7 5LP
Cake & Bubbles by Albert Adria, Cafe Royal, London W1B
Cake & Bubbles is a dessert and champagne experience designed by multi-award-winning pastry chef Albert Adria. Located at the Hotel Café Royal in London, Adria has created a spectacle of sweet sensations, offered alongside a carefully curated selection of champagne and sparkling wine. Born out of Adria’s desire to open a dessert-only venue, the Sweet Afternoon Bubbles menu comprises three sweet courses, with an optional glass of (highly recommended) N.V. Venue Clicquot Brut. Upon arrival of the first course, beautifully presented on a golden embossed cake stand, Adria’s deep passion for delicate confections is clear. We were guided through the experience by friendly staff, starting from the bottom tier with baklava pistachio pillows that were light as air and a passion fruit crème with a touch of burnt caramel to balance the flavours. By far, the highlight of the menu was the ‘cheese cake’, a twist on traditional cheesecake, using sharp Baron Bigod cheese, enveloped in sweet white chocolate with hazelnut – an absolute must-try for cheese and cake lovers alike.
Available from: Cakes & Bubbles
Price: Sweet Afternoon Bubbles menu £45pp (with a glass of N. V. Venue Clicquot Brut £60pp)
Address: 70 Regent St., London, W1B 4DY
The Park Tower, Knightsbridge
Relatively new to the afternoon tea scene, The Park Tower Knightsbridge has partnered with Chantal Coady, who founded the luxury chocolate brand Rococo Chocolates, to create an afternoon tea experience for chocolate lovers – which also supports cocoa farmers in Grenada. The winter menu, which is served in its elegant lounge, features savoury treats like slow-poached chicken and herb pancakes, using thyme from the on-site herb garden, a quiche of wild mushroom with bitter chocolate and tarragon mayo, and a flourless lobster muffin with zingy beetroot ketchup. The star is, perhaps, the vibrant chocolate brownie pyramids with juniper mousse, but the mini Bramley apple and cinnamon tarts and Jaffa-like orange & dark chocolate cupcakes with homemade marmalade are equally delicious, too.
Available from: The Park Tower Knightsbridge
Price: Chocolate afternoon tea from £39 per person, champagne tea £59. £20 each for children.
Address: 101 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7RN
Book the chocolate afternoon tea here.
Sri Lankan Tea at Lyaness, Southbank
Ryan Chetiyawardana (My Lyan) was inspired by his memories of afternoon tea in his parents’ hometown of Galle in Sri Lanka for this delicious high tea at Lyaness, his sleek cocktail bar at Sea Containers hotel in Southbank.
All the classic components of an afternoon tea are present – from sarnies to patisserie – and celebrate Sri Lankan flavours, dishes and ingredients. Teas come courtesy of Rare Tea Co, sourced from Sri Lankan suppliers.
Savoury highlights include sandwiches of chicken kukul mas (a classic Sri Lankan chicken curry), meaty mutton croquette, and turmeric devilled eggs, but it’s the sweet section that really shines: the fragrant pandan swiss roll and wattalapam tart (a kind of creamy coconut custard) are especially delicious.
Lyaness offers a cocktail pairing for afternoon tea that’s not to be missed (including non-alcoholic alternatives). The aromatic curry leaf champagne with mango and Bombay Sapphire is aromatic and tropical; a daiquiri gets a delicate lift with coconut water, lime and grapefruit; and the Ceylon milk tea punch with black tea, clarified rice milk, tamarind and vodka is silky smooth.
Available from: Lyaness
Price: Cocktails and tea £63pp; champagne and tea £53pp; boozeless tea £43pp
Address: 20 Upper Ground, Southbank, London SE1 9PD
Number Sixteen, South Kensington, London SW7
As soon as you step through the door of this pristinely manicured mid-Victorian white townhouse, co-owner Kit Kemp’s bold statements make themselves known. Textiles in the suite of drawing rooms range in colour from pistachio and pink to stylish yellow and purple, with unique artwork throughout – a huge wall-mounted birdcage marks the entranceway, books line the walls, and hand painted puppets guard the honesty bar stocked with spirits, wines and bubbles.
The summery selection of sandwiches and cakes offers something a bit different to traditional afternoon tea. Thick-cut honey roasted ham with refreshing dill coleslaw comes on black rye bread; beautiful courgette flowers are coated in a crisp and light tempura; and herbes de provence chicken fills a squishy glazed brioche bun. Pastries are pretty and dainty – a hint of violet adds depth to a creamy lemon-filled choux profiterole, rose cupcakes are subtly floral and the silky raspberry pannacotta provides a pleasantly tart finish.
Available from: Number Sixteen
Price: Traditional afternoon tea £40pp, champagne afternoon tea £52pp
Address: 16 Sumner Place, London, SW7 3EG
TING at Shangri-La Hotel, The Shard, London SE1
If you delight in all things traditional, then afternoon tea at London’s TING is not for you. But if you’re open-minded, enjoy Asian food and would prefer to gaze across a sparkling city rather than a Victorian dining room, then you can’t get much better than TING at Shangri-La hotel, one of six restaurants in The Shard.
Initial impressions of TING (on level 35) are magnificent: the lift doors open onto a spectacular and uninterrupted panorama of London, dominated at first by St Paul’s Cathedral. Low tables and armchairs are sensibly arranged to soak up as much of the view as possible – we took three hours over our afternoon tea, so unique was the experience…
Available from: TING at Shangri-La
Price: Afternoon tea £69pp, champagne afternoon tea from £79pp
Address: Shangri-La Hotel At The Shard, 31, St Thomas Street, London, SE1 9QU
Click here to read our full review of afternoon tea at Ting
The Ampersand Hotel, Science afternoon tea, London SW7
Just a stone’s throw from the Science and Natural History museums in South Kensington, it’s easy to see where The Ampersand got their inspiration from for this whacky afternoon tea – the perfect treat for budding scientists.
The room we take tea in is part English drawing room, part French tea salon, and comes adorned with comfortable sofas. As for the food, everything is made in-house – there’s a meticulously decorated raspberry cake planet with a white chocolate planetary ring, and moreish hazelnut and chocolate cake with a sharp mango mousse volcano. There are also chocolate dinosaurs and a citrus cocktail served in a laboratory beaker, to add to the Dr Jekyll experience. Portions are generous too, very welcome after a morning spent museum-hopping…
Available from: The Ampersand Hotel
Price: Science afternoon tea £49.50pp, with champagne from £59.50, (vegetarian options available)
Address: 10 Harrington Road, London, SW7 3ER
Click here to read our full review of afternoon tea at The Ampersand
Aquavit Nordic afternoon tea, London SW1
Stockholm’s Martin Brudnizki has managed to create an intimate yet opulent feel to the high-ceilinged space using timber-paneled walls, polished brass, blue and burnt-orange leather seats and striking emerald green wall hangings.
We began with a selection of Swedish smørrebrød served on crisp sunflower-seed-studded rye bread baked at 6am that morning. Picture-perfect toppings for the open rye sandwiches included gravlax tartare, intense liver pâté and delicate venison tartare served with lovage. Shrimp skagen was a highlight, the Nordic version of prawn cocktail with punchy horseradish and dill mayonnaise covering plump little shrimp, topped with salmon roe. Fika, the Swedish tradition of taking time out for coffee and pastries, is still rife in Sweden and Finland, and Aquavit has tapped into this idea for the sweet round of its afternoon tea. Where traditional English afternoon teas serve scones, Aquavit keeps it Nordic with semla buns – mini dough balls filled with almond and cardamom paste, and whipped cream.
Available from: Aquavit
Price: The Fika afternoon tea £25pp, champagne Fika £37pp, the Aquavit afternoon tea £65pp
Address: St James’s Market, 1 Carlton Street, London SW1Y 4QQ
Click here to read our full review of Nordic afternoon tea at Aquavit
OXO Tower, London SE1
OXO Tower Wharf is one of London’s most famous landmarks, noted for its iconic branded windows and sky-high restaurants. It’s hard to find the entrance if you’ve never been before – head to the pavilion in the middle of the building, then catch the lift up to the 8th floor, for the restaurant. Enjoy stunning views on your way to your table, that stretch all the way from Waterloo Bridge to St Paul’s Cathedral.
The atmosphere is considerably formal – think leather seats and slate tables with crisp ironed white tablecloths, and a slanting glass roof to make the most of those beautiful views. Afternoon tea menus are carefully explained and although the selection of sandwiches and cakes seems endless, portions here are dainty so it’s possible to try everything.
Available from: OXO Tower Wharf
Price: Traditional afternoon tea £45pp, champagne afternoon tea from £57.50pp
Address: OXO Tower Wharf, Barge House Street, South Bank, London, SE1 9PH
Click here to read our full review of afternoon tea at OXO Tower
Chai afternoon tea, Cinnamon Bazaar
One of the best afternoon teas in London for savoury palates is the high chai tea at Cinnamon Bazaar. It doesn’t have the glitz and glamour of The Savoy, but it’s comfortable enough and the service is friendly. The menu puts a unique Indian-inspired view on afternoon tea, inspired by chef Vivek Singh’s roots in Kolkata, completely transforming it into something new. The tea is divided into chaats, nibbles (including a fish finger sandwich and chicken spring roll) and sweets. It makes a tempting change from finger sandwiches and scones and you’re sure to find a new favourite dish.
Available from: Cinnamon Bazaar
Price: Chai afternoon tea for two £27.50
Adress: 28 Maiden Ln, London WC2E 7JS
Still in the mood for cakes? Check out our best ever afternoon tea recipes now, and create your own feast at home…
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