This centuries-old tradition of afternoon tea is a wonderful treat at some of London's top hotels and emporiums. 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. It 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…..enjoy!
Named the Tea Guild’s Best Afternoon Tea on several occasions, 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. 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. If you want to join the ranks of princes, politicians and personalities, this is the only place to sup afternoon tea.
Served in the famous marble and gold Promenade entrance lounge of The Dorchester, diners can chose to indulge in either a Traditional, Champagne or High Tea before drinking in the extravagance of the lavish setting. 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. It is a perfect place 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.
Tea at The Ritz has to be the London equivalent of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. 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. 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. Early booking as far in advance as 12 weeks for weekends is essential.
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. 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 sneaky tea time cocktail.
There’s a long tradition of taking tea at the Langham Hotel and afternoon Tea has been sipped here since the mid-19th century. Following a lavish refurbishment, this landmark hotel serves up tea, once again, at the Palm Court restaurant. Lavish is an appropriate word as you enjoy your tea and cake in sumptuous crystal chandelier lit surroundings, perched on plush velvet seats. There are over 30 blends of tea to choose from but if you are looking for more than tea, Champagne Hour runs from roughly 7-8pm. The transition from day to evening is marked with candle light and the discrete pop of corks with over 40 Champagnes by the glass featured. Utterly decadent and delightful with prices to match.
There is no better place to enjoy this wonderful English tradition than at The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon in the world renowned department store Fortnum and Mason. During the 1700’s Fortnum and Mason made a name for itself by selling rare teas and spices, not available anywhere else, much like today. The store offers a wide variety of luxury goods, but is possibly best known for its luxury food hall with rare delicacies and teas. The best place to sample traditional Afternoon Tea must be The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. You will be treated to a fine selection of teas, luxury and traditional sandwiches, pastries and of course a selection of scones with clotted cream and preserves. On March 1st 2012, the refurbished St James’s restaurant was opened by HM the Queen and renamed The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon.
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.
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. 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 colors. 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.
Served in the grand Lobby Lounge, afternoon tea at the Corinthia is a classy affair. The menu focuses on quintessentially British cakes, including Battenberg, Eccles cake and Bakewell tarts. Taking into consideration London’s major events, special seasonal options are also often added, such as floral fancies inspired by the Chelsea Flower Show or couture biscuits in honor 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 always the option to enjoy a glass of Champagne.
It’s impossible not to be wowed with the Royal Opera House afternoon tea even before you’ve laid eyes on the neat little sandwiches. Described as a mini Crystal Palace, the 19th-century Paul Hamlyn Hall could be the world’s most beautiful conservatory. Its neck-straining high-ceilings, Art Deco curves and vast glass windows make the room feel even lighter and brighter than the open air outside. As a tip, go on a day when the skies are particularly blue. Lower your eyes to the table and you’ll find smoke salmon meticulously curled, seashell-like, atop fresh bread, alongside equally dainty sandwiches filled with salt beef, free-range egg and cress and cucumber and cream cheese. Stick to the rulebook when it comes to the most important things, such as the fluffy scones, served with the unforgettable brews of loose leaves teas.