Afternoon tea at one of London’s top hotels or restaurants is a luxurious and extravagant affair. It is not just tea and cake, but a lavish setting with exquisite service and the finest china, often accompanied by live music. Traditional afternoon tea in a swanky venue is a real delight, but booking is essential and smart dress codes may apply.
The poshest of the posh…
Tea at The Ritz is nothing less than an institution. It has become so popular that there are now five sittings every day at 11.30 am, 1.30 pm, 3.30 pm, 5.30 pm and 7.30 pm. Booking at least four weeks in advance is essential. Afternoon tea is served in the elegant Palm Court with music by a pianist or a harpist.
British afternoon tea with a twist is served daily in the Connaught’s Coburg Bar. Choose your favourites from their aromatic collection of loose-leaf teas, and start with a traditional assortment of finger sandwiches, updated with new, unexpected flavours. Follow this with a freshly-baked scone, and then settle in for a plate of classic pastries – all reimagined in exquisite Connaught style. This is the perfect opportunity to wear your favourite frock.
If you’re a fan of fashion, head to the Berkeley’s Caramel Room for the Prêt-à-Portea tea. The éclairs, cakes and fancies are all inspired by the latest fashion collections and are served in miniature mouthfuls for the figure-conscious. Madonna, Gwynneth Paltrow and the Beckhams have all been spotted here.
Traditional afternoon tea is served in The Dorchester’s famous marble and gilt Promenade. Or treat yourself to the Laurent Perrier Rosé Champagne Tea, for something more substantial, opt for the Dorchester High Tea, which is served until 8 pm and is the perfect pre-theatre meal. A note about dress code from the management: ‘The Dorchester dress code is ‘smart casual’ and we respectfully ask guests visiting the hotel to refrain from wearing baseball caps, beanie hats, ripped jeans, sportswear, trainers, flip-flops and shorts in our restaurants and bars.
The Waldorf Hilton
Traditional afternoon tea at the Waldorf Hilton is served daily in Homage Patisserie between 2.30 pm and 5.30 pm. Expect a selection of finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones, homemade tartlets and other Homage specialties. There’s also a champagne option. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Waldorf’s resident harpist plays classic tunes during Afternoon Tea.
Much more informal…
You don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy a delicious afternoon tea in London. There are plenty of memorable and reasonably priced places where you can enjoy tea and cakes in a more relaxed setting.
Louis Patisserie in Hampstead is a real institution. Set up in 1963, the patisserie and tea room has retained a traditional feel, with dark wood furniture and comfy leather seats. Tea comes in a teapot with small, floral cups and saucers. There’s no afternoon tea menu – you simply choose your cake from an enormous tray packed with éclairs, glazed fruit tarts and sumptuous cakes in all shapes and sizes. Address: 32 Heath Street in Hampstead.
Ready for cupcake heaven? The windows of Candy Cakes shops are loaded with amazing colourful cupcakes. Venture inside the cafés in Monmouth Street, Goodge Street or Kingly Court and you can choose from flamboyant cakes like Spider Lovin’, Strawberry Sundae, Techno Mouse, Alphabet City and the Chocolate Flyer. Once you’ve decided on your cake, you can pick from a selection of teas, coffees, smoothies and milkshakes.
Mudchute Kitchen is located in the middle of the 32-acre Mudchute City Farm, a green oasis overlooking Canary Wharf. Wander past the cows and horses and visit the cute animals in Pets’ Corner, then head to the café for tea with freshly made cakes, scones and biscuits. Almost everything is homemade, including the bread, jam and even the ice lollies! Address: Pier Street in London.
Tea is an ultra-modern tea shop near St Paul’s Cathedral, where you can choose from a huge variety of specially sourced and blended teas. Try one of the black teas, oolong teas, green teas, white teas or herbal teas, or opt for one of the super teas, which promise to perk you up or chill you out, depending on your mood. The afternoon tea menu includes sandwiches, freshly-baked fruit scones with jam and cream, and a selection of cakes. Address: 1 Paternoster Square, St. Paul’s Churchyard in London
The Original Maids of Honour
The Maid of Honour cake has been part of Richmond’s history for nearly 300 years. Henry VIII is said to have given the cakes their name when he saw Anne Boleyn and other Maids of Honour eating them from a silver plate. The first Maids of Honour tea shop was set up in Richmond in the early 18th century. Today you can enjoy a Maids of Honour cake as part of the Original Maids of Honour’s afternoon tea menu, which also includes a pot of tea and scones with cream and jam. 288 Kew Road, Kew, Richmond on Thames.
The difference between High Tea and Afternoon Tea
Afternoon Tea is a mini meal that fills the gap between lunch and dinner but it’s rarely vital to one’s survival. It’s a light treat of tea, sandwiches, scones and cake. High Tea, on the other hand, is a necessary meal that includes heartier fare like steak and kidney pie, quiche, cheese and crackers. Nowadays the divisions are becoming blurred, with food such as scones and sponge cakes appearing at both meals.
Full Afternoon Tea is often (but not always) served on a three-tiered tray. Typically, the bottom tier will hold savories (like finger sandwiches) and the higher tiers will hold two types of sweets (like scones and petits fours). It is usually recommended that you begin with the bottom tier and work your way up. (Source the spruce.com and zesterdaily.com)
Tea at the British Museum…
When visiting a museum there is only so much information a traveler can take in at a time. We love the fact that at the British Museum there is an oasis where one can go, enjoy a cup of tea and just relax. The British Museum’s Court Restaurant overlooks the magnificent 19th-century Reading Room. Their afternoon tea menu features sandwiches, scones and cream, and a selection of pastries. There’s also a Champagne Tea, and a Viennese Tea with coffee and traditional Demel chocolate cake. Website: http://www.britishmuseum.org/
A page from Journeywoman’s 2006 travel journal…
It rained our last day in London. Though the light drizzle did not deter us from our morning sightseeing, by the afternoon our toes were cold and we were running out of steam. Suddenly, like a mirage in the distance appeared the Savoy on The Strand.
Opened in 1889 this venerable, grand hotel is still one of ‘the’ addresses in London. It’s posh, posh, posh and every afternoon formal high tea is served in their lush art deco Thames Foyer. At £28 per person ($US49.30/$CAD57.30) it’s definitely a great big splurge and that’s exactly why we chose it. Afternoon tea is a ritual in Britain so why not participate in one of the classiest? After all, history tells us that this is where Noel Coward performed, Caruso sang and Pavlova danced in Cabaret.
The Savoy has an extensive tea menu, including a fine selection of natural and decaffeinated =teas. We were free to test as many types as we liked. A three-tier plate laden with goodies was placed on our table. The lowest level contained a selection of tiny, tasty sandwiches (smoked salmon, stilton and apple, hummus); layer two was filled with tantalizing, miniature cakes and pastries. On the top layer sat a variety of fresh, warm scones accompanied by strawberry jam and thick, heavenly, clotted cream. Formally dressed waiters circled the room ready to refill your goodie supply as requested. Need more smoked salmon? Want more éclairs? Just ask and it was presented with a gracious smile.
Oh my goodness it was wonderful! We never felt rushed and were free to remain and unwind for as long as we wished. With the tinkling of a piano in the background, Marilyn and I surveyed the scene and reminisced about all the fun we’d packed into the last five full days in London. We also calculated how we would spend the extra holiday money we’d saved by skillfully balancing penny-pinching with a few calculated splurges. P.S. Dress code at the Savoy is smart casual attire. We wore pants and a turtleneck and that was adequate.