We’ve tried and tested London’s best afternoon teas; from fairy tale-inspired food to cake and cocktail pairings, expect the best of British with a twist…
By Annabel Fuller, Victoria Peake, Zoë Delmer-Best, Abbie Schofield & Ellie Moss
Afternoon tea is a classic British past time. It was invented around 1840 when Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, would become hungry at four o’clock and request a tray of tea with bread and butter. Since then, the tradition has evolved into a more extravagant affair, usually beginning with a glass of champagne before a steaming pot of perfectly brewed tea is served, along with beautifully presented mini sandwiches and patisserie. Some of London’s most iconic restaurants and hotels serve this indulgent mid-afternoon treat, appealing to tourists and Brits alike. The Absolutely team has tried and tested dozens of afternoon teas across the capital — here are the ones worth trying.
The best afternoon teas in London
Aqua Shard’s Peter Pan-inspired afternoon tea will transport you to Neverland with nostalgic sweets and savouries, served on a tea stand inspired by the grand pirate ship the Jolly Roger. With an unbeatable view over the city, enjoy the likes of the Tinker Bell Cookie sprinkled with gold fairy dust and Tick-Tock the Crocodile, a raspberry and rooibos jelly. There’s also a selection of teas including the Wendy Darling, a black tea infused with rose and vanilla, or diners can opt for champagne.
From £52 per person, aquashard.co.uk
Brasserie of Light
The Brasserie of Light is known for its theatrical and quirky afternoon teas, and the Pegasus afternoon tea is no different. Spectacularly presented on a huge round tray topped with a mini Pegasus, it features savoury and sweet treats such as smoked salmon and deliciously light cream cheese on rye bread and passionfruit butterfly meringue, plus a selection of teas and coffees.
From £35 per person, brasserie-of-light.co.uk
Great Scotland Yard Hotel
Great Scotland Yard Hotel draws upon Britain’s explorative past, putting a spin on the traditional notion of afternoon tea through the use of exotic spices and aromas. Make sure to try the pecan and cardamom apple tart, coronation pate en croute and the vast array of teas, ranging from the complex and fruity Sunset Oolong to the more vegetal and slightly roasty Long Jing. The Parlour at Great Scotland Yard Hotel invites guests into a world of opulence and old-world grandeur, a setting perfect for indulging in delectable treats and delicate savouries which experiment with flavours from across the globe.
From £55 per person, hyatt.com
Time Stops Here at Hilton London Paddington
Situated near the hectic clamour of Paddington station Time Stops Here @ 146 makes the ideal oasis for any weary traveller who needs some time to replenish and reset. Surrounded by plush seating and stylish flower walls, guests are treated to a generous spread of savoury snacks, scones and sweet treats. Featuring the purest tea from Hope & Glory (also available in cocktail form) and delectable chocolates from Maison Pierre Marcolini, this is an occasion for self-indulgence.
£29 per person; hilton.com
Enjoy a tea fit for royalty at Brown’s. The English Tea Room of the iconic hotel is renowned for being a favourite with Queen Victoria and offers a traditional high tea with 17 teas, a selection of succulent finger sandwiches, an assortment of delicate pastries, fruit and plain scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve. It’s best enjoyed with a glass of chilled Ruinart champagne.
From £55 per person; roccofortehotels.com
Crown Jewels Afternoon Tea
Overlooking the Tower of London, Rotunda at Ten Trinity Square hosts an afternoon tea that celebrates the most visited artefacts in Britain: the Crown Jewels. Made with the country’s finest produce, the menu features classic British sandwiches including egg mayonnaise with truffle oil, coronation chicken and minted cucumber. Sweets include a Griotte Amarena cherry and liquorice macaron topped with a silver jewel and a single-origin Madagascan Manjari chocolate tart with Sansho berry and fresh raspberries, topped with gold leaf.
From £35 per person; fourseasons.com
What’s the Tea? at W London
For a playful and fabulously-fun affair, The Perception Bar at W London has launched its glitter-filled ‘What’s The Tea?’ inspired by the decadent world of drag. The bold offering is presented in a vibrant pink cosmetics case with runway-ready sandwiches and a selection of edible cosmetics and brightly-bejewelled cakes.
From £39 per person; theperceptionbar.com
Spirited Tea at Lyaness
An abundance of natural light floods the ground floor space at Sea Containers London, home to Lyaness, with iconic views of the Southbank and the River Thames. Lyaness’ Spirited Tea begins with a pineapple and gin-based welcome drink before moving on to a selection of quirky teas including refreshing lemongrass and warming chocolate. A tiered plate is presented, laden with afternoon tea classics with a twist, such as pickled cucumber sandwiches and caramelised banana & chocolate éclairs. Lyaness is the brainchild of renowned mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana (or Mr Lyan) and you can enjoy his creative cocktail pairings while you munch your mini treats.
Cocktails and afternoon tea, £55; lyaness.com
Palm Court at Kimpton Fitzroy London
Palm Court at Kimpton Fitzroy London’s afternoon tea has more daring food options than your usual cucumber sandwiches. Think Native lobster, avocado, marie rose sauce in a brioche roll and delectable patisserie such as red berries, rose and lychee layered cake. Enjoy with a cold glass of Tattinger Brut Réserve for extra indulgence.
From £30 per person; palmcourt.london
Royal Tea at The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences
The luxurious afternoon tea at Mayfair’s 5-star Athenaeum Hotel & Residences features delicious scones accompanied with Tiptree strawberry jam and lemon curd, and a pastry selection which includes Valrhona chocolate and almond opera cake, blood orange macarons and Manjari chocolate and salted caramel tart. Deliciously light sandwiches are filled with Galvin cure smoked salmon and Cumbrian beef with Coleman’s horseradish on onion bread.
From £39 per person; athenaeumhotel.com
Indian Afternoon Tea at Cinnamon Bazaar
Vivek Singh and Great British Bake Off star, Tamal Ray, have come together to create a modern, Indian-inspired take on the quintessential classic afternoon tea. The bespoke menu brings fire and spice to the traditional tea-time spread and is inspired by the duo’s shared family roots in Kolkata, West Bengal. During September, Cinnamon Bazaar is serving Unlimited Afternoon Tea where guests can order as much as they like. Dishes include a Kolkata fish finger sandwich with tomato chutney cooked in turmeric, chilli and mustard oil, and pistachio cake with rose meringue and steamed Bengali yoghurt with mango curd.
Lebanese and Moroccan Afternoon Tea
Mamounia Lounge, the Middle Eastern restaurant and cocktail bar in the heart of Knightsbridge, is giving the traditional afternoon tea an Arabic makeover with its Lebanese and Moroccan Afternoon Tea menu. Created by Head Chef Thamer Darwish, the afternoon tea pays homage to the ingredients and flavour combinations used in authentic Arabic cooking, featuring a selection of mini wraps, savoury and sweet hand-made pastries and authentic Moroccan tea. Plus, it’s 100% halal.
From £20 per person; mamounialounge.com
High Palms High Tea at The Landmark
For something truly traditional, The Landmark London offers a delicious afternoon tea served beneath the elegant high palms of the famous Winter Garden Restaurant. It comprises an irresistible assortment of delicacies, delicate finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones served with rich Cornish clotted cream and delicious preserves, along with a selection of crafted cakes and pastries.
From £52 per person; landmarklondon.co.uk
The Corinthia’s elegant afternoon tea is one for a special occasion. Listen to the resident pianist while you sit in the stunning lounge and sip a glass of Laurent Perrier. Taste an innovative selection of sandwiches, including an exquisite crab choux bun, before scones are served with clotted cream and jam. The cakes are as visually breathtaking as they are delicious, with an array of fruit and chocolate-based patisserie to please every palette, not forgetting the incredible dessert cart which is wheeled out for you to choose even more delights. Plus there are dozens of tea blends to try, from lychee & rose to classic darjeeling.
From £55 per person; corinthia.com
London Secret Garden
The team at the London Secret Garden has created a Classical Afternoon Tea with seven varieties of tea to choose from, from the standard English Breakfast to the fruity Persian Pomegranate. A selection of sandwiches, scones and cakes are served, such as Wiltshire smoked ham and spiced tomato chutney on rye bread and pistachio and white chocolate cake.
From £35 per person; londonsecretgarden.co.uk
Picasso Art at the Rosewood
In celebration of artist Pablo Picasso, The Rosewood has launched a beautiful new afternoon tea which takes inspiration from his work to create gorgeous artistic pastries. Make sure to savour these carefully-crafted treats, which include a Valrhona Jivara chocolate mousse with orange genoise and mango jelly amongst other sweets and savouries, all of which pay homage to Picasso’s heritage and art.
From £65 per person; rosewoodhotels.com
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