Whether descending upon London’s warren of wedding dress boutiques with family or friends, or perusing its antiques shops for engagement rings, a quintessentially British afternoon tea is the ultimate way to round off a good day’s work. From superlative pastries under Art-Deco chandeliers to scones bearing her Majesty the Queen’s silhouette on exquisite china, here’s where to go for the best afternoon tea in London.
The Goring, Belgravia, Jubilee Afternoon Tea
By Rosalyn Wikeley, Travel Editor-At-Large
A masterpiece in relaxed formality, The Goring values good manners and good humour in equal measure, softening its wallpaper-sconce-gilt-mirror character with a welcoming family townhouse sensibility. Naturally, the resplendent, Belgravia hotel’s afternoon tea embodies all romantic notions of English etiquette and eccentricities – best evidenced by the sweet and savoury ode to Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Its sun-doused Veranda (envisage a Victoriana glasshouse where quirky folk once experimented with exotic plants) sets the stage for a truly theatrical affair of fantastical cakes and classic sandwiches. And its classic to the core: smoked salmon and capers, beef and horseradish, egg cress and cucumber fill slithers of fluffy bread (the sort you’d imagine fuel a Buckingham Palace garden party). The sugar rush arrives in typical teacake and summer pudding form: expect pretty lemon posset and Her Majesty’s Royal fruit cake and scones, along with few French fancies (macarons, pear and caramel choux) which we’re sure Her Majesty would approve of. Washed down with fine-leaf teas plucked from an extensive menu, or a cool glass of Bollinger, and this is the perfect expression of the fabled English Afternoon tea, just without the stuffy carpets and tourists. Rosalyn Wikeley
When: Monday – Friday 3.30pm, 4pm and 4.30pm in The Veranda; Saturday 1pm – 4pm in The Dining Room; Sunday 1pm – 4pm in The Veranda
Price: Traditional Afternoon Tea: £60 // Bollinger Afternoon Tea: £70 // Rosé Bollinger Afternoon Tea: £75).
Available: 19th April to 1st September
By Serena Knight, Lifestyle Director
For 150 years, this Mayfair legend has been serving the gold standard of afternoon teas in its Art-Deco inspired foyer, a space that oozes elegance. Together, a dazzling chandelier, original Art-Deco mirrors and tinkling of the grand piano keys transport guests to an age of unfettered glamour. Tables are meticulously arranged with Claridge’s signature mint green and white strips cups and saucers. Brews pair exceedingly well with a selection of traditional sandwiches; think smoked Scottish salmon with lemon cream and sorel on rye bread, and succulent breast of Norfolk chicken with just the right amount of tarragon mayonnaise. A second tea is recommended for the freshly baked scones with jam with lashings of Cornish clotted cream. The light and fluffy Pistachio and hibiscus choux and bite size lemon tart both wash down well with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne. Here’s to another 150 years of Claridge’s exquisite afternoon tea – truly one of London’s most memorable experiences.
Traditional Afternoon Tea £75
Traditional Afternoon Tea with a glass of Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée Brut £85
Timing: Afternoon Tea is served daily between 2.45 – 5.30pm
Bulgari Hotel London, Knightsbridge, The Italian Afternoon Tea
By Kendra Leaver-Rylah, Co-Founder & Editor
There are very few places that can reinvent the traditional afternoon tea and still make it feel as English as ever. This summer the Bulgari Lounge celebrated Bulgari’s heritage with a menu as lavish as the interiors with the perfect fusion of afternoon-tea classics and Italian favourites. To start on patterned porcelain Richard Ginori tableware, enjoy healthy-tasting Amuse Bouche with a Berry and Hibiscus Canton Tea. Flutes of Champagne then arrive with Italian delicacies from Bassano white asparagus, burrata, Umbrian truffle, zesty Amalfi lemon bread, and stracchino focaccia to bruschetta. The pretty pastries are as indulgent as they sound – picture soft Florence Millot chocolate and Tuscan wood roasted peanut cake, millefoglie of Ispica sesame seeds, vanilla cream and Amarena Cherry gel. Then it’s onto perfectly baked scones slathered with clotted cream and a dollop of raspberry jam from a gorgeous little bespoke Bulgari cart. The vibe in the lounge is also very fun making it all too easy to let tea turn into evening drinks.
When: Monday – Sunday 2pm- 5pm
Price: Afternoon Tea – £75pp / Champagne Afternoon Tea, served with a glass of Ruinart Brut – £85pp / Cocktail Afternoon Tea, served with a signature Bulgari Cocktail (or Mocktail) – £90pp (£85)For more details visit The Bulgari Lounge online.
The Roseberry at the Mandarin Oriental
The shared ritual of tea, despite its various iterations across cultures, is cleverly explored at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. The east-meets-west theme at the Mandarin Oriental’s Roseberry room blends the group’s roots with the building’s Victorian heritage: Lychee Rose Noir with smoked salmon sandwiches or Lapsang Souchong with Yuzu cheesecake. Perhaps the most successful cultural combo is the sashimi shaped sandwiches, which promise more filling of elevated classics such as egg and truffle or beef and horseradish and less bread – a winning (and considerably less crusty) formula.
Glasses of Moet & Chandon and Ruinart pair exceptionally well with both courses, much like the loud modern art and a contemporary light installation perking up a traditional, powder-blue room. Try the Choco Vanilla canton tea with notes of medjool dates and cocoa nibs, and don’t miss the small, but perfectly-formed, scones at the very top of the cake stand suspended rather theatrically from a bronze branch.
Summer Afternoon Tea: £63
Afternoon Tea with Ruinart Blanc de Blancs: £79
The Biltmore, Mayfair
By Rosalyn Wikeley, Travel Editor-At-Large
Conscious that all quintessentially English afternoon teas should draw in the best of British ingredients, the lavishly dressed Biltmore Mayfair has sourced its delicious sandwich fillings, creams and berries from top-notch producers. We’d expect nothing less from eminent chef, Jason Atherton, who’s renowned for placing provenance high on the agenda. Perfect slices of soft white bread are stuffed with creative spins on classics: Hereford beef brisket, heritage tomato and basil pesto, cucumber with black truffle. All arrive in elaborate silver-service fashion, along with the teas (whose menu takes punters on a journey to the world’s best tea destinations, from China to South Africa). ‘Try the Sri Lankan lemongrass’ – the waiters are always happy to impart their tea wisdom. Marie Antoinette would approve of the pastel puddings wobbling on floral layered plates – expect the likes of Champagne and passion fruit cheesecake and caramelised Yorkshire rhubarb and custard tart. But what the crowd really came for are the warm fruit scones, lathered in Cornish clotted cream and jam, then washed down with Moët & Chandon Imperial Champagne (a welcome French addition to an otherwise ever-so-English affair).
Afternoon Tea is served Friday – Sunday from 12:30pm to 5:30pm
The Connaught, Mayfair
By Serena Knight, Lifestyle Director
It’s easy to while away a full afternoon in the stylish, red-bricked neighbourhood surrounding Carlos Place, and afternoon tea at The Connaught is the perfect way to round things off. As one of the city’s top luxury hotels, The Connaught has refined its afternoon tea game in the newly refurbished Jean-Georges. With its classic-yet-unstuffy elegance and laid-back approach to haute hotel stays, there are few spots like it. Sandwiches are a refined riff on classic British picnic fare: coronation chicken, beef and horseradish and just the exquisite egg mayonnaise (the ultimate afternoon tea litmus test). The patisserie stand is the real star of the show and is down to the sweet mastery of pastry chef Nicolas Rouzaud and his team. Highlights included the ‘Rocher’ stuffed with a hazelnut praline centre and coated in nutty milk chocolate, light and airy raspberry pavlova, and lemon and poppy seed cake with white chocolate and cherry jam. Try and grab yourself a table in the conservatory. The light filters through the stained-glass windows and it’s a great people watching spot to boot.
Afternoon Tea £70
Afternoon Tea with a glass of Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée Brut £80
Timing: Afternoon Tea is served daily between 2.30 – 4.45pm