There’s a popular English song dating back to the 1940’s: ‘Everything stops for Tea’ (full lyrics) – to which we say, so it should. The tradition of Afternoon Tea of ‘Cream Tea’ is characteristically English with its formality and ritual, which in its simplest form includes freshly brewed tea, sandwiches, sweet and or savoury scones, cream and cake. Cream, and lots of it, is the common theme and there are many delicious variations available in the delivery and detail. However, the occasion does require some preparation (skipping lunch is a good idea) and planning, advance booking is recommended and a smart or specific dress code may apply at some establishments.
Below are some suggestions of where to sample the best traditional Afternoon Teas as well as some quirky alternatives:
The Goring, Sloane Street, W1 – winner of the UK Tea Guild’s Top London Afternoon Tea Award 2013 and the ‘Granddaddy’ of afternoon tea. Old-school British service at its best, the menu changes with the seasons and best of all, if you don’t manage to clear every plate, there’s a stylish doggy bag to take home for supper.
Cost: from £42.50 (excluding VAT), served daily from 3.00 – 4.00pm, children welcome
The Ritz, Piccadilly – we have the ‘Granddaddy’ (above), so Tea at The Ritz has to be the ‘Grandmother’. Since 1906 afternoon tea has been serviced in the hotel’s elegant Palm Court to musical accompaniment by a pianist or a harpist. Service is formal and seamless, the company polite and gentlemen are required to wear jacket and tie. It’s a very popular destination with five sittings every day at 11.30am, 1.30pm, 3.30pm, 5.30pm and 7.30pm. Booking at least four weeks in advance is essential.
Cost: £47, or £59 for a champagne Afternoon Tea https://www.theritzlondon.com
The Georgian Tea Room on the 4th floor has recently been refurbished to restore the restaurant to its former glory. Look out for the Art Deco skylight, originally installed in 1928, the carved wood silver leaf panels and mosaic. As you would expect it’s an opulent and popular destination where a dress code applies (check website).
Cost: from £39.50
Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly
For over 300 years Fortnum and Mason have been sourcing and selling teas from around the world which have resulted in many royal connections. Formal Afternoon Tea was first served in 1926 and The Queen officially opened The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon (on the fourth floor) in 2012. Afternoon Tea is served with all the traditions alongside a range of teas to choose from, all selected by Fortnum’s tea taster or ‘Tearistas’.
Monday to Saturday 12am – 7pm, Sunday’s 12am – 6pm. Large parties welcome.
Cost: from £40
The Balcon, 8 Pall Mall, SW1
Minutes from St James’s Park and Buckingham Palace, The Balcon, combines traditional British elegances with Parisian grand brasserie. Afternoon Team is served daily in The Rose Lounge from 2.30 – 5.30pm
Cost: from £30 http://www.thebalconlondon.com
Sketch Gallery, Conduit St, W1
High fashion, high style and very pink. Close to Bond Street and Regent Street, Sketch Gallery serves homemade Afternoon Tea with unique style.
Cost: £39 per person https://sketch.london/afternoon_tea.php
Buddha Bar Restaurant, Knightsbridge
An Asian-inspired take on the traditions of Afternoon Tea, the menu includes duck Hoisin steam bun sandwich, Vietnamese summer rolls and Green tea cheese cake. The décor is a colonial style in a Zen-like, less formal setting. Close to Hyde Park and Knightsbridge tube station.
Cost: £25.00 per person. Available daily 12:00 – 17:00 http://www.buddhabarlondon.com/menu
Afternoon Tea is such a popular occasion and event, especially in London, that there is even a dedicated website which includes news, offers and information on all things tea related. https://afternoontea.co.uk