Afternoon Tea is about as quintessentially English as it gets, and establishments across London have cottoned on to the increasing popularity of this quaint, latter day delight. London is positively plastered with hotels and restaurants offering all manner of afternoon teas, from the traditional to the truly remarkable. Whilst there are too many to name here, here’s where to find the best afternoon tea in London to match the desires of differing tastes.
Traditional Afternoon Tea
Most obviously The Ritz, famed for its afternoon tea and an institution in itself, is the top spot for tourists. Offering impeccable food and service served up in the Louis XVI styled French Country House, guests can indulge in the most traditional of menus including Ham Sandwich with Grain Mustard Mayonnaise, Cucumber Sandwich with Cream Cheese, Dill, and Chives, Freshly Baked Raisin and Plain Scones with Cornish Clotted Cream and Strawberry Preserve and An Assortment of Afternoon Tea Pastries and Cakes from £45 per head. Champagne will set you back an extra £12 but if you are looking for the ultimate English afternoon experience you cannot go far wrong here.
Claridge’s similarly rates top in terms of tradition and service, and amid the gentle chatter and clink of china you can enjoy a flawless afternoon of sandwiches, pastries and freshly baked warm raisin and apple scones with clotted cream and spiced jam, alongside a selection of 40 different teas that will leave you reeling from indecision. All of this will set you back between £38-62 which seems pretty reasonable considering, however to sup here of an afternoon involves a three month waiting list, which requires some considerable planning and patience.
However, for a similar price (or less) there are some far quirkier establishments where inspired menus, vibrant decor and raunchy entertainment accompany your cucumber sandwiches. For around the £50 mark meet these feisty offerings…
Unconventional Afternoon Tea
Volupte presents Voluptea, where a sumptuous spread including passion fruit Pavlovas and focaccia drizzled with Roasted Pepper Coulis and topped with Sun-dried Tomatoes entertains your tastebuds, whilst your eyes feast upon a saucy display of cabaret, all in the decadent underground surrounding of Chancery Lane. Combining the traditional nature of afternoon tea with “burlesque beauties, cupcake cuties and sultry songstresses” makes for a truly tasty afternoon treat, particularly for groups looking for some afternoon excitement.
Catering for the rock star clientele, or in their view….Gentlemen, Sanctum Soho has devised the totally original Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea, which laughs heartily in the face of traditionally dainty and delicate menus. Out go the French pastries and in stomp the steak sandwiches, burgers and rabbit pasties with chocolate fudge cake, three different varieties of Jack Daniels and a cigar to top it all off. It takes a mean appetite to polish off all that this eye popping unhealthy spread has to offer so arrive hungry! Or hungover.
Eccentric Afternoon Tea
A number of establishments have caught on to the Mad Hatters Tea Party theme, and whilst some fail to hit the mark, the Mad Hatter Tea at Sanderson Hotel has it spot on. With an Alice in Wonderland décor already in place the setting could not be more appropriate, and popular themes from the original story delight diners with their invention. Whist the food remains highly conventional with cucumber, salmon, ham and egg sandwiches, rainbow colour bread adds surreal delight to the platter. A Strawberry and Cream Mousse arrives with the instruction ‘Eat Me’ and apothecary bottle containing coconut panna cotta on layers of passion fruit commands ‘Drink Me’, inspiring childish delight and a heady reminiscence of Lewis Carroll’s psychedelic tale. Children and adults alike can delight in the experience, and at a mere £35 per head it is not one to be missed.
Sketch is another establishment to run wild with imagination, offering afternoon tea in “surroundings which will enrapture captivate and carry you to a place far away”. Revived and redecorated to look like woodland, they have cultivated a mouth-watering menu to match. Sandwiches include caviar and quail egg, croque monsieur with Comté cheese, and desserts of tapioca pudding with pomegranate coulis, pistachio and champagne jelly fig and red Port tartlet and coconut and white chocolate lollipop leave one drooling unashamedly onto the forest floor. From £34-£54 you certainly get your monies worth in both food and fantasy.
Top offers on Afternoon Tea
There are a number of sites where you can get more for your money including two-for-one offers, discounts and even free flowing champagne! My particular favourite is afternoontea.co.uk, which allows you to sign up for regular newsletters providing a plethora of money off deals. The quality of deals and establishments on offer varies throughout the year, but you will always find a decent selection of central London hotels. The only downside to these deals is that many of the venues whilst reasonable can be a tad unexciting, so do not expect the eccentricity or decadent displays of entertainment that you get paying full price. Nevertheless if you want traditional afternoon tea and value for money you can benefit from the likes of Browns Hotel, Grosvenor House, Montague on the Gardens and Athenaeum Hotel (which recently scooped the 2012 Top London Tea Award from the Tea Guild) amongst others.
Other sources for afternoon tea bargains include voucher websites such as Groupon, Travelzoo, Living Social and Time Out, all of whom drum up the occasional offer and you may find something a little more unique or unusual. Time Out recently offered 45% of at the delightful Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington which fuses French finesse with British cuisine and specialises in an elegant, traditional style afternoon tea in The Drawing Rooms “where the English drawing room meets the ‘salon de thé”, and you can gaze out of Victorian windows and pretend to be in a period drama. Afternoon Tea and Cabaret offers also arise from time to time, although be warned that when it comes to entertainment – you get what you pay for!