Afternoon teas in London

Best afternoon tea in London? Smith’s top 10 rooms with a brew…

Afternoon tea in LondonBest afternoon tea in London? It’s a subject every Londoner will have an opinion on. We’ve selected our favourite London tearooms in honour of the great British things to celebrate today: the Queen’s official birthday and the colourful concominant regal fanfare that was the weekend’s Trooping of the Colour; Jenson Button’s sterling in-the-wet win at the Canadian Grand Prix yesterday; and Andy Murray’s Queens victory (nicely timed for her Maj’s special day today).

Tea at the Ritz, LondonSo let us invite you to share with us that oh-so-British concoction, the traditional afternoon tea: a brew for two, served with a selection of cucumber-filled and strawberry-topped snacks. England expects every man to do his/her duty and comment on their favourite tea spots. So without further ado, here is our pick of the top 10 afternoon teas in London…

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Best afternoon tea in London?THE CLASSIC: Tea at the Ritz

Style Neoclassical, fantastical
Setting Green Parkside

Don jacket + tie/silks + pearls for this lavish London institution: The Ritz’s afternoon tea is served in the opulent Palm Court (pictured above), all gilded gold, heavy curtains, marble pillars and fronded palms. Pull up your butter-yellow chairs and sit down to a traditional spread: 17 types of loose-leaf tea, sandwiches plump with smoked salmon, cucumber, egg, roast ham and cheese, and elegant little sweet treats.

Brown's Hotel afternoon teaDon’t miss… the raisin and apple scones, spread thick with strawberry jam and clotted Devonshire cream.
The bottom line From £40 a person.

Also try: Brown’s Hotel –  first opened in 1837, it claims to be the city’s first hotel. Now, dates are interesting and all that, but the finger food is even better: afternoon tea at Brown’s, £38–£52.50 a person. The Langham bills itself as London’s first ‘grande dame’, and claims its Palm Court hosted London’s original afternoon tea – go along and check out its recent £80m refit while you enjoy a similarly dazzling jewel-inspired Bijoux Tea, £46 a person.

Mad Hatter's tea at the Sanderson hotel, LondonTHE QUINTESSENTIALLY BRITISH: Sanderson

Style Starck contrasts; statement interiors
Setting Off-the-beaten-track Fitzrovia

One of the original London boutique hotels, the Sanderson brought Ian Schrager and Philippe Starck’s idiosyncratic design vision to the capital back in 2000. Equally attention-grabbing, the Sanderson’s Alice in Wonderland-themed Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at Suka adds a pinch of Blumenthal-style weird and wonderful to old-world tradition.

Don’t miss… temperature-changing blueberry lollipops and meltingly delicous chocolate pocket-watches: eat me!
The bottom line Tea, £25 a person. Add prosecco for £6; Pommery, £9.50.

Also try: The Connaught hotel‘s strawberries-and-cream Wimbledon tennis-themed tea in Mayfair is also a winner for us: £35 a person.

Blakes afternoon teaTHE ASIAN-FUSION TEA: Blakes

Style Orient excess
Setting Secluded SW7

Who says afternoon tea has to be British? Blakes hotel’s Oriental take on afternoon tea can be lingered over in the opulent Chinese Room, or the calming Japanese garden. There’s a playful mix of Asian and Anglo touches, including sandwiches served Bento box-style in a clear Perspex cube, and scones accompanied with those British stalwarts: strawberry halves and thick cream.

Don’t miss… The imaginative sandwiches – we heart the beef and chilli horseradish, and the chicken and ginger.
The bottom line Blakes afternoon tea, £19–£26 a person.

Also try: Build your own afternoon tea at Yauatcha, where ravishingly good-looking staff serve equally beautiful pastries and a mind-boggling array of leaf teas. Of course, there’s also plenty of divine dim sum, if you’ve room…

Dean Street Townhouse teaTHE POST-SHOPPING PITSTOP:
Dean Street Townhouse

Style Art-house hideaway
Setting Sociable, sexy Soho

Weary shoppers: put bags down and your feet up at Dean Street Townhouse: this quiet little haven is just minutes from the buzz of Oxford Street, but you’ll forget all about boutiques and bargains when faced with the hotel’s menu. Sandwiches and cakes are served on envy-inducing blue-and-white crockery, and the sous chef is clearly having fun – his little cakes and biscuits are divine.

Don’t miss… The bursting-at-the-seams-with-cream éclairs.
The bottom line Afternoon tea, from £15.75 a person.

Also try See our full tea review here. For a similarly seductive sugar hit, pop into the Soho Hotel, where tea and cakes will set you back £21.50–£35 a head.

Afternoon De-Light at the Metropolitan London hotelTHE HEALTH-CONSCIOUS:
The Metropolitan London

Style Heights of fashion
Setting Park-side Mayfair

With its prime Hyde Park Corner setting, exquisite Japanese food at Nobu and a members’ bar with a big-name waiting list, the Met is a byword for style in the city. Ever leading the charge, the Met has kindly decided to give our waistlines a break with its Afternoon De-Light – complete with no-bread sandwich options and fruit infusions. All the pleasure, none of the guilt…

Don’t miss… the low-cal, high-impact Ultimate Iced Tea and ‘Eco-tinis’.
The bottom line Afternoon De-light, £27 a person.

Also try Combine your tea treats with spa pampering at the Baglioni Hotel in Kensington; spa tea packages start from £125.

Tea at Sketch, LondonTHE ART-TEA TYPE: Sketch

Style Bohemian-luxe parlour
Setting Conduit Street townhouse

Known for its curious interiors, pop-up art shows and fashionable clientele, Sketch is a fantastical dining spot with patisserie to die for. The Parlour’s all-day dining menu includes both set afternoon tea and a creative à la carte collection of sandwiches, cakes and teas, so even the fussiest tea-taker can select the right blend. The tea menu includes a classic Indian chai, cucumber-and-melon flavoured Silver Needle white tea; and vintage puerh tea.

Don’t miss… Sketch’s signature cake collection includes the Liz Taylor (a raspberry macaroon marvel) and a fruity mango éclair.
The bottom line Set menu, £27 a person (tea for two, £52).

Also try Art lovers can take a fabulous French-themed tea after taking a turn around the Wallace Collection‘s Continental paintings, furniture and porcelain, in the beautiful Wallace Restaurant. Parisian tea, from £24.50 a person.

Number Sixteen South Kensington hotelGREEN TEA: The Athenaeum

Style Gardener’s World
Setting Green Green Park

With aptly titled Evergreen Tea – including orange-blossom scones – and Regents Park Honey tea – fêting the efforts of local bees – served in its Garden Room, this is the tea to take your green-fingered family members to.

Don’t miss… The Athenaeum’s own-blended rose-petal tea, or the extremely rare hand-sorted leaves of Keemun Hoa Ya A tea. They even have a Laduree blend, which, we assume, is made for macaroons…
The bottom line Afternoon tea, from £28.50 (speciality teas cost extra)

Also try South Kensington hideaway Number Sixteen has a lovely garden courtyard (pictured above left), a lovely location for an alfresco afternoon feast.

Pret-a-portea at the BerkeleyTEA A LA MODE: The Berkeley

Style Well-heeled and colourful
Setting
Handy for Harvey Nichols

The Berkeley’s now-famously fashionable Prêt-a-Portea takes seasonal cues from the catwalks for its cake colours and designs: S/S 2011’s stylish sources include Miu Miu, Victoria Beckham and former Gucci golden boy Tom Ford.

Don’t miss… your favourite tea pieces: the menu changes every six months, so get the Marc Jacobs-style jumpsuit cake and Roger Vivier ‘belle de nuit’ stilleto biscuits while they’re hot…
The bottom line
Prêt-a-Portea, from £36.50 a person.

Also try Join a sitting for Claridge’s afternoon tea, and chances are you’ll catch style journalists meeting their interviewees and fashion editors catching up over cakes. Make sure you look the part: this is a no-scruff zone and the setting is a beautiful as the people in it.

Wolseley afternoon tea in LondonFOR MR SMITH: The Wolseley

Style Marbled magnificence
Setting Palatial Piccadilly

Real men take tea, too – well, they take savoury snacks with whisky on the side (see below). The Wolseley has the James Bond school of old-fashioned glamour down pat, and service is unerringly excellent, too. Dress the part, boys, and book in advance. To truly feel like James and Q, opt for the champagne tea, and team your nibbles with slender flutes of Pommery Brut Royal NV. The perfect father’s day treat.

Don’t miss The berry-bright home-made jam.
The bottom line Tea at the Wolseley, £21–£29.75 a head.

Also try The Mandeville Hotel, Marylebone, where a largely savoury teatime spread is served with whisky on the side (£26.50 pp).

Afternoon tea at Fortnum & MasonTHE CONNOISSEURS’ CHOICE:
St James’s Restaurant,
Fortnum & Mason

Style Debonair deli
Setting A jump from Jermyn Street

With more than 70 teas on the menu, and savoury snacks inspired by a century of menu archives, this picnic-perfect Piccadilly institution is the go-to choice for gourmet tea-totallers. Excellent staff can guide you through the menu and advise on the most suitable teas to match your finger-sandwiches, canapés, blinis and madeleines.

Don’t miss… the beautiful table settings, with silver tea strainers and trademark aqua-blue porcelain.
The bottom line Fortnum & Mason Classic Afternoon Tea, from £34 a person.

Also try The Dorchester in Mayfair is another high-falutin’ high tea experience – with a huge menu of single estate and tea blends (including a special 80th anniversary one) and views of Nelson’s Column to boot: The Dorchester’s Traditional Afternoon Tea, from £38.50.

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Inspired? Check out our pick of the best boutique hotels in London

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This article was written by

As well as wordsmithing online, in print, in the press and for Smith TV, Lucy Fennings has been a driving force in making the Smith Travel Blog an award-winner. Mr & Mrs Smith's Group Editor cut her travel teeth early; as daughter of a hotel PR, she visited far-flung flophouses from French châteaux to Ethiopian tukuls. After a year in Dubai (working on Emirates Woman magazine and enjoying the kind of dives that require a wetsuit), Lucy went to Glasgow University to study art, literature and whisky. A stint as production editor at Legalease publishing was spent discovering how to be creative with copy about tax, followed quickly by a stint discovering more interesting things across south-east Asia. When Mr & Mrs Smith found her, Lucy was at Harper’s Bazaar, keeping her finger on fashion’s pulse and sharpening her editorial knife on hapless hotel PR copy.

There are 24 comments for this article
  1. Aline at 10:11 am

    The Ritz really is amazing for tea – the (ornate) chocolate box surroundings and refined air… pure theatre! Most importantly their finger sandwiches are incredible. I love this round up!

  2. Kate P at 11:40 am

    Great post! Athenaeum is making me reconsider my Wolseley loyalties… Scones please.

  3. Jo at 11:53 am

    How fat did the tasters get and which one would they roll back to in a heart beat?

  4. teamgloria at 5:41 pm

    quelle divine concept – we love tea – especially at claridges under the portrait of the 1930s beauty in a satin-cut bias dress.

    love your site. such a clever idea and elegantly executed.

    @teamgloria_

  5. Lauren at 5:56 pm

    the Ritz is definitely one of the best in London. my friend told me its a must experience!

  6. Sarah at 6:06 pm

    @Jo
    Well, our clothes still fit, even if they’re a little tight, and we’d roll back to all 10 in a heartbeat/blink of an eye. That said, we loved the cosiness of the Soho Hotel, and we’re already planning a return trip to the Ritz…

  7. Marie Hudson at 8:01 pm

    I didn’t come to appreciate the English tea until after I lived there a couple months. Tea at the Ritz sounds decadent.

  8. Sam at 10:48 am

    Just arrived in London (where I used to live) from the US and not having been here for a while I’m finding the cost of everything – not just having afternoon tea – totally obscene! I used to enjoy tea at Fortum’s and Browns where it was well within the range of the average person pushing the boat out a bit but these days it’s impossible. Makes me very sad.

  9. Lucy Author at 6:39 pm

    Congratulations to Claridge’s, which today scooped top prize in the self-styled ‘Oscars of the Tea World': the Tea Guild’s Top London Afternoon Tea 2011 award. It made it into our ‘Tea à la Mode’ category.

    Other Mr & Mrs Smith afternoon tea picks namechecked by the Tea Guild include Brown’s Hotel, the Athenaeum, the Connaught, the Dorchester, the Langham and the Ritz.

  10. Elise at 12:48 pm

    Have you tried Afternoon tea at Bond & Brook in Fenwicks? FABULOUS (and not going to break the bank-bonus)! :) I do love a ritz afternoon though!

  11. Pingback: Salon de thé Claude « The Fun Fashionable Nostalgista
  12. Maggie at 5:55 pm

    Tried a few but Claridges Afternoon tea is still tops for me.

  13. Josie at 11:19 pm

    If you’re ever in harrow on the hill, try the doll’s house on the hill tearoom. Not as costly as the london hotels afternoon tea but a really homely atmosphere!

  14. Claudia at 6:59 pm

    Ready for another trip to London!!

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  17. Solly at 5:11 pm

    Sanderson price is actually £35 per guest for afternoon tea

  18. Miles at 2:55 pm

    Have you tried the afternoon tea at Tophams Hotel Belgravia, definetly worth a go! The have a great selection to chose from. Good top 10 overall.

  19. Lucy Author at 11:18 am

    We popped into Claridge’s yesterday and spotted Jools Holland tickling the ivories in the beautiful Foyer while London’s style mavens tried to eat cake without getting crumbs on their Christopher Kane. Now *that’s* the kind of piano accompaniment we like with our afternoon tea!

  20. Mark at 8:28 pm

    Claridge’s is by far the best afternoon tea destination!

  21. Gaby Nutt at 7:45 pm

    Lovely blog! Need advise where to take for tea & dining to a group of ladies enjoying fashion week in London (we are from Venezuela). Best wishes! Thanks. Gaby

  22. Pingback: Top 5 English Tea Books | Daydreamer

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