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Afternoon tea at The Ritz London The best afternoon tea in London for: old-school glitz Tea at The Ritz. Is there a more archetypally English institution? The Ritz London sets the standard for afternoon tea. Tea is served in the many-mirrored Palm Court salon, deliciously grand and swimming in gold. The salon is set between two palm trees, a good few steps higher than the rest of the hotel's ground floor, like a stage, with everyone performing to the tinkling of the live pianist, and soprano Miranda Heldt some weekday afternoons.
Tea-takers select from a list of 16 types, and can learn as much or as little about the teas as they wish from the friendly but reassuringly formal staff, who not only know the correct way to make tea (milk first, obviously), but have spent many months in Sri Lanka, tasting and experimenting to bring back the perfect blend. On to the food itself, which, as you might expect, is proudly traditional.
Sandwiches are fresh, crustless, finger-sized and not shy of a cucumber slice or two; and the scones are warm, gigantic and accompanied by strawberry jam and lashings of Devonshire clotted cream. The top of your three-tiered stand is reserved for macaroons, chocolate cake and fruit tarts, and whatever your party can't manage is boxed up for you to take home - along with a personalised cake, if your tea is in honour of a birthday.
There is a dress code (we would be disappointed if there wasn't): men must wear a jacket and tie, women have to appear at least smart-casual. Jeans and trainers will be confiscated on sight. With five sittings a day, from 11.30am to 7.30pm, The Ritz tea operation is extremely well-oiled, whilst managing not to rush diners - helped by the fact that the time you need to vacate your table is made clear when you book it.
Address: The Ritz London, 150 Piccadilly, London W1Telephone: +44 20 7300 2345Website: www.theritzlondon.com Price: Traditional afternoon tea, £50; Champagne afternoon tea, £66 By Becky Lucas Afternoon tea at Claridge's, London The best afternoon tea in London for: Stylish tea connoisseurs There is a very skilled art in creating such an iconic experience as afternoon tea at Claridge's without the event becoming a parody of itself.
This could become a tourist sideshow, something to 'tick off' the list. The skill in keeping its authenticity lies, as ever, with the staff who create this experience, keeping it a treat while keeping it real. There are two sittings of early and late afternoon tea at Claridge's, set in the hotel's sensational Foyer (our recommendation - if you can get a table), or the more tucked-away Reading Room.
Claridge's is known for its warm welcome to all, and we were instantly made to feel like part of the family. Tunes from the 1920s played by a pianist and cellist create the perfect backdrop, while the incredible Dale Chihuly chandelier hovered above our heads as a modern-day talking point. From the extensive tea menu we chose a Tregothnan Earl Grey, blended with tea from an ancient Cornish tea estate that has been around since 1335; and Darjeeling, the 'Champagne of teas'.
This is a great place to try something new - go with a recommendation from the knowledgeable staff. Four types of bladed sandwiches arrived (our favourites were dill and smoked salmon, and cucumber and cream cheese); once we'd polished those off, more appeared. But onto the good stuff: the highlight was the freshly-baked scones, plain, and apple and raisin, with stick-to-your-spoon clotted cream and Marco Polo jam.
Finally, cakes - and the deconstructed lemon meringue nearly finished us off. There is an art to feeling looked after, and at Claridge's that art has been perfected. A long early-evening walk across Hyde Park is recommended to walk off the cake. Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Mason A classic afternoon tea - and still one of the best Dressed in trademark eau-de-nil, right down to the tea plates, Fortnum & Mason's Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon is a peaceful oasis (accessed in a lovely wood-panelled lift) off Piccadilly.
An oasis of tea and cake! It seems as if it hasn't changed in decades, in a wonderfully old-world way, but in fact was refurbished and subsequently reopened by the Queen in 2012. It remains a traditional affair and, located on the fourth floor of the iconic Fortnum & Mason shop (where afternoon teas have been served for almost 100 years), it's a delightful place to wile away an afternoon. And who knew there were so many different types of tea? If Willy Wonka ever swapped chocolate for tea, the menu might resemble that at the Tea Salon, listing around 45 fantastically-named infusions like Jasmine Dragon Pearls, Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, and Hattialli, which takes its name from the Assamese words 'Hathi Alli,' meaning 'Elephant Road'.
Terrifically knowledgeable 'Tearistas' are on hand to help narrow down the choice. Soft, warm scones are served with lashings of Somerset clotted cream and the most delicious raspberry, strawberry and wild blueberry jams which left us scraping the bottom of the jar. (Luckily, these can be bought in the shop downstairs.) The cake carriage is a feast for the eyes, with mini chocolate-mousse tarts and melt-in-your-mouth salted-caramel choux pastries.
Finger sandwiches make a welcome savoury intervention from the sweet treats. Address: Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London W1Telephone: +44 20 7734 8040Website: fortnumandmason.comPrice: Fortnum's Afternoon Tea £44 (£48 with Rare Tea) By Alice Riley-Smith Afternoon tea at Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard The best afternoon tea in London for: A bird's-eye view From the 35th floor of The Shard, St Paul's Cathedral - once the tallest building in London - appears reduced to the size of a Tunnock's Tea Cake.
It's not just the view from here that draws visitors from all around the world. Ting Lounge is part of the Shangri-La hotel, which occupies floors 34-52 of The Shard - now Europe's tallest building. You are greeted by the sound of the Orient, as a musician plucks away on a Chinese guzheng zither- and yet there's no escaping the fact that you are in London. To the west, the London Eye circles; ahead, Tower Bridge proudly straddles the River Thames; train tracks cut a path through the concrete jungle in every direction; and, in the far distance, Canary Wharf stands tall.
To simply take a few snaps is not to fully appreciate the sight; better to sit down for a leisurely afternoon tea. There is a traditional English option, but the Asian-inspired afternoon tea is lighter, healthier and all-together tastier. Prawn dumplings are plump and sweet, then there's vegetable gyoza (eat these first as they'll go cold), Cornish crab brioche buns, little cups of wasabi- and ginger-cured salmon, and an open duck roll on wanton.
Scones are infused with Earl Grey tea, making them seem fresher, and the mango jam is a welcome change. Traditional sweets are spiked with more exotic flavours. Coconut mousse has a mango centre. Sponge cake is coloured with matcha green tea. Cream is infused with cinnamon. Cheesecake is soaked in yuzu juice. And don't forget that view; book a table an hour or so before sunset to watch the skyline transform in the moonlight.
Address: Ting Lounge at Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street SE1Telephone: +44 20 7234 8000Website: www.shangri-la.comPrice: Asian-inspired Afternoon Tea from £54; English Afternoon Tea from £49; the Festive Afternoon Tea, from £54 per person (£62 with a glass of Champagne), is available until 31 December 2015. Twilight tea at Sketch The best afternoon tea in London for: Party people Sitting down to afternoon tea after 6pm may seem a tad unconventional to English tea traditionalists but, then again, French-owned Sketch isn't necessarily their type of place.
Created by restaurateur Mourad Mazouz and Michelin-star-approved Pierre Gagnaire, this restaurant, bar and gallery remains one of Mayfair's edgiest (and most expensive) places to eat and drink. The Jing Twilight tea is a light and inspired evening take on afternoon tea, intended as a kickstart to a night out in London. It's served in the Gallery, a large room in the heart of this grand 18th-century building.
An ominous, giant black ball hangs like a question mark from its silver ceiling and no furnishing or wall is the same; an eclectic mix of prints, textures and vibrant colours right down to the candles softly lighting your table. To start, you're served with a cold Apere'tea to cleanse your palate while you ponder a choice of either green, Oolong or black tea - all especially selected by Jing Tea experts - to compliment a menu of Paris mushroom croquet-monsieur, dainty smoked-salmon finger sandwiches with salmon roe and cream, and Italian mortadella with figs, aubergine and apricot marmalade.
Your macaroon and coffee éclair sweet fancies from Sketch's patisserie are washed down by one of the mightiest cocktails this side of London, the Twilight Cocktail: a blend of Jim Bean Red Stag bourbon, Lapsang tea, Rooibos-infused syrup, agave syrup and tonka bean powder (steady on your way out). It's a little on the small side for afternoon tea but that's part of the point - partying is no fun on an impossibly full stomach.
Address: Sketch, 9 Conduit Street, Mayfair, London W1Telephone: +44 20 7659 4500Website: sketch.uk.comPrice: Jing Twilight Tea, served between 6-11pm, £24 per person Rosebery Afternoon Tea at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park The best afternoon tea in London for: A shopping pit-stop It's as though Mandarin Oriental's Rosebery Room was conceived specifically as somewhere for shoppers to take some time out from the tills.
Indeed, in the 1920s this was a most fashionable tea salon frequented by ladies stopping off on their way home from Harrods. And, still, it is filled with green and gold bags and stylish women. The Victorian room has changed somewhat, having had a makeover in spring 2014, with splashy modern art and a fabulous fireplace. The afternoon tea itself is thoroughly modern, served on William Edwards china depicting bumblebees and birds by staff wearing Charlotte Taylor uniforms.
There are some great teas on the menu - first flush Darjeeling, white rosebuds - but almost everyone starts with a glass of Ruinart. The spread is suspended over the table theatrically from a branch: classic sandwich fillings rolled up tight like wheat-y Japanese maki and dessert-style sweets (saffron-spiced panna cotta, coconut and pineapple gateâu, milk chocolate and passion fruit tart). Scones stay nicely warm in the kitchen until you're ready for them.
Address: Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1Telephone: +44 20 7235 2000Website: www.mandarinoriental.comPrice: The Rosebery Afternoon Tea, from £45 per person; the Christmas Teddy Bear Afternoon Tea, from £53 per person, is available until 10 January 2016. George Apostolidis Afternoon tea at The Dorchester The best afternoon tea in London for: Decadence There's a lot to be said for creating a winning formula and running with it.
Afternoon Tea at The Dorchester is a rather traditional affair, served in the Park Lane hotel's grand Promenade lobby with its huge throne-like chairs to sink into, a pianist gently tinkling away and the heady scent of lilies filling the air. Exceptionally attentive staff present a selection of sandwiches, passionately making the case for each type as though it is a life-changing decision - except you can (and are positively encouraged to) choose them all.
The dainty slithers of white and more unusual bread - basil and caraway seed were particularly flavoursome - carry the usual fillings. Bite-sized scones made to a 50-year-old recipe are a pleasing vehicle for great dollops of heart-stopping Cornish cream and treacle-thick homemade jams; the voluptuous blackcurrants burst a bit like popping candy. And, of course, there's a rainbow of sugary treats such as feather-light pistachio macaroons, sticky lemon drizzle cake and extra-chocolaty brownies.
There's a good selection of teas, from a light, bergamot blend with a hint of caramel, to a clean lemongrass tea as refreshing as those found in spas all over South-East Asia. For a cup that really stands up to the sweeter elements, go for the Dorchester's own strong blend. During this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the hotel is offering a special Laurent-Perrier Floral Afternoon Tea. Treats include a leaf-shaped pistachio mousse on a marzipan cookie-like base, a layered strawberry mousse-and-sponge cake topped with pansies, and a lavender-infused summer fruits tart.
The Promenade is positively blooming with enormous flower displays year-round, and there'll be even more with the addition of bouquets by florist Phil Hammond at the hotel's pop-up Chelsea Flower Show shop. Address: Dorchester Collection, Sixth Floor East, Lansdowne House, Berkeley Square, London W1Telephone: +44 20 7317 6501Website: www.dorchestercollection.comPrice: Traditional Afternoon Tea, £41 per person The Dorchester's Chocolate Indulgence Afternoon Tea, from £59, is available until 2 May 2016 Traditional Afternoon Tea at The Savoy The best afternoon tea in London for: Stretching out for a long afternoon beside the Thames London today is as blessed with as many fine hotels, restaurants and tea houses in which to take afternoon tea as at any point in its history.
Possibly even more of them. Nominating the best of the lot would be an impossible and unrealistic task, since so much depends on mood and whim and the exigencies of the moment. But in any case and under any circumstances The Savoy would have to be very, very, very near the top of such a list. Service is lively, liveried and brisk, respectful but not fawning, attentive without being obtrusive, resolutely on the right side of stuffy.
In short, it's spot-on. The tableware is pleasingly crisp of linen, silvery of pot and spoon, and floral of cup and saucer. Nor is there any faulting the foodstuffs. The obligatory finger sandwiches, scones, pastries and cakes are impeccable; the teas, from the house blend to the splendidly named Iron Buddha Oolong and Flowering Osmanthus, likewise. The Savoy all but invented the thé dansant in its Thames Foyer, as it has become known.
Despite its name, it's not actually very easy to see the Thames from here. (It's a different story from the suites above, which have river views to stagger the gods.) Yet there's a curiously riparian feel to the space, with its palette of pale greens, the light filtered softly through a splendid stained-glass dome, the staff eddying and flowing around the central gazebo, which itself seems to float on a bed of hydrangeas.
Address: The Savoy, The Strand, London WC2R 0EUTelephone: +44 20 7836 4343Website: www.fairmont.comPrice: Traditional afternoon tea, £52 By Steve King Tipsy Tea at Mr Fogg's The best afternoon tea in London for: Victorian adventurers So, how about afternoon tea as an immersive, partly theatrical experience? While the convincingly set-designed Mr Fogg's is styled on the imaginary home of Jules Verne's globetrotting hero, with its hot-air balloon, antique tiger skins and pith helmets, its weekly Tipsy Tea introduces a real-life historical character: Anna Russell, the Duchess of Bedford.
One tends to think of Victorian pioneers as bristle-bearded chaps with stout handshakes; Anna, however, was ladylike and dainty, though she'd be absolutely ravenous by 4pm - hence her brainwave in the 1840s to start serving cake and bread with a pot of tea. The Duchess will greet you on arrival at Mr Fogg's, and floats around the room helping to pour tea and dispensing idle bon mots about cake and alcohol.
Drinking here feels like being an extra in the first act of The Importance of Being Earnest. The cake stand displays a classic selection of white-bread finger sandwiches (yes, cucumber is included), macaroons, slices of Victoria sponge and lemon drizzle, but it's the content of the teapot that is most interesting. Order the '1840' and the dragoon-uniformed waiter will bring Earl Grey mixed with Tanqueray 10, Cointreau, crème de pêche and marmalade.
The 'Catherine of Braganza' is similar, but with green tea and apricot; while the 'Woburn Abbey', named for Anna Russell's home, is the most appealing, honey-sweet with bee-pollen sugar, crème de bergamot, English breakfast and Tanqueray - and accompanied by a jug of milk that can be added to taste (try it: it's not bad, ideal for sipping rather than swilling and very refreshing). The clientele at Mr Fogg's tends to be younger than at other afternoon teas, and livelier too, though exceedingly well-behaved, from women out on the town after shopping to an extended family group from the USA.
The bar is tucked away on a back street in Mayfair, ideal for a lost Saturday afternoon. After a cup or two of tea cocktail - or a Champagne cocktail if you prefer - you'll soon enter into the spirit of the occasion. You could even regale the Duchess with a few well-chosen questions of your own. Just don't ask her age. Address: Mr Fogg's, 15 Bruton Lane, London W1Telephone: +44 20 7036 0608Website: www.
mr-foggs.comPrice: Tipsy Tea, £38 per person By Rick Jordan Afternoon tea with a cocktail twist at Dandelyan The best afternoon tea in London for: a fun and boozy affair Dandelyan, voted the world’s best cocktail bar last year, has given afternoon tea a shake-up. Unsurprisingly, it involves cocktails: four typically innovative ones. The structure of Wyld Tea resembles a tasting menu, with a Fluff and Fold Royale – a sort of amuse-bouche – served with your pot of tea.
A mix of lime, basil, cacao liqueur, orange bitters and prosecco, it is at once unexpectedly creamy, light and fresh. And that’s the beauty of all Dandelyan’s cocktails, they’re full of odd combinations, surprising flavours and interesting textures, and always have a dazzlingly delicious outcome. The three tipples that follow include a slightly savoury refresher served with the finger sandwiches, a saccharine palette cleanser before cakes and pastries, and a delicious tiki cocktail to finish.
And while you’re here, it’s worth checking out the extensive drinks list – and squeezing in a couple more. You are sitting in the best cocktail bar in the world, after all. Of the food itself, the hot nibbles, including a square of creamy, tangy rarebit and a miniature chicken-and-bacon pastry, are particularly good. The sweet treats are beautifully made, multi-coloured and multifarious (though, puritans, take note: scones aren’t on the menu).
Just be sure to reserve your spot well ahead – Dandelyan is so popular, the bar usually has back-to-back bookings all weekend. Address: Dandelyan, Mondrian London, 20 Upper Ground, London SE1 9PDTelephone: 020 3747 1063Website: dandelyanbar.comPrice: Wyld afternoon tea, £55 (served Thursday-Sunday) By Lauren Hepburn Traditional afternoon tea at The Ned The best afternoon tea in London for: big groups of friends Standing inside the cavernous former banking hall at The Ned feels like being transported back to a bygone area.
Flappers dressed in sparkles and feathers swing to the four-piece playing on the bandstand, while all the guests - and gosh, there are a lot of them - seem to be suited and booted. The room buzzes with the hum of animated chatter that bounces between the magnificent green marble columns and upwards to the soaring ceiling. The overall sensation is reminiscent of an opulent early twentieth century cruise - only, the waiters are wielding iPads and there's no risk of icebergs.
It's precisely this sense of nostalgia that afternoon tea at The Ned, served in the British bistro, Millie's Lounge, is all about. Tiered cake stands laden with traditional treats from Battenberg to buttery, soft scones are placed daintily down by waitresses wearing old-fashioned tea-maid outfits. Tea is poured from green and white floral-patterned pots into identical, delicate cups, napkins are crisp and white, and Perrier-Jouët is served in gorgeous crystal cut glass saucers.
There's an undeniably feminine feel to afternoon tea at The Ned. The sumptuously soft pink velvet banquettes are largely occupied by giggling groups of women celebrating engagements or birthdays, while couples take tables at the pillowy claret-coloured bench by the bandstand. The cakes are as pretty as the furniture. Think light, tiny chocolate and cherry cakes topped with fluffy mousse, and miniature lemon tarts with individual raspberries perched on top of the tangy filling.
While certainly nothing ground-breaking, the sandwiches are also perfectly made. Wafer thin ham is stuffed between soft slices of brown bread with just the right amount of sharp English mustard, layers of smoked salmon and cream cheese come well-seasoned with black pepper, generously filled egg and cress sandwiches are served, like the rest, in dainty rectangles with the crusts cut-off. This is, after all, a proper, traditional British afternoon tea (minus the cucumber).
Address: Millie's Lounge, The Ned, 27 Poultry, London EC2R 8AJTelephone: +44 thened.comPrice: £22. £32 with a glass of Perrier-Jouët Champagne By Kathleen Johnston Blakes Hotel, Chelsea The best afternoon tea in London for: the prettiest éclairs in a secret garden Set in a series of Victorian houses in Chelsea, Blakes is the creation of renowned designer Anouska Hempel - possibly the original boutique hotel and still one of the best hotels in London.
Through a moodily-lit lobby laden with vintage trunks and books you'll find an Art Deco restaurant reminiscent of The Great Gatsby, with opulent gold floors and mirrors. But this afternoon tea is best served outside: in the botanical courtyard designed by Matthew Williamson. Here, potted palm trees sit on mosaic tiled floors against a backdrop of yellow and blue, and wrought iron tables are covered in fabulous tropical-print cloths.
The afternoon tea itself is a sweet affair which pairs éclairs and tea. Eclairs and nothing but éclairs, so if you don't like éclairs, you're in the wrong place. It's a collaboration between three-Michelin-starred chef Joakim Prat of patisserie Maître Choux, who is responsible for the prettiest éclairs in London, and single-batch tea specialists Lalani & Co. Dapper staff dressed in sleek black suits pour tea from a spherical pot into delicate glass tea cups - try the Kyoto Oolong Sanbancha with the must-have salted-butter caramel choux.
Or a hazelnut and chocolate éclair dusted in gold with a gold-leaf black tea to match. The Spanish raspberry éclair is a fuchsia-pink fruit sensation, while a coffee-flavoured choux works particularly well with a chocolatey Himalayan black tea. Nab the best spot in this seemingly secret bohemian hideaway by booking the table inside the giant gold-domed birdcage. Address: Blakes Hotel, 33 Roland Gardens, Kensington, London SW7 3PFTelephone: +44 20 7370 6701Website: blakeshotels.
comPrice: Each éclair-and-tea pairing costs £12.75 (it's an extra £9 for prosecco, £13 for Champagne) By Sarah Barnes Robin Gautier Children's Afternoon Tea at the Langham London Best for: treating little girls to sugar and spice and all things nice Goodness. How fearless, how foolhardy of The Langham. Gamely inviting children to sit in the creamy interior of its Palm Court, then plying them with chocolate and berry-red puddings.
But how joyous, when the usually refined hush and oh-so-English piano tinklings are broken by the cries of your little angels. 'Teddy bear! TEDDY BEAR!' cries Maisy, your two-and-a-half-year-old correspondent-in-potty-training, when she arrives to find a Hamley's bear sitting on her Wedgwood teaplate. 'Teddy bear! Wee-wee! NOW!' she shouts at the waiter, who sets down our glasses of champagne and milk and laughs as though he has never heard anything more delightful.
Sitting stout and stately as Queen Victoria at the top of Regent Street, The Langham is London's oldest grande dame hotel, though it is scented with ginger flower, not lavender. The hotel's Palm Court is said to be the birthplace of traditional afternoon tea - Napoleon, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Diana, Princess of Wales were all fortified here - and it has won Top London Afternoon Tea in recent years.
Now it has started serving afternoon tea to children, beneath crystal chandeliers and gigantic moons of hydrangea. We start, like true English eccentrics, with pudding: tiny amuses-bouches of orange panna cotta with strawberries, champagne jelly with real-gold leaf, strawberry and orange ice lolly. Out comes a jigsaw of sandwiches, then merry-go-round cupcakes, Cookie Monster-macarons, Maltesers mousse with sprinkles - most of which makes it into Maisy's mouth and almost entirely misses the expensive upholstery.
Our waiter is attentive, full of smiles, and never misses a beat. And has nice shiny shoes, Maisy notes, from under the table, where she and her teddy bear are working their way through a messy chocolate thing shaped like a steam train. Everything is teeny-tiny and doll's-house intricate, created by the deft fingers of the Langham's Executive Pastry Chef Cherish Finden. She may be a ruthless judge on Bake Off, but she's as soft and sweet as a lemon posset when it comes to creating magical patisserie for children to make them sing, skip and eventually sleep all the way home.
By Laura Fowler St James's Hotel afternoon tea and games Best afternoon tea in London for: high-rollers and scrabbling wordsmiths And so to St James's for tea, a neighbourhood to wallow in what the Germans know as fernweh: a nostalgia for a place or period you've never experienced. Which is what afternoon tea is partly about, isn't it, a craving for the sort of aristocratic insouciance we've seen in The Importance of Being Earnest? With its gold-lettered shop fronts, St James's is just the spot to sally forth and imagine you're in the London of Wilde or Wodehouse - bagging a badger-hair shaving brush here, a case of Montecristo Double Edmundos there.
And where better to hitch up the tweed, raise the china and roll the dice than the St James's Club & Hotel. Set behind a red-and-white gateau of Victorian neogothic, this has only been a hotel since 2008, so doesn't have the immediate cognitive bite of near neighbours such as Dukes and The Ritz (though chef William Drabble has been attracting attention for his Michelin-starred grub). Before that it was a members' club frequented by Parkinson sofa-botherers such as Dudley Moore, Michael Caine and Christopher Plummer; before that it was a 19th-century club for diplomats.
A sense of discretion still wafts around the silk wallpaper and narrow corridors. Tea is taken by the bar, an intimate, Deco-inspired space of gold and polished black lacquer, with large yellow vases, a wall of 20th-century oil paintings and an eyeful of mild Hungarian erotica from the 1940s. The board games are from Hamleys. Chess would be the diplomatic choice, but we monopolise the Monopoly. Of course, anyone can plonk a few boxes of games down, but not everyone can create matching confectionary like Drabble and his pastry chef, Carina Heimberg.
As well as scones and sandwiches, we're presented with a fudgey chess pawn; cheesecake dominoes; white-chocolate Scrabble letters; a chocolate top hat filled with mango mousse. A pair of Battenburg dice evoked a Proustian madeleine moment, of rainy Sunday afternoons feverishly counting paper money and slapping hotels on Whitechapel. All the cakeage can be shared, save for a smart deconstruction of a Black Forest gateaux, with snakeskin-print choc balances a little ladder and sugar-dusted serpent.
In the words of the late Errol Brown, everyone's a winner. Over on the next table, a family are intent on Scrabble. It may be a tad obvious, but 'cake' would get them 30 on a triple-word score. Address: 7-8 Park Place, London SW1A 1LSTelephone: 020 7316 1600Website: stjameshotelandclub.comPrice: Board games afternoon tea, from £40 per person Niall Clutton Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley The best afternoon tea in London for: Well-heeled women The original tea for fashionable ladies, and still the best.
The Berkeley's pastry chefs create sweet treats taken from each season's collections at London Fashion Week, which they attend for inspiration, and serve them on bespoke Paul Smith china in The Caramel Room. Prêt-à-Portea has featured fashion staples and icons from the Burberry vanilla trench to the Christian Louboutin high-heeled biscuit. There have been Tory Burch bikinis and Manolo Blahnik heels, as well as Jason Wu's coconut cake hatbox-shaped bag, Prada's white and red-poppy coat in chocolate and Grand Marnier, and - the theme of the season - Alexander McQueen's yellow honeycomb cream dress complete with marzipan bees.
Not surprisingly it's very popular (be sure to book ahead), with well-heeled ladies in twos, threes and twelves, and the tea room hums with the charming tinkle of ladylike conversation and laidback music - it's the kind of place you can lose an afternoon in, and much of an evening, especially as they keep the sandwiches coming. Address: The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London SW1Telephone: +44 20 7235 6000Website: www.
the-berkeley.co.ukPrice: From £45 per person Tea at the Royal Opera House The best afternoon tea in London for: Regal occasions It's impossible not to fall a little bit in love with the Royal Opera House afternoon tea even before you've laid eyes on the neat sandwiches. Never has a setting silenced us so, which is perhaps apt inside the Royal Opera House (might such an interior have been a rouse to ensure audiences paid attention?).
Described as a mini Crystal Palace, the 19th-century Paul Hamlyn Hall could be the world's most beautiful conservatory; its neck-straining high-ceilings, Art Deco curves and vast glass windows make the room feel even lighter and brighter than the open air outside (tip: go on a day when the skies are particularly blue). Lower your eyes to the table and you'll find smoke salmon meticulously curled, seashell-like, atop fresh bread, alongside equally dainty sandwiches filled with salt beef, free-range egg and cress and cucumber and cream cheese.
Next, your smoothly efficient waiter will set a sleek stand before you, decorated with delicate delights by pastry chef Claire Clark MBE. Using seasonal British ingredients, Clark's not afraid to add twists and flicks here and there - the pistachio éclair with praline, for example, or the Opéra Gâteau - but sticks to the rulebook when it comes to the most important things, such as the fluffy-as-cloud scones, served with Dorset clotted cream and strawberry and plum jams.
Lest we forget the brews: loose leaves, tisanes and tea-themed cocktails put the 'tea' in the afternoon, while the Ruinart Champagne, adds the deliciously decadent 'ruin'. Address: Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9DDTelephone: +44 20 7304 4000Website: www.roh.org.ukPrice: £37.50 per person, £47.50 with Champagne By Becky Lucas London Bus Afternoon Tea Tour The best afternoon tea in London for: Sightseers in heels London buses: not a mode of transport you'd normally associate with such a sophisticated pastime as afternoon tea.
But then you haven't been on BB Bakery's bus yet - aka 'Rodney', a shiny 1960s Routemaster, which the Covent Garden family-owned bakery recently restored and put back on the road for its new Afternoon Tea Bus Tour. Served on vintage crockery in keeping with the retro bus, the tea includes dainty sandwiches, quiche, macaroons, cupcakes, lemon-meringue pie, strawberries-and-cream cakes, scones and particularly delightful brownies, with a flute of pink champagne and tea; English breakfast, Earl Grey, green and various other options (served in a less-delightful but reassuringly spill-resistant cup with a lid).
On-board waiter Jean-Philippe manages to simultaneously charm and serve all customers while keeping his balance in the aisles during the 90-minute ride. Outside, if you can tear yourself away from the brownies (and the attentions of Jean-Philippe), you'll catch iconic landmarks including Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye on a route that travels from Trafalgar Square and back via Kensington and Notting Hill - although thankfully there is no audio tour guide to interrupt the spirited conversation.
The bus-tour tea is the first of its kind, and brilliantly combines sightseeing with other classic English pursuits of afternoon tea, cake and a charming piece of history. If only all bus rides were this much fun - what a merry city London would be. Address: 8 Northumberland Avenue off Trafalgar Square WC2Telephone: +44 20 7237 3392Website: www.bbbakery.co.ukPrice: Afternoon Tea Bus Tour, from £45 per person.
The tea lasts around 90 minutes and departs every day at 12.30pm and 3pm from the London Eye By Becky Lucas Townhouse Tea at the Dean Street Townhouse The best afternoon tea in London for: Luxe-for-less The surroundings are lovely and the location, in the middle of Soho, is brilliant, so the price of afternoon tea at the Dean Street Townhouse comes as a nice surprise, at £19.50. The Townhouse Tea includes finger sandwiches, scones and éclairs, and old-school cakes such as lemon-drizzle and Battenberg.
Part of the Soho House Group, the 39-bedroom hotel is made up of two neighbouring Georgian townhouses, both with rich histories. For much of the 20th century the patrons - including Fred Astaire, Noël Coward, Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud - visited the premises in its previous incarnation as the Gargoyle Club, for something rather stronger than tea. Address: Dean Street Townhouse, 69-71 Dean Street, Soho, London W1Telephone: +44 20 7434 1775Website: www.
deanstreettownhouse.comPrice: Townhouse Tea, £19.50 per person Traditional Afternoon Tea at The Lanesborough The best afternoon tea in London for: Tea Connoisseurs One for those who take their tea drinking seriously. There's a tea sommelier on hand to advise guests on blends to suit their palate and talk about 'the art of tea', and the hotel does its own signature blend; while The Lanesborough's award-winning pastry chef creates more indulgent treats - and there are also gluten-free and dairy-free options.
Served in the hotel's elegant Célest restaurant, the tea has won an Award of Excellence from the Tea Guild for the past four years. Address: The Lanesborough, Hyde Park Corner, London SW1Telephone: +44 20 7333 7254Website: www.lanesborough.comPrice: £48 per person Traditional Afternoon Tea at The Connaught The best afternoon tea in London for: Incredible service and superlative British classics The Connaught is renowned - quietly - for its whispered sophistication and attention to detail, from the moment the doorman greets you like a familiar friend as you spin your way through the dark oak revolving doors.
Afternoon tea is set in the hotel's Espelette restaurant, a long, conservatory-like room with arched, floor-to-ceiling windows which let sunlight flood the room - and allow tea-takers to watch the well-heeled residents of Mayfair swish by. Tea is served in stages during the hour-and-45-minute sittings, and although it might feel slightly irksome to have a time limit, the result is that fewer people are hemmed in and there's no danger of being privy to your neighbour's conversation.
There is an impressive choice of 16 teas, from the sweetly citrus Lemon Mango Tango to The Royal Connaught Afternoon, a strong black tea with a fragrant aftertaste, and a glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne can be added, for a fee. Service is excellent and waiters are ever-attentive. Tea is served in silver tea pots, poured through a strainer and as soon as your cup appears even slightly empty, an eagle-eyed waiter will top it up.
First up, finger sandwiches, with an emphasis on British classics, all on light-as-air bread. Then come warm scones with 16 different Tea Together jams; and a cake stand filled with pastries, macaroons and cakes - highlights include the choux bun that's a wonderful combination of banana and creamy Baileys, and a tiny chocolate gateau with a tangy orange base - are bite-sized but extremely rich and full of flavour, so you're suddenly full before you know it.
Top tip: When booking afternoon tea, ask for a table in the front room, as the back room doesn't share the same views or atmosphere. Address: The Connaught, Carlos Place, Mayfair, London W1Telephone: +44 20 7499 7070Website: www.the-connaught.co.ukPrice: Traditional Afternoon Tea £50 (£60 with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne, or £70 for Laurent-Perrier Rosé) By Faith Strickland Afternoon tea at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery The best afternoon tea in London for: A contemporary affair among the trees This light-filled, soaring-ceilinged space is not your regular gallery café, tucked away like an afterthought.
But then again, The Magazine restaurant - right beside Hyde Park's Serpentine Sackler Gallery - is the work of world-class architect Zaha Hadid, her first permanent project in central London. With an undulating cream roof that looks like canvas held up by poles, it's a bit like a big top; and there's glass all around so you can see out to the leafy park and a pretty English garden at the back. Inside, the triangular tables are cool-white and lime-green, giving the place a modern vibe.
A contemporary twist is added to the afternoon tea, too, which is served rather ceremoniously by grey-aproned staff who place wooden blocks on the table in place of traditional tiers. These are topped with slates of delicate, canapé-style savouries: goat's cheese with grape and crispy shallot; spicy sobrasada with aubergine and tahini; delicious pastry cones filled with smoked mackerel and pickled cucumber.
Sweet treats come in the form of rich chocolate truffles and mini tarts filled with banana and coffee cream. Scones with jam and clotted cream are the only conventional element to the colourful spread. Ronnefeldt teas are served in lovely modern pots and The Magazine Bellini (white peach, thyme-infused syrup and prosecco) is topped with a tiny edible flower. In keeping with its gallery-side location, the entire afternoon-tea production here is quite the work of art.
Address: The Magazine restaurant at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, West Carriage Drive, Kensington Gardens, London W2Telephone: +44 20 7298 7552Website: www.magazine-restaurant.co.ukPrice: £25 for afternoon tea with a cocktail By Grainne McBride Afternoon tea at the German Gymnasium, King's Cross The best afternoon tea in London for: Central European café society German Gymnasium is a huge space, a great Noah's Ark of a building with its arched wooden rafters and beams - the size of a station, really, though I've never clocked it before in all my comings and goings around King's Cross.
It was actually London's first purpose-built gym, built in 1864 for the ex-pat German community, and had a starring role in the 1866 Olympian Games. Remember them? Not unsurprisingly, its career was nobbled shortly after the First World War broke out, and after years sulking as a railway warehouse has been reborn as D&D's latest foodie space: a Mittel European-style brasserie. The hooks that held the gymnastic ropes survive, ghosts of the time when moustachioed fellows would duel with swords and vault wooden horses - but now the only people being exercised are the waiting staff, triceps straining under the weight of veal dumplings and schnitzel and chilled bottles of Grüner Veltliner.
Yes, the menu takes its cue from its heritage (be thankful it wasn't the Albanian Athletics Club), right down to the afternoon tea. There are two, the German and the Austrian, so it's best to get one of each and play swapsies with the shiny mini brotchen and cakes that arrive on little Perspex shelves. My favourite savouries were the salty North Sea brown shrimp and smoked Black Forest ham, laced with strings of sauerkraut.
An English cucumber roll has sneaked in (perhaps a gherkin sarnie would be too much). As for the sweet stuff, the springy Bienenstich cake is nicely capped by a crunch of caramelised almond; the cross-section of strudel was crisp yet soft. Then the eternal dilemma: Sachertorte or Black Forest Gateau? Both call for a cream-dolloped cup of coffee rather than pot of tea, really, though you can weigh it up over a glass of sparkling Schloss Vaux Sekt, soft and appley.
Which may easily lead to something else from the excellent wine list. It's easy to while away the afternoon here under the gaze of the Smiths of Derby railway clock. The space is cavernous yet has a buzz about it, as if people are gearing up to race over to St Pancras and head to Vienna via the Eurostar. And I've made a note to add the upstairs cocktail bar to my growing list of new King's Cross late-night hangouts.
Address: 1 King's Boulevard London N1C 4BUTelephone: +44 20 7287 8000Website: germangymnasium.comPrice: Afternoon tea (including tea or coffee) £18.50 per person. Sparkling wine £4.50 per glass By Rick Jordan Afternoon tea at Balthazar The best afternoon tea in London for: A fashionable affair What's this? A cult French brasserie dabbling in the great British tradition of afternoon tea? Well, yes - but as with everything else at Balthazar, this afternoon tea has a bang-on-trend twist: it is curated by Matthew Williamson.
The fashion designer has worked with head pastry chef Régis Beauregard to create a tea menu inspired by his Autumn/Winter 2015 collection. Williamson lends his flamboyant stamp to every roulade and éclair, right down to the signature edible hummingbird on the raspberry-and-hibiscus rum baba. This is a far from whispery, subdued affair. Instead, the restaurant buzzes with wild chatter over the paper-tableclothed tables, above the thrust and throb of a jazz soundtrack.
Expect to clink teacups with a fashionable cast of well-dressed couples, families and London ladies in sequins and florals - who are busy Instagramming their perfectly puffed scones and fuchsia-pink Cosmic cocktails with Campari, Mandarine, Napoléon, and Champagne. All the English classics are there, done with French finesse. Finger sandwiches of pulled ham hock, cucumber, pea and mint, coronation chicken and smoked salmon with lemon crème fraîche.
Make your way up the tiers to freshly-baked scones doused in clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam, yuzu eclairs, almond and hazelnut rochers, blueberry macaroons and gooseberry and yoghurt roulades - almost too pretty to eat. Address: 4-6 Russell Street, Covent Garden, London WC2Telephone: +44 20 3301 1155Website: www.balthazarlondon.comPrice: £35 for the Matthew Williamson AW15 Afternoon Tea with a cocktail, served 3pm-5pm daily Mad Hatter's Tea Party at The Sanderson The best afternoon tea in London for: A mad hatter's tea party Topsy turvy is one way to describe the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.
This isn't afternoon tea with all the trimmings - it's much more fun. Host Christabel reveals the address of the secret location just before each event. What we can tell you is that it takes places somewhere in East London. Wherever you are, it's like one ridiculously big dressing up box, with bunny ears, oversized bow ties and woodland animal masks to wear. You could well be in a props room for the next Disney film: there are towering silk flowers, giant playing cards scattered over the table, and mismatched teapots.
Everyone gets a glass of fizz which you can top up yourself (it's BYOB). Spicy honey and cucumber on rye bread, neon pink egg sandwiches and glittery popcorn are a quirky twist on traditional savouries. Sweets include brownies with beetroot dip, sparkly caramel cups and mini ginger and cinnamon cheesecakes. The vibe is jolly, with guests sat together around two long tables, making it perfect for birthday parties and celebrations with friends.
And Christabel is simply marvellous. Afternoon Tea at the Corinthia Hotel The best afternoon tea in London for: Cute cakes and luxury The Corinthia Hotel continues to establish itself among the best in London's hotel hierarchy with a splendid Afternoon Tea that's elegant, dainty and delicious. Set in the splendid Lobby Lounge, lit by its Baccarat chandelier's 1001 glistening crystal baubles, it is a delightful affair.
You can opt to start the tea with a glass of Laurent-Perrier NV (who really needs a reason, but perhaps you are celebrating, er, something?) and then pick from a menu that lists close to 20 different teas. We opted for 'Afternoon at The Palace' - a signature blend of single Darjeeling and China black teas, as well as the 'Darjeeling Second Flush', from the Castleton Estate on the slopes of the Himalayas.
The accompanying slickly-cut sandwiches (smoked salmon, egg, beef, chicken, goats cheese) were all very tasty, with the chicken & ale mustard leaving us ordering promptly-delivered seconds. We somehow found room for the mini scones (plain and raison, served with butter-thick cream and a choice of raspberry or strawberry jams) and a selection of what were probably the cutest cakes we'd ever eaten.
The selection was decorated to celebrate the Chelsea Flower Show (which was in bloom during our visit) but the detail (tiny icing trowels and sugar pansies, for instance), complete with edible rice-paper butterflies, showed the level of detail attended to these finest of fancies. The hotel celebrates with cakes other events through the year, including Wimbledon. A menu of traditional British cakes (Eccles, Bakewell Tart, Battenberg, etc) is also available if you'd like to try these traditional masters instead.
Both the teas, served in William Edwards china, were delicious, and we can also confirm that the Corinthia's Ceylon decaffeinated is fresh-tasting and light - perfect for those managing their intake for a long afternoon. Splendid! Address: The Lobby Lounge, Corinthia Hotel, Whitehall Place, London SW1Telephone: +44 20 7930 8181Website: www.corinthia.comPrice: Traditional Afternoon Tea, £50, or £55 with Champagne; the Laurent-Perrier Festivi-tea, from £60 per person, is available until 4 January 2016.
Afternoon tea at Ham Yard Hotel The best afternoon tea in London for: Design buffs Bang in the centre of busy Soho, Ham Yard Hotel is the latest offering from Tim and Kit Kemp, the couple behind the Firmdale hotel group. With a portfolio of prime-location boutique hotels already, including on London's Charlotte Street and in Haymarket and Covent Garden, the 'yard' is a surprisingly quiet thoroughfare, connecting Great Windmill and Denman Streets.
The hotel itself, however, is the couple's biggest and splashiest venture so far, complete with rooftop garden, cinema and an original '50s bowling alley imported from Texas. The Orangey, home to the afternoon tea, is a gently lit glass-ceilinged room with designer Kit's oh-so-quirky yet tasteful stamp all over it. Paved with reclaimed Purbeck stone, the walls are papered with her signature bold textures.
Tea itself is served in her contemporary new ceramic range for Wedgewood - you'll find mythical creatures prancing around gold rims on the delicate bone china teacup and saucer sets. The menu, which changes weekly, is a creative take on the traditional: savouries include chorizo sausage rolls, smoked salmon on rye and duck liver pate crostini. Scones served with clotted cream and homemade jams are delivered straight from the oven, soft and warm.
And there are more sweet treats to accompany them than you are likely to manage: salted caramel teacakes, red velvet cupcakes, hand-crafted chocolate truffles on sticks. We recommend you add a cocktail (the Hendricks, cucumber, elderflower and Prosecco concoction is our favourite) to accompany your Earl Grey. This is a more-than-stylish spot to sit and people watch. See our exclusive Ham Yard review.
Address: Ham Yard Hotel, 1 Ham Yard, London W1Telephone: +44 20 3642 1007Website: www.hamyardhotel.comPrice: Tea at Ham Yard Hotel, £19.50 per person; various Champagne options The Bollinger Afternoon Tea at The Goring The best afternoon tea in London for: Traditionalists The Goring has been serving their afternoon tea for 100 years - and, in the best way possible, it shows. A quintessentially British experience, the historic residence's Bollinger Tea is a traditional afternoon event as the hot beverage gods intended it.
Served in a gilded lounge next to a roaring fire, with iconic lion and unicorn figurettes perched on the mantelpiece and a life-sized statue of Great Grandpa Goring looming in the lobby, the setting has a distinct sense of history. The food is tasty but unpretentious, the service impeccable but unfussy and the headlining tea - the Goring's special Afternoon Blend, an Assam-Darjeeling fusion - subtle but satiating.
It's unsurprising that Lady Randolph Churchill eventually moved in. The tea starts with a plate of fresh strawberries and cream served on delicate amber and gold crockery, along with a chilled glass of Bollinger. Then comes a texturally intriguing lobster, egg and tomato amuse bouche (jelly-like and chewy all at once) that was reportedly a favourite of the Queen Mother, one of a long line of royalty that frequented the hotel - the most recent regal resident was, of course, Catherine Middleton.
To the triple-tiered main event: a stack of finger sandwiches, homemade scones, complete with fluffy scoops of clotted cream and jam, as well as a delightfully saccharine selection of pastries (everything from mini fruit tartlets to hazelnut wafer-like incarnations). The edible finale comes in the form of the endearingly named 'Not quite a trifle', for those that still have an inch of stomach space left - an ideal introduction to all things Great and British.
Address: The Goring, 15 Beeston Place, LondonTelephone: +44 20 7396 9000Website: www.thegoring.comPrice: Bollinger Afternoon Tea from £52.20 per person Gin and Tonic Afternoon Tea at Dukes London The best afternoon tea in London for: Civilised drinking In an effort to make the institution of afternoon tea yet more quintessentially English, Dukes London hotel in Mayfair launched the Gin and Tonic Afternoon Tea in August 2014, which includes, as its name suggests, a series of teas infused with mother's ruin: gin.
Conceived and perfected by the hotel's passionate Italian food and beverage manager Robert de Vivo, the combination of the two distinctly different types of drink works almost disconcertingly well: guests can choose either Black Vanilla or Earl Grey gin-infused tea to sip from their vintage china teacup, served over rattling ice cubes in the warmer months, or warm-your-cockles hot come winter. Seated in the hotel's wonderfully tranquil drawing room and conservatory or outside in the enclosed courtyard garden - also heated in winter - on the comfortable but traditional English furniture, you'll feel as relaxed as if you were visiting your daintiest old aunt (the one with the slight drinking problem).
The food is equally refined, and includes the most perfectly symmetrical finger sandwiches you may ever see, filled with a satisfying array of fillings, spanning Scottish smoked salmon, Coronation chicken and, of course, cream cheese and cucumber. Vegetarians and the wheat intolerant can also be catered for with extra non-meat servings or leafy salads on request. Next up, the cavalry arrives (just in time if you've already moved on to your second teacup), in the form of a three-plate-high cake stand flaunting both fruit and plain warm scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam, carrot cake, lemon meringue pie, chocolate ganache - eat it fast on a sunny day or it may droop - panna cotta with granola and, to top it (and you) off, deep-friend sugary doughnuts balls.
Fortunately, Dukes are more than happy to pack you off with anything you're too squiffy to finish, along with lots of inspiring gin recipes and cocktail tips to try at home once you've recovered. Address: Dukes London, St. James's Place, London SW1Telephone: +44 20 7491 4840 Website: www.dukeshotel.comPrice: Gin and Tonic Afternoon Tea, £35 per person By Becky Lucas Mad Hatter's Tea at The Sanderson The best afternoon tea in London for: Eccentrics 'Drink Me', reads the bottle which accompanies this Wonderland-themed afternoon tea.
Inside is a potion that tastes, from sip to sip, of passion fruit jelly, coconut panna cotta and an exotic, fruity foam. Sandwiches come in fantastical colours: green spinach bread and smoked salmon, saffron bread and pink ham. Sponge cake, chocolates and a strawberry and cream mousse says 'Eat Me', blueberry lollipops turn tongues from hot to cold, and hazelnut praline ice-cream pops in the mouth.
It's a good option for spring and summer, as it's served - on vintage crockery - in the courtyard garden of this stylish Fitzrovia hotel. The menu changes with the seasons and flavours vary, so you'll want to keep returning down the rabbit hole for another taste. Address: The Sanderson, 50 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, London W1Telephone: +44 20 7300 5588Website: www.sandersonlondon.comPrice: From £38 per person 'Taking Tea with George' at St Pancras Renaissance Hotel The best afternoon tea in London for: Patriots Another tea with a twist, this one, which combines Great British fare with tea-infused cocktails.
In the opulent surrounds of the Gilbert Scott restaurant (Marcus Wareing's brasserie in St Pancras Renaissance Hotel) - named after the architect of this gothic landmark - 'Taking Tea with George' includes Mrs Beeton's cheese butterflies, Eton Mess, Eccles cakes, cucumber sandwiches and peanut-brittle choc ices. The tea element is incorporated into the choice of cocktails: The Earl's Tea, Chamomile Flute and the Queen's Tipple - our favourite, a mix of green tea, gin, cucumber and rose.
No doubt the Queen Mother, too, would have approved. Address: The Gilbert Scott, St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, King's Cross, London NW1Telephone: +44 20 7278 3888Website: www.thegilbertscott.co.ukPrice: Taking Tea with George, from £29 per person Afternoon tea at Brown's Hotel The best afternoon tea in London for: Serious tea buffs It could be the effect of the nose-tickling Ruinart Champagne, but you may find it difficult not to sing along to the show tunes tinkling away from the baby grand in the elegant, wood-panelled English Tea Room at Brown's Hotel.
Yet while the musical accompaniment makes for a jolly atmosphere, afternoon tea is taken seriously at this Mayfair grande dame, with two tea sommeliers and a prestige seasonal menu including a first flush 'wonder' from Darjeeling. Pastries are always delicious and sometimes specially themed. In a nod to the Chelsea Flower Show, the hotel is now serving violet and blueberry macaroons, white chocolate and raspberry mousse cake and a petal-topped Pimm's jelly.
All these delights crown a three-tiered tray, which also includes warm mini scones, served with clotted cream and the world's best strawberry jam, and dainty sandwiches of curried chicken, smoked salmon and cucumber. There's also a Tea Tox menu of low-cal treats, but, honestly, in such nice surrounds, you can't help but be naughty. Address: Brown's Hotel, Albemarle Street, London W1Telephone: +44 20 7518 4155Website: www.
roccofortehotels.comPrice: Traditional afternoon tea, £41.50; Champagne afternoon tea, £51.50 Afternoon tea at Hoi Polloi The best afternoon tea in London for: East London fun This is as far from pinky-in-the-air, hushed-drawing-room afternoon tea as you can get. The Ace Hotel hangout is the place to come if you like your Earl Grey served with a twist of Shoreditch cool. The staff are dressed in Gaultier-style Breton stripes, there's a funky upbeat soundtrack and the cocktails (try the Fantabulosa with cardamom gin and limoncello) tempt you to stay long into the evening.
The crowd, a mix of grown-up hipsters and cool out-of-towners taking a break from shopping the High Street's boutiques, add to the buzz. There are still dainty cucumber sandwiches to appease the purists and great big whopping scones. Tea is served in lovely Deco-style pots that echo the restaurant decor - warm wood paneling, low-slung leather banquettes and brass lightshades. The artful fancies (cherry and chocolate; lemon tart) are delicious and presented on a fun cake stand rather than in traditional tiers.
But push the boat out to taste the Yorkshire parkin with parsnip ice cream, too. It's almost a vegetable after all those cakes, right? Address: Hoi Polloi, 100 Shoreditch High Street, London E1Telephone: +44 20 8880 6100Website: www.hoi-polloi.co.ukPrice: Cream tea, £19 per person Haymarket Hotel afternoon tea The best afternoon tea in London for: Puddings Interior designer Kit Kemp has rejuvenated the Haymarket's Brumus Bar, giving it the feel of a supremely stylish living room.
Charcoal-grey felt chairs have dachshunds, bulldogs, poodles and scotties stitched onto the backs, and contemporary artworks hang on patterned-fabric-covered walls. Booths give privacy, while the window is a prime people-watching spot. The Brumus tea is a vamped-up version of a traditional offering, served on an opaque pink perspex stand that clashes quite brilliantly with the delicate floral china.
Smoked salmon is swirled onto blinis; chicken is tucked up in flour tortillas with lettuce and tomato; rye bread carries a substantial portion of ham-hock terrine and piccalilli; and there's a sweet asparagus tart. The menu has surely been designed for those who view savoury courses as a pit stop on the journey to dessert. There's fluffy lemon-curd cake filled with a good splodge of cream, and an almost-too-light vanilla panna cotta sealed by a layer of tangy passionfruit jelly.
Atop the stand are bright lollipop sticks that have been dunked into what tastes like the gooey bit of a chocolate brownie and given a crunchy crust of hundreds-and-thousands. But the cherry on this calorific cake stand is the melt-in-the-mouth white-chocolate cheesecake with tart berry coulis to cut through the richness. So heavenly a second slice was called for. Address: Brumus, Haymarket Hotel, 1 Suffolk Place, London SW1Telephone: +44 20 7470 4007Website: www.
firmdalehotels.comPrice: Traditional afternoon tea from £25 per person Little Nan's Alternative Afternoon Tea Rio Cinema, Dalston, East London Think of it as tea with an indulgent grandmother, albeit the sort of grandmother who sneaks bourbon into her Yorkshire brew. Descending into the vaults underneath Dalston's art deco Rio Cinema for Little Nan's afternoon tea feels like tumbling down the rabbit hole into a den of '90s nostalgia.
The walls are lined with retro film posters, the Spice Girls croon over the speakers and the unlimited Pic'n'Mix lets you fill up on marshmallows, Haribo and everything else your parents disapproved of. The 'teas' on offer are cocktails served in adorable teapots. Each pot fills five cups, making them ideal for sharing, though as the party raged on we spotted some diners swigging straight from the spout.
Concealed inside a biography of the Queen Mother is a quirky cocktail menu that includes the Zara Phillips (gold tequila, white tequila and orange juice) and Duchess Kate (spiced rum, vodka and cranberry juice). The presentation is delightful: The Empress of Shoreditch, a heady mix of gin, Babycham and pink grapefruit, arrived in a mahogany-coloured teapot in the shape of a miniature sewing chest.
Equally charming is the homely afternoon tea. A selection of crustless sandwiches is served on a vintage cake stand, spanning all the classics from salmon and cream cheese to egg mayonnaise and a zingy ham and mustard. Buttery scones come with port glasses full of strawberry jam and thick clotted cream while the third tier is reserved for rocky road treats and surprisingly delicate lemon drizzle cakes.
Generous slices of Victoria sponge and carrot cake follow, but skip the real tea - it would only sober you up after a meal that is otherwise the perfect start to an East End night out. Radhika Seth Cafecito Afternoon Tea at St Martins Lane Hotel The best afternoon tea in London for: Hazy days Asian-Cuban fusion cuisine is unusual in itself, but throw a bit of Britishness into the mix and you get a delightfully daring afternoon tea.
Served on brightly patterned Luna & Curios plates by tattooed waitresses with sexy accents, the Cafecito Afternoon Tea at St Martins Lane Hotel's restaurant Asia de Cuba is just that. Demanding the attention of your taste buds is a kiwi, strawberry and mango traffic-light smoothie to start. Dainty cucumber sandwiches and mild flavours are out; lip-smacking spices are in: there are weighty pulled-pork buns and comfortingly warm beef empanadas for dunking into a hot Caribbean-style dip.
Puff-pastry-light scones are savoury and slathered with minty mojito butter. Mini doughnuts are filled with butterscotch sauce - fine on their own but better as a vehicle for the shot of chilli-chocolate ganache that comes with it. Asian accents come in the form of heavenly spring rolls filled with smashed banana and white-chocolate ganache. The tea of course is Asian, too - Chinese, to be exact, by Jing.
There are only six to choose from; go for the Lychee Red, which smells like lychee but is more floral in flavour. Cuban offerings include some fruity rum cocktails and the sweetened espresso Café Cubano to finish. Address: Asia de Cuba at St Martins Lane Hotel, 45 St Martin's Lane, London WC2Telephone: +44 20 7300 5588Website: www.stmartinslane.comPrice: Cafecito Afternoon Tea, from £25
Title: Art Deco Afternoon Tea London