Features

Hattie Lloyd 10/11/22


The Best Festive Afternoon Tea in London

As an early Christmas present to you, we’ve put together a run-down of the best festive afternoon teas in London this winter.

And yes, we spent oolong time on it.

We’ve fearlessly ventured into fancy hotels, grand cafés and elegant salons, all in the noble pursuit of whittling them down to find the very best. And so it is with total certainty that we can say that this is – out of all the other London afternoon tea guides out there – the one you are reading now.

So here it is: our fully comprehensive festive guide (which we’ve also organised by budget, and whether they offer gluten free and / or vegan afternoon teas). And if you just want to cut the turkey, jump ahead to our recommendations for regular afternoon tea in London.


NOTE: Regarding whether gluten-free or vegan afternoon teas are offered, it’s worth noting that while most places are likely to be able to offer this you should still contact them at least 48 hours in advance to confirm any allergies or dietary requirements.


Festive Afternoon Teas in London

Biscuiteers | Notting Hill & Belgravia

Biscuiteers are known for their incredibly detailed, hand-iced biscuits – but now they’re about to be known for their turkey brioche buns; cocoa-dusted mont blanc tarts; and white chocolate & cranberry macarons, too…

Details: Served daily, 11am-5.30pm £48pp | +£6 for a glass of prosecco | Vegan and gluten-free options available | Book here

Hotel Café Royal | Regent Street

hotel cafe royal festive afternoon tea london

HCR’s gilded, ornate dining room is named in honour of one of its most famous patrons; Oscar Wilde (although other options included Elizabeth Taylor, The Beatles, Muhammad Ali and David Bowie). And over the festive period it’ll be filled with an equally gilded afternoon tea offering, including honey roast gammon sandwiches with chestnut butter; pear & gingerbread sorbet; Christmas cake scones; and spiced mandarin mousse with mulled wine.

Details: Served Wed – Sunday, 12-5.30pm £70pp +£10 for a glass of Champagne Vegan, gluten-free and halal menus available | Book here

Theatre Royal Drury Lane | Covent Garden

The restored Theatre Royal on Drury Lane serves up a suitably theatrical afternoon tea in their peach-painted, emerald-green marble pillared Grand Saloon (as well as on the balcony, in the warmer months). It’s all been designed by legendary Hackney baker Lily Vanilli, and for the festive edition includes frilly pastel-piped cakes; mini sticky toffee puddings with liquid cores; and lapsang souchong-glazed salmon madeleines… and if you’ve still got room, you can always hail down the roaming ice cream trolley.

Details: Served daily, 11am-5.30pm | £49pp (£35 for children) Add a glass of Champagne for £9pp Book here

Claridge’s | Mayfair

Claridge’s is a classic for a reason – and that reason is a century-tested menu with deluxe takes on the classic finger sandwiches, cakes and scones. For Christmas, you can tuck into the likes of turkey & stuffing sandwiches; Christmas pudding with brandy sauce; Black Forest Christmas trees and banana & kiwi ‘baubles’ – all while being serenaded by the dulcet tones of The Southend Children’s Choir.

Details: Served daily between 2.45 and 5.30pm £95pp/£100pp at weekends | +£10 for a glass of Champagne | Vegan and gluten-free menu available | Book now


The Chinoiserie, The Carlton Tower Jumeirah | Knightsbridge

The Carlton Tower

The Carlton Tower’s afternoon tea is tagged with some serious name-value. Jessica Préalpato was voted the world’s best pastry chef in 2019 by World’s 50 Best (it’s like the Oscars for the pâtissière people), and was head pastry chef under Alain Ducasse at Paris’s Plaza Athénée. Here she’s drummed up a Christmas afternoon tea menu inspired by Kew Gardens, so handpicked teas, blue lobster and caviar tarts, black truffle and duck egg croissants, swanky scones (served with emulsified honeycomb and chocolate truffle crémeux) and a pastry trolley layered with festive treats.

Details: Served daily 12-5pm | £75pp | +£19 for a glass of Champagne + | Book now

Rosewood London | Holborn

rosewood afternoon tea

Rosewood London’s Mirror Room has been repeatedly awarded Best Contemporary Afternoon Tea in the UK – which is fitting, since it’s inspired by contemporary art. Currently they’re paying festive homage to the surrealist works of Salvador Dalí, with ruby peach jelly adorned with playing cards (and snowflakes!); flowers blooming from an egg filled with vanilla mousse (but it looks like a bauble!); and a little augmented reality to discover with your phone.

Details: Served Wed-Sun, 12-5.45pm £80pp +£10 for a glass of Champagne | Book here

Sketch | Mayfair

sketch afternoon tea

London’s most beautiful restaurant has applied all its trademark style and form to its afternoon tea. Served up in the huge, now very yellow Gallery room, you’ll be able to dine on festive treats whilst admiring the Yinka Shonibare artwork, the live string trio playing pop hits, and the Victoria sponge trolley being wheeled towards your table.

Details: Served daily 11.00-4.30pm from 16th November £85pp +£14 for a glass of Champagne | Vegan, gluten-free menu available | Book here

The Drawing Room | Mayfair

The Drawing Room is secreted away in Brown’s Hotel, a grand establishment taking up no fewer than 11 Georgian townhouses in Mayfair – a not insignificant part of which has been dedicated to the ritual of afternoon tea. In fact, Queen Victoria herself was quite partial to taking it here. And she probably would have been quite partial to the Black Forest Gateau that caps off the festive menu…

Details: Served daily, 12-4.30pm, from 21st November From £85pp Includes a glass of Champagne | Vegan menu available | Book here

The Orchid Lounge at Pan Pacific | The City

The Orchid Lounge’s setting is as neutral and inconspicuous as you’d expect a lounge in a fancy City hotel to be, but that’s by the by when the plates are loaded with so much colour, courtesy of top pastry chef Cherish Finden (who regards patisserie as ‘edible art’). For the festive period she’s taken inspiration from The Nutcracker, creating a Sugar Plum Fairy choux bun with spiced plum compote; snowy stollen scones; and a Nutcracker of pecan mousse and caramel sponge.

Details: Served daily, 12-4.30pm, until 2nd January £78-85pp Add a glass of Champagne/cocktail from £10 Book here

Fortnum & Mason | Piccadilly

The Fortnum’s store is a gourmand’s paradise of loose leaf teas, fancy biscuits and preserves. But the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon upstairs has been serving it all since 2012, when it was opened by, who else, but the late Queen herself. For Christmas, they’re going suitably large and serving up scones with strawberry & Champagne jam, Coronation Chicken sandwiches and a cake trolley loaded with pastry Christmas wreaths – all while carols tinkle away on the piano.

Details: Served daily from 21st November £75pp | +£15.75 for a Champagne cocktail | Vegetarian, vegan, dairy and gluten-free options available | Book now

The Berkeley | Knightsbridge

The Berkley Fashion tea

Afternoon tea’s always in fashion at The Berkeley, where pastry chef and artistic genius Mourad Khiat puts together delicately composed sweet treats based on catwalks from around the globe. And over Christmas, you can munch on Christopher Kane’s floral gown (actually a vanilla cheesecake, on a crunch sable biscuit, stuck together with vanilla crémeux and ultra thin chocolate) and Prada’s camel coat as a cocoa-rich biscuit with pink fur sleeves in royal icing.

Details: Served daily 1-5.30pm until 2nd January | £92pp | Includes a glass of Champagne | Vegan menu availableBook here

The Lanesborough | Hyde Park

Served under a glass dome in a pretty pale blue dining room that looks like a cake in itself, The Lanesborough Hotel’s one of London’s most elegant spots for afternoon tea. For their festive menu they’ll be rolling out dishes like pistachio & amarena cherry Christmas trees; truffled turkey rolls with sage and redcurrant; and some fairly perilous-sounding mulled wine martinis…

Details: Served Mon-Thurs 2.30-4:30pm; Fri-Sat 12-4pm, Sun 3.30-4.30pm | £80pp | Includes a mulled wine martini, or +£19 for a glass of Champagne | Book here

The Gherkin | Liverpool Street

The Gherkin

The Gherkin takes high tea very literally. 360º skyline views, a twinkling tree under the dome and unlimited Champagne combine with a menu of devilled egg sandwiches; fruit scones and lemon posset choux.

Details: Served Tuesday-Saturday, 12-3pm, from 21st November | From £60pp, inc. a glass of bubbles Bottomless Champagne for £85pp | Book here

The Landmark | Marylebone

In winter, the towering palms inside the Landmark’s 8-storey atrium conservatory are matched by an equally towering Christmas tree. In fact, it’s such a spectacular setting that you might not even notice the parade of Lapsang Souchong-smoked salmon sandwiches; apple & raisin scones; and white chocolate & cranberry yule logs arriving at your table…

Details: Served weekdays 3-5pm, weekends 1-5pm £78pp | Glass of Champagne included | Book now

Regular Afternoon Teas in London

£ (The Least Expensive Afternoon Tea In London)

Dalloway Terrace | Bloomsbury

Dalloway Terrace

Dalloway Terrace promises to shower you with poached salmon sandwiches on cocoa bread; cheddar cheese scones; hazelnut and dark chocolate profiteroles; and approximately half a meadow’s-worth of flowers overhead.

Details: Served daily 1-4pm £40pp +£15-19 for a glass of Champagne | Vegetarian and gluten-free menu available with 24h notice | Book here

No. 16 | South Kensington

Number 16 Afternoon Tea London

Number 16 (a jewel box of a hotel in South Kensington) has an unbelievably beautiful orangery and garden. And frankly, it would be a crime if they didn’t offer afternoon tea here. But thankfully they do, and it involves pitch-perfect sandwiches; a choice of patisseries; and the option to go for hot chocolate instead of tea.

Details: Served 1-4pm | £40pp | +£12 for a glass of Champagne | Gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan options available | Book on 020 7589 5232

Lyaness | South Bank

lyaness afternoon tea london

Housed on the bottom floor of the ultra-trendy Sea Containers London, Lyaness offsets powder-blue armchairs and gold furnishings with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the river. By night, it’s an award-winning cocktail bar (it opened after its previous incarnation, Dandelyan was crowned best in the world), but by day you can score a three-course afternoon tea which you can enjoy boozeless, with a glass of Champagne, or paired with Ryan Chetiyawardana’s innovative cocktails.

Details: Served weekends 12-5pm | £35pp | +£10 for a glass of Champagne, or +£20 for 3 paired cocktails | Book here

The Ivy Chelsea Garden | Chelsea

The Ivy Chelsea

There’s a buzz about this place, and it’s not just coming from the beehives in the back garden. The Ivy‘s more relaxed, leafy Chelsea outpost is a beautifully verdant spot for the ultimate afternoon tea in London, featuring towers stacked with red velvet and madeleine cake, fruit scones, and quintessential finger sandwiches.

Details: Served daily 3-5pm | Cream tea £9.50pp, afternoon tea £28.95pp +£9 for a glass of Champagne | Book here

The Wolseley | Piccadilly

The Wolseley afternoon tea

The Wolseley is a lovely place to visit at any time of day. But it particularly comes into its own for afternoon tea, which comes with all the usual sweet and savoury trimmings… as well as chocolate and caramel tea.

Details: Served Mon-Fri 3-6.30pm, weekends 3.30-6.30pm | Cream tea £16.75pp, afternoon tea £36.75pp +£13 for a glass of Champagne | Veggie, vegan, nut-free and gluten-free options available | Book here

The Zetter Townhouse | Marylebone & Clerkenwell

The Zetter Townhouse's Afternoon Tea

Packed with Chesterfield sofas, a roaring fire and a clutch of eccentric Victorian trinkets from candlesticks to stuffed animals; The Zetter Townhouses look like afternoon tea could have been invented there. There’s two menus to pick from; Aunt Wilhelmina’s or Uncle Seymour’s – the former a traditional tea, and the latter a punchy platter of pasties, scotch eggs and sausage & haggis rolls.

Marylebone | Served Wed-Sun, 12-4pm | £45pp | +£10 for bubbles or a tea-infused cocktail | Book here
Clerkenwell | Served weekends 12-4.30pm |  £39.50pp +£10 for bubbles or a tea-infused cocktailBook here

 

££ (More Expensive)

Rotunda | Tower Hill

rotunda four seasons afternoon tea

Directly overlooking Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, the Four Seasons hotel’s lounge has an impressive tower of its own, too, stacked with patisserie inspired by the Crown Jewels (stored under lock and key just a stone’s throw away). Traditional scones & sandwiches are followed by a rhubarb & yuzu crown; a coconut & ginger orb; a black sesame ‘coin’ and chocolate and cardamom rubies.

Details: Served Friday-Sunday with live music 2-5pm | £65pp +£10 for a glass of Champagne | Book here

Ladurée | Covent Garden

Laduree Covent Garden

Marie Antoinette would have heartily approved of this place. Not only may you eat cake – and lots of it – the warren of tea rooms here are painted in hues of pastel greens, blues and lilacs, and crammed with Louis XVIth furnishings. But if you sit outside on their heated terrace or balcony, you’ll be able to look out over Covent Garden’s grand piazza as you munch on sandwiches, scones, patisserie and their famous macarons.

Details: Served daily, 12-6pm Cream tea £16pp, afternoon tea £38pp including a glass of bubbles | Book here

Town House at The Kensington | Kensington

The Town House at The Kensington afternoon tea

You won’t need to leave this hotel to see the sights. Inspired by Around the World in 80 Days, Town House’s afternoon tea takes you from London (with a puff pastry beef pie) to Rome (mascarpone mousse with espresso syrup) via Cairo (and cumin-spiced hummus sandwiches).

Details: Served daily, 12-4pm £58pp | +£18 for a glass of Champagne | Veggie, vegan and gluten-free menus available | Book here

The Ampersand Hotel |  South Kensington

ampersand quirky afternoon tea

Amy Murrell

Taking inspiration from the nearby Natural History Museum, afternoon tea at The Ampersand hotel arrives in a cloud of dry ice, under which you’ll find T-rex footprint macarons; dark chocolate & caramel dino egg nests; fossils to excavate from chocolate soil; and themed teapot-tails to boot…

Details: Served daily 12-5.30pm £49.50pp | +£15 for a glass of Champagne/tea pot-tail | Vegetarian and gluten-free menu available | Book here

The Petersham | Covent Garden

Petersham afternoon tea

Sit down to tea in the glamorous surroundings of Petersham Nurseries’ central London outpost, where glass cake stands are loaded with Scottish girolle arancini; smoked trout blinis; fruit scones and raspberry chiffon cake.

Details: Served Thurs-Sun, 3-5pm | £55pp Seasonal bellini included | Vegetarian & vegan menus available | Book here

Aqua Shard | London Bridge

Afternoon Tea At Aqua Shard

Aqua Shard serves afternoon tea on the 31st floor of one of the most iconic skyscrapers in London. And frankly, they could have let the view do the talking. But instead they’ve created a Peter Pan themed extravaganza that includes “an enormous mushroom chimney”, an absinthe cocktail shimmering with golden fairy dust, and a gummy crocodile trapped in tea jelly, all of which is delivered to your table via this smoking pirate ship.

Details: Served daily, 12.15-3.15pm £52pp +£19 glass of Champagne, +£28 glass of Champagne rosé | Gluten-free not currently availableBook here

 

£££ (The Most Expensive)

Seabird | Southwark

seabird quirky afternoon tea

You might think that afternoon tea, with its scones and cakes, might look a bit out of place at a seafood restaurant… and you’d be right. So instead, Seabird serves up to three tiers of shellfish platters, starting with ten oysters hand-picked by the chef, and scaling up to banquets of razor clams, fresh langoustines and an entire half lobster.

Details: Served daily, subject to 48h pre-order | Oyster platter from £40, £220 all-in Bubbles from £10, cocktails from £14 | Gluten-free menu available | Book here

The Ritz | Piccadilly

The Ritz

The Ritz’s claim that the ornate ceiling, antique mirrors, chandeliers and golden statues “add a light and stylish flourish to the room” is like saying Liberace was fond of the occasional ruffle. As such, it’s one of the grandest spots in London to take a traditional tea, with harpists, pianists and the London Dance Orchestra to serenade you as you tuck into seasonal pastries, scones and smoked salmon sandwiches.

Details: Served daily at sittings from 11.30am-7.30pm From £67pp (£45 for children) | +£22 for a glass of Champagne | Book now

 


Like eating between lunch and dinner? Then you’ll probably like this thing called brunch. Check out our ultimate London brunch guide

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