Hattie Lloyd 03/08/23
Afternoon Tea in London | These places have got it in the bag…
There’s a lot of debate when it comes to afternoon tea.
Is it better to put the jam or cream first? Should you say scone like ‘cone’, or scone like ‘gone’? And where can you find the best afternoon tea in London?
The answers to which, of course, are a) cream, you heathen b) it’s pronounced ‘scone’, and c) these places right here, in our fully comprehensive guide to afternoon teas in London (which we’ve also organised by budget, and whether they offer gluten-free and/or vegan afternoon teas).
We’re talking afternoon teas inspired by Singapore and Sri Lanka; teas inspired by fashion, contemporary art and musicals; and teas which feature miniature volcanoes and dinosaur fossils. Plus, you know, a couple of really classic afternoon teas served in some of London’s most palatial and glitzy settings.
Here they are:
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.
Lyaness | South Bank
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 Sri Lankan high tea featuring dishes like mutton croquettes and pandan swiss rolls, paired with a trio of innovative cocktails.
Details: Served weekends 12-5pm | £43pp | +£10 for a glass of Champagne, or +£20 for 3 paired cocktails | Book here
The Wolseley | Piccadilly
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 £18.50pp, afternoon tea £39.50pp | +£12.50 for a glass of Champagne | Veggie, vegan, nut-free and gluten-free options available | Book here
The Zetter Townhouse | Marylebone & Clerkenwell
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 – and both have vegetarian options.
Zetter Townhouse Marylebone | Served Wed-Sun, 12-4pm | £45pp | +£10 for bubbles or a tea-infused cocktail | Book here
Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell | Served weekends 12-4.30pm | £39.50pp | +£10 for bubbles or a tea-infused cocktail | Book here
The Ivy Chelsea Garden | 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 West London outpost is a beautifully verdant spot for a traditional afternoon tea, featuring grilled chicken & truffle mayo brioche rolls; freshly baked scones; and an edible honeycomb & dark chocolate plant pot…
Details: Served daily 3-5pm | £32.95pp | +£10 for a glass of Champagne | Book here
Biscuiteers | Notting Hill & Belgravia
Biscuiteers are known for their incredibly detailed, hand-iced biscuits – but you’re about to get to know them for their yuzu & lemon meringue tarts; ruby chocolate macarons and hazelnut choux buns, too. You can even plump to add on your own DIY biscuit icing experience…
Details: Served daily, 11am-5.30pm | £45pp | +£7.50 for a glass of prosecco | Vegan and gluten-free options available | Book here
Balthazar | Covent Garden
Can afternoon tea be classified as a proper meal? It’s an age-old question, and at Balthazar the answer is definitely yes. London’s version of the swish New York bistro has thrown its signature hamburger (in miniature form) into the mix, alongside spruced-up crab and tarragon chicken sandwiches, and a comté cheese & ham croissant. Following this you’ve got a parade of Parisian-inspired sweets – Paris Brest, coffee-drenched gateau opera and delicate crème brûlée – because dessert is just a key to a proper meal too…
Details: 2-4pm Mon Fri | £80 for two | +£10 for a glass of Champagne | Book here
Charlotte Street Hotel | Fitzrovia
The kitschy Kit Kemp-designed restaurant at Charlotte Street Hotel, Oscar, claims to serve an alternative afternoon tea ‘with a twist’, and while it’s shame the restaurant isn’t called Oliver (it’s rather named after Oscar Wilde), the afternoon tea itself doesn’t miss. You’ll get three mini cocktails – alcoholic or non alcoholic – paired with an assortment of sandwiches (cucumber & mint, smoked salmon & cream cheese, ham & mustard), gratifying sweet things like a strawberry and prosecco mousse cake, and those mandatory homemade scones with clotted cream and preserves.
Details: Served 2.25-4.45pm Wed-Thu and 12-4.45pm Fri-Sat | £38 | Book here
Absinthe Afternoon Tea @ Nightjar Carnaby | Piccadilly
Nightjar Carnaby is not the first place you think of when you think about Afternoon Tea. But then, absinthe isn’t the first drink you think of either. And as it turns out, they go together extremely well. Drop in, and you’ll get a Hendrick’s Floradora tea punch on arrival (it involves Hendricks Floradora Gin, Pama Liqueur, Yorkshire tea, Elderflower & Berry Liqueur, and more) followed by classic fingers sandwiches, scones & sweet treats to be enjoyed with some raucous live entertainment, and finished with a Hendricks Absinthe mini-digestif served french-style from an old-fashioned Absinthe Fountain. And you can even upgrade with some Champagne, too.
Ps. Nudge readers can get £5 off using the code NUDGE40 at checkout.
Details: Available every Sunday (4pm – 6.30pm) | £45pp (£40 for Nudge readers) | +£10 for a glass of Champagne | Veggie, vegan, nut-free and gluten-free options available | Book here
The Soho Hotel | Soho
The Soho Hotel has conjured up a Wizard Of Oz themed afternoon tea in tandem with the London Palladium’s current musical production. The colourfully-dressed desserts each pay homage to the classic tale – including a strawberry and custard ruby slipper, an over the rainbow lemon swiss roll, and a red velvet Toto cupcake – while there’s also a ‘Hot Melted Silver’ cocktail inspired by the Tin Man (a concoction of Ketel One Vodka, lychee liqueur, coconut milk, chilli and lime). So that’s what was in his little oil can…
Details: Served daily, 12-4pm (until 3rd September) | £45 or £79.50 if you wanted to tack on a theatre ticket for the same day | +£12 for a cocktail/£15.50 for a glass of Champagne | Book here
Dalloway Terrace | Bloomsbury
Dalloway Terrace promises to shower you with poached salmon sandwiches on rye bread; cheddar cheese scones; saffron & raspberry tarts; and approximately half a meadow’s-worth of flowers overhead.
Details: Served daily 1-4pm | £45pp | +£18 for a glass of Champagne | Vegetarian and gluten-free menu available with 24h notice | Book here
No. 16 | South Kensington
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 elegant patisserie; and the option to go for hot chocolate instead of tea.
Details: Served daily, 1-4pm | £45pp | +£12 for a glass of Champagne | Gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan options available | Book here
The Gherkin | The City
The Gherkin takes high tea very literally. Panoramic London views and unlimited Champagne combine with a menu of devilled egg sandwiches, Jersey fruit scones, and vanilla & matcha Battenburg cake.
Details: Served Mon-Sat, 12-3pm | From £55pp, inc. a glass of bubbles | Bottomless Champagne for £85pp | Book here
Rotunda | Tower Hill
Directly overlooking Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, the Four Seasons hotel’s lounge has an impressive tower of its own – one stacked with patisserie inspired by the Crown Jewels (stored under lock and key just a stone’s throw away). Traditional scones & sandwiches are capped off by a strawberry confit & yuzu crown; a chocolate sponge inspired by the gardens at Highgrove House; a chocolate mousse & salted caramel ‘coin’ and a Victoria sponge infused with darjeeling (apparently the King’s favoured tea).
Details: Served Friday-Sunday with live music 2-5pm | £65pp | +£10 for a glass of Champagne | Book here
Theatre Royal Drury Lane | Covent Garden
The beautifully 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 features miniature crumpets with Earl Grey cream cheese; tiny little coronation chicken pies; frilly pastel-piped cakes; and ice cream sandwiches stacked with marshmallow & dark chocolate. We would say it’s the most delicious afternoon tea ever created… but we’d hate to be dramatic.
Details: Served daily, 11am-5.30pm | £59pp (£35 for children) | Add a glass of Champagne for £10pp | Gluten-free & vegan menus available | Book here
The Landmark | Marylebone
Afternoon tea in an 8-storey high atrium – it might sound like a tall order. But The Landmark are making the most of their insanely elegant palm conservatory by filling it with tinkling piano music; a huge spread of teas; and Lapsang Souchong-smoked salmon sandwiches.
Details: Served weekdays 3-5pm, weekends 1-5pm | £65pp | +£13 for a glass of Champagne | Book now
Town House at The Kensington | Kensington
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 India (starting with green chutney & cucumber sandwiches) to Singapore (pandan & mango delice) via Yemen (and baked flatbread with tomato & cumin).
Details: Served daily, 12-4pm | £58pp | +£19 for a glass of Champagne | Veggie, vegan and gluten-free menus available | Book here
The Ampersand Hotel | South Kensington
Taking inspiration from the nearby Natural History Museum, afternoon tea at The Ampersand hotel arrives in a swirling cloud of dry ice, under which you’ll find T-rex footprint macarons; dark chocolate & caramel dino egg nests; biscuit fossils to excavate from chocolate soil; and themed teapot-tails to boot…
Details: Served daily 12-5.30pm | £54.50pp/£37.50 for kids | +£15 for a glass of Champagne/tea pot-tail | Vegetarian and gluten-free menus available | Book here
Petersham Nurseries Covent Garden | Covent Garden
Sit down to tea in the glamorous surroundings of Petersham Nurseries Covent Garden, where hand-blown Florentine glass cake stands are loaded with crab & crème fraîche sandwiches; raspberry & lemon choux; fruit scones; tiramisu tarts and blood orange macarons.
Details: Served Thurs-Sun, 3-5pm | From £55pp | Seasonal bellini included, +£12 for a glass of Champagne | Vegetarian & vegan menus available | Book here
Aqua Shard | London Bridge
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 | £61pp, £30 for kids | +£20 glass of Champagne | Gluten-free not currently available | Book here
Seabird | Southwark
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 | £80-220 | Bubbles from £10, cocktails from £14 | Book here
Hotel Café Royal | Regent Street
HCR’s gilded, ornate dining room has, in its time, been frequented by Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Taylor, The Beatles, Muhammad Ali and David Bowie. And it’s home to an equally gilded afternoon tea offering, including scones with Earl Grey tea jelly; smoked salmon sandwiches with marinated Persian cucumber; and a lime & mint baba with Chantilly cream.
Details: Served Wed – Sunday, 12-5.30pm | £70pp | +£10 for a glass of Champagne | Vegetarian & vegan menus available, other dietaries catered for with 48hrs notice | 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. Expect honey-glazed ham with mustard mayonnaise on onion bread; freshly baked fruit scones; and a St Honoré caramelized puff – all served with Claridge’s own unique blend of tea – in supremely elegant art deco surroundings.
Details: Served daily between 2.45 and 5.30pm | £85pp/£45 for kids | +£10 for a glass of Champagne | Vegan and gluten-free menu available | Book now
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 has to be one of the most elegant spots for afternoon tea in London, complete with a live pianist on weekends. For their current Bridgerton-inspired menu they’re rolling out dishes like tea-cured salmon sandwiches, fresh scones with clotted cream, and patisserie topped with a tiny crown, all served alongside a cocktail inspired by a genuine Regency-era punch recipe.
Details: Served Mon-Thurs 2.30-4pm; Fri-Sat 12-4pm, Sun 3.30-4.30pm | £75pp | +£20 for a glass of Champagne/£10 for a cocktail | Vegetarian, vegan & gluten-free menus available | Book here
The Chinoiserie, The Carlton Tower Jumeirah | Knightsbridge
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 pâtisserie people), and was head pastry chef under Alain Ducasse at Paris’s Plaza Athénée. Here she’s drummed up an afternoon tea menu inspired by nature, so handpicked teas, cucumber and burnt lemon tartlets, and almond praline éclairs all feature – alongside four different types of scone in what they’re calling ‘The Scone Experience’.
Details: Served daily 12-5pm | £75pp | +£15 for a glass of Champagne | Book now
Rosewood London | Holborn
© Patricia Niven
The Mirror Room at Holborn hotel Rosewood London has been repeatedly awarded Best Contemporary Afternoon Tea in the UK – which is fitting, since it’s inspired by contemporary art. Their current menu pays tribute to the colourful works of David Hockney: expect a sponge rendition of The Splash cloaked in an Earl Grey & chocolate bavarois; a vanilla cheesecake pastry covered with winding branches and leaves; and a sculpture of pistachio sponge & cherry mousse to represent The Arrival of Spring.
Details: Served daily, 12-5.45pm | £75pp/£40 for kids | +£15 for a glass of Champagne | Book here
Sketch | Mayfair
The city’s most beautiful restaurant has applied all its trademark style and form to its afternoon tea. Served up in the huge, very yellow Gallery room, you’ll be able to dine on dainty treats whilst admiring the Yinka Shonibare artwork, the live string trio, and the Victoria sponge trolley being wheeled towards your table.
Details: Served daily 11.00-4pm | £80pp/£55 for kids | +£14 for a glass of Champagne | Vegan, gluten-free menu available | Book here
The Milestone Hotel | Kensington
How to celebrate hitting a major milestone? Well, you could do worse than going to the Milestone. Their traditional afternoon tea in the very decadent and very quaint Park Lounge is made for a celebratory champagne toast, backed by a beautifully presented three-tier stack of fancy finger sandwiches, freshly-baked scones fitted with Devonshire clotted cream and all manner of French pastries. And until the end of September, they’re even offering to pack it all away into a hamper for you to enjoy in Kensington Gardens.
Details: Served daily, 1-5pm | £80pp | +£15 for a glass of Champagne | Book here
The Stafford Hotel | St James’s
Marble-topped tables, shiny red-leather chairs, silky wolf-grey banquettes and ornate wall and ceiling features: afternoon tea at The Stafford’s private member’s club-esque Game Bird restaurant is a lavish affair, and that’s just the surroundings – we haven’t got to the finger sandwiches yet… Those are filled with smoked salmon and horseradish crème fraîche & honey-roasted ham and mustard mayo, and just as you start to think you’ve reached the peak of high society living, in comes a bespoke cake trolley bundled with choux buns, tarts and a slice of their earl grey and honey layer cake.
Details: Served from 12-5.30pm daily | £70 | +£17 for a glass of Champagne | 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 Darjeeling chocolate mousse they serve there now…
Details: Served daily, 12-6.30pm | From £75pp | +£10 for 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. In a nod to the hotel’s Singaporean roots, the Kopi Tiam tea comes laden with siu mai, steamed buns filled with salted egg yolk custard, and exquisite hand-made patisserie which changes with the seasons (currently inspired by flavours of an English summer garden and tropical fruits).
Details: Served Thursday-Monday, 12-4.30pm, plus 6-8pm Mondays | £62pp/£35 for kids | Add a glass of Champagne for £10 | Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free menus available | 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. It’s a quintessential London afternoon tea: tuck into sugar-dusted scones with strawberry jam, cucumber & minted cream sandwiches and a quintet of tiny little cakes to finish.
Details: Served daily | £78pp | +£17.50 for a glass of Champagne | Vegetarian, vegan, nut- and gluten-free options available | Book now
The Berkeley’s Fashion Afternoon Tea | Knightsbridge
Afternoon tea is 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. This season’s creations include a biscuit portrait of the late Vivienne Westwood; a chocolate-smothered Victoria sponge masquerading as an Hermes bag; and a baked recreation of Loewe’s Anthurium dress – so, a cake inspired by a dress inspired by a flower – that gives Inception a run for its money.
Details: Served daily 1-5.30pm | £80pp | Add a glass of Champagne for £12 | Vegetarian & vegan menus available | Book here
The Ritz | Piccadilly
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 afternoon 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 £72pp (£50 for children) | +£22 for a glass of Champagne | Book now
Like eating between meals? Then you’ll probably like this thing called brunch. Check out our ultimate London brunch guide
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