Afternoon tea is one of Britain's most delightful pastimes, a tradition dating back to 1840 when the Duchess of Bedford first introduced the concept. Now as ubiquitous as a black cab in Westminster, the affection continues to grow, especially in luxury hotels whose offering of colourful patisserie and perfectly angled finger sandwiches extend well beyond the typical cucumber triangle. But the hefty price tag can dampen the mood more than a drizzly day in the deepest winter – so we've rounded up London's best hotels for afternoon tea under £30. You're welcome.
Ham Yard Hotel, Soho
Interiors at Ham Yard Hotel elevate the tea party fantasy – a kaledioscope of colourful textures, interesting artwork and trendy décor. The hotel is an enclave of urban tranquility in the throng of Soho, a village centred around Tony Cragg's bronze sculpture that encompasses an orangerie, bar and restaurant, among other spaces designed for hotel guests. For visitors, tea can be taken in the former, and comprises a selection of savouries, cakes and scones, and your choice of tea, coffee or hot chocolate. If you're still feeling peckish, order some additional sandwiches for an extra £5.
Afternoon tea £22; £32.50 with champagne
Read the full review: Ham Yard Hotel
Dean Street Townhouse, Soho
Quintessential tradition is not lost on the Dean Street Townhouse, whose classic, country-esque interiors blend plentiful tassels and fabrics with whimsical patterns and dark-wood panelling. The hotel shares a postcode with some of London's best places to eat, but also offers an escape from the tourist traps that flank Soho's pungent streets. The classic style continues to the menus which feature cucumber and cream cheese, smoked salmon and horseradish, or egg mayonnaise sandwiches, fruit scones, and traditional cakes.
Afternoon tea £22; £32 with champagne
Read the full review: Dean Street Townhouse
Ace Hotel London Shoreditch
Surround yourself with the achingly cool creatives and head to Hoi Polloi at the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch. Cream tea at this hipster hotspot includes a selection of mini sandwiches, fancies (like their signature tea cake and carrot cake), scones with clotted cream, homemade jam and a choice of teas by Rare Tea Company. Don't expect elaborate frills, it's all about the low-key luxury in a hang-out that locals love. The stylish brasserie-like space is usually buzzing at peak times, meaning afternoon tea (served between 3pm-5.30pm everday) segues nicely into a boozy evening.
Afternoon tea £21; £30 with champagne
Read the full review: Ace Hotel London Shoreditch
The Ned, The City
You have a choice of two very different afternoon teas for £30 at The Ned. Firstly, the traditional – served Monday to Saturday in Millie's lounge, on bespoke Burleigh china tea sets in the Grand Banking Hall. The menu typifies the norm, with a dedication to scones, sandwiches and cakes and a choice of tea. And then there's the Japanese tea at Kaia, served only on Saturdays. Options, presented on bespoke bamboo stands, span temari sushi, include steam buns with kumquat compote, to black sesame caramel choux.
Afternoon tea £30; £40 with champagne
Read the full review: The Ned
Kettner's Townhouse, Soho
Join the hedonistic ranks of Edward VII and Oscar Wilde whose debaucherous dalliances in the restaurant, champagne bar and private dining rooms at this Soho House hotel were once the talk of the town (and have been well documented since). Kick the afternoon off with a glass of champers (included). No stale, boring crusts here – sandwiches include crab and pickled cucumber, duck confit with stuffing and cranberry sauce, and comte with chutney. Patisserie and scones are, of course, also on the menu.
Afternoon tea £30 (with glass of champagne)
Read the full review: Kettner's Townhouse
The Mandeville Hotel, Marylebone
The Mandeville's stylish interiors beckon trendsetters and fashionistas with Christian Lacroix-designed rooms and characterful features. The genuinely boutiquey feel and Marylebone location engender a glam afternoon tea setting, especially in the Reform Social & Grill. Sandwiches range from minted cucumber and cheese to tuna and sweetcorn, while treats involve Sacher cakes, rhubarb and custard macarons and strawberry fraisier. A glass of prosecco is included, but upgrade (£39) for free-flowing bubbles.
Afternoon tea £26.50; £37 with champagne
Read the full review: The Mandeville Hotel
The Bingham, Richmond
This small and independent restaurant with rooms, on the River Thames of Richmond, was historically two Georgian townhouses that date back to 1740, exactly 100 years before Anna the Duchess of Bedford started the trend. It's away from the tourist hub, has gorgeous views over the garden and river, and offers eager traditionalists a conventional experience. The usual staples (sandwiches, scones, cakes and patisseries) are found, but with a triple-AA Rosette restaurant in an intimate setting, it's a real gem.
Afternoon tea £30; £42 with champagne
Read the full review: The Bingham
Le Meridien Piccadilly, Mayfair
The Terrace on Piccadilly, Le Meridien's AA-Rosette restaurant set in an airy, glass conservatory is lovely: all contemporary furniture, photographs of London on the walls, and plants dotted about. A botanical theme continues to the menu, which could include dishes along the lines of pavlova rose domes, pistachio cakes and burnt-lemon tarts. Sandwiches such as smoked salmon pinwheels, coronation chicken wraps and deviled eggs on beetroot loaves feature, as well as scones. Also included is a glass of prosecco, but if you want two hours' worth of unlimited fizz opt for the £39 menu.
Afternoon tea £29 (with glass of prosecco)
Read the full review: Le Meridien Piccadilly
K West, Shepherd's Bush
Putting the (bread) roll in rock 'n' roll. One of London's quirkiest afternoon teas can be enjoyed for under £30 at K West's Studio Kitchen. The Festival Glam Rock Afternoon Tea pays homage to the hotel's musical heritage by serving themed sweets and savouries on vintage record covers, and tea in vibrantly coloured crockery. Think mini club sandwiches; rainbow-brioche sliders; and carmine and poppy seeds, chlorophyll and polenta buns. Treats could feature minted strawberry and watermelon mini-slushies, blueberry scones and white chocolate mini cheesecake bowls. Live like a rockstar and add five shots or a cocktail for extra.
Afternoon tea £28.50; £36 with a glass of prosecco
Read the full review: K West