Once upon a time it was
de rigueur to spend the afternoon around a tea table, nibbling on a scone, cutting into a rich fruit cake or adding a third sugar to a cup of Earl Grey. Rarely do we wish that we could swap places with the residents of Downton Abbey – we couldn't take the Dowager Countess's side eye – but they sure knew a thing or two about decadence in the good old days.
If your afternoons could do with an injection of Assam or, like us, you believe that life is better with scones, then we know where to go. We've skimmed the cream of London's afternoon tea spots, whether you're looking for classical elegance, tea to get you tipsy, or something a little bit different...
Best For Chic City Slickers: Balthazar
Balthazar's afternoon tea is less a celebration of all things cake, and more an homage to the queen of urban chic herself, Bobbi Brown. An ideal afternoon for anyone who loves to indulge, city-style. Take a seat at a banquette and drink in the surroundings, which combine Parisian elegance with New York energy. A white-aproned waiter will sweep in with a tower of sandwiches, scones, and cakes disguised as cosmetics and leave you wondering, 'Is that mascara really made of white chocolate?'
It is, and it's delicious. When you've finished munching, if you haven't had your fill of all things aesthetic, pop next door for a complimentary makeup lesson. Having experienced tea at Balthazar, though, we suspect makeup might be at it's best when made of macarons and filled with cream. Just us?
Afternoon Tea – £27.50 per person
Afternoon Tea with champagne or cocktail – £37.50 per person
4-6 Russell St, London WC2B 5HZ
020 3301 1155
Best For A Foodie Afternoon Out: The Modern Pantry
This is not your grandmother's afternoon tea. As we've come to expect from The Modern Pantry, the menu is bursting with global flavours and artisan ingredients. Ditch all thoughts of curling cucumber sandwiches and tuck into a chia seeded round, topped with Neal’s Yard Perroche goat's cheese and beetroot relish, or their re-imagined club sandwich, stuffed with za’atar roast chicken and walnut pesto.
Scones and clotted cream do still make an appearance, albeit infused with pecan and slathered with pumpkin jam. The restaurant's elegant interior, attentive service and beautifully designed china will delight afternoon tea lovers eager to venture beyond Victoria sponge. Hazelnut, tonka bean frangipane & apple tartlet, anyone?
Cream Tea – £12.50 per person
Afternoon Tea – £22.50 per person
Prosecco Tea – £27.50 per person
The Modern Pantry
Locations in Clerkenwell & Finsbury Park
Best For A Taste Of La Dolce Vita: Bulgari Hotel
Bulgari has been synonymous with luxury for well over a century, and its Knightsbridge hotel does nothing to damage that reputation. Pull up an armchair before the imposing fireplace in the granite-clad lounge and prepare to sink into the chicest of food comas.
With an afternoon tea that takes in all the usual British suspects, as well as an array of Italian sweet treats whipped up by Bulgari's executive chef, it's hard to hold back. Past highlights from the culinary maestro and protegé of Alain Ducasse have included freshly baked panettone, pecan praline choux and individual tarte tatin. Excuse us while we unbutton our Gucci jeans...
Classic Afternoon Tea – £35.00
Signature Afternoon Tea – £42.00
Champagne Tea – £47.00
171 Knightsbridge, London SW7 1DW
020 7151 1010
Best For Unlimited Indulgence: Lanes of London
There may well be a time to exercise restraint but it is not during afternoon tea, and Lanes of London is the perfect place to indulge a craving. The architecture of this Park Lane eatery is rooted in our Edwardian past, while the bottomless bubbles keep it 21st century.
The meal begins with a Jing tea tasting to help guests pick the perfect brew, although we suggest you make the most of Lanes' generosity and accompany your tea with all the prosecco you can handle. With handmade cakes, delicate finger sandwiches and scones served warm with clotted cream, this is a decidedly dainty way to get tipsy.
Cream Tea – £10.00
Afternoon Tea – £39.00
Bottomless Prosecco Tea – £49.00 per person
Lanes of London
140 Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1K 7AA
020 7647 5664
Photo: Via @lanes_of_london More Read More
Best For Cake And Culture: The Wallace Collection
Tucked away in a Marylebone square, only a few minutes from the crowds of Oxford Street, The Wallace Collection is an oasis of art and refinement. They also serve bloody good afternoon tea.
When you've had your fill of Old Masters, weave your way through Marie Antoinette's furniture to The Wallace Restaurant, situated in the former courtyard at the centre of the townhouse. Sit back beneath the (real!) trees and bask in natural light streaming through the glass roof overhead. As Marie said: "Let them eat cake".
Cream Tea – £6.50
Afternoon Tea – £18.50
Champagne Tea – £26.00
The Wallace Collection
Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN
020 7563 9505
Photo: Courtesy of The Wallace. More
Best For A Fantastic Tea: The Sanderson
If you've ever dreamed of following Alice down the rabbit hole – perhaps to take tea with the Queen of Hearts – then there's a real treat in store at The Sanderson. Despite being in the centre of London, entering the tranquil hidden garden feels like stepping into another world.
Every last detail of this twist on the Mad Hatter's tea party captures the magic of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland. You'll choose your tea from a selection of tiny "Drink Me" bottles, before discovering that the sugar bowl doubles as a music box. Be warned: the endless supply of treats, from marshmallow "magic" mushrooms to coffee and chocolate pocket watches may leave you a little too stuffed to return to reality. Oh, well...
Afternoon Tea – £48.00 per person
Children's Afternoon Tea – £35.00 per child
Champagne Tea – £58.00 per person
50 Berners St, London W1T 3NG
020 7300 1400
Photo: Courtesy of The Sanderson. More
Best For A Good Old Fashioned Party: Betty Blythe
Betty Blythe is perfect for a celebration. This west London favourite offers two vintage-inspired rooms that you and your group of friends can completely take over and indulge in an afternoon tea party, whether for a birthday, hen do or just because.
It should be no surprise, given that the original Betty Blythe was a siren of 1920s Hollywood, that this tearoom is a treasure trove of classic glamour. You can spoil yourself with a
Great Gatsby- inspired menu, dress yourself up in the vintage clothes that decorate the walls and fan yourself with ostrich feathers. Laugh in the face of Prohibition and bring a bottle, which staff will happily serve over ice for a small corkage charge. Go on, party like it's 1929.
Afternoon Tea – £22.50-£30.00 per person
Corkage Charge – £3.20
73 Blythe Rd, London W14 0HP
020 7602 1177
Photo: via @arinainlondonland. More
Best For A Boozy Afternoon: The London Edition
The London Edition is starting a revolution against traditional afternoon tea, and the fact that this revolution is taking place in their cocktail bar should give you an idea of the direction it's taking. No more set menus, no more stodgy scones and a lot more alcohol.
Every guest can choose three loose leafs from their menu of five, all of which are served with a sweet or savoury dish and cup of punch which has been perfectly paired to bring out the flavour of the tea. Whether it's a punch that mixes Plymouth gin with jasmine or lightens Hennessy Fine de Cognac by adding pineapple and spices, alcohol really does make afternoon tea much more fun. Viva la Revolución!
Afternoon Tea with Punch – £35.00 per person
The London Edition
10 Berners St, London W1T 3NP
020 7781 0000
Photo: Courtesy of London Edition. More
Best For Impromptu Elegance: The Wolseley
Entering into the Wolseley is like stepping back in time to one of Europe's grandest cafés. White aproned waiters glide across marble floors, the light from the chandeliers glints of perfectly polished silver tea pots and the smell of freshly baked cake is everywhere.
Quite apart from the freshness of their cakes, which are all baked on-site in their cavernous kitchen, it's the service that sets The Wolseley apart. The A-list clientele that can often be found there means that everyone is treated like an honoured guest, that includes those guests without a booking. The Wolseley policy is to keep a few tables aside for walk-ins, perfect for a little last minute luxury.
Cream Tea – £11.50 per person
Afternoon Tea – £27.50 per person
Champagne Tea – £38.50 per person
160 Piccadilly, London W1J 9EB
020 7499 6996
Photo: Courtesy of The Wolseley. More
Best For Lovers of London: The B-Bus
Afternoon tea on a double decker London bus? It couldn't be more British if the Queen visited the Bake Off tent with Geri Halliwell and Doctor Who. London based cake shop Brigit's Bakery have given us this peak of patriotism by combining their love of London with their love of baked goods. The B-Bus tour offers a full afternoon tea, all served while taking in the sights of London from a fully refurbished, 1960's Routemaster.
Take a seat on the top deck and tuck into an ever-changing menu of sweet treats and savoury delights. As the tour offers vegetarian, Halal and gluten-free options, it's perfect for any visitor to the capital, or any Londoners who feel like getting to know their city a little better. Trust us, taking the bus has never been so delicious.
Afternoon Tea – £48.50-£61.00 per person
The Tour Begins at 8 Northumberland Avenue & Victoria Coach Station
020 3026 1188
Photo: Courtesy of B-Bus More
Best For Something Slightly Different: The Harcourt
Unsurprisingly the UK is not the only country to want to make a big deal about the wonderful combination of cake, sandwiches and tea. We have afternoon tea, Sweden has fika. Traditionally consisting of cinnamon buns (sweet rolls stuffed with cinnamon butter and studded with sugar), rye bread topped with delicious savouries and endless cups of coffee, this is a perfect afternoon tea for someone looking beyond scones.
For a true fika experience, head to Marylebone newcomer The Harcourt. Take a seat in their garden room for an afternoon flooded with natural light and choose from their delectable fika menu. You can go for pure Swedish tradition with a cinnamon bun, or cross the cultural divide with a reindeer scotch egg. Whatever you choose it will not only be heavenly but also served on bespoke
Melody Rose china, complete with crowned skulls and kissing couples.
Fika Dishes – £2.50-£7.00 per dish
32 Harcourt St, London W1H 4HX
020 3771 8660
Photo: Courtesy of The Harcourt. More
Best For Complete Indulgence: The Savoy
The Duchess of Bedford, a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria, is said to have begun the afternoon tea tradition in Britain. It's right then that afternoon tea at The Savoy should be an experience fit for royalty. The Savoy's afternoon tea is served in the luxurious Thames Foyer, on seats and sofas surrounding the famous, ceiling high birdcage which is filled with flowers.
Every part of the tea is served on fine bone china, from shining silver tea pots or by waiting staff in three piece suits standing by your table offering huge silver trays of freshly made goodies. Should you still have room after your first offering of sandwiches, scones, tarts, pastries and cakes then don't worry – refills of all of these are served with no extra charge. Certainly not a place to go to be saintly, but we think Queen Victoria would have approved.
Afternoon Tea – £50.00-£55.50 per person
Champagne Tea – £62.50-£70.50 per person
The Savoy, Strand, London WC2R 0EU
020 7836 4343
Photo: Courtesy of The Savoy. More
Best For A Day Out: The Cobbles Tea Room
OK, OK, so The Cobbles Tea Room is not in London, but it really is too good to miss. It's also perfect for any Londoner who wants to escape the crowds of the capital for a day, as the picturesque country town of Rye is only 1 hour and 15 minutes from St Pancras. Once there you can wander round the beautiful boutiques and historical streets, or head straight to Cobbles for a cuppa.
The Cobbles Tea Room has been the queen of the tea rooms for over half a century, so this cosy cottage café is a must-visit for anyone who loves traditional British afternoon tea. Once you walk up the cobbled lane you can take a seat at one of the lace covered outside tables and order a pot of their fragrant loose leaf tea. Your freshly baked cakes, scones and sandwiches will all be served on willow patterned china pretty enough to dominate any Instagram feed. That's definitely worth getting on a train for.
Cream Tea – £4.70
Afternoon Tea – £7.50
The Cobbles Tea Room
1 Hylands Yard, Off The Mint, Rye TN31 7EP
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