A purist may wrinkle their nose at the thought of messing with tea-time tradition. But London’s never shied from breaking the rules. Boundary-pushing gastronomes are embracing the multiculturalism of the capital and injecting this fuddy-duddy pastime with a touch of foreign flair. Join them in this rundown of the top international afternoon teas in London.
Pastry pioneer (and Bake-Off: the Professionals judge) Cherish Finden injects Singaporean flavours into afternoon tea at the Orchid Lounge. The setting is relaxed – a homely living room space in the Pan Pacific hotel near Liverpool Street – but the Kopi Tiam menu is among the most inventive afternoon teas around. Chomp through Asian savouries (dim sum, gai gok and mushroom bao), sweet treats and hand-made pastries, and slurp hot drinks by the Rare Tea Company.
More than 1,000 years of Japanese tea-drinking culture combine with the British afternoon tradition at Ginza in St James’s. And it’s a perfect match. There’s a Japanese tea selection, of course, with genmaicha, sencha and bancha available. While the food is a highlight reel of Japanese cuisine with maki roll, teriyaki beef and wagyu burger, all served on an impressive circular stand. End strong with a Hibiki whisky.
The pomp and ceremony are gone, replaced by big, bold American flavours at Burger Bites in Chalk Farm. Gone too are the delicate finger sandwiches – though the six juicy mini-burgers more than make up for it. Sweet treats come in the form of home-made cakes and cupcakes. And you can make it boozy with the addition of free-flowing prosecco.
The Baglioni team serves a pan-Italian afternoon tea in an idyllic spot on the edge of Hyde Park. The food starts with white-bread sandwiches filled with Italian goodies (how about gorgonzola, walnut and radish?) before bakery treats (brioche siciliana and scones). Hot drinks come from the experts at Camellia’s Tea House. It ends with a flourish – an applause-worthy selection from the pasticceria.
Head over to the Park Grand in Lancaster Gate – a short walk north of Hyde Park – for an Indian-influenced high tea. Plump for a masala chai (brewed in-house) or perhaps a darjeeling before tucking into the food. It starts with snacks – samosas and nan khatai among them – before a selection of crowd-pleasing sandwiches – bombay aloo, chutney, chicken tikka and paneer kathi. It ends with sweets – a three-layered mithai and mango rice pudding.
A snappy name – Afternoon TeaQuila – and punchy Mexican flavours promise an afternoon of fun at the NYX Hotel in Holborn. Classic sweets, such as scones and macaroons, share a cake stand with Mexican-inspired treats, including chicken tacos and tequila-grilled shrimps. A margarita – it had to be – provides a kick to the menu, made with Volcán tequila, fresh lime juice and agave syrup.
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