Afternoon Tea is a tried and true British institution and nowhere exhibits its decadence and gentility better than the tea houses of London. While the classics are delightful, there are a host of places to indulge in more creative, refreshing and delectable concoctions in the capital. From the quaint to the quirky, the Earl Greys to the jasmines – as well as scones – we discover five traditional tea spots with a quirky twist in London.
Overlooking beautiful Hyde Park, Lancaster London is a four-star hotel which has won accolades for its environmentally friendly policies and should be recognized for its tea. Moving away from the hotel’s previous tea, a Peter Pan themed experience (in honor of the statue located nearby in the park), this afternoon tea embodies elegance with an edge. Exotic teas include white tea, pear and ginger and the Wild Encounter, which is a lovely lavender hue and has small pieces of fruit in the bag. Teas are also color-coded and aligned with colored sand-timers to determine the ideal steeping time. Atop the finger sandwiches and mini curry-infused quiches, a plate remains empty until the made-to-order scones are brought fresh from the oven with homemade strawberry jam, without a moment to sit stale. Finally, resting above the tiers of treats, sits pink cake pops encrusted in pop-rocks, making the eyes and mouth literally pop with color and flavor. The admirable environmental strides taken by the Lancaster can make visitors feel virtuous about indulging in this luxurious tea full of small surprises and innovative twists.
For a quirky and colorful delight there is no better tea to turn to than the Mad Hatters’ Afternoon Tea in the Sanderson Hotel. The entire experience is devoted to the Alice in Wonderland theme, from the menus hidden within vintage books, to the ‘drink me’ signs on potion bottles, the riddle-wrapped napkins, to the crown-wearing King and Queen teapots, the colorful and decorated cakes and sandwiches and even strawberries and cream flavored homemade marshmallow mushrooms. Every aspect of this tea is infused with creativity and colour, all the way from the crockery to the cooking. The menu changes alongside the seasons, so the originality is as fresh as the food. There are, however, staples that can be counted upon, such as the sugar cubes inside a music box which can be wound up to play. This popular trip down the rabbit hole seamlessly combines ingenuity and whimsy with class.
If you have a man in your life whom you love, treat him to this tea that is anything but traditional. Obliterating the notion that afternoon teas are only for women, this red-meat, whiskey-fuelled feast at Sanctum Soho will convince even the most macho of men to love this different kind of afternoon delight. There’s no easing your way in to this tea, it lets you know what it’s about right from the start, with its poached oyster with Bloody Mary relish and a steak sandwiches to start you off. These are just a sample of the first round of treats, which moves onto a lamb and potato hotpot, mini-beef burger, rabbit and pancetta pasty, and roast beef stuffed Yorkshire pudding. The real treat is saved for those strong enough to make it through to the very end, with a tankard of Jack Daniel’s and a cigar to be enjoyed on the rooftop terrace.
Following in the theme of boozy teas and teas for men, the last on our list is a saucy indulgence for men and women alike, either in couples or out on stag and hen nights. The Afternoon Tease at Volupté combines cabaret and cuisine, allowing visitors to have all their senses tantalized. The expected fare of sandwiches and scones comes with a welcome dash of cabaret and burlesque on the side, as well as pricey but exciting cocktails such as the Lindy Hop, the hibiscus and lime leaf margarita, and the Death in the Afternoon, to draw guests back into the risqué excitement of Prohibiton. The décor has a shabby but retro feel and some guests choose to dress up, adding to the atmosphere.
Situated roughly five minutes’ walk from Green Park station, Mr Fogg’s Residence on Burton Lane sells itself as the home of the eccentric British adventurer Phileas J Fogg, whose tale of traversing the world in 80 days has travelled just as far as the fictional man himself. The classy cocktail bar is littered with exotic ornaments that give the bar a worldly vibe with all the style and sophistication of Victorian England.