There’s nothing more quintessentially English than a spot of afternoon tea. From classic offerings to contemporary twists, and even a feast aboard a bus, read on for London’s best afternoon teas.
Hotel, Suite Hotel, Chain Hotel, Spa Hotel
No doubt you’ve heard the phrase ‘tea at the Ritz’, and this institution frequently tops lists of the best afternoon teas in the capital. Guests at this world famous, five-star hotel will be served tea in the magnificent, late-Baroque-style Palm Court beneath opulent chandeliers, normally accompanied by the sounds of a harpist or pianist. There are 18 varieties of tea on offer, with all the traditional trimmings and an optional glass of the Ritz’s very own bubbly.
Enjoy a classic London pastime aboard an iconic double-decker bus while taking in some of the city’s best landmarks with this roaming tearoom housed in a revamped 1960s Routemaster. A spot of afternoon tea with BB Bakery is a truly unique experience. Passengers are invited to tuck into a selection of finger sandwiches, mini quiches, scones with all the trimmings, pastries, mini cupcakes and macaroons, all loaded up on tiered stands for an authentic high-tea experience. You can board at Trafalgar Square or Victoria, after which the BB Bakery Bus takes a meandering route around central London, passing by major landmarks including Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Marble Arch and Piccadilly Circus. There’s also a lovely BB Bakery store in Covent Garden for those who want to keep their feet on the ground.
Muriel’s Kitchen is a quirky, homely little place, full of potted plants and pastel colours. Afternoon tea is served on a mini picnic bench, topped with classic finger sandwiches and a selection of cakes including lemon and poppyseed muffins, meringues, shots of strawberry jelly and chocolate mousse and, of course, mini scones with cream and jam. The food comes with a pot of tea and a berry smoothie – if you’re feeling more boozy than tea-total, there’s also a cocktail option.
Afternoon tea at this luxurious Mayfair hotel is served in the opulent Oscar Wilde Lounge, where the famous playwright and author is said to have dined daily. You’re made to feel like royalty as soon as you step into the gilded dining room. Tuck into delicious, dainty cakes, sip on a glass of bubbly and listen to the resident pianist as staff cater to your every need, whether you’re after second helpings of finger sandwiches or Champagne top-ups. And if you find yourself unable to finish your tower of treats, just ask to take your leftovers home in one of their neat little doggy bags.
Cahoots is a 1940s-style speakeasy housed in an abandoned Tube station beneath Soho’s Kingly Court. Order the afternoon tea here and you’ll be served up a wicker picnic hamper on a tartan-covered table, brimming with quintessential English nibbles including sausage rolls, pork pie, cheeses and a selection of ration-inspired sandwiches. For pudding, you’ll be delighted with British classics like shortbread, tiffin and Victoria sponge. Tea doesn’t get much of a look-in (well, the name does say squiffy) with guests instead being offered a choice of post-war cocktails. Pick the Starlets & Sirens option and your hamper will include a bottle of wine along with a hip flask of Sipsmith Sloe Gin and tonic. While you’re making your choice, you can expect to be offered a ‘Starting Swig’ cocktail in a china teacup while the live swing music gets under way.
Another staple when it comes to classic afternoon tea, the sumptuous Harrods Tea Rooms, formerly known as the Georgian Restaurant, has been serving Londoners for over a hundred years. Enjoy a variety of teas, fancy finger sandwiches and a colourful selection of pastries from the in-house patisserie in this opulent, spacious dining room, which sits beneath a large skylight and oozes ’20s and ’30s style.
One of the less pricey options on this list, K West’s afternoon tea is inspired by the hotel’s musical heritage, with bands playing at the nearby O2 Shepherds Bush Empire and Hammersmith’s Eventim Apollo often opting to stay here. Their selection of food, which includes twists on classic finger sandwiches such as beetroot and gin-cured salmon and blue cheese and grapes, is served up on a vintage turntable. Enjoy with a selection of tea-infused cocktails from 2pm to 5pm, Monday to Sunday.
The renowned afternoon tea at The Berkeley will delight fashionistas. Served in the bright and airy contemporary Collins Room, this novel take on afternoon tea is inspired by fashion trends, with the menu changing every six months to reflect the goings-on in the world of fashion. Spring/Summer ‘collections’ have previously included a striped Stella McCartney dress recreated in a towering green and white sponge cake, a Prada-inspired red velvet chocolate handbag cake and shoe-shaped vanilla biscuits topped with white icing and red polka dots to channel a pair of coveted Manolo Blahnik stilettos. The colourful fancies are served up on equally snazzy crockery and are accompanied by a selection of loose-leaf teas and optional bubbly.