The Ritz is as iconic as the Queen, and this institutional British hotel keeps up tradition by serving 350 afternoon teas every day (try our afternoon tea recipes here). It’s only fitting that afternoon tea at The Ritz is a lavish affair; the formal dress code requires men to wear shirt and tie, doors are opened for you by folk in top hats, and the resident pianist, Ian Gomes, who flutters away most days during afternoon tea service, used to play with Frank Sinatra.
Afternoon tea at The Ritz is taken in the Palm Court, an area raised up from the rest of the hotel’s lobby like a marble-floored stage. The Louis XVI-style set is beautifully ornate, with pristine white tablecloths laid out beneath intricate chandeliers, giant palms and gold-gilt mirrors.
Choose from the 18-strong tea menu that has been curated and exclusively blended by The Ritz’s tea sommelier, Giandomenico Scanu. There are black tea blends, fermented Oolongs, herbal fruit teas and even The Ritz’s own Chai. We tried The Ritz Royal English, a classic black tea blend, combining aromatic Ceylon orange pekoe and rich Assam.
The afternoon tea menu at The Ritz is created by executive chef John Williams, who focuses on British cuisine using French cooking methods. Delicate finger sandwiches have little twists to lift classic British fillings. The chicken sandwich was our favourite, served with a delicate lemon cream studded with flecks of parsley, on malty brown bread.
Cheddar came on squishy tomato bread, Scottish smoked salmon was complemented by zesty lemon butter on springy sourdough, and ham with grain mustard mayo was given a French brioche twist. There are egg mayo and cucumber sandwiches in there, too, to ensure all of the classics are covered. (If you want to make your own sandwiches, we have a bumper list here).
Scones, served on a pretty blue China plate, were fresh and doughy, if slightly under-baked. But they did come with plenty of strawberry jam and thick Cornish clotted cream. The top tier of our afternoon tea stand was reserved for pretty cakes and patisserie – a smooth and delicate mango and coconut mousse shaped into a little tower, tart blackcurrant macarons, and almond biscuit spheres filled with light vanilla cream.
If you can handle it, a slice of one of the daily homemade cakes is a must to finish your tea. We tried the chocolate sponge loaf cake topped with whole crunchy hazelnuts and smoothly piped rich hazelnut spread gianduja, a particular highlight to end on.
Traditional afternoon tea £54 per person
Champagne afternoon tea from £70 per person
Got you in the mood for afternoon tea? Here’s our round up of the best afternoon teas in London.
olive magazine podcast ep65 – Who will win the great scone debate? Jam or cream first?!
On this week’s podcast the team explore the British tradition of afternoon tea, sharing their favourites in London, and get into a debate on which is the right way to serve scones. (Psst, cream is the right way.)