Best afternoon teas in London, 2022 guide
Fancy afternoon tea in London? We’ve eaten a lot of scones and finger sandwiches to find London’s very best spots, including Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Claridge's
Welcome to our collection of the best afternoon teas in London, updated quarterly to make sure you get the best afternoon tea of the moment. This round-up includes reviews of classic high teas at luxury London destinations such as Claridge's, The Ritz, Fortnum & Mason and Harrods; as well as quirkier afternoon teas at The Shard, Sketch and Rosewood London.
What are the origins of afternoon tea?
Afternoon tea (here are our favourite afternoon tea recipes) was apparently introduced to Britain in the 1840s by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, who complained of hunger during the late afternoon... something we can relate to!
What's the difference between afternoon tea and high tea?
And in case you didn't know, there is a difference between afternoon tea and 'high tea' – the former is taken in the late afternoon (between lunch and dinner) and involves cakes, scones (here's a recipe for you), cream and sandwiches; while high tea is a substantial evening meal, usually entirely savoury. A traditional afternoon tea is often called 'high tea' in other parts of the world though, which probably explains the confusion.
Best afternoon tea in London
Claridge's, London W1 – traditional afternoon tea
Afternoon tea has been a ritual here for almost 150 years and this luxurious redoubt for the rich and royal (no flip-flops, no intrusive photography), has turned it into an art form. In the stunning art deco lobby, guests are treated to a parade of perfectly rectilinear finger sandwiches, warm scones and beautiful, tweezer-precise cakes, delivered to linen-clad tables by staff who operate as smoothly as a Swiss timepiece.
Every detail is exquisite. Corn-fed chicken on rye comes with truffled mayonnaise. Chocolate choux are made with fine Valrhona chocolate. Claridge’s even stresses the heritage of the cucumbers (English, organic) which, dressed with chamomile-infused buttermilk, go into its version of that summer classic: cucumber sandwiches. Rare Tea Company expert Henrietta Lovell curates Claridge’s menu of loose-leaf infusions.
Price: Traditional afternoon tea £60pp, champagne afternoon tea from £70pp, children's afternoon tea £30pp
Address: Brook Street, Mayfair, London, W1K 4HR
The Mirror Room, Rosewood London, London WC1 – afternoon tea for art lovers
The wonderland that is the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the Tate Modern has been brought to life in afternoon tea form at Rosewood London, and it evokes a childlike sense of curiosity, just like Kusama’s artwork.
Executive pastry chef Mark Perkins has designed an array of colourful creations inspired by the artist’s pieces. Three expertly crafted courses start with sandwiches using Japanese ingredients such as yuzu and katsuobushi, then onto fresh, fluffy scones served with lemon curd. After, we were presented with three meticulously designed entremets, each celebrating an artwork. A favourite of ours was inspired by Kusama’s pumpkin piece, which was bursting with a passionfruit crémeux, creamy chocolate mousse and texture from a praline feuilletine. We recommend sipping a glass of elegant and fruity Kusama edition Veuve Clicquot 2012 alongside.
Price: La Grande Dame Art afternoon tea £125pp
Address: 252 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7EN
Fortnum & Mason, The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, London W1
Head to Fortnum & Mason for a traditional London afternoon tea, taken in an elegant salon opened by HM The Queen to mark her Diamond Jubilee. Fortnum's pitch-perfect finger sandwiches – with not a curling corner in sight – are filled with the usual suspects, only far more luxurious: Suffolk cured ham with piccalilli, and rare bread hen egg with cress. Thick slices of soft smoked salmon, available in Fortnum’s food hall downstairs, are also excellent. Plain and fruit scones come warm, fluffy and served with whole pots of spread – the best of which was a velvety lemon curd (available to buy in the food hall) – and even more clotted cream.
Individual patisseries change with the seasons, with standouts including a subtly floral rose éclair, a modern take on Eton mess and lighter-than-air meringue topped with fresh berries. These are followed by more sweet treats chosen from the cake carriage (this time serious cakes, such as battenberg and matcha layer cake). Fortnum's tea varieties include the famous smoky Earl Grey (the original blend to be sold at Fortnum’s and The Queen’s personal favourite); a sweet and floral New Zealand oolong; and an unusual sparkling tea. For champagne, highlights include a light Brut rosé, Fortnum’s Brut Sparkling from Cornwall and a perfectly smooth Blanc de Blancs.
Price: £62.50 for afternoon tea with a pot of Fortnum’s Tea; £62.50 for vegetarian afternoon tea with a pot of Fortnum’s Tea; £65 for savoury afternoon tea with a pot of Fortnum’s tea; £68 for high tea with a pot of Fortnum’s tea.
Address: Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London, W1A 1ER
Petersham Nurseries, Richmond – for a British garden inspired afternoon tea
Petersham Nurseries is an eclectic mix of sculptures, vintage furniture, artfully decorated greenhouses and beautiful displays of plants and flowers, it’s quintessentially British with a hint of eccentricity. Adding to the bohemian glamour is the imaginative and beautifully presented afternoon tea, which is served from a handblown cake stand adorned with a bunch of seasonal flowers. The seasonally changing menu makes the most of locally sourced ingredients, you’ll find roasted red pepper & almond tarts, focaccia with burrata and nasturtiums and orange polenta cake with fig and crème fraiche – each bite is fresh and unique. Wash it down with a glass of rose petal prosecco for the ultimate treat. Browse the shop on your way out for trinkets, glasses and chic gardening wear.
Price: Garden afternoon tea £45pp, with prosecco £55pp.
Address: Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, TW10 7AB
Lele’s London, E5 – for vegan afternoon tea
One Sunday a month this elegant east London café opens its doors for vegan afternoon tea. Cakes and jars of herbal teas are laid out on a bark counter at the centre, while vases of fresh flowers, pots of plants and vintage pottery brighten up the cosy tiled room. The changing menu is put together by chef-owner Valentina.
On our visit, delicate plant-based sandwich fillings included lightly spiced grated carrot studded with raisins; fresh cucumber with vegan cream cheese; and chickpeas in creamy vegan mayo.Warm savoury and sweet scones come next, the former super-cheesy with a hint of chives, and the latter served with a smooth citrussy lemon curd, raspberry jam and vegan cream. To finish we indulged in warm, decadent chocolate brownies with peanut butter, light and fluffy carrot cake, vegan victoria sponge with jam, and a frangipane apricot tart. The star of the show was a fresh-from-the-oven lemon meringue tart – light and delicately sweet.
Price: £35 pp with a choice of tea, coffee or hot chocolate.
Address: 50 Lower Clapton Road, E5 0RN
Afternoon tea at the Lane by Lily Vanilli – afternoon tea for theatre lovers
With its sophisticated millennial pink and green marble-lined room with shining chandeliers, the Grand Saloon shares the grandeur of the Theatre Royal Dury Lane that it’s located in. As you enter, the glamourous Regency era scene is set by a speaker playing a string quartet versions of popular songs. This style is replicated throughout the afternoon tea with intricate smooth buttercream piping chocolate sponge cake, which is a signature of ‘queen of cakes’ Lily Vanilli at the Columbia Road bakery. The texture of the cake is perfection as it’s packed with a crunchy biscuit and salted caramel. From miniature fluffy canelés with pickled beetroot to smoky lapsang souchong glazed salmon on madeleines, the tea's inventive savoury options, steering away from the traditional sandwiches, takes it to the next level.
A surprisingly quirky standout was the final dish, an absinthe mint chocolate chip ice cream which was inspired by the Regency era’s trend of exotic ices. Adding a touch of theatre, this was served on an opulent wooden ice cream trolly. The subtle aniseed flavour of the absinthe complemented the creamy mint ice cream. This is an afternoon tea full of sophistication and luxury.
Price: £49 for adults and £35 for children.
Address: Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, Catherine Street, WC2B 5JF
More great traditional afternoon teas in London
The Crystal Moon Lounge, Corinthia Hotel, London SW1
Afternoon tea at The Corinthia is set in the glamourous Crystal Moon Lounge dominated by a striking Baccarat crystal chandelier, underneath an array of fresh flowers. Traditional afternoon tea (£55 pp) comes with a choice of house blend teas served in three different strengths, including No 1 Aromatic, a delicate combination of flowery earl grey and soothing oolong; and No 3 Robust, a full-strength blend of assam, oolong and earl grey (stronger smoky notes with light tones of honey). Add a glass of refreshing Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée Brut champagne for an extra £10. Or go all out with the Laurent-Perrier rosé champagne afternoon tea at £75 pp, both served in Baccarat flutes.
A gold board showcases modern takes on classic British finger sandwiches – fine slithers of cucumber, light egg mayonnaise with mustard, smoked salmon with subtle hints of lemon curd, and salt beef with creamy horseradish on soft sundried tomato bread. Light, fluffy scones with honeyed glaze tops are kept warm in a small wooden presentation box. Accompaniments include classic strawberry jam, moreish rhubarb and Tonka bean jam and thick clotted cream. Small dainty canelés kick off the sweet round (they were slightly overdone but packed a good kick of rum), followed by exotic passion fruit choux buns encased in a craquelin shell, a boozy trifle with crunchy apple and calvados chantilly cream, and a delicate dark chocolate brownie topped with a chocolate crémeux.
Price: Traditional afternoon tea £55 pp, champagne afternoon tea from £65 pp
Address: Whitehall Place, Westminster, London SW1A 2BD
The Parlour at Great Scotland Yard Hotel
British elegance and exciting patisserie in an afternoon tea designed in collaboration with royal perfumier Floris.
The Parlour Room is sophisticated yet modern, with printed wallpaper and checked flooring. The waiting staff were knowledgeable, discussing each tea and recommending pairings for each course – we tried a classic earl grey that was floral and citrussy.
The afternoon tea starts with an assortment of savouries, which were classics with a twist, using tarragon in the chicken mayonnaise, and pairing cheddar cheese with Guinness in gougères. We liked that the perfectly shaped scones arrived warm and with plenty of clotted cream and jam for all of them. Diving into the star of the show, five intricate pastries are meticulously layered and decorated. The fruity, fragrant strawberry and jasmine tartlet was the highlight, closely followed by a zingy blackcurrant and frangipane gateaux.
Price: Afternoon tea for two £110
Address: 3-5, Great Scotland Yard, London SW1A 2HN
Hotel Café Royal, London W1
Afternoon tea at the historic Hotel Café Royal is taken in the opulent Oscar Wilde bar that opened in the mid 1800s and is housed between trendy Soho and affluent Mayfair (check out our restaurant guide to the best places to eat in Soho and Mayfair). The familiar tea selection is peppered with more unusual flavours – rich and floral lychee and rose noir, caffeine-free organic rosebud; and an 1865 signature English breakfast tea, strong in taste and colour with a creamy, slightly bitter finish.
Highlights include free-range Cotswolds chicken sandwich with a creamy and zingy lemon verbena dressing and a violet and blackcurrant cassis tart, jammy and rich with a buttery, crunchy base and a delicate white chocolate topping.
Price: Spring afternoon tea £45pp, champagne afternoon tea from £55pp
Address: Hotel Café Royal, 68 Regent Street , London, W1B 4DY
The Goring, London SW1
Traditional afternoon tea (£49pp) comes with a choice of Jing teas including the strong, slightly smoky Goring blend, and a floral oolong tea. Add a glass of refreshing Bollinger for an extra £10. Or go all out with the Bollinger rosé champagne afternoon tea that comes with fresh British strawberries and cream. A vibrant pea purée amuse bouche topped with crème fraiche and a cube of smoked salmon started the afternoon tea, followed by salty shredded chicken with fresh tomatoes on fluffy white bread and fresh salmon with crisp slithers of cucumber.
Warm with a soft middle and golden on top, the scones came with syrupy strawberry jam and thick clotted cream. For the sweet round, a soft choux bun encased in a craquelin shell was filled with whipped strawberry cream on a thick crunchy biscuit base, a dense lemon and poppy seed cake was topped with a dollop of zingy lemon curd and piped torched meringue; mini pistachio and raspberry loaf was moist and nutty; a sticky lemon macaroon with sweet tangy cream was incredibly moreish; and a silky dark chocolate tart with hibiscus had a crunchy bottom.
Price: Traditional afternoon tea £49pp, champagne afternoon tea from £59pp
Address: 15 Beeston Place, London, SW1W OJW
The Ritz, Palm Court, London W1
The Ritz is as iconic as the Queen, and this institutional British hotel keeps up tradition by serving 350 afternoon teas every day. 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.
Price: Traditional afternoon tea £57pp, champagne afternoon tea from £76, children's afternoon tea £35pp
Address: 150 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9BR
The Wolseley, London W1
The classic room at The Wolseley has become an institution over the years – choose a simple cream tea for £12.75, the ‘best of British’ option (quintessentially British cakes and sandwiches for £29.75), or go all out and order the champagne afternoon tea, complete with a glass of Pommery Brut Royal NV (£40). Neatly cut finger sandwiches are made with various breads – succulent beef and horseradish on white, as well as cucumber (which was a little bland), smoked salmon on squishy brown bread, and Branston pickle on tomato bread. The coronation chicken sandwich was exemplary, with a lightly spiced curry mayo and plump sultanas.
Scones were pleasant and fluffy, but came on the stand with the rest of the sandwiches and cakes – by the time we got to them, they were a little less fresh than desired. Simple strawberry jam and clotted cream came in generous portions. A silky lemon meringue tart was finished with a shiny blow-torched meringue dome; well-spiced Dundee cake came packed with juicy fruit; and the sherry trifle included a fragrant vanilla set custard, topped with a tart, shiny sherry jelly. If you’re still peckish, the smartly dressed staff bring round trays of the tart of the day, on our visit, a large blue cheese and caramelised onion one, with a dark crunchy crust.
Price: Cream tea £12.75, best of British afternoon tea from £29.75pp, champagne afternoon tea £40pp
Address: 160 Piccadilly, St James's London, W1J 9EB
The Rosebery Lounge at Mandarin Oriental, London SW1
Afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is taken in The Rosebery Lounge, a grand yet unstuffy dining room with high ceilings and a small, stylish bar offering a selection of wines and spirits, including Chêne Bleu Domaine De la Verrière rosé, Goose Island IPA and Hendrick’s gin. Speckled antique mirrors and contemporary abstract art line the walls, and individual metal coat stands (tree-like) are brought to intimate, low, dark-wood tables. Elegant chandeliers and large windows facing onto Knightsbridge high street make the lounge bright, and a rose and ginger scent infuses throughout the room.
We were greeted by a friendly and informative waiter who explained the options available: beer afternoon tea, teamaster’s choice, sake (read our guide to sake here) afternoon tea, mini afternoon tea (for children under 12) or traditional champagne afternoon tea. We opted for the latter, which came with R de Ruinart rosé champagne and R de Ruinart white champagne, both smooth, chilled and crisp, the rosé leaving slight floral notes after each sip.
Price: Traditional afternoon tea £53pp, champagne afternoon tea from £63pp
Address: 66 Knightsbridge Green, London, SW1X 7LA
The Landmark London, NW1
Towering palm trees, giant orchids and an elaborate glass roof – you may mistake the Winter Garden atrium at The Landmark London for a luxury hotel in Dubai. But comfortable armchairs, soft lighting and crisp white tablecloths brings a bit of British to the table, and helps provide the perfect setting for an afternoon tea.
Adding to the elegance of it all, the William Edwards chinaware is adorned with an elaborate gold pattern and trim and the teapots are kept on a beautiful bespoke stand next to the table. The Landmark London has a variety of special blend teas – the Landmark Blend has a subtle sweet hint of Bourbon vanilla, while the Winter Garden Blend is a more traditional and aromatic afternoon tea blend (we highly recommend both)...
Price: High Palms Afternoon Tea £58.00 pp, Champagne Afternoon Tea £68.00pp
Address: 222 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 6JQ
Thames Foyer at The Savoy, London W1
The Thames Foyer room at The Savoy is the perfect setting for afternoon tea. A glass-domed ceiling floods the room with natural light and an impressive gazebo encasing a stone fountain full of pink flowers and greenery takes centre stage, to form an elegant winter garden. Start with a glass of Champagne – rich Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV with a long finish, or step up and with a coppery pink Moet & Chandon Rose NV with zesty, wild strawberry notes. The extensive tea menu can be overwhelming, but the waiters are on hand to guide you to the best blend for you.
The Savoy Afternoon Blend combines Ceylon and Darjeeling in a crisp, refreshing tea with a hint of citrus. For something a bit different, though, try white peony & rose – a pretty brew of white tea buds and leaf with whole rose buds that add a subtle hint of fragrant Turkish delight. Lemon verbena with whole leaves is aromatic, with lemon zest pungency and mint-like freshness.
Price: Traditional afternoon tea £70pp, champagne afternoon tea from £80pp, vegan afternoon tea £65
Address: 7-12 Half Moon Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 7BH
More great contemporary afternoon teas in London
Sketch, London W1 – quirky afternoon tea
Aside from the other-worldly surroundings, the highlight of afternoon tea at Sketch has to be the tea itself. Waitresses scoot golden tea trollies around the room, each one stacked with glass jars of aromatic loose leaf teas – there are at least 40 to pick from, including whole rosebud, matcha, white peony and Taiwan red jade. Feel free to sniff before you choose, and refills are complimentary.
Sketch’s new caviar afternoon tea begins, as expected, with a spoon of rich, creamy Oscietra caviar (from Russian sturgeon) – vegetarians get little pearls of cold cauliflower as a clever substitute. Even more enjoyable was the accompanying take on boiled egg and soldiers: a 63 degrees egg yolk nestled inside a deeply flavoursome ‘egg white’ made from comté cheese mornay. Utterly indulgent, and one of the most exciting, innovative ways to kick off an afternoon tea that we've ever seen...
Price: Classic afternoon tea £59pp, champagne afternoon tea from £73pp, children's afternoon tea £35pp.
Address: 9 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XG
Best afternoon tea for dessert enthusiasts – Cake & Bubbles by Albert Adria, Cafe Royal, London W1B
Cake & Bubbles is a dessert and champagne experience designed by multi-award-winning pastry chef Albert Adria. Located at the Hotel Café Royal in London, Adria has created a spectacle of sweet sensations, offered alongside a carefully curated selection of champagne and sparkling wine. Born out of Adria’s desire to open a dessert-only venue, the Sweet Afternoon Bubbles menu comprises three sweet courses, with an optional glass of (highly recommended) N.V. Venue Clicquot Brut. Upon arrival of the first course, beautifully presented on a golden embossed cake stand, Adria’s deep passion for delicate confections is clear. We were guided through the experience by friendly staff, starting from the bottom tier with baklava pistachio pillows that were light as air and a passion fruit crème with a touch of burnt caramel to balance the flavours. By far, the highlight of the menu was the ‘cheese cake’, a twist on traditional cheesecake, using sharp Baron Bigod cheese, enveloped in sweet white chocolate with hazelnut – an absolute must-try for cheese and cake lovers alike.
Price: Sweet Afternoon Bubbles menu £40pp (with a glass of N. V. Venue Clicquot Brut £50pp)
Address: 70 Regent St., London, W1B 4DY
Spirited afternoon tea, Lyaness, South Bank – afternoon tea for cocktail lovers
Sky-hued walls, electric-blue banquettes, opulent gold accents and a view of St Paul’s creates a lavish setting for this boozy afternoon tea. A sleek contemporary cake stand comes laden with crisp fennel sausage rolls, retro devilled eggs and sandwiches. The focaccia in the roast beef sarnie was a little too dense, but coronation sweet potato on walnut was a clever veggie alternative to the British classic, while tarragon mayo gave soft poached salmon on dark rye a punchy twist.
The sweet round was inventive and fun, with a selection of creative bakes. Standouts included upside-down cherry and pineapple scones, sunflower salt tea cake, and super-light strawberry and mascarpone éclair with a crunchy caramelised sugar base. Kitsch teapots in pale lemon and turquoise hues serve Camellia’s Teahouse teas, but it’s founder Ryan Chetiyawardana’s cocktails that really impress: a collection of quirky, innovative cordials and liqueurs that form the base of all of the bar’s cocktails, including the complex, fresh and elegant drinks for their afternoon tea.
Price: cocktails and tea £58 pp; champagne and tea £48pp; boozeless tea £38pp
Address: 20 Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9PD
Number Sixteen, South Kensington, London SW7 – al fresco afternoon tea
As soon as you step through the door of this pristinely manicured mid-Victorian white townhouse, co-owner Kit Kemp's bold statements make themselves known. Textiles in the suite of drawing rooms range in colour from pistachio and pink to stylish yellow and purple, with unique artwork throughout – a huge wall-mounted birdcage marks the entranceway, books line the walls, and hand painted puppets guard the honesty bar stocked with spirits, wines and bubbles.
The summery selection of sandwiches and cakes offers something a bit different to traditional afternoon tea. Thick-cut honey roasted ham with refreshing dill coleslaw comes on black rye bread; beautiful courgette flowers are coated in a crisp and light tempura; and herbes de provence chicken fills a squishy glazed brioche bun. Pastries are pretty and dainty – a hint of violet adds depth to a creamy lemon-filled choux profiterole, rose cupcakes are subtly floral and the silky raspberry pannacotta provides a pleasantly tart finish.
Price: Traditional afternoon tea £22pp, champagne afternoon tea £35.50pp
Address: 16 Sumner Place, London, SW7 3EG
Seymour's Parlour, The Zetter Townhouse Marylebone, London W1 – afternoon tea for cocktail lovers
Inside a Georgian townhouse, just behind Oxford Street, lies a secret drinking den that exuberates the eccentric charm of the Zetter Townhouse’s ficticous owner, wicked Uncle Seymour. Seymour’s Parlour is more front room of curiosities than hotel bar: trinkets clutter a cabinet that spans one side of the room, portraits adorn the wine-red walls and crystal decanters filled with bright orange liquid dress up antique wooden tables.
Price: Traditional afternoon tea £35.50, afternoon tea with tea infused cocktails £43, champagne afternoon tea £45.50.
Address: Seymour’s Parlour, The Zetter Townhouse Marylebone, 28-30 Seymour Street, London, W1H 7JB
Best themed afternoon teas in London
The Ampersand Hotel, Science afternoon tea, London SW7 – afternoon tea for kids
Just a stone’s throw from the Science and Natural History museums in South Kensington, it’s easy to see where The Ampersand got their inspiration from for this whacky afternoon tea – the perfect treat for budding scientists.
The room we take tea in is part English drawing room, part French tea salon, and comes adorned with comfortable sofas. As for the food, everything is made in-house – there’s a meticulously decorated raspberry cake planet with a white chocolate planetary ring, and moreish hazelnut and chocolate cake with a sharp mango mousse volcano. There are also chocolate dinosaurs and a citrus cocktail served in a laboratory beaker, to add to the Dr Jekyll experience. Portions are generous too, very welcome after a morning spent museum-hopping…
Price: Science afternoon tea £39.50pp with champagne from £49.50, (vegetarian options available)
Address: 10 Harrington Road, London, SW7 3ER
Nordic afternoon tea at Aquavit, London SW1 – for Scandinavian afternoon tea
Stockholm’s (check out our foodie guide to Stockholm here) Martin Brudnizki has managed to create an intimate yet opulent feel to the high-ceilinged space using timber-paneled walls, polished brass, blue and burnt-orange leather seats and striking emerald green wall hangings.
We began with a selection of Swedish smørrebrød served on crisp sunflower-seed-studded rye bread baked at 6am that morning. Picture-perfect toppings for the open rye sandwiches included gravlax tartare, intense liver pâté and delicate venison tartare served with lovage. Shrimp skagen was a highlight, the Nordic version of prawn cocktail with punchy horseradish and dill mayonnaise covering plump little shrimp, topped with salmon roe. Fika, the Swedish tradition of taking time out for coffee and pastries, is still rife in Sweden and Finland, and Aquavit has tapped into this idea for the sweet round of its afternoon tea. Where traditional English afternoon teas serve scones, Aquavit keeps it Nordic with semla buns – mini dough balls filled with almond and cardamom paste, and whipped cream.
Price: The Fika afternoon tea £27.50pp, champagne afternoon tea £39pp, the aquavit afternoon tea £65pp
Address: St James's Market, 1 Carlton Street, London SW1Y 4QQ
Best afternoon tea with a view – TING at Shangri-La Hotel, The Shard, London SE1
If you delight in all things traditional, then afternoon tea at London's TING is not for you. But if you’re open-minded, enjoy Asian food and would prefer to gaze across a sparkling city rather than a Victorian dining room, then you can’t get much better than TING at Shangri-La hotel, one of six restaurants in The Shard.
Initial impressions of TING (on level 35) are magnificent: the lift doors open onto a spectacular and uninterrupted panorama of London, dominated at first by St Paul’s Cathedral. Low tables and armchairs are sensibly arranged to soak up as much of the view as possible – we took three hours over our afternoon tea, so unique was the experience…
Price: British Summer afternoon tea £52pp, champagne afternoon tea from £60pp
Address: Shangri-La Hotel At The Shard, 31, St Thomas Street, London, SE1 9QU
More affordable afternoon teas in London
Bea’s of Bloomsbury, London WC1 – for afternoon tea on a budget
Founded in 2008, Bea’s now has three branches across the capital; but it’s the original Bloomsbury branch that’s still the best in our opinion. Things at this bakery-cum-café are far more casual than most London afternoon tea destinations, which makes it feel less of an occasion, but does allow you to relax a bit more. If you can, try to get a table at the front of the café – tables at the back feel a little isolated and, due to the proximity of the open kitchen, can be a bit noisy.
Bea’s is perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth. While a selection of mini baguettes is included on the stand, the famed sweet offerings such as the obligatory scones with clotted cream and jam, and more exciting cupcakes (flavours vary), soft, wobbly fruity mashmallows, delicate and crisp mini meringues and a trio of gooey brownies (including the infamous killer brownies with peanut butter), outshine them by a long way…
Price: Bea's signature afternoon tea £28pp, champagne afternoon tea £36pp, gold afternoon tea £34pp.
Address: 44 Theobalds Road, London, WC1X 8NW
OXO Tower, London SE1 – for riverside afternoon tea
OXO Tower Wharf is one of London’s most famous landmarks, noted for its iconic branded windows and sky-high restaurants. It’s hard to find the entrance if you’ve never been before – head to the pavilion in the middle of the building, then catch the lift up to the 8th floor, for the restaurant. Enjoy stunning views on your way to your table, that stretch all the way from Waterloo Bridge to St Paul’s Cathedral.
The atmosphere is considerably formal – think leather seats and slate tables with crisp ironed white tablecloths, and a slanting glass roof to make the most of those beautiful views. Afternoon tea menus are carefully explained and although the selection of sandwiches and cakes seems endless, portions here are dainty so it’s possible to try everything.
Price: Traditional afternoon tea £35pp, champagne afternoon tea from £45pp
Address: OXO Tower Wharf, Barge House Street, South Bank, London, SE1 9PH
High Chai afternoon tea, Cinnamon Bazaar – for savoury afternoon tea
One of the best afternoon teas in London for savoury palates is the high chai tea at Cinnamon Bazaar. It doesn't have the glitz and glamour of The Savoy, but it's comfortable enough and the service is friendly. Start with a cinnamon bellini with warming apple pie aftertaste. A tandoori chicken and chutney sandwich was quite literally that – spiced, juicy filling inside what looked like two slices of Hovis. Not something we'd usually choose, but delicious despite the blunt presentation and a great match for our ginger and cardamom Masala chai tea.
A bombay potato bonda with green chutney was cleverly spiced (you could really taste the mustard seeds) with a strong curry leaf flavour and subtle sweetness. Bangala scotch egg was just as accomplished; we loved the lightly pickled quail's egg, spicy crumb coating and punchy kasundi relish on the side. Instead of the usual four-or-five cakes, there were only two 'sweets' for this afternoon tea: a heavily scented ginger and garam masala cake, and a spiced scone with apple and fennel chutney. The former was satisfyingly squidgy, dark and crammed with fresh spices, while the scone was a new take on something that's usually so plain.
Price: High chai afternoon tea for two £25; champagne high chai tea for two £35
Adress: 28 Maiden Ln, London WC2E 7JS
Still in the mood for cakes? Check out our best ever afternoon tea recipes now, and create your own feast at home...