The best Afternoon Teas in London
From the most chic catwalk cakes to the new Mariage Freres serving savoury and sweet delicacies infused with tea, these are London's best afternoon teas
The arty tea: Antony Gormley-inspired afternoon tea at the Rosewood Hotel
Gorge yourself on a Gormley-inspired feast at the Rosewood Hotel this winter. Following the Van Gogh afternoon tea, the Holborn-based hotel is showcasing another impressive menu, this time inspired by the Royal Academy's Antony Gormley exhibition.
In collaboration with the RA, the Rosewood's pastry chef Mark Perkins replicates Gormley's most impressive pieces. Perkins transforms the several tonne sculpture Body and Fruit into a light and airy chocolate mousse (centre). Inspired by Gormley's studies of Buddhism, the mousse is infused with flavourful Ceylon tea, praline cremeux, hazelnut financier and mandarin jelly – topped off with a chocolate coating. The bowl-shaped pastry (right), inspired by Full Bowl, celebrates the German Black Forest Gateau with a devilishly delicious chocolate sponge and cherry compote. The chocolatey topping replicates Gormley's 40 stacked bowls in the original work. Derived from the steel-mesh monumental installation Matrix II (left), the latticed chocolate-covered cake contains a ginger jaconde sponge perfect for a winter treat.
There are also four different apple pastries on offer, homage to Gormley's work One Apple. To top off the selection, there's Mariage Freres tea aplenty – along with a traditional selection of freshly made finger sandwiches and scones.
When: Until 3 December 201
Where: Mirror Room, The Rosewood Hotel, 252 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EN
For more information and to book
The fashion-focused tea: Mary Quant afternoon tea
To coincide with the V&A’s Mary Quant exhibition, The Pelham Hotel (part of the Starhotels Collezione) has partnered with events company La Fête to produce an afternoon tea inspired by the 60s designer. Quant was a hugely influential figure in the London-based Mod and youth fashion movements, and is also the originator of the mini skirt. The afternoon tea features a selection of colourful treats – drinkable ‘nail varnish’ and edible ‘lipstick’ among them – crafted by Michelin-starred Chef Alfredo Russo and his team. Pay a little extra and you can enjoy vibrantly coloured cocktails with your tea, too.
When: April 2019 - February 2020
Where: 15 Cromwell Place, South Kensington, London SW7 2LA
Price: £52 per person, including a ticket to the Mary Quant exhibition at the V&A (or £40 excluding it)
For more information and to book
The 200-year anniversary afternoon tea: the Burlington Afternoon Tea at the Four Seasons hotel
To celebrate its 200-year anniversary, the Burlington Arcade has partnered with the Four Seasons hotel to offer a limited-edition afternoon tea. The tea has been designed to take diners on a taste journey that mirrors the visual experience of walking through the arcade, passing boutiques selling jewellery, watches, clothing and perfumes as you go.
The hotel’s head pastry chef David Oliver is behind the cakes, which have each been designed to resemble the hotel’s luxe heritage. There’s a ‘velvet hat’: a white chocolate-covered sponge filled with raspberry jam and mascarpone inspired by Victorian fashion. And a ‘Burlington Battenberg’: a marble cake of chocolate and bergamot reflecting the patterning of the arcade’s floor.
Savoury minded? The tea also includes a selection of five quintessentially British sandwiches, including cucumber with mint and cream cheese; and Portland crab salad with preserved lemon butter. Finally, things are finished off with freshly-baked scones served with clotted cream, jam and a cedar pine nut marmalade. Guests can accompany their mid-afternoon feast with teas from around the world or upgrade the experience with a glass of chilled champagne. Big anniversaries don’t get much more luxurious than this.
When: Until 31 December
Where: Four Seasons, Hamilton Place, Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1J 7DR
Price: £46 / £55 with champagne
For more information and to book
The tea-infused menu at quintessentially French Mariage Frères
Synonymous with sophisticated teas in Paris, Mariage Frères Covent Garden transcends its Parisian haute couture reputation at its first London home. A five story Georgian building in the heart of Covent Garden, it is exquisitely decorated with art and the most desirable antique and contemporary tea cannisters and teapots. Mariage Frères sell over a 1000 different loose-leaf teas from 36 countries and are acknowledged as among the world's seminal tea connoisseurs. Here in London, there is the longest tea wall in the world and a tea museum, and a restaurant.
Every dish served – both savoury and sweet – is subtly infused with tea and makes for an exceptionally delicious, elegant and creative experience. Among the standouts are a salmon yuzu tartare tart, avocado guacamole-style with Japanese Matcha green tea and sweet potato. The scones are impressive and served with a tea jelly. Each cake is impeccable and light too, Besides a decadent Carré D’Or, intense dark chocolate sponge covered in shiny chocolate embellished with Black Magic tea and 24 carat gold leaves, there's an exotic fruit jelly and a ravishing chocolate and matcha fancy, also adorned with 24-carat gold leaves. Tea infused cocktails make a sophisticated treat even better.
Where: Mariage Frères, 38 King St, Covent Garden, WC2
When: open all day 9am-9pm for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, supper
For more details
The bohemiam flower-fillled glamour and ultra-seasonal tea: Petersham Nurseries Covent Garden
This is the most breathtakingly beautiful afternoon tea ever, utterly delicious in every detail. The cut glass multi-layered cake stands with integral vases filled with the most gorgeous posies are designed specially for Petersham Nurseries and epitomise the extravagant and discerning attention to detail. Each cake stand allegedly costs £500 so do take care when admiring!
The whole tea changes on an almost weekly basis to reflect the seasons. Only the absolute favourite miniature milk bun with chicken mayo, crisp chicken skin and sage remains a constant, as regulars, rightly so, won't allow it to come off the menu. It is a divine balance of crunch and flavour. Other savoury delights may include a choux bun filled with parmesan cream and a small but beautifully formed brushchetta topped with quail's eggs and truffle. Only the scones could have been more fluffy, though they were accompanied by an excellent Petersham made plum jam.
On our visit, cakes included gorgeous blood orange jelly sponge and rhubarb tart. Warm mini doughnuts arrive as an extra surprise. There's a tantalising selection of unusual teas – the rose and lychee is good. Staff are utterly delightful and the whole room brimming with blooms and some striking, colourful art adds to the pleasure. The menus with a watercolour of the prized glass cake stand are a cherishable souvenir to carry a little of the Petersham Nurseries magic home.
Where: The Petersham, Floral Court, King Street, Covent Garden, WC2
When: Thursday - Sunday 3pm-4.30pm
Price: £45/£55 with bellini
The dedicated follower of fashion tea: Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley
The patisserie team of The Berkeley are now considered fashion royalty with front row privileges: such has become the cult status of the Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley. What's more, the hotel now runs an afternoon tea in celebration of the current Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition at the V&A. The tea is served in the ultra glamorous Collins Room with covetable porcelain pendant lights, silver chairs and a magnificent extravaganza of flowers. It feels very special and cossetting.
Headlining this season’s cakes is the Bar Suit, synonymous with Dior since it first took to the catwalk in 1947 as part of Christian Dior’s debut collection. The edible model is a rich chocolate biscuit embellished with cream royal icing. The collection also includes a red velvet cake inspired by the Lady Dior Handbag and a bottle of Miss Dior Eau de Parfum inspired by the designer’s own sister, Catherine, reimagined as a lychee and raspberry cake glazed with shimmering pink icing, complete with signature oversized silver bow. Whilst Dior’s timeless classic 1949 Miss Dior dress is a white velvet chocolate mousse finished with an appliquéd edible violet.
Mourad Kiat, The Berkeley's pastry couturier, offers special masterclasses on how to create the fashionista tea on the last Thursday of each month.
Book well ahead to be sure of a table.
Where: The Berkeley, Wilton Crescent, SW1
When: Daily 1.30pm-5pm book well in advance
Price: £58 per person, £68 with a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne, £78 with a glass of Laurent Perrier rosé, Bollinger rosé or Ruinart Blancs de Blancs.
Peruvian meets Italian afternoon tea in Seven Dials
With its peerless Covent Garden location, Monmouth Kitchen is a cool, contemporary gem serving surprising and exceptionally good food. It has to be the only dining room combining Italian and Peruvian with considerable verve for their El Dolci Semplice afternoon tea. Start with bruschetta made from lip-smackingly fresh ingredients, move on to salmon ceviche tacos and finish with superb Italian inspired cakes. The flourless chocolate cake with orange and the churros are especially memorable. A mandarin bellini provides perfect refreshment. Service is charming and efficient, as not everyone always has time to linger langurously over tea.
Where: Monmouth Kitchen, 20 Mercer Street, Seven Dials, WC2
When: 2pm-5pm daily
The dim sum tea at China Tang
It's a clever idea for China Tang to offer a dim sum afternoon tea, making both the idea of dim sum more approachable to those unfamiliar with the steamed dumplings designed to touch your heart and providing an excuse to visit the bar of this rather louche and decadent restaurant with its beautiful art nouveau features (don't miss the glorious bathrooms) without needing to take out a bank loan. Though the savoury dim sum are by no means outstanding, the sweet dim sum are a revelation especially the sweet potato and peanut dumpling and Chinese custard tart.
Where: China Tang at the Dorchester, Park Lane, W1
When : Every day 3pm-6pm
The grand gesture tea at The Corinthia
The dazzling Baccarat chandelier sets the scene in the Crystal Moon Lounge of the Corinthia where the afternoon tea is accompanied by soothing melodies played on a Steinway Piano. Tea is served on a range of bespoke, hand-painted bone china by Richard Brendon and wheeled in on an antique trolley.
These are the most indulgent finger sandwiches in town: from truffle egg mayonnaise to smoked salmon and marmalade curd, and salt beef, horseradish cream and watercress. What's more, each sandwich is matched with a different bread. The cakes change seasonally and may include both exotic fruit choux and lemon drizzle cake, apple tatin verrine (in a glass, Parisian style) with calvados chantilly.
What makes this afternoon tea even more special, is the 'encore' course of canelés and orange blossom, red apple and Tonka bean marshmallows brought as a surprise finale. Teas are carefully curated with an in-house tea sommelier encouraging guests to experiment in sipping special and different teas.
Where: Corinthia Hotel, Whitehall Pl, Westminster, SW1A 2BD
When: Every day
Price: £55.00, £65.00 with champagne
For more details and to book
The all-vegan tea at Eric Lanlard's Cake Boy in Battersea
For vegans, afternoon tea can be challenging, but why miss out? In the hands of expert patissier, TV star and cook book author Eric Lanlard, adapting recipes for vegans is a challenge happily and creatively undertaken. From gluten-free mini loaf with pistachio pesto to Mont Blanc made with aqua faba meringue, soya cream and chestnuts, this is the real deal and tastes as good as it looks. Lanlard has even sourced properly vegan champagne. Afternoon tea is served in the gorgeous pink riverside Cake Boy cafe where Lanlard's excellent cookery classes (always run by him) take place too.
Where: Cake Boy, Unit 2, kingfisher house, Battersea Reach, Juniper Diver, London SW18
When: Every day
The Gin Parlour Tea
The Gin Parlour is host to the first afternoon tea dedicated to England's most revered spirit. Upon arrival in the Victorian-inspired Parlour, guests are introduced to the Encyclopedia Gintonica, an immense anthology filled with more than 300 spirited fortifications from all four corners of the globe. Guests are taken on a mini Gin Safari to learn about the fascinating history of gin and given tasting notes of each tipple they try. Even tea itself is gin-infused. And resident magician Dee Riley entertains gin-tea takers as the afternoon progresses. Gintastic!
Where: The Gin Parlour, New Row, Covent Garden, WC2
When: Saturdays only from 1pm
Price: £40 per person with a single teapot to share between two or £69 for a bottomless teapot to share between two
The Sunday Swing Tea
For vintage lovers, Cahoots, the post-war era and tube-themed cocktail bar set underground in Kingly Court offers an out-of-the-ordinary ‘tipsy tea’ experience. Complete with live entertainment sure to transport visitors back to the swinging 1940s, this cocktail bar’s take on afternoon tea is a delight.
Every Saturday, guests can order a Squiffy Picnic. It is a hamper full to the brim with classic sarnies and picnic treats such as ham and cheese toasties, sausage rolls, and Victoria sponge cake, as well as a flask filled to the brim with a delicious cocktail for the table to share.
Where: Cahoots, Kingly Street, Soho, W1
When: Saturdays 1pm - 4pm
The Design Heaven tea
All Kit Kemp's Firmdale Hotels are gorgeous and the Haymarket hotel in Piccadilly epitomises her vibrant design aesthetic. Sandwiches are fairly standard though honey roast pumpkin 'sausage roll' adds a little innovation and the scones with clotted cream are ace. Best among the cakes are a pistachio choux bun and a rich chocolate sandwich with cinnamon crunch biscuits. The whimsical covetable tableware is designed by Kit Kemp too.
Where: Haymarket Hotel, 1 Suffolk Pl, Piccadilly, SW1Y 4HX
Price: £24.00 (£34.00 with champagne)
The Indian-Inspired tea
The High Chai is a delightfully different take on afternoon tea, balancing traditional English favourites with an Indian twist. Khaman Dhokla, a traditional leavened steamed chickpea cake is served with tomato jam, and Punjabi samosas come tamarind Imli chutney. For the sweet-toothed, there's spiced cakes and a refreshing mango lassi. It is served in The Gallery mezzanine, overlooking The LaLIT's spectacular Baluchi dining room.
Where: LaLIT Hotel, Tower Bridge, SE1
When: Every day 12.30-5pm
The Dominique Ansel through the seasons afternoon tea
Book well in advance for the extravagant flight of fancy that is New York patissier Dominique Ansel's afternoon tea served in the 'indoor garden' of his Belgravia bakery.
The menu has been wittily designed to mimic nature starting with 'seed' wild mushrooms, confit garlic, pumpkin seed, squid ink choux to fallen leaf of steak tartare, creme fraiche, brioche toast, red radish. Sweet inventions include sprout bud of lavender meringue, coconut ganache, passion fruit gelee, white chocolate petals to full boom: strawberry jam, rose ganache, rose petals. The sheer creativitiy and humour of Dominique Ansel's creations have to be experienced to be fully appreciated. It's a joyful experience.
Where: Dominique Ansell Bakery, Elizabeth Street, SW1
When: Thursday-Sunday 2.30pm - 4.30pm
Price: from £42
The science geek tea
Inspired by the neighbouring Science musuem, this award-winning afternoon tea mixes the usual essentials including sandwiches and scones (served with a tube of lemon curd) with pastries that directly reference culinary experimentation. Expect a strawberry & elderflower jelly petri dish, dark chocolate & raspberry planet mousse, mini dinosaur biscuits & milk chocolate fossil hidden within chocolate 'soil' and enjoy with a 'sciencetails' cocktail. There are veggie and children's tea menus too.
Where: Ampersand Hotel, Harrington Rd, Kensington, London SW7 3ER
When: every day
The Basque tea - Amestsa by Arzak Instruction
A thrillingly different, Basque take on tea devised by San Sebastian's thrice Michelin-starred chef Elena Arzak, served in Belgravia's most discreet and pleasingly calm hotel. In place of sandwiches, there's tapas: from Iberico ham croquetas paired with Lapsand Souchang tea to Txangurro 'spider crab' on a moreish cracker. Desserts unsurprisingly are stunningly presented: there's the legendary Arzak takes on cheesecake, creme catalan and churros con chocolat, and a mesmerising smoked pineapple. Each dish is matched with a tea by Tealeaves and there is the option of upgrading to tea-based cocktails.
Where: Amesta at Arzak Instruction, The Halkin, 5-6 Halkin Street, SW1X 7DJ
Price: £40 afternoon tea with cava, £50 afternoon tea with Noveltea, £60 afternoon tea with champagne