Dainty cucumber sandwiches, slices of Battenberg, pillowy scones - there's no better English tradition to indulge in this Mother's Day than afternoon tea. Time Out's Eating & Drinking team reveal the best.
There’s a waiting list, but once you get a table you’ll be treated to sandwiches filled with the finest ingredients plus freshly baked scones with Cornish clotted cream and bergamot-infused Marco Polo gelée (that’s posh jam to you and me). And that’s before you even get to the sweets. Don’t miss the silky chocolate choux.
Great for: An A-list tea experience.
Brook St, W1K 4HR. Tube: Bond St.
They’ve been serving slender sandwiches and delicate cakes in the ridiculously opulent Palm Court for more than 100 years, so you can expect immaculate waiters, lavish decor, posh crockery and a string quartet playing in the background. Highlights among the pitch-perfect sandwiches include chicken breast and parsley mayonnaise.
Great for: Fans of dressing up. It still has a dress code, don’t you know.
Piccadilly, W1J 9BR. Tube: Green Park.
Historic and swish, it’s here that Winston Churchill lunched while WWII raged on. Afternoon pastries include the delicate Savoy Rose macaron with wild strawberry jelly. Choose from Victoria sponge and chocolate signature cakes to go with teas including The Savoy’s Breakfast Blend.
Great for: Taking a trip back to London’s glam past.
Strand, WC2R 0EU. Tube: Charing Cross or Temple.
Giving new meaning to the phrase ‘meals on wheels’, BB Bakery’s tea adventure offers scones served while touring the city’s landmarks on a vintage Routemaster. Mini quiches and the usual sandwiches are on the menu plus French fancies including lemon meringue pie and macarons. Tea is served in a made-to-keep travel mug.
Great for: Out-of-towners who want sights with their scones.
Wow. Indulging in the Roseberry Winter Palette Afternoon Tea feels a bit like being in your posh mate’s house – it’s exquisite but you’ll be constantly trying not to knock anything over. Innovative touches include sandwiches shaped like sushi, yuzu meringue pie and scones with a rose-petal jelly. As for the tea, it’s a selection of greens and whites as well as more traditional blends.
Great for: A little bit of fairytale magic: the tea comes in a floating birdcage. You’ll see.
Knightsbridge, SW1X 7LA. Tube: Knightsbridge.
This must be the most fragrant hotel in London. Arriving at The Dorchester, you immediately notice the heavenly scent of seasonal flowers: there are hundreds of them, giving the place a decidedly garden-like feel.
There is a fine selection of teas here, which delightfully come from the Dalreoch Estate – producer of the first tea grown in Scotland.
Great for: Surprising your bloom-loving mum.
Park Lane, W1K 1QA. Tube: Hyde Park Corner.
In the nineteenth century, tea was known as ‘scandal water’ and afternoon tea was an occasion for the upper crust to have a good old gossip. Scandal Water in this intimate oak-panelled bar involves matching teas with food and an alcoholic punch. For example, the Davide’s Scandal Water Special Brew is paired with Eccles cake and Enotria Punch (cognac, wine and lavender). That should get tongues wagging.
Great for: Cocktail (or punch) lovers.
Berners St, W1T 3LF. Tube: Tottenham Court Rd.
Marcus Wareing’s teatime experience, The Gilbert Scott, is housed in this gloriously Gothic hotel, with a wide-ranging selection of teas including Pinhead Gunpowder, Pai Mu Tan White and, of course, English Breakfast. Savouries include mini seafood brioche rolls and handmade sausage rolls; then it’s time to hit the scones, ginger cake, chocolate tart and rhubarb Eton mess.
Great for: Kicking off a Paris mini break in style.
Euston Rd, NW1 2AR. Tube: King’s Cross.
Designed by artist David Shrigley and designer India Mahdavi – Sketch’s The Gallery is amazing. Step inside and you’re hit by a wave of pink, but this is no Barbie palace: the atmosphere here is seriously cool and classy. Your three-tiered tray includes a comté cheese toastie and caviar-topped egg sandwich plus two tiers of miniature cakes. There’s even a tiny dish of pink marshmallow tubes.
Great for: Sophisticated hen dos.
Conduit St, W1S 2XG. Tube: Oxford Circus.
The knowledgeable staff give a tea-tasting lesson at the start of proceedings with a mind-blowing 84(!) loose-leaf wonders to choose from. Savoury options include stilton scones, while sweet-toothed types will love the rose-adorned petite eclairs and mini lemon tarts.
Great for: An indulgent outing with Granny.
Piccadilly, W1A 1ER. Tube: Green Park.
Can't get enough of those cucumber sandwiches? Check out our guide to classic and quirky afternoon teas in London.