Classic afternoon tea in London
What’s the vibe? Funky, modern and oh-so-high. Aqua Shard delivers smooth service and we don’t think there’s a table that doesn’t have a good view.
What’s on the menu? Unique lavender-perfumed chicken sandwich, Staffordshire ham with mustard and Bermondsey Hard Pressed cheese, Earl Grey-smoked Loch Duart salmon, scones with raspberry and lemon thyme jam, a Shard-shaped red velvet and dark chocolate cake and a Victoria sponge with a bubblegum macaron.
How much is it? £42 for the classic, £55 with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut Champagne or £67 with a glass of Ruinart Rose Champagne.
What’s the vibe? Set in the upstairs restaurant, it’s all sheer curtains and leather seating: think contemporary gentleman's club, minus the sleaze.
What’s on the menu? Salmon sandwiches, ham and cheese croissants, salt beef sliders and cheese scones. Sweets include cheesecake, lemon cake, macarons, opera cake, marshmallow tea-cakes and warmed scones served with clotted cream and sharp raspberry conserve. There is also a selection of quality loose-leaf teas.
How much is it? £22.50 per person for the afternoon tea, or kick things up a notch with a glass of Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial champagne (£29.50) or a Chambord cocktail topped with Moet & Chandon Rosé champagne (£33.95).
What’s the vibe? Held in a luxurious Art Deco-inspired foyer, this is the grand queen of afternoon teas, with a waiting list to match.
What’s on the menu? Sandwiches, including eggs from Burford Brown, smoked salmon from Severn and Wye smokery and Quicke’s cheddar from Devon. Freshly baked scones are served warm with Cornish clotted cream and Marco Polo gelee. Lemon buttermilk cake, roasted white chocolate eclair and Tainori chocolate mousse. The tea selection is from the Rare Tea Company.
How much is it? £58, or £68 including a glass of Laurent-Perrier Brut NV champagne, or Laurent-Perrier Rose champagne, £78.
What’s the vibe? A buzzy dining room filled with the sound of silver clinking on china, this is classy without being stuffy. Perfect for special occasions or taking your ‘rents out for a bit of razzle-dazzle.
What's on the menu? Opt for superior fruit scones or go off-piste with the wheat-free poppy seed gugelhopf buns and apricot jam. Savories include smoked salmon on rye and aubergine tapenade open sandwiches – but they triumph with the sweet treats. Everything is served on a monogrammed three-tier contraption and their tea comes with an old-fashioned strainer.
How much is it? £19.75 for afternoon tea or £29.75 with a glass of Pommery Brut Royale NV champagne.
Venue says Enjoy our Menu Rapide for just £13.50. It includes a classic tarte flambée, mixed leaf salad, glass of wine or beer and tea or coffee.
What’s the vibe? Hidden away on the ground floor of the St Martin’s Lane Hotel is a wood-panelled reception room featuring leather sofas, backgammon boards, low lighting and some intriguing artwork. It’s not your usual afternoon tea surrounds, which makes it all the more appealing – who needs pastel and chintz when you’re already eating mini cakes?
What’s on the menu? The booze is accordingly classy; you choose from a selection of classic and fruit-laced gin and tonics, each of which has a fun name that corresponds to one of the aforementioned paintings. A wonderfully refreshing way to wash down the freshly baked scones, honey-roast ham and cheddar-baked brioche, coconut macarons and other creative twists on the traditional.
How much is it? £29.50 per person without alcohol, or £39.50 with a gin and tonic and £42 with a glass of champagne.
What’s the vibe? Old-school glamour. Knowledgeable staff offer a tea-tasting lesson at the start of proceedings with 84 varieties to choose from. It’s a classic afternoon tea for ladies that lunch, not ladies on the lash. The same goes for gentlemen.
What’s on the menu? For those who want to forgo sweet stuff, there’s the savoury afternoon tea. There’s cheddar cheese scones with caramelised onion, a selection of finger sandwiches and delicate bites. The classic afternoon tea is a pastel delight, with rose-adorned petite eclairs and mini lemon tarts.
How much is it? £44 for the classic tea blend or £48 with a single estate tea.
What’s the vibe? Fragrant. On arrival, you’ll notice the scent of seasonal flowers, of which there are hundreds, giving The Promenade a garden-like feel.
What’s on the menu? The Dorchester offers a fine selection of Dalreoch teas – smoked white, white and Garrocher Grey – produced in Scotland. Sandwiches include cucumber, chicken and perfectly prepared salmon. Chocolate tarts and open macarons are all perfectly petite. Scones are plain or raisin and served with real strawberry jam and mirabelle plum preserve.
How much is it? £49 or with Laurent-Perrier NV champagne, £59 or Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé, £65. Dalreoch teas are a £12 supplement.
What’s the vibe? Brown’s describes its afternoon tea as legendary, and who are we to disagree with London’s oldest hotel? It’s served in the classy, wood-panelled English Tea Room, where Rudyard Kipling is said to have written a number of his books.
What’s on the menu? Sandwiches packed with classic fillings, some petite scones with homemade jam and oozy clotted cream; a selection of dainty pastries including soft macaroons, slabs of rich chocolate mousse and fluffy choux pastry balls, and an extensive list of teas with tasting notes.
How much is it? £52.50 for traditional afternoon tea, or £62.50 with a glass of Ruinart Champagne.
What’s the vibe? Marcus Wareing’s St Pancras offering is housed in this gloriously gothic hotel and named after the architect who designed it. Imposing and elegant, it’s as much an attraction as the food. Close to the Eurostar terminal, it’s perfect for romantics taking a Paris minbreak.
What’s on the menu? Teas including Pinhead Gunpowder, Pai Mu Tan White and of course, classic English Breakfast. Savouries include mini seafood brioche rolls, handmade sausage rolls and classic sandwiches, scones with homemade jam, ginger cake, chocolate tart and rhubarb eton mess.
How much is it? Classic afternoon tea is £29, with Moet & Chandon Brut NV, £41 and with Ruinart Rose, £45.
Venue says Enjoy a Christmas like no other in King's Cross. We're putting on a grand dining experience with fine seasonal produce. Five courses £120.
What’s the vibe? Old-school regal. Opened in 1910, it was rented out in its entirety for Wills and Kate’s wedding reception. Admire part of a mural painted in the corridor by the Duchess of Cambridge herself.
What’s on the menu? Crustless finger sandwiches (think smoked salmon and horseradish, and coronation chicken - Her Majesty would approve). Sweets include fluffy scones, a royal opera cake of pistachio sponge and chocolate ganache and a vanilla and rose choux bun. Drinks-wise, first-flush teas include the Goring’s delicious Afternoon Blend.
How much is it? £42.50 for traditional afternoon tea, £52.50 with a glass of Bollinger champagne, £62.50 with a glass of Bollinger rosé Champagne.
Quirky afternoon tea in London
What’s the vibe? The pantry of boutique hotel The Marylebone is just a short strut from Oxford Street, but miles away in terms of serenity.
What’s on the menu? Gluten-free sandwiches (cream cheese and cucumber, ham and mustard and other traditionals) on bread that tastes as good as the real deal; gluten-free brownies; matcha green tea cakes; chocolate and almond brownies plus a selection of specialist teas from Rare Tea Company, plus juices, should you so desire. Gluten all good? The classic afternoon tea is a similarly delicious offering.
How much is it? £28 for healthy and classic, £38 for indulgent (including a glass of rose champagne).
Venue says Celebrate Thanksgiving in true transatlantic style. Enjoy New England clam chowder, roasted Caldecott Farm bronze turkey and pumpkin pie!
What’s the vibe? Meals on wheels, pimped. This is pure pastel perfection with a mini London tour taking in landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and Nelson’s Column all to be enjoyed while eating some top-notch French patisserie.
What’s on the menu? Mini quiches and the usual sandwiches plus some French fancies, including lemon-meringue pie and macarons. To avoid any accidents, prosecco is served in a plastic cup and the tea in a made-to-keep plastic travel mug.
How much is it? £45 for adults, £35 for children (ages 6–11).
What’s the vibe? The afternoon tea menu changes every six months to reflect current fashion trends and there’s definitely enough Instagram potential to make your friends jealous.
What’s on the menu? Cakes and fancies are bold and beautiful and currently include creations inspired by Dolce & Gabbana (lychee and almond mousse), Moschino (cream and orange financier) and Alice Temperley (gianduja chocolate supreme set on shortbread). Each item has been painstakingly created to delight fashion-lovers and those who fancy an afternoon tea with a difference.
How much is it? £45, or £52 including a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne.
What’s the vibe? Named after an actress who was among the first to get her kit off on screen in the 1920s, this vintage tearoom is the real deal with a dressing-up box full of costumes.
What’s on the menu? Sandwiches include salmon mousse, avocado and ham. There’s also baked ham and desserts include mint julep sorbet. A cocktail-making masterclass is also offered for an additional £45 per person and focuses on drinks that Betty Blythe would definitely have approved of – old fashioneds and southsides – but do try to keep your clothes on, darling.
How much is it? £30 per person based on a booking for ten people.
What’s the vibe? Sizzling patties, frothy milkshakes, crispy fried chicken and a side of chips – Brgr.co takes the British tradition and puts a big, fat American spin on it.
What’s on the menu? Three tasty sliders with soft, spongy buns, followed by a selection of desserts that includes a dinky doughnut and a squidgy chocolate brownie. This is all accompanied by a bellini, a tiny milkshake and a tall glass of iced tea. You may never touch another pot of basic breakfast tea again.
How much is it? A bargain at £17.
What’s the vibe? A redundant tube station with plenty of quirk and a speakeasy feel. Ask to see the Captain or you’ll be left at the door.
What’s on the menu? You’re welcomed with a bag of sandwiches and a fancy Sipsmith cocktail served in a tin mug, swiftly followed by a hamper filled with delicious nibbles including pork rolls, shortbread, lemon drizzle cake and grapes. The final hamper contains flasks of sloe gin with tonic. There is also water and elderflower cordial on the table to balance out the tipples.
How much is it? £46 per person, or you can upgrade to fizz for £72.
What’s the vibe? Its location in Docklands has no doubt inspired this pirate-themed afternoon tea, but you won’t be ordered to walk the plank here. Instead, relax and enjoy the river views while tucking into a wooden treasure chest full of treats. It’s casual, so suitable for all.
What’s on the menu? While the presentation is unusual, the sandwiches are classic – think cheese, ham and salmon. It’s the desserts that are created with the most flair, but still include the traditional scones with jam and clotted cream. Tea is from Twinings.
How much is it? £24.95 or £30 with prosecco.
What’s the vibe? Ryan Chetiyawardana is London’s very own spirit wizard, so it isn’t surprising that the afternoon tea at his award-winning bar Dandelyan comes with cocktails that are as tempting before sunset as after.
What’s on the menu? The drinks match the three-course selection of imaginative little sarnies and sweet treats just as a fur coat matches expensive heels. That makes it sound a very girly affair, but it’s pretty obvious that food-lovers of all genders will enjoy the likes of lager-braised bacon jam and confit chicken pinwheels, and blackcurrant and verbena battenberg. All this with a keen price and a view of the Thames. The spirit wizard strikes again.
How much is it? £55 for the whole shebang, £35 without booze, £60 with a glass of champagne.
What’s the vibe? A stone's throw from King’s Cross station, this friendly venue feels like a quirky community centre. There’s plenty of craft on offer too, if you’re got nimble fingers or just fancy doing something creative.
What’s on the menu? Sandwiches filled with ham hock, parsley and mayo, egg mayonnaise with spring onions and chives and smoked salmon with cream cheese and horseradish paste, plus generously sized fruit scones and a selection of miniature homemade cakes. The extensive list of speciality teas includes the surprisingly refreshing Rooibos Bakewell.
How much is it? £28 for afternoon tea with a bellini or upgrade to a champagne afternoon tea with a glass of Mercier Champagne for £35.
What’s the vibe? Built in the 1860s for the limber men and women of the German Gymnastics Society, the building occupied by this restaurant originally hosted activities such as Indian club swinging. Sadly, that wasn’t on offer during our visit, but we did enjoy the bell (complete with cuckoo sounds) that signals the start of the 4pm German tradition of kaffee und kuchen (coffee and cake).
What’s on the menu? Everything served here is German in origin and includes favourites such as apple strudel with vanilla sauce (a cut above custard), traditional black forest gateau, sachertorte with chantilly cream and black forest coffee with kirsch.
How much is it? £8 plus £3.50 for speciality coffee.
Treat yourself to more indulgence
In this list – surely the ultimate guide to the best restaurants in London – you’ll find it all: zeitgeist-defining celebrity haunts, the best new restaurants in London, Michelin star restaurants with starched linen napkins and restaurants serving cheap eats where you’ll have to eat with your fingers. What they all have in common is that they serve some of the best dishes in London at fair prices, with service befitting the setting. In short, if you’re looking for a great meal, you’ve come to the right place.
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