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Lanesborough
David Cotsworth

London’s best afternoon teas

Tiny sandwiches, little cakes and cuppas. These London cafes, restaurants and hotels all offer luxe afternoon teas

Leonie Cooper
Edited by
Leonie Cooper
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Afternoon tea. Yes, it's twee, but there is something quite fun about working your way through what's essentially dessert tapas, especially when you’re at one of London’s top hotels or restaurants. We've rounded up London's best afternoon teas in a city renowned for putting on some of the world’s best spreads – with tiny cakes, little finger sarnies and pots of perfect tea the name of the delicious game. Expect to pay in the region of £50 to £80 for the pleasure per person, but you'll be in for a treat and a half. Many of the teas have set times for seatings, so booking in advance is always recommended.

RECOMMENDED: The best hotels in London.

The best afternoon teas in London to book in 2024

  • Hotels
  • Whitehall

Conceived with both Mother’s Day and International Women’s Day in mind – but on until June – a portion of the proceeds from this decidedly pink-themed spring tea at the Great Scotland Yard Hotel’s opulent Parlour will be donated to Breast Cancer UK. And while the savouries are appropriately Sylvanian Families-esque – a mini Yorkshire pud stuffed with caramelised Jerusalem artichoke and topped with sharp Cheddar leaves you jonesing for ten more – it’s the desserts that are the real calling card. Scones come with a fragrant but not overly flowery rose and rhubarb jam, and they’re followed up by a showstopping orb of choux, brimming with white tea and strawberry-spiked cream. Closing proceedings out is a ylang ylang and honey petit gateau with a feverishly moreish pistachio base – which, in a lovely touch that echoes the tea’s charitable cause, is designed to symbolise two breasts, one of which has undergone a mastectomy. It’s indulgence for a good cause, and if you want even more luxe for your buck, you can always add 90 minutes of unlimited Veuve Cliquot for an additional £30.

Afternoon Tea at The Orchid Lounge at Pan Pacific London
Pan Pacific

2. Afternoon Tea at The Orchid Lounge at Pan Pacific London

It may be one of the newer contenders in London's afternoon tea scene, but 'exquisite' doesn't feel like too strong a word for Pan Pacific Hotel's offering. Its ultra-modern Orchid Lounge is the backdrop for a jewel-bright, intricate collection of delicacies, presented on mirrored plates and framed in a bird cage. There are two options for savouries: choose from a typically English array of intensely flavoured little sandwiches, or pick the Singaporean selection of freshly steamed dumplings for an east Asian take on teatime tradition. Then come the scones, which are engagingly light and crumbly - but if your appetite is already flagging, save your efforts for the tea's centrepiece, the patisserie selection. These miniature cakes are so frivolously stylish you could probably wear them on your head to Ascot, but dig in and you'll be rewarded with intense, delicate bursts of flavour. Wash them down with selections from the ever-changing line-up of loose leaf teas, both arcane and traditional.

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Alice Saville
Contributing writer
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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Mayfair
  • price 4 of 4

As part of Sketch’s luxe Mayfair pleasuredome, the velvet-clad dandy-esque Gallery is a lesson in more-is-more eclecticism, a restaurant and exhibition space. Afternoon tea in this beautiful boudoir is something else – a gorgeous line-up of pretty delights ranging from a truffle croque, finger sandwiches and still-warm scones to Victoria sponge from the trolley and assorted petits’ gateaux. Think: pear and pomegranate cheesecake, quince and vanilla Battenberg as well as red fruit Victoria sponge from the trolley. Don’t miss a trip to the cluster of egg-shaped toilets, where birdsong is piped into each pod.

  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Piccadilly
  • price 3 of 4

As Harrods is to shopping, so The Ritz is to hotels: a London icon and the perfect haven for out-of-towners who’ll revel in its bespoke traditions – right down to the formal dress code. The high-ceilinged Palm Court, where one takes tea, frames feminine pastels with gilt edging and chandeliers, while live entertainment comes from the house pianist, a harpist or string quintet. Come if you’ve got a sweet tooth: showstoppers here are the wonderful pastries, with previous offerings including a delectable rhubarb and custard choux and a nicely sharp lemon posset macaron. It's seasonal too, with strawberries on on the menu in summer and pears in the winter.

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  • Hotels
  • Covent Garden

Boasting a lush atrium, where plants pile towards a soaring glass ceiling, the NoMad is the perfect setting for a bit of afternoon whimsy. Waiting staff seem formal but friendly, befitting the environment – the NoMad is classy, but still distinctly cool without the stuffiness of some other afternoon tea establishments. In fact, we are encouraged to order Negroni after Negroni (made with Honeybush tea, part of their delightful tea-inspired cocktail menu) which is the kind of enabling we like to see. The afternoon tea itself plays homage to the NoMad’s New York roots – mini lox bagels and pastrami sandwiches, as well as classics like egg mayonnaise, elevated with the always-welcome addition of truffle. A decent selection of teas were offered, all from the Rare Tea Company – but we preferred the ones steeped in booze.

Laura Gallant
Afternoon tea at The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason
  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Piccadilly
  • price 3 of 4

F&M’s elegant tea salon has been serving the good stuff since 1926. A pastel-coloured dining room on the fourth floor of the iconic St James’s department store, this spacious spot excels in both sweet and savoury teas. Finger sarnies include smoked trout with dill and Coronation chicken, but there's also a vegan and veggie menu, too. Nab some rose and pistachio cake from the trolley for afters. The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon was named in honour of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s visit in 2012. Have a cuppa in her honour. 

 

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Afternoon tea at The Tea House at Bread Ahead
Bread Ahead

7. Afternoon tea at The Tea House at Bread Ahead

When you walk into Bread Ahead Bakery on Pavilion Road, you’re met with the kind of chaotic buzz expected from a popular weekend bakery. But in the corner of this lively spot, behind the velvet rope and up the staircase, is a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of Chelsea: The Tea House from Bread Ahead. Fortum & Mason teas are served alongside mini versions of Bread Ahead’s classic bridge roll sandwiches, a lemon posset, and a silver tower of scones with clotted cream, jam and lemon curd, all made in-house. Finish off with some expertly baked pastries, including a swiss roll and black forest chocolate sponge.

  • Hotels
  • Luxury hotels
  • Piccadilly

The Grill Room is a sensational space, Grade II listed and gilded to the hilt. A favourite of Oscar Wilde and it's easy to see why. The afternoon tea is just as lavish, with live piano, champers and a high-end menu that kicks off with an amuse bouche of truffle gougère, truffle mousse, parmesan choux before rolling through roast beef and smoked salmon sarnies before a palate cleanser of blood orange sorbet with cocoa nibs crumble, then fresh scones and sweets such as buttermilk mousse with rhubarb confit and pistachio praline with cocoa sablé. There's a veggie and vegan option, too. 

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  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Covent Garden

The Theatre Royal Drury Lane is the grande dame of London theatres, with a site that has been in constant use as a playhouse since the 1600s. Enter the Grand Saloon and you'll find a tea fit for royalty, whipped up by celebrity baker Lily Vanilli aka the queen of east London's cake scene. Sit under spectacular chandeliers and scoff mini crumpets topped with Earl Grey-infused cream cheese and a savoury madeleine with whipped feta and pickled carrot. Fruit scones, vanilla cake filled with passionfruit and buttercream, topped by a handmade chocolate cupid, mini sticky toffee pudding and a strawberry ice cream sandwich provide the sweeter side of tea. Bliss. 

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Mayfair

This glorious grande dame of the capital’s restaurant scene – it was established way back in 1916 – offers afternoon tea with, of course, oysters. Start your sophisticated sesh with a glass of champers and then knock back Jersey rocks with a sweet Vietnamese dressing. Sandwiches are similarly fishy; smoked salmon and horseradish, pickled cucumber and seaweed cream, crab and mayo. There are the requisite scones and a hearty array of patisseries and desserts, including a scrumptious craquelin choux bun with tart raspberry compote and lemon curd. 

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Leonie Cooper
Food and Drink Editor, Time Out London
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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Trafalgar Square

A restaurant in a gallery is, of course, going to offer you a masterpiece of a meal. The tea at Ochre is inspired by 18th century painting The Lavergne Family Breakfast by Jean-Etienne Lotard, and is something of a culinary work of art itself. Head pastry chef Rebecca Morrison's afternoon offering comes with chocolate scones, white chocolate tart, chocolate & orange sponge, a hazelnut chocolate dome and dark chocolate brownie. On the savoury side there's egg mayo, ham & tomato and smoked salmon with dill crème fraîche sandwiches.

Afternoon tea at the Foyer and Reading Room, Claridge’s
  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Mayfair

Flattering lighting, the scent of fresh roses, classical musicians in the corner: The Foyer at Claridge’s is a class act. This elegant art deco space is where chic A-listers and people with damn fine taste come to take tea. The pastries are decent, the just-baked scones even better (look out for the sensational Marco Polo ‘tea jelly’), but at Claridge’s, it’s the savouries that are the stars. Not only are the finger sandwiches moist, full-flavoured and unlimited, but there’s an ever-changing ‘special’ – perhaps peppered goat’s cheese with pumpkin and sage jalousie. Gracious, discreet service is a bonus.

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  • Restaurants
  • Fusion
  • Covent Garden
  • price 4 of 4

Cucumber sandwiches aren’t for everyone, we’ll give you that. In the lovely, leafy confines of Sushisamba’s Covent Garden restaurant, you can eschew the traditional fare and tuck into wagyu katsu sliders, crispy lobster taquitos and gunkan sushi. Start at the bottom of the tower for savoury, and make your way up to the sweet stuff (the light, fluffy chocolate puffs are a highlight). As you’d expect, it’s all a suitably lavish affair, finished off with a massive selection of teas and warm, crumbly scones for the purists.

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Grace Beard
Travel Editor
  • Restaurants
  • Holborn

The brainchild of executive pastry chef Mark Perkins, the Rosewood’s whimsical Masterful Art Afternoon Tea is themed around the works of great artists. It’s not too wacky: the sandwiches, scones and teas are elegant but not high concept. But the cakes are agreeably wild, dazzlingly colourful mini-masterpieces, nodding to Yayoi Kusama, Vincent Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, Banksy and David Hockney.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • South Bank
  • price 3 of 4

Famed cocktail mixer Ryan Chetiyawardana – aka Mr Lyan – hosts Sri Lankan High Tea at his Lyness bar every Saturday and Sunday. It's a celebration of high tea in his parent’s hometown of Galle on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, and kicks off with a curry leaf Champagne cocktail and chicken kukul mas and coconut, masala spiced tuna with mayonnaise, and marinated aubergine and brinjal butter finger sandwiches. Then there's mutton croquette with tomato sambal, turmeric devilled eggs and a coconut flower daiquiris, followed by pandan swiss roll and many more majestic flavours. 

  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Covent Garden

One of the most impressive dining rooms in central London, Balthazar is the perfect Manhattan interpretation of a French brasserie; all extremely high ceilings, burnished mirrors and terrific tiling. Their afternoon tea is similarly Parisian with a New York twist. Alongside dainty dressed crab and tarragon chicken sandwiches with truffle mayo you'll find a mini hamburger. The five mini desserts are exceptional; a Paris Brest, gateau opera, crème brûlée, apple tart and macaron. There's also a zingy French 75 cocktail and Champagne in the mix.

 

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Leonie Cooper
Food and Drink Editor, Time Out London
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  • Hotels
  • Luxury hotels
  • Mayfair

Glistening with mirrors, gilt and peacock-blue velvet, Flemings is a little gem of an afternoon tea spot. This Mayfair boutique hotel's intimate drawing room offers a quiet place to swap gossip over a menu that places almost as much emphasis on the tea as the dainty treats that accompany it. The theme changes each season: on our visit, the floral-themed menu offered soothing lavender white tea and marmalade-esque orange blossom oolong alongside feather-light scones, finger sandwiches, and appropriately delicate patisserie.

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Wicked afternoon tea at The Clermont, Victoria
The Clermont

19. Wicked afternoon tea at The Clermont, Victoria

Go green with afternoon tea at The Clermont, which leans into its close proximity to the long-running musical Wicked by creating an afternoon tea in homage to the Wizard of Oz spin-off. Start with fancies such as a chocolate & pistachio bombe and a lime cheesecake before scones and classic cucumber and egg mayo sandwiches. If you're on the booze then a Wicked is made with Hendrick’s gin, kiwi puree, cucumber syrup, and sparkling wine, while a Good comes with Chambord as well as raspberry and strawberry liqueurs. 

  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Strand

Under a lofty glass dome, the sumptuously traditional Thames Foyer plays host to sedate celebrating couples and excited groups having a grand day out in an unstuffy but top-drawer setting. A piano tinkles in the background as punters scarf down a classic selection of delicate finger and open sandwiches, homemade scones with clotted cream, jam, and lemon curd, and a fine selection of pastries that looks like a tempting work of art.

 

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Hyde Park Corner

Tea at The Lanesborough ticks all the boxes. Their latest twist on the classic set-up is inspired by Netflix's 'Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story' and is all about Regency decadence. Pastries are as regal as you might imagine, with a sharing cake called Your Majesty, and other sweet treats called things like King George Dreams of Venus, Lady Violet's Buzzing Garden and the Danbury Delight. Sandwiches are more trad; tea cured salmon with lemon and caper cream, Coronation chicken and devilled egg mayonnaise. It'll be served until May 15, 2024.

Afternoon tea at The Promenade, The Dorchester
  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Park Lane
  • price 3 of 4

Afternoon tea at The Dorchester is a dark horse. The Promenade looks every bit the foyer of a Park Lane hotel: sumptuous, with heavy drapes, plush carpets and marble columns. Dig deeper and you’ll see it’s a breath of fresh air: staff wear tailcoats but are charming and approachable; the crowd comprises sartorially slick Londoners; and best of all, the piano player’s tinkle-list covers all bases. Unlimited finger sandwiches are terrific and elevated by interesting breads, such as caraway seed or walnut, as are pitch-perfect pastries: the moist Battenberg, wrapped in homemade marzipan, is not one we will easily forget. 

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Afternoon tea at The Bar & Lounge at The Goring
  • Bars and pubs
  • Hotel bars
  • Victoria
  • price 4 of 4

Served in the gilded lounge of the regal Goring hotel, this is the Grace Kelly of afternoon teas. Smart casual is the official line outfit-wise, but this is a spread you’ll want to get dressed up for. The sandwiches, in particular, are faultless: perfect little crustless soldiers made fresh to order. Scones (plain or fruity) come tucked up in a napkin nest to keep them toasty warm. The best bit? You’ll be offered refills without having to ask for them.

 

Indian High Chai at Lalit London
  • Restaurants
  • Tea rooms
  • London Bridge

The jaw-dropping splendour of huge hand-crafted cobalt-blue chandeliers gives this former grammar school Great Hall a real impact – so bag a table on the wraparound mezzanine gallery to truly appreciate the vibe. There’s artistry – and fun – in the Indian High Chai too, which is based on the subcontinent’s street food and includes such delicacies as kathi rolls, feather-light samosas with tamarind chutney and bowls of bhel puri studded with pomegranate seeds. Portions are manageable, so you should have room to sample the halwa, barfi and other gorgeous Indian sweets – assuming you haven’t knocked back too much of the milky masala chai. Enthusiastic waiters are only too eager to top up your painted glass.

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  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Marylebone
  • price 2 of 4

Chef Michel Roux Jr and Executive Pastry Chef Andrew Gravett have come together to create a menu inspired by the nation's favourite biscuits and baked tarts. The spread is based on the best seasonal produce, so expect a calendar-tuned line-up of speciality sandwiches, home-baked scones, cakes and pastries, all served on Wedgwood china. All paired with a selection of JING teas and English sparkling wine from Gusbourne.

 

  • Restaurants
  • Knightsbridge
  • price 3 of 4

The Berkeley’s Prêt-à-Portea has been a stalwart of the high-tea scene for a over a decade. A selection of beautiful fashion-themed biscuits, sponges and sweets changes with the catwalk, so expect seasonal creations inspired by everything from Loewe’s Anthurium dress (made of sponge, espresso caramel and chocolate mousse on a croustillant base) to the late Vivienne Westwood herself with a Madagascar vanilla biscuit portrait. Elswhere you'll find Hermès’ tasselled bucket bag made of an apricot jam sponge and a Kenzo sharing cake. It makes more sense when you see it, and even more sense when you eat it. 

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  • Restaurants
  • French
  • Covent Garden
  • price 2 of 4

A two-storey French teahouse in the heart of Covent Garden, the Parisian afternoon tea takes place at the lavish Salon de Thé and offers up over 1,000 aromatic varieties of the hot stuff. The food is fittingly French but with a Covent Garden twist. Expect  classic scones and smoked salmon sandwiches infused with Paris Marais tea. 

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