Afternoon tea is the ultimate indulgence, and it doesn’t get much better than the way it’s served in London hotels, restaurants and cafés. We’ve tucked into the post-lunch, pre-dinner treat and British institution at venues all around town to find you the very best afternoon tea in London. From classic tea, sandwiches, scones and clotted cream to quirky afternoon teas with a glass of champagne and a finger to the establishment (little finger, naturally). Pinkies at the ready!
Reviews by Ashleigh Arnott, Josie Ayre, Tania Ballantine, Ellie Broughton, Elizabeth Darke, Kitty Drake, Danielle Goldstein, Steph Hartman, Andy Hill, Emma Hughes, Laura Richards and Yolanda Zappaterra.
The best classic afternoon tea in London
What’s the vibe? Yep, it’s all about the views from the thirty-first floor of Renzo Piano’s spectacular glass spike, with London served up as a glorious dish of buildings. But the team here aren’t prepared to be outdone by a load of bricks and mortar. From the imaginative selection of hearty finger sandwiches (rye bread and chive cream cheese was a fave) to the Earl Grey opera cake and deconstructed apple and blackberry crumble, everything was beautifully executed and impeccably served. You could add champagne, but our advice would be to spend your pennies on a cocktail afterwards. As day turns to night, Aqua transitions from a plush daytime space to take your mum to a darkly sexy date-night spot.
Price? £45 per person, £58 with a glass of Veuve Cliquot champagne, £69 with a glass of Ruinart rosé champagne.
Dietary needs? All dietary requests can be accommodated. Notice preferred, but not mandatory.
Times? Mon–Fri 1pm–5pm; Sat, Sun 1pm–4pm. YZ
What’s the vibe? The Grace Kelly of afternoon teas, served in The Goring’s gilded lounge. ‘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, and the clotted cream is in ideally sized scoops. The pastry chef has had fun with the cakes; there’s giant macaron and a blood-orange-mousse dome that looks like a Disney toadstool. The best bit? You’ll be offered refills without having to ask for them.
Price? £49 per person, £59 with a glass of Bollinger Special Cuvée, £69 with a glass of Bollinger Rosé.
Dietary needs? Vegetarian and pescatarian requests can be accommodated on the day, notice on booking preferred for gluten-free or dairy-free menus.
Times? Daily, 3pm–4pm (Sat, 1pm–4pm). EH
What’s the vibe? Nothing bad could ever happen here, you think to yourself as you climb the stairs to Fortnum & Mason’s pastel-painted Diamond Jubilee Salon. Cosseting staff go beyond the call of duty to make sure you’re well fed and watered – our waiter let us taste several different tea blends before we ordered. Although you can ask for a tea with extra ‘savouries’ like Welsh rarebit, the standard one will be more than sufficient for most (especially if you take them up on the offer of refills). The super-buttery scones are exceptional, but save space for Battenberg cake from the trolley.
Price? £44 per person.
Dietary needs? Vegetarian afternoon tea is available to order on the day. 24 hours’ notice preferred for vegan or gluten-free menus.
Times? Mon–Sat 11.30am–7pm, Sun 11.30am–6pm. EH
What’s the vibe? If you’re looking for a side-serving of class with your afternoon tea, head to the wood-panelled English Tea Room at Brown’s Hotel. Staff will guide you through their rich bounty of teas and infusions, and can recommend a brew to suit every palate. Our stand included little bagels topped with lashings of coronation chicken, and a mouthful of tomato focaccia accompanied by a delicious goat’s curd with chilli jam and walnuts. Pretty cakes and pastries adorned the top tier, including spiced pumpkin and ginger eclairs, and chocolate, caramel and mandarin tarts.
Price? £55 per person, £65 with a glass of ‘R’ de Ruinart champagne.
Dietary needs? 24 hours’ notice preferred for vegan, dairy free and gluten free menus. 48 hours for halal. The ‘Tea-Tox’ menu is gluten free.
Times? Daily, noon–5pm. SH
What’s the vibe? Flattering lighting, the scent of fresh roses, a classical cellist-plus-pianist duo in the corner: the Foyer at Claridge’s is a class act. This elegant art deco pace is where chic A-listers and other ‘people with 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’: ours was a moreish ‘sandwich’ of buttery sable biscuits with a green-peppercorn-spiked cream cheese filling. Gracious, discreet service is a bonus.
Price? £58 per person, £68 with a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne, £78 with a glass of Laurent-Perrier rosé champagne, £66 with a glass on non-alcoholic jus de raisin petillant.
Dietary needs? All dietary requests can be accommodated. 24 hours’ notice preferred.
Times? Daily, sittings 2.45pm–5.30pm. TB
What’s the vibe? Sip on champers beneath the gothic bells and painted ceiling, in among the sky-high pillars and gilt-edged… everything. It’s a jaw-dropping space that deserves the extra indulgence of champagne in the arvo. The tea list offers many a quality drop, too. Staff are turned out in crisp formal wear and no ask is too tall. They’ll refill your savoury layer, a big result, since one round of divine flaky sausage rolls and red trout in cloud-like white bread sandwiches could never be enough. Nibbling on a zingy mini lemon meringue pie was close to a renaissance in itself.
Price? £29 per persons, £41 with a glass of Gosset champagne, £34 for temperance afternoon tea with sparkling green tea.
Dietary needs? All dietary requests can be accommodated with 48 hours’ notice.
Times? Sat noon–4pm, Sun noon–5pm. LR
What’s the vibe? Tucked away in leafy Barnes just a stone’s throw from the Thames, the look at Orange Pekoe is somewhere between nana’s cottage and countryside cake shop. All dainty china and ornamental furniture, everything about the afternoon tea here is done with care. There’s a dedicated tea sommelier to talk you through an enormous list of loose-leaf brews – try the rose blend earl grey, it’s insane. Plough through proper crust-off finger sandwiches, homemade cake, and scones which arrive cold – but only so you can say when you want them toasted so you don’t feel rushed. Nice touch, eh? It all arrives on a delicate two-tier tray decked with berries and flowers.
Price? £19.95 per person, £5.95 supplement for a glass of prosecco.
Dietary needs? Vegetarian and gluten-free menus available on the day.
Times? Daily, 2pm–5pm. KD
What’s the vibe? As Harrods is to shopping, the Ritz is to hotels: a London icon. This is a place for out-of-towners who’ll revel in its traditions, such as the formal dress code. The high-ceilinged Palm Court, where one takes tea, frames feminine pastels with gilt edging and chandeliers, plus a pianist playing Elton John and Rod Stewart. Come if you’ve a sweet tooth: the (unlimited) sandwiches and scones are somewhat ordinary, but the showstoppers here are the wonderful pastries, from a delectable ‘rhubarb and custard’ choux to a nicely sharp lemon posset macaron. There’s even a dessert trolley for by-the-slice delights (such as an excellent ‘belle époque’ pear tart).
Price? £54 per person (£30 for children), £70 with a glass of Reserve Ritz champagne. Celebration tea £65 per person, includes a slice of cake.
Dietary needs? All dietary requests can be accommodated. 48 hours’ notice required.
Times? Daily, sittings 11.30am–7.30pm. TB
What’s the vibe? 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. But dig deeper and you'll see it's a breath of fresh air: staff wore tailcoats but were charming and approachable; the crowd is one of sartorially slick Londoners; and best of all, the piano player’s tinkle-list took in Justin Bieber, Amy Winehouse and even the theme tune to ‘Game of Thrones’. Scones are pedestrian but the (unlimited) finger sandwiches are terrific (elevated by interesting breads, such as caraway seed or walnut), as are pitch-perfect pastries: the moist Battenberg, wrapped in home-made marzipan, is not one we will easily forget.
Price? £55 per person, £65 with a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne, £72 with a glass of Laurent-Perrier rosé champagne, £90 with a glass of Dom Perignon vintage champagne.
Dietary needs? All dietary requests can be accommodated. Notice on booking preferred.
Times? Daily, sittings 1pm–5.30pm. TB
What’s the vibe? Under a lofty glass dome, the sumptuously traditional Thames Foyer, built in 1904, sees Instagramming Japanese girls, sedate celebrating couples and excited groups having a grand day out in an unstuffy but top-drawer setting and to the backdrop of piano crowd pleasers by Adele, U2 and the Eagles. Our traditional tea began with a perfect (and limitless) selection of finger sandwiches that were so deliciously moreish we promptly asked for more before hoovering up scones with homemade lemon curd, jam and clotted cream. Pace yourself: takeaways, we were delicately informed, are not available at the Savoy.
Price? £52 per person, £65 with a glass of Louis Roederer champagne, £70 with a glass of Moet & Chandon rosé.
Dietary needs? All dietary requests can be accommodated. 24 hours’ notice preferred, but not mandatory.
Times? Daily, 1.30pm–5.45pm. YZ
The best quirky afternoon tea in London
What’s the vibe? Fancy a side of chemical gas with your Earl Grey? Inspired by its South Kensington neighbour, the Science Museum, afternoon tea at luxury hotel The Ampersand may come served on a classic three-tier stand, but the rest is anything but traditional. Highlights included a ‘planet mousse’ that arrives billowing clouds of dry ice, and a choccy dinosaur fossil you have to unearth from its coating of Oreo crumb ‘soil’. And if that all sounds a bit child-friendly for your liking, don’t panic: The Ampersand’s swish interiors and perfectly toasted scones will keep even the most sophisticated tea-drinker happy. Plus, there’s unlimited refills of everything except the champers.
Price? £32.50 per person, £45.50 with a glass of Moët Ice Impérial champagne.
Dietary needs? Vegetarian and gluten-free alternatives available on the day.
Times? Daily, 2.30pm–5.30pm. KD
What’s the vibe? If you’re entertaining visitors looking to ‘do’ London in a day or so, this Routemaster-based tea-slash-tour is fab value and a smart use of your time. Hop aboard a vintage double-decker at Victoria (or near Trafalgar Square) and scoff a fancy-schmancy platter of finger sandwiches, profiteroles, croque monsieur and cupcakes as lively staff flit about with drinks. An unobtrusive voiceover gives an accessible overview of historic London as it passes by outside. Tourists bloody love it – we got stuck behind Theresa May’s motorcade on Whitehall, and a neighbouring tea taker got so excited, Earl Grey shot out of his nose.
Price? £45 per person.
Dietary needs? Gluten-free, vegetarian, and halal needs can be accommodated. Notice on booking required.
Times? Daily noon, 2.30pm or 5pm from Victoria; 12.30pm, 3pm from Northumberland Avenue. AH
What’s the vibe? Served in the newly refurbed Collins Room, now a modern, light-filled dining room decked out with soft silver chairs and sleek glass tables, the Berkeley’s Pret-A-Portea has been a stalwart of the high tea scene for a decade. A selection of beautiful fashion-themed biscuits, sponges and sweets changes with the catwalk, but previous menus have included a Jimmy Choo-inspired shoe cake, made with praline cream and hazelnut croquant; and a neon yellow iced Manolo Blahnik gingersnap stiletto. Tasty savouries come in the form of mini bagels, cheese cupcakes and other canapés, however do note that scones and jam do not feature in any season’s collection here.
Price? £52 per person, £62 with a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne, £70 with a glass of Laurent Perrier rosé champagne.
Dietary needs? Gluten and nut-free menus available with 24 hours’ notice.
Times? Daily, 1pm–5pm. LD
What’s the vibe? The perfect place to catch up with friends in a luxurious yet laid-back setting. Tea is served in the Courtyard Garden (covered and heated in winter), menus are found slipped between pages of old books, and friendly, knowledgable staff keep guests plied with tea in crown-topped pots. The sweet offerings take centre stage and highlights during our visit included a coffee-flavoured pocket watch macaron, a bite-size banana bread finished with a pastel butterfly and scones spiked with vanilla and served with homemade jam. Save room for a final surprise: a passionfruit ice cream covered with a chocolaty crumb, honeycomb and edible flowers, all packed into a tiny plant pot.
Price? £48 per person, £58 with a glass of Perrier-Jouet champagne, £65 with a glass of Perrier-Jouet rosé champagne, £74 with a glass of Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque champagne.
Dietary needs? Vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free versions are available on the day. Vegans can be catered for with 24 hours’ notice. Notice preferred for all requirements on booking.
Times? Mon–Sat 12.30pm–4pm; Sun 1pm–5pm. SH
Venue says: “Come and try Dandelyan's fourth chapter, exploring the different ways that botany has played a role in human vice and guilty pleasures.”
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. 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.
Price? £55 per person, £65 with a glass of Perrier-Jouet champagne, £35 without alcohol.
Dietary needs? All dietary needs can be accommodated with 24 hours’ notice.
Times? Thu–Sun, noon–5pm.
Venue says: “Drop in for a coffee by day, stay for drinks and party vibes by night, then return for a chilled bottomless brunch at the weekends!”
What’s the vibe? Good vibes are Drink, Shop & Do’s currency. The multi-hyphenate venue offers afternoon tea in its light and airy bar room. Here, you'll find original features from the building’s days as a bathhouse, plus retro furniture, some of which is for sale. Afternoon tea is served by upbeat and glitter-adorned staff, who seemed to be enjoying their day just as much as we were. The spread is honest and simple, but undeniably moreish, with scones the size of your fist or classic sandwiches like the faithful egg mayo all served on chintzy china. The loose-leaf teas are unlimited, so you can sip to your heart’s delight on fragrant cherry blossoms or an Earl Grey infused with orange. There’s no such thing as a dress code at Drink, Shop & Do, so don your glad rags and prepare to come home sprinkled in glitter.
Price? £24 per person, £15 supplement with unlimited prosecco.
Dietary needs? All dietary requests can be accommodated.
Times? Sat and Sun, noon-4pm. JA
What’s the vibe? The jaw-dropping splendour of huge hand-crafted cobalt-blue chandeliers gives this former grammar school hall a real impact – nab a table in the wraparound gallery to truly appreciate it. There’s artistry – and fun – in the Indian High Chai too, which is based on the street food of India and includes such delicacies as quail’s scotch eggs dotted with black mustard seeds, feather-light samosas, and bowls of bhel puri studded with pomegranate seeds. Best of all, portions are such that you’ll have enough room left for gorgeous cardamom-spiced shrikhand, clotted cream scones and traditional Indian sweets – assuming you haven’t knocked back too much of the milky chai enthusiastic waiters will be topping your painted glass up with.
Price? £47 per person, £55 with a glass of champagne or the signature cocktail.
Dietary needs? All dietary requests can be accommodated. 24 hours’ notice preferred, but not mandatory.
Times? Daily 2pm–5pm. YZ
What’s the vibe? This bar, decked out like your nan’s front room (on acid) is the perfect place to take tea. But you’ll enjoy the Abba tunes all the more with your pot spiked with a punchy cocktail. Buttery scones on royal family commemorative plates are the centerpiece, baked using namesake Nan’s recipe by her actual granddaughter at Hill Station Café (aw!). A lighter-than-air vicky sponge from Cat Food Cakes maintains the A+ cake game, while a layer of rustic finger sarnies was made with bread baked at nearby Ayres of Nunhead. It’s a local operation through and through, and the bar fills up with a neighbourhood crochet circle and Deptford mums out for a giggle.
Price? £20 per person, £25 with a teapot cocktail.
Dietary needs? All dietary needs can be accommodated with 24 hours’ notice.
Times? Daily, 1pm–5pm. LR
Venue says: “Our Irish whiskey selection is expanding! There are some exciting new arrivals for your taste buds!”
What’s the vibe? Those in the know will find this glamorous gem hidden behind a black door to the side of the Marriott Hotel. A ’20s-themed drinking den awaits, serving Low Tea from medicine cabinets (used during the prohibition to transport liquor), along with a jazz-fuelled soundtrack to accompany your scone scoffing and staff who will provide you with a history of the tradition. They’ll then let you get on with trying the likes of wild boar sausage rolls, venison scotch eggs, rum syllabub and moreish carrot cakes. I couldn’t get enough of the scone trifles served in dinky jam jars and the white apricot tea that kept on coming.
Price? £48 per person, £58 with a glass of Perrier Jouet champagne, £62 with a glass of Perrier Jouet rosé champagne.
Dietary needs? All dietary requests can be accommodated with four days’ notice.
Times? Fri–Sun noon–4pm. SH
What's the vibe? If your palate is longing for more than cucumber sandwiches and Earl Grey, look no further. Anna Hansen is the queen of taking the traditional and twisting in unusual ingredients, and The Modern Pantry's afternoon tea is a brilliant showcase of her skill. Sharpen those tastebuds, because your scone will involve gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes) and your millionaire’s shortbread has been pimped with miso caramel. And all those interesting flavours are just begging to be served with beer. The five that come with these winning mini-plates are beautifully paired; a Partizan Lemongrass Saison to wash down the lemon and ajowan scone, a honey ale to sweeten the pink peppercorn financier with rhubarb.
Price? £35 per person, £85 with beer pairings.
Dietary needs? All dietary needs can be accommodated. 24 hours' notice required.
Times? Mon–Sat, 3pm–5pm.
Treat yourself to more indulgence
Demoiselle by Galvin
Located at Harrods, just around the corner from the department store's Georgian restaurant, this new dining spot from the Galvin brothers' stable benefits from a bucketload of light. There's a terrace too, if you feel the window frames, grilles, jambs and whatnot are getting in the way of your sun. An accessible food menu ranges from shellfish bisque with cheese straws, charcuterie boards and Galvin-cure smoked salmon to spatchcock poussin and a Galvin burger 'de luxe royale', both cooked on the Josper grill. Lemon sole meunière with brown shrimps and cucumber and a baked lobster fishcake also feature. Desserts include crème caramel and tarte-tatin with crème Normande. French and English cheeses are available, too.
Venue says: “Join us for the two best meals of the day - brunch and afternoon tea!”