From the traditional to the quirky, London is home to an array of indulgent afternoon teas – but which will you try?
There’s a reason why afternoon teas are so flippin’ popular. This treasured tradition offers up an array of dainty delicacies, petite pastries and smart sarnies, alongside trough-loads of good old tea. The variety on offer is drool-inducing, especially in London, where the choice of indulgent, colourful and downright unusual options is enough to tempt even the most obstinate of visitors.
1. A beautiful afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason
Considering it’s a tradition that is centuries old, the afternoon tea offering at London’s luxury department store Fortnum & Mason is surprisingly contemporary. It ticks all the right boxes, with finger sandwiches crammed full of smoked salmon and fruit scones heavy with raspberry jam, but there are also a few surprises. Rose éclairs, for example, from the selection of miniature cakes on the patisserie stand – and old favourites like Battenberg and Victoria sponge from the delightfully kitsch Cake Carriage that’s wheeled around to each table.
All the treats come served on 18th century-inspired Fortnum and Mason bespoke fine bone china, adding a real sense of occasion. And yet their light, bright tea salon is simply decorated and anything but stuffy. Tea refills are on the house and if you can’t manage to eat all the cakes all in one go, don’t worry, their cheery staff will gladly box up the leftovers.
Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London, W1A 1ER. £49 per person, £53 for a choice of rare teas.
2. A traditional afternoon tea at The Ritz
For unrivalled decadence, it doesn’t get much more indulgent than afternoon tea at The Ritz – after all, this hotel’s name is known around the world. From the moment you enter, you’re serenaded by a live pianist and their staff are on hand to show you to your table, explain the brief-but-perfectly-formed menu and make sure you want for nothing. There’s even a certified Tea Sommelier for goodness’ sake.
The finger food extends from crustless sandwiches to assorted pastries, and it’s as fresh and plentiful as you’d expect, with endless top-ups for as long as you want them. And you will want them, because not only is the food delicious, the surroundings are magnificent too. You’ll dine surrounded by marble pillars and glittering chandeliers in the beautiful Palm Court – a room that’s absolutely flooded with light. Champagne and celebration cakes are optional extras if you feel like splashing out.
The Ritz Hotel, 150 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1J 9BR. £57 per person, £76 with champagne and £87 with cake and champagne.
3. A Charlie and the Chocolate Factory afternoon tea at One Aldwych
Escape the humdrum of everyday life and enter a world of pure imagination at One Aldwych’s magical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed afternoon tea. It’s just around the corner from Covent Garden and is perfectly bonkers.
Working your way through the menu is as close as you can get to exploring the sweet factory for yourself. The bubble-gum pannacotta is laugh-out-loud good while the finale – Cocktail Charlie – is a real wow moment that ends the experience with a bang. Along the way, you’ll try a range of sweet and savoury delicacies, superbly executed and magnificently presented. A riot of colours, textures and flavours, this is one for little and big kids alike.
One Aldwych Hotel, 1 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4BZ. £44 per person, £56 with a cocktail or champagne, £34 for children.
4. A gin-lovers afternoon tea with B Bakery’s Bus Tours
Afternoon tea? On a bus? With gin? Yes please! Whether it’s the travel or the tipples that are up your street, you won’t be disappointed with B Bakery’s afternoon tea, which is held on a vintage Routemaster bus that whizzes its way around the capital as you dine. It doesn’t get much more London than that.
Departing from central Victoria station, you’ll take in London’s landmarks while supping an array of gin cocktails alongside sweet and savoury snacks. Informative commentary will complement your journey, so you’ll get the most from the sightseeing tour, and any leftovers are boxed up at the end meaning no crumb is left behind. Win-win.
B Bakery Bus Tour departs from and returns to Victoria Coach Station, 164 Buckingham Palace Road, Victoria, London, SW1W 9TP. From £55 per person.
5. A Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea at Sanderson Hotel
London can feel like a warren at the best of times, but Sanderson Hotel in upmarket Fitzrovia invites you to take a real tumble down the rabbit hole with their Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea. Whimsical, playful and ideal for families, you can meet all your favourite characters from Lewis Carroll’s magical tale, including the fearsome Queen of Hearts, innocent Alice, and of course, the Mad Hatter himself.
There are oodles of quirky sweet treats to try, with a focus on cakes, curds, meringues and marshmallows. Lovers of savoury will also be happy here though because you’ll find delicate smoked salmon quail’s eggs and an oozy croque monsieur on the menu too. If you’re worried about a dress code – don’t be. You’ll be sat outside on the terrace, feeling cosy under patio heaters and snuggly blankets.
Sanderson London Hotel, 50 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 3NG. £48 per person, £58 with champagne, £35 for children.
6. Afternoon tea with a view at Aqua Shard
Great views aren’t always easy to come by in London, not without paying a pretty penny at least. So why not combine your afternoon tea with spectacular views across the capital at Aqua Shard? It’s housed within, you guessed it, The Shard – the tallest building in the UK. This is a towering monster on London’s skyline and Aqua Shard sits pretty on level 31, offering tip-top views over the city and up and down the Thames.
While you’re admiring the outlook, you can scoff decadently-filled finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones and a selection of homemade sweet treats ranging from lemon curd meringue to peanut butter parfait. The decor is plain verging on corporate, but who are we kidding, the only thing that will tear your attention away from your plate is the view outside, right?
Aqua Shard, The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, London, SE1 9RY. From £45 per person.
7. A Stylish afternoon tea at Mondrian Hotel
A relative newcomer to London’s afternoon tea scene, Mondrian Hotel is nestled on the South Bank overlooking the Thames and it’s a masterclass in effortless chic. Dandelyan is an award-winning cocktail bar by night, but they now lure in hungry passersby during the day with their botanically-inspired Wyld Afternoon Tea.
The vibe is undeniably ‘cool’ with re-invented 1970s finger food, loose-leaf teas, botanic cocktails (it’s what they do best) and a deliberate steer away from the traditional ‘tea and sandwiches’ of old. For newcomers it is anything but exclusive – deep-set lounge chairs and a bold colour palette make this a welcoming spot to indulge.
Mondrian Hotel, 20 Upper Ground, South Bank, London, SE1 9PD. £55 per person for the full selection, £45 for champagne only and booze-free for £35.
8. A hidden and healthy afternoon tea at Ham Yard Hotel
Tucked away in a tiny yard behind Piccadilly Circus, sits Ham Yard Hotel. Once you’ve managed to find it, the stylish drawing room where afternoon tea is served will be a welcome respite from the bustling streets outside. Smart but with zero snobbery, Ham Yard Hotel keeps their afternoon tea refreshingly simple.
Breakfast tea, savouries, cakes and preserves are par for the course, with finger sandwiches, sparkling wines and speciality teas an optional extra. It’s a smart idea to help frugal diners keep costs down. All the treats are traditionally presented and freshly made, offering a true escape from the world outside. They get bonus points for having reduced sugar, gluten-free and vegan menus. Just make sure you request them in advance.
Ham Yard Hotel, 1 Ham Yard, Soho, London, W1D 7DT. £22 per person, £24.50 with speciality teas and £27 with additional finger sandwiches.
9. A great value afternoon tea at German Gymnasium
Exit King’s Cross station as if you’re heading towards St Pancras International and you’ll pass the German Gymnasium. You may have to look twice, as this blocky, bricked building gives little indication of what’s housed within (and the name certainly doesn’t make it any clearer).
Head inside and you’ll find this former gym is now an impressively converted and absolutely enormous Germanic restaurant, serving a pleasingly affordable afternoon tea. At just £18.50 per person (£23 if you want to quaff sparkling wine), it’s a European steal with both German and Austrian variations. Apple strudel and gooseberry meringue tarts are standouts on the menu, and while it’s not the most refined, it is good quality and excellent value.
German Gymnasium, King’s Blvd, King’s Cross, London, N1C 4BU. £18.50 per person, £23 with sparkling wine.
10. A sightseeing afternoon tea with City Cruises
For a most civilised way to spend a day, how does afternoon tea cruising down the River Thames sound? Marvellous! That’s exactly what’s on offer thanks to City Cruises. They run a whole range of boat-bound fun up and down the river.
Their afternoon tea cruise leaves from Tower Pier (close to the Tower of London) at 3.30pm daily and takes in unimpaired views of London’s riverside landmarks, before returning an hour and a half later. During that time, you’ll enjoy live commentary, unlimited tea and coffee, plus a selection of cakes, pastries, sandwiches and scones. Why not pre-order a bottle of champagne to really toast your day in the capital? It’ll be delivered straight to your table.
City Cruises’ Afternoon Tea cruise departs from Tower Millennium Pier, Lower Thames Street, London, EC3N 4DT. £32 per person, £34 for a guaranteed window seat (on tables of two only), £22 for children.
Get a mighty fine deal on your train tickets – £29 each way
A luxurious afternoon tea is the perfect excuse to book a trip to London, so why not put a date in the diary? After all, you can get a mighty fine deal on your train tickets. It won’t cost more than £29 each way when you book a Standard Advance ticket at least a week ahead. Available on all services between Leeds and London, from 10am-3pm, Monday to Friday.