From the traditional to the quirky, London is home to an array of indulgent afternoon teas – but which will you try first?
A mere two hour and 16 minutes from Leeds by train, London’s afternoon teas are pretty legendary. Sure, you’ll tuck into dainty delicacies and smart sarnies. Of course, there’ll be trough-loads of tea for the tasting. But with glamorous five-star spreads, top notch locations and kooky concoctions galore, you’ll soon discover that afternoon tea in London is no ordinary affair. Where else would you find a boozy afternoon tea on a sightseeing bus or cakes inspired by the hottest haute couture? Pack your bags and prepare to be wowed.
1. A beautiful afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason
It may be a centuries-old tradition, but afternoon tea in London’s luxury department store, Fortnum & Mason, glimmers with timeless elegance. The light, bright Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon is the perfect setting to devour finger sandwiches stuffed with smoked salmon and samphire or piccalilli-laced Suffolk-cured ham. Want to go back for seconds? You can! Simply ask for another round and wash it all down with bottomless tea refills.
Pace yourself though, as you’ll want to save room for the sweets. Fruit scones, heavy with Fortnum’s own strawberry preserve and lemon curd, lead the way to an assortment of ever-changing cakes. Look out for the likes of chocolate sachertorte, passionfruit domes or rose-infused eclairs, all plucked fresh from the delightfully kitsch Cake Carriage and served on Fortnum’s signature fine bone china. Just 20 minutes from King’s Cross on the tube, it’s quick, easy and an utterly sumptuous experience.
2. A traditional afternoon tea at The Ritz
Looking for unrivalled decadence? You can’t go wrong with afternoon tea at The Ritz, which by the way, is just 15 minutes from King’s Cross on the tube. Enter the spectacular Palm Court and you’ll soon see why this hotel is considered one of the best in the world. Glittering chandeliers, marble pillars, gilt-and-glass ceiling, suited-and-booted staff – you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped straight into a royal palace. There’s even a certified Tea Sommelier for goodness sake!
Once you’re shown to your table, take your pick from 18 loose-leaf teas, a clutch of crustless sandwiches, picture-perfect pastries and freshly baked scones. Everything’s as finger-lickingly good 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 divine, but there are also live musicians to serenade your special occasion. Safe to say, you’ll want to make this experience last.
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 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed afternoon tea. It’s located in a prime position, just around the corner from Covent Garden, 18 minutes from King’s Cross on the Piccadilly Line, and, best of all, it’s delightfully bonkers.
Munching your way through the magical menu is as close as you’ll get to exploring the sweet factory for yourself. Bubblegum pink macarons with a savoury surprise, sherbet-flavoured candy floss and bottled chocolate waterfall arrive piled high alongside savoury snacks and your choice of flavoured teas. Plus, for the grown ups, whimsical cocktails that put on a show all of their own. A riot of colours and flavours, this London afternoon tea is one for little and big kids alike.
4. A gin-lover’s afternoon tea with Brigit Bakery’s Bus Tours
Afternoon tea? On a sightseeing bus? With gin? Yes please! Whether it’s the travel or the tipples that are up your street, you won’t be disappointed with Brigit Bakery’s outdoor afternoon tea, which whizzes you around the capital on a vintage Routemaster bus as you drink and dine. Jump straight off the train, onto the Victoria Line and within 22 minutes, you’ll be ready to board. It’s not just any gin you’ll be sipping as you take in top London landmarks like Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square. No, it’s Yorkshire’s own Slingsby Gin!
While the mini burgers, muffins and sandwiches are kept classic, the homemade cakes are given a delightfully boozy makeover. There’s raspberry tart with rhubarb gin cream, gin jelly with lime mousse, plus a trio of flavoured G&Ts so you can cheers to an afternoon tea to remember. Or partially remember. This is a gin-lover’s tour, after all.
5. An on-the-Thames afternoon tea with City Cruises
For a most civilised way to spend a day, how does tea and cake while cruising along the River Thames sound? Spiffing! 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, but their afternoon tea trips are a truly unique way to see London’s best sights.
The trip from King’s Cross to Tower Pier takes just 23 minutes on the Circle Line and tours set off at 3.30pm daily – the perfect time for high tea!) You’ll be treated to unimpaired views of London’s riverside landmarks along with a quartet of sandwiches, fruit scones, mini pastries and as much tea or coffee as you like. After your tum’s content, nip up to the deck for 360 degree views over the Thames and London’s iconic skyline.
6. An experimental afternoon tea at Ampersand Hotel
Grab your goggles, because Ampersand Hotel’s Science Afternoon Tea is where gorging meets geeking out. Melt-in-the-mouth dinosaur fossil biscuits? Honey chocolate spacemen? Red velvet moon cakes? The concoctions are not only moreish, but accompanied by clever touches that make this quirky afternoon tea all the more memorable. Because who doesn’t want to eat their jelly off a petri dish or squeeze passionfruit curd onto their scones from a tube?
A special Sci-Fi High Tea for kids ensures this is a stellar experience for all the family. However, the delivery is so fun and the goodies so fresh, you’re just as likely to fill your space boots surrounded by grown ups. Hey, no one’s judging. After a 26-minute tube from King’s Cross, simply sit yourself down in the chic Drawing Room, order yourself a glass of Charles Heidsieck Champagne, and strap yourself in for a London afternoon tea that’s totally out of this world.
7. An afternoon tea with a view at Aqua Shard
Strike sightseeing gold and combine your afternoon tea with a front row seat over the best view in all of London. Aqua Shard is housed within, you guessed it, The Shard – the tallest building in the UK. This landmark is a gorgeous giant on London’s skyline and Aqua Shard sits pretty on level 31, offering tip-top vistas over the city’s rooftops. How’s that for a high tea!
Panoramas this good never get old. Which is handy, because Aqua Shard’s latest afternoon tea is inspired by the boy who never grew up, Peter Pan. Developed in partnership with Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, this fanciful tea is chock-full of adventure with themed tidbits like treasure chest scones, Tinkerbell biscuits and a crocodile jelly shot. It’s a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach – and just 19 minutes from King’s Cross on the Northern Line.
8. A boozy afternoon tea at Sea Containers
A relative newcomer to London’s afternoon tea scene, Sea Containers is nestled on the stylish South Bank and provides a masterclass in cool. On the ground floor of this hip Thames-side hotel, you’ll find Lyaness. It may be an award-winning cocktail bar, but that doesn’t stop them luring in peckish passersby for a taste of their Spirited Tea – a clever concept that blends two age-old favourites. Afternoon tea and booze.
Home to some of the best bartenders in the biz, they’ve carefully matched a menu of classic English treats (think roast chicken sandwiches, blueberry jam scones and lemon meringue tart) to their pioneering cocktails. Rum-based Rosebud with fiery galangal and sweet banana? A refreshing Melon Gimlet? Aromatic Orchard Spritz laced with vegan honey and homemade apple reduction? You’ll be feeling mighty satisfied, and probably a little bit squiffy, in no time.
9. A fashionable afternoon tea at The Berkeley
Tempted by the hottest trends? Behold a themed afternoon tea fit for a fashionista! Prêt-à-Portea is the ultimate treat for sweet-toothed style-lovers, serving up ‘couture cakes’ inspired by the the big dogs of the designer world. This season, gobble up Valentino gowns reimagined as pistachio bavarois, lime green Tod tote bags transformed into citrus Victoria sponge, and Vogue’s inimitable Anna Wintour sweetly rendered as an iced biscuit.
This is feasting at its most frivolous, but you won’t leave hungry. A showstopper financier cake (depicting Halpern’s feather gown, obviously) is big enough to share. Plus, all fancies are teamed with sandwiches, canapés (don’t miss the smoked duck profiterole) and lashings of luxury tea. Seriously, there are over 25 varieties to choose from and the attentive staff are happy to recommend their favourites. A 22-minute trip on the Piccadilly Line will bring you to this gem of an experience, so jump on board.
10. A sightseeing afternoon tea at Town House
Struggling to squeeze in everything on your London to-do list? Never fear, because there’s a London afternoon tea that brings the best of the capital right to your plate. After a course of miniature savouries, London Landmarks Afternoon Tea takes diners on a tour of The Big Smoke’s architectural wonders. We’re talking a Big Ben lemon tart, carrot cake Shard and a rhubarb-red telephone box. The finishing touch? A London Eye cake stand.
The attention to detail is second to none, and while these morsels may not be quite as big as the real deal, they’re a whole lot more delicious. Plus, Town House’s South Kensington location, which is just 30 minutes from King’s Cross on the Piccadilly Line, puts you within arm’s reach of a handful of bonafide London favourites like the Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Albert Hall. Or, sack off your sightseeing plans and sink back in the dining room with a bonus glass of bubbly. We won’t tell.
11. An Indian afternoon tea at Taj 51
Right slap bang in one of London’s premier postcodes, just 26 minutes from King’s Cross on the Victoria Line, Taj’s Jasmine Indian Afternoon Tea is a decadent affair with a tasty twist. Swap your standard sarnies for spiced paneer puffs, your sponges for chocolate-rich rasmalai tarts, and your classic jam for homemade mango compote and cinnamon clotted cream. You even have the choice of spiced masala chai rather than a mug of traditional tea. Want bold flavours? Bingo, you’ve found ‘em.
It may be an alternative take on an English tradition, but rest assured, this remains an undeniably upper crust afternoon tea. From the embellished table decor to the faultless service, you’re in for an indulgent experience every step of the way. Our tip? Savour your salted caramel lassi. Silky smooth and topped with peanut toffee crunch, it’s worth lingering over for as long as possible.
12. An arty afternoon tea at Hotel Cafe Royal
Go Dutch for your afternoon tea in London with a tasty journey through the artworks of Vincent Van Gogh. Held in Hotel Cafe Royal’s Oscar Wilde Lounge, just 17 minutes from King’s Cross on the Piccadilly Line, it’s a must for art aficionados and begins with a round of delectable starters like their pulled lamb and marrow bone tart. The jewel in this afternoon tea’s crown is the quartet of patisserie pieces, each inspired by the painter and a work of art in its own right.
Sound impressive? It is. Salted caramel sunflower heads, a paintbrush created with creme frâiche ice cream, Van Gogh’s self-portrait plonked onto a lip-smackingly sweet pecan crunch – it’s as delightful as it is delicious. The highlight, however, is a recreation of The Starry Night on a dainty disc of grapefruit compote and orange marmalade. Too pretty to eat? Almost, but not quite.
13. A sushi afternoon tea at Inamo
Ever wanted to combine the sweet sophistication of afternoon tea with the belly-busting fun of bottomless brunch? Today’s your lucky day! Giving tradition a Pan-Asian twist, Inamo dishes up a mouthwatering line up of handmade sushi, crispy panko prawns, minted lamb yakitori and chicken skewers. For dessert? A separate platter of sweets including passionfruit lollipops and chocolate mousse discs.
But the real ace up Inamo’s sleeve is that you can top up your nibbles with an hour’s worth of bottomless fizz. Who knew that dragon rolls and Prosecco were such a match-made-in-heaven? Oh, and if you want even more entertainment, request a seat at one of the interactive tables. You’ll get to play games, show off your graffiti skills and even take a sneak peek into the kitchen to watch your food being whipped up. Pretty smart, eh? And only 20 minutes from King’s Cross on the Victoria Line.
Inamo, 11-14 Hanover Place, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9JP and 134-136 Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1F 8ZP. £21.95 per person, £26.95 with a glass of bubbles and £31.95 for an hour of bottomless bubbles. Book your train tickets now from just £30…
14. A posh afternoon tea at The Langham
From the gawp-worthy setting of the Palm Court to the thoughtful menu overseen by famed chef, Michel Roux Jr, The Langham is a strong contender for the title of best afternoon tea in London (and it’s just 17 minutes from King’s Cross on the Victoria Line). Forget your rubbery egg mayo, because The Langham’s sandwiches (smoked trout with horseradish, golden raisin Coronation chicken) treat classic flavours with the respect they deserve. To go with your pillow-soft scones? Lashings of Cornish clotted cream. What else?
They may have been serving tea to London’s elite for over 150 years, but The Langham is anything but stuffy. A playful array of pastries pay homage to Britain’s best-loved biscuits, taking the humble iced gem, custard cream and jammy dodger and transforming them into something, well, rather extraordinary. It’s a deft touch, yet exactly what you’d expect from one of London’s premier five-star hotels. Pinky fingers at the ready!
15. A vintage afternoon tea at Betty Blythe
Step back in time and treat yourself to a London afternoon tea giddy with 1920s glamour. Betty Blythe is an intimate west London tearoom that wears its quirky character with pride. You’ll find no snooty staff, opulent dining rooms or astronomical prices here. Instead, you can relax with friends in your very own vintage-themed room, complete with a dressing up box crammed with stylish accessories.
Speaking of cramming, the grub’s just as good as the character. A choice of finger sandwiches, homemade butter scones and fresh-from-the-oven cakes are kept simple yet scrumptious. Think lemon drizzle, vanilla cupcakes and caramel truffle brownies. Elderflower cordial and teas are also included. However, you’re welcome to bring your own booze for the reasonable corkage fee of £3.50. If you’re looking for frivolous fun, this spot has it in spades.
Shoot down to the capital for just £30 each way!
London is just 2 hours and 16 minutes away by train. That’s the equivalent of a hit West End show (which, by the way, is a great reason to go). So what are you waiting for? Book now and enjoy:
- Wi-Fi and power sockets at every seat
- Order food and drinks directly to your seat
- Space to spread out and enjoy the ride
- No booking fees, ever!