Are you looking for the best afternoon tea in London? Want to experience your first afternoon tea experience or just want to know what all the fuss is about? Read on.
Imagine sitting in a beautiful tea parlour with a group of friends, sipping tea around tiered silver plates bursting with small delicacies. Around you, the suited-up waiters are topping up your supply of finger sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries. Oh, and of course, more tea. Is there a more quintessentially British sight to behold? Doubt it. You’d be forgiven for expecting the Queen to walk through the doors to join you at any moment.
The tradition of afternoon tea (as it’s known in the UK) or high tea (its international term) dates back to the late 1800s. The Duchess of Bedford started taking tea and light snacks in the afternoon as a way to cure her hunger before a late 9pm dinner (amen to snacking). It wasn’t long before she was inviting her friends to join her and thus the afternoon tea was born.
Afternoon tea in London is mostly charged per head and depending on the restaurant, it’s not uncommon for waiters to offer a top-up if you’ve emptied your plates and teacups. Most places also offer a glass of champagne for a little extra.
Below you’ll find a list of some of the best afternoon tea spots in London.
Most Luxurious Afternoon Tea in London
The Ritz is one of the grandest hotels in London so it’s no surprise that they also serve up one of the most luxurious afternoon teas in the city. In fact, they’ve been serving afternoon tea since opening in 1906, so they’ve had a little while to perfect it.
You’ll find the afternoon tea service in the hotel’s beautiful Palm Court. There are 18 types of loose-leaf teas available alongside finely cut sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries. You also get a complimentary glass of Champagne on Monday-Thursday – we’re sold.
The Ritz Hotel, 150 Piccadilly, London W1J 9BR
Hotel Café Royal
To call the Oscar Wilde bar at the historic Hotel Café Royal opulent would be an understatement. This glamorous, royal-esque (can we make that a word?!) room opened in the mid 1800s and is now home to an award-winning, luxury afternoon tea service.
With over 25 exclusive tea blends available, you can also snag a complimentary glass of Veuve Clicquot if you book your afternoon tea experience on a weekday.
Hotel Café Royal, 68 Regent Street , London, W1B 4DY
Quirkiest Afternoon Tea in London
Science Afternoon Tea at The Ampersand Hotel
Inspired by their neighbour, the Science Museum, luxury hotel The Ampersand in South Kensington serve a mix of exciting and curious dishes for their afternoon tea. Think along the lines of a ‘planet mousse’ which comes served on a bed of smoking dry ice. Or the ‘Mini dinosaur biscuit & milk chocolate fossil hidden within chocolate “soil”’ (i.e. crushed Oreos).
From £39.50 pp
The Ampersand Hotel, 10 Harrington Road, London, SW7 3ER
Sketch is already up there as one of the most unique and uber trendy restaurants in London, and enjoying an afternoon tea in the eccentric (and very pink) interior of this ‘it’ spot is nothing short of brilliant.
The traditional afternoon tea menu is served in the Gallery room and comes with a few twists, like Eggs truffle gougère sandwiches, Earl Grey jam and Malabar marshmallow petits gateaux.
But let’s be honest – we’re all really there to get that Instagram shot of the egg-shaped loos anyway.
Very important side note: Visit their website and waste too much of your precious time building your own three-tiered afternoon tea. You’ll understand once you get there….
From £59 pp
Sketch, 9 Conduit St, Mayfair, London W1S 2XG, UK
A London New Girl Favourite
Did you know there’s a London New Girl Afternoon Tea Facebook Group? The lovely Lucinda runs this group and does a brilliant job of organising regular afternoon tea outings with fellow London New Girls. It’s a great way to meet new friends and discover more of London.
We asked Lucinda what the favourites have been so far and the standouts were…
- A recent visit to Scott and Banff in Canary Wharf where there’s a summer floral theme until the end of August 2019;
- Town House Kensington which hosted the group of 8 for an absolutely amazing London Landmarks afternoon tea in June;
- A bottomless afternoon tea at The Cavendish where the group of 16 were seated around a big table in their own private room;
However, the most glowing review went to Mary Poppins at Aqua Shard for its amazing views, service and theme. After having a closer look, I can see why. Read on…
The ‘Mary Poppins’ Afternoon Tea at Aqua Shard
If you’re going to enjoy an afternoon tea anywhere, it may as well be in the tallest building in Europe, right? I mean, there’s not much that beats sipping tea (ahem, or champagne) and eating finger sandwiches while looking over London’s glorious skyline from the 31st floor!
What’s the Mary Poppins thing all about, you ask? Well, the afternoon tea pays homage to the books with nostalgic and creative sweets and savouries. It starts with a menu written on a gold-framed mirror and finishes on freshly spun candy floss. With plenty more of Mary Poppins’ favourites in between.
Mary Poppins Afternoon Tea is running until 3rd November 2019
From £49 pp
Aqua Shard, The Shard, Level 31, The Shard, 31 St Thomas St, London SE1 9RY, UK
Traditional Afternoon Tea in London
If it’s tradition you’re after, look no further. Palm Court at The Langham is where the tradition of afternoon tea was born in 1865. Alongside a bespoke menu, the hotel now also serves ‘SeasonaliTea’ as part of their Afternoon Tea With Wedgwood. Their rotating seasonal menu is all about choosing the freshest ingredients at their peak. The Executive Pastry Chef Andrew Gravett is also all about using less refined sugar and fat without compromising on indulgent taste. Go on, just one more cake then.
From £55 pp
The Langham, 1c Portland Place, Regent Street, London, GB W1B 1JA
Fortnum & Mason
Not only is Fortnum & Mason the oldest department store in the world, the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon where afternoon tea is served was opened by none other than Her Majesty the Queen herself. So it’s no surprise that you’ll find one of the best traditional afternoon teas here. And quite possibly the longest tea menu in London, with over 50 varieties to choose from.
From £55 pp
Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER
Affordable Afternoon Tea in London
The last thing you think of when you walk into this European-style grand café is ‘affordable’ and yet, here we are. The afternoon tea at prestigious restaurant, The Delaunay, is an absolute steal considering the quality (Viennese-inspired), location (hello Covent Garden) and décor (think Mad Men meets The Great Gatsby).
The Delaunay, 55 Aldwych, Holborn, London WC2B 4BB, UK
This hidden beauty found in South Kensington has one of the best tree-filled outdoor garden settings for the perfect afternoon tea on a warm day. ‘Warm day in London?!’ I hear you ask. Don’t worry they’ve planned for all 16 types of London rain because their Orangery and Drawing Room spaces, where afternoon tea is also served, are just as stunning.
In case the low cost and beautiful surroundings aren’t enough to win you over, Number Sixteen is just a short stroll away from some of London’s best museums too. Basically the perfect day out in London.