Afternoon Tea in London
There only thing more British than a good cup of tea is a good cup of tea served alongside delicious desserts, finger sandwiches, scones, and clotted cream! Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, is credited with the invention of ‘afternoon tea’ as we know it today. She is said to have mentioned ‘that sinking feeling’ during the late afternoon between meals. To combat these munchies, Anna tended to enjoy a pot of tea and a sandwich or cake and began inviting her friends to join her. Such a well-known and fashionable lady, Anna became an inspiration for all of high society and soon afternoon tea spread throughout the country!
Now, afternoon tea is a million pound business and people travel from all over the world to take tea here in London. A traditional afternoon tea experience should be relaxed, delicious, luxurious and never ever over too soon! But with so many places offering a traditional tea, it’s hard to know where to go. So we’ve listed a few of our favourites to get you started and sorted!
Pinching Pennies? (£12 – £18 per person)
Bea’s of Bloomsbury – (44 Theobald’s Road, WC1X 8NW – Nearest Underground: Chancery Lane) The hottest new afternoon tea location in town, Bea’s of Bloomsbury serves up a ‘sweet tea’ comprised of a scone with clotted cream and jam as well as an accompanying plate of delightfully gorgeous confections. For those more savoury than sweet, sandwiches are available and just as delicious as the sweeter treats.
The Modern Pantry – (47-48 St. Johns Square, EC1V 4JJ – Nearest Underground: Farringdon) – A delightful place to sit outside (providing the London weather plays along!), The Modern Pantry serves up a modern take on a traditional practice. Classic sandwiches and desserts are given an unexpected twist – not just cucumber and cream cheese for The Modern Pantry – think sandwiches dripping delicious salty feta and slow roasted tomato or avocado and yuzu mayonnaise. Even the tea is given a modern twist, being served up in quirky, unique and often mis-matched pots, cups and saucers. Cocktails are also available for a ridiculously reasonable (for central London) price.
Splashing Out? (£35 – £55 per person)
The Savoy – (Strand, London WC2R 0EU – Nearest Underground: Charing Cross) – An absolute institution, The Savoy has been serving tea the traditional way for decades. Taken in the breathtakingly gorgeous Thames Foyer, guests sit underneath a massive glass-dome, letting in loads of natural light. Music plays throughout the afternoon via the fingers of a pianist who is situated under a gazebo in the middle of the Foyer. A massive choice of teas is presented to all guests and pots are consistently topped up throughout your visit. The Savoy is tradition afternoon tea at it’s finest: A beautiful arrangement of finger sandwiches underneath a selection of scones, cream and jam, underneath a top tier of tiny desserts, served alongside a slice of cake of your choice from a sweet trolley laden with freshly made cakes and tarts. A classic that always delivers.
Fortnum & Mason – (181 Piccadilly, W1A 1ER – Nearest Underground: Piccadilly Circus) Located in Mayfair, Fortnum & Mason is a luxury shop trading in London since 1707. Afternoon tea takes place upstairs, in their recently refurbished Jubilee Tea Salon (re-named in honour of the Queen’s 60 year reign). Tea here is an event – one that guests must prepare for, in fact, as the dress code “leans more towards elegance” providing a good excuse to get yourself dressed into your finest, lending another layer to the feel of an event, rather than a meal. Sandwiches served on a variety of hand-made breads (with vegetarian options being controversially better than the standard meat-based items) are served…and served again and even again if you wish, with staff constantly on hand, offering to serve you more of anything you fancy. Delectable scones with nearly every jam under the sun are served underneath a beautiful plate containing tiny hand-crafted desserts that look too beautiful to eat. In addition to all this, a slice of any cake from the cake trolley comes as standard (it’s worth noting that all items on the cake trolley are made from ingredients grown on the Prince of Wales’ Estate in Cornwall!). Fortnum also offers guests the chance to try different teas if you desire and their house champagne is better than many well-known labels available on the market.
The Sanctum Gents Afternoon Tea (£50) (20 Warwick Street, W1B 5NF – Nearest Underground: Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus) Afternoon tea has somewhat of a reputation as being a ladies’ event but The Sanctum is setting out to change all that! Instead of traditional cakes and sandwiches, this afternoon tea consists of a hearty menu with a focus on food and alcohol. Seared steaks and mushrooms on toast, miniature smoked fish alongside roast beef and meat pastries. For desserts the tea finishes with a combination of chocolate sweet treat and alcohol and instead of traditional glasses of bubbly, this gents tea is served up with a side of Jack Daniels!
The Sanderson Hotel – Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea (£48 without champagne) (50 Berners Street, W1T 3NG – Nearest Underground Station: Goodge Street or Tottenham Court Road) This afternoon tea invites guests to “tumble down the rabbit hole” and partake in the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea. Guests will find menus tucked inside vintage books, riddles placed throughout their table, bottles invited them to ‘drink me’ and teapots and plates decorated with fanciful animals and royalty. The menu changes seasonally but always has a unique twist – such as ‘Jelly Wonderland’ (fruit jellies made in victorian jelly moulds all displayed on a cake trolly) or homemade marshmallow mushrooms.
+++Tea fans might enjoy our blog Visiting the Twinings Tea Shop in the City of London.+++