The English afternoon tea is that utter rarity of an experience that delights both first-time tourists and the born-and-bred English. A novelty for the former, it is a long-held tradition for the latter, and today no trip to the green and pleasant land would be complete without it. For the best afternoon teas in London, both groups are utterly spoilt for choice.
The nation’s capital, it’s no wonder London is where to source the best afternoon tea. Today, no luxury London hotel experience is complete without an afternoon tea offering, and this is slowly starting to spread into other realms of the hospitality sector, too.
Despite all the offerings the great city of London has to offer, we are yet to find a more charming way to escape the bustle of the city than an afternoon spent inside one of London’s finest establishments, engaging in one of the country’s favorite pastimes: exchanging pleasantries over a pot of tea and sandwiches. Bonus points if you discuss the weather.
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Winter in the capital is grueling, and you’d be hard-pressed to find even the stiffest of upper lip Londoners successfully resist a smile at the dawning of spring. Luckily for us, The Lanesborough ushers in the glorious season early, with the launch of the hotel’s new Meadow Afternoon Tea.
Placing the spotlight on English ingredients, such as chicken from the Cotswold, cheese from Lancashire, and smoked salmon from Scotland (the best in the world, we’d argue), spring is thrust center stage with a pastry collection so gorgeous it feels almost criminal to eat. But do: the apple blossom is divine, and the white chocolate and honey bee is already a new classic.
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The Ritz London
Afternoon tea at The Ritz is such a classic of the genre that we’re not quite sure any best afternoon teas in London round-up has missed it; and lest we be the first.
The Palm Court, where afternoon tea is held, oozes timeless elegance in the most opulent of settings. Featuring all the usual trappings of the afternoon tea affair – finely cut sandwiches, scones and cream – The Ritz London is also the only location across the UK to have a certified Tea Master.
Naturally, there is a dress code; this is The Ritz, after all. As there should be; the Palm Court was the hotel’s original ballroom, and echoes of gowns and jewels of centuries gone by linger as pleasantly as the musical ensemble from The Ritz London’s resident pianist.
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This one goes out to all the artists and art lovers; Rosewood London’s afternoon tea offering, the Dali Art Afternoon Tea, was voted the best contemporary afternoon tea in the UK. The latest in an impressive line of Art Afternoon Teas, executive pastry chef Mark Perkins was inspired by surrealist artist Salvador Dali.
Designed in line with the upcoming Surrealism Beyond Borders exhibition at the Tate Modern, Perkins says of the afternoon tea: “London is a vibrant city with an incredibly energetic art scene. Rosewood London’s quirky interiors reflect the British capital’s history, culture, and sensibilities.”
The pastry designs are magical; keep an eye out for the butterfly windmill, one of Dali’s most memorable designs, which is made using olive oil cake and encased in chocolate mousse.
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Dalloway Terrace at The Bloomsbury Hotel
If The Rosewood London’s afternoon tea honors artists, then The Bloomsbury Hotel tips its hat to London’s long established literary scene with afternoon tea hosted at the hotel’s Dalloway Terrace, named after – of course – Virginia Woolf’s most famous character, Mrs. Dalloway.
An unmissable presence in the capital during the spring and summer months due to its open-air space and floral decorations that are reminiscent of the English countryside, in winter it remains fully heated and just as enticing.
There is, of course, so much more going on than just the venue. The terrace’s head pastry chef, Chris Dodd, is an Afternoon Tea of the Year finalist – can it get more quintessentially English than that?
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Located right beside Buckingham Palace – the closest luxury hotel to it, in fact – afternoon tea at The Goring is fit for a King. We mean this literally: it is the only hotel with a Royal Warrant for hospitality services and was the venue of choice for King Charles’ birthday celebrations in 2008.
If that’s not enough to assure you of The Goring’s prowess in the afternoon tea scene, further validation can be found in its possession of The British Tea Guild Council’s Top London Afternoon Tea Award. We told you the English take their afternoon tea seriously. Go in the spring months for the Coronation Afternoon Tea, which spotlights the King’s favorite cakes and sandwiches.