Huzzah! National Afternoon Tea Week (8-14 August) is upon us – not that Londoners ever need an excuse to indulge in the relaxed ritual of afternoon tea (think dainty cucumber sandwiches, fluffy freshly-baked scones, a selection of cakes and rivers of refreshing teas).
Afternoon tea can be credited to Anna Maria, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. It was in 1840 when her Grace found herself feeling peckish by late afternoon and began to retire to her room for a cup of tea and a bite to eat. One day she decided to invite a friend to join her and before you could say “I’ll be mother”, taking afternoon tea became all the rage. Such teas were elegant affairs: upper class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats with tea drunk from the best china and small amounts of food– such as sandwiches (with the crusts cut off of course), scones and cakes presented perfectly on little china plates.
Wondering where to celebrate having your cake and eating it? Allow The Sybarite to let you in on London’s best afternoon tea venues…
Afternoon tea lovers will adore the Bingham's quintessentially British afternoon tea: expect delicate sandwiches, scones, cakes and patisseries served with a special selection of 11 loose leaf teas from British tea advocate, Canton, in the comfort of the bar.
Fancy some fizz? Treat yourself to a glass of champagne, while also drinking in views of the River Thames for The Bingham – a beautifully restored Georgian townhouse originally built in 1821 – is enviably located on the banks of the River Thames.
61-63 Petersham Road, Richmond TW10
Never been to the underground sensation Cahoots? That’s an oversight that must be righted. The Soho favourite is inviting Sybarites to enjoy a splendid Squiffy Picnic: the stationmaster will greet Sybarites with a refreshing Sipsmith Summer Cup Cocktail on arrival before showing you to your picnic table – laden with a tartan blanket, flowers and picnic hampers filled to the brim with delightfully British cuisine and cocktails circa 1946 (aka post war Britain).
Fancy dress is thoroughly recommended but don’t worry if your wardrobe isn’t fill of 1940s garments, as guests can sift through Cahoots’ own onsite dressing-up box.
13 Kingly Street, W1B
Hotel Café Royal’s afternoon tea – which takes place in Regent Street property’s iconic Oscar Wilde bar (where Wilde himself dined daily) – is one of our favourite afternoon teas du jour.
Executive pastry chef Sarah Barber, together with executive chef Armand Sablon and their teams, have carefully crafted a menu of unique cakes, sandwiches, scones and savouries – all inspired by Britain and afternoon tea through the ages.
Standouts include Battenberg cake, supposedly created to celebrate the royal wedding of 1884 between Prince Louis of Battenberg and Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, the Queen of Hearts Bakewell tart, Strawberry and cream gateaux and the peach Melba lollipop.
68 Regent Street, W1B
The dazzling Palm Court is famed as the place where the tradition of afternoon tea was born over 140 years ago, an indulgence that lives on today. The Langham’s stunning new Afternoon Tea menu takes inspiration from classic Wedgwood collections: beautiful butterfly and daisy motifs are incorporated into the food to herald the arrival of summer in a menu designed by Bake Off: Creme de La Creme judge, Cherish Finden, along with her culinary team.
1c Portland Place, Regent Street, W1B
The Sybarite’s favourite mid afternoon spread is arguably Sanderson Hotel’s Mad Hatter’s tea. Sybarites are invited to “tumble down the rabbit hole” and enjoy a number of Alice inspired gastronomic adventures in the enchanting courtyard garden. Treats to try include the Red velvet Ladybird Cake and Chocolate-coated, coffee-flavoured pocket-watch macaroons but the star attraction is easily Sanderson-exclusive teas. In celebration of the sesquicentennial anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel, Sanderson has introduced five new, tailor-made teas inspired by the characters of this beloved story.
50 Berners Street, The Sanderson, W1T
Mr Fogg’s Residence
To celebrate Afternoon Tea Week, Mayfair bar Mr Fogg’s is serving up a Victorian themed afternoon Tipsy Tea: think Cucumber, coronation chicken, smoked salmon and cheese and ham sandwiches, cakes, tip top pastries and petits-fours all beautifully presented on traditional three-tiered stands and served on embossed fine bone china.
To drink, there’s an innovative range of tea-infused cocktails served in teapots on offer – don’t miss the 1840 (a zingy blend of Earl Grey-infused Tanqueray No. TEN Gin, Cointreau, crème de pêche and orange marmalade).
Alternatively, Sybarites who’d prefer a champagne cocktail with their tea, would do well to order the Anna Maria Russell – a winning concoction of Tatratea liqueur, sloe gin and lemon bitters, topped with Ruinart Champagne.
15 Bruton Lane, London W1J 6JD
Not afternoon tea at Oxo Tower
If scones and sandwiches don’t take your fancy, book yourself into The Oxo Tower Brasserie for their deliciously different afternoon tea. The menu offers four dessert tasting plates, expertly matched with cocktails created by the bar team. OXO Tower’s pastry chef, Penny Wabbit, has worked closely with the OXO Tower Bar team to create these sophisticated pairings, which range from an indulgent plate of classic puddings to a whimsical take on afternoon tea. The decadent desserts and drinks can be enjoyed along with the Oxo’s breathtaking riverside views.
Barge House Street, South Bank, SE1
The Palm Court at The Ritz
The Ritz-Carlton is graciousness itself. Their excellent old style afternoon tea is served in the iconic Palm Court: expect the full panoply of silver teapots (16 different types of loose leaf tea is offered, including a Ritz Royal English tea, a Lapsang Souchong Imperial, and a Darjeeling First Flush) tip top pastries, crustless sandwiches with six types of filling and warm scones served on a three tier stand.
If you can’t wait for cocktail hour, plump for the champagne package with flutes of bubbly to accompany your fantastic freshly baked scones.
150 Piccadilly, W1
Prêt-à- Portea adds a creative twist to the classic elements of the traditional English afternoon tea with cakes and pastries inspired by the latest catwalk designs (The Berkeley’s pastry chefs visit London fashion week shows to get their inspiration for the colours and the textures of the new collections).
Taking centre stage this summer are Stella McCartney’s striped dress (recreated as a tower of green-and- white joconde sponge filled with pistachio and lime supreme, finished with delicious shards of chocolate), Christopher Kane’s playful asymmetric shift (reimaged as a yuzu and pineapple compote, beriolette and raspberry bavarois, topped with a delicate yellow chocolate ring and apricot pâté de fruit) and Balmain’s bright orange flame (a peach posset with grenadine jelly topped with soft meringue).
Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, SW1X
Named after Lord Rosebery, The Rosebery has made a welcome return to its roots (it was a stylish tea room back in the 1920s before being used as an event space). The interior design – created by G&A Designs (the team behind the Booking Office Bar at St Pancras) – makes the most of the room’s Victorian origins but employs contemporary touches. Think specially commissioned one-of- a kind art works and seating in shades of forest greens and browns to bring it bang up-to- date.
But it’s not just the setting that wows – so too does the food. Expect the prettiest of sandwiches shaped in circles as opposed to conventional triangles, fluffy freshly baked sultana and plain scones served with strawberry jam and clotted cream as well as more out there accompaniments (rose jelly and lemon curd) and fabulous pastries: take a bow the Milk chocolate passion fruit tart, Green tea eclair and Raspberry and yuzu macaroon.
66 Knightsbridge, SW1X
West London loving tea lovers rejoice! The pop-up that wont close its doors is launching its very first cocktail tea party in the heart of Notting Hill. Saturday afternoons will see London’s most loved flat mates throw open their yellow door to host a Cocktail Tea Party. Sybarites will be welcomed through the door by a bohemian host, before sipping on alcoholic teapots such as Tea with Mussolini (a Bacardi Blanca rum infused chamomile tea with pomegranate and blueberry) while tucking into a selection of finger sandwiches and cakes including Chocolate brownies with malt cream – and playing a variety of British board games.
68 Notting Hill Gate, W11
Henry James once wrote: “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
After an incredible afternoon tea at The Wallace Restaurant – surely London’s best kept secret? – chances are Sybarites will agree. The charming courtyard, with its glass covered atrium within the walls of The Wallace Collection (an art space in Marylebone’s Manchester Square) and potted plants, is Insta-perfect – as is the afternoon tea. Read fluffy scones, extravagant cakes (including a mini Lemon meringue pie and a to-die for chocolate Turkish delight creation for those scoring a cocoa fix) and an extensive tea menu. However we recommend adding a glass of champagne and wiling away the afternoon sipping bubbles before browsing around the neighbouring national museum…
The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Square, W1U
By Kaye Holland