The concept of afternoon tea first originated in 1840 as a way to bridge the long gap between an early lunch and a late supper, and has gone on to become one of Britain’s most beloved institutions. The city’s top hotels are home to the country’s most inventive offerings, where inspiration ranges from hit Netflix shows, in the case of The Lanesborough’s new Queen Charlotte-themed tea, and fashion collections to renowned artists. This afternoon tea week, we’ve rounded up the best places for afternoon tea in London to book now.
Queen Charlotte Afternoon Tea at The Lanesborough
When it comes to the best afternoon tea in London, The Lanesborough often takes top billing thanks to its inventive, ever-evolving offering. Following on from their hugely popular Bridgerton afternoon tea last year, their latest takes its inspiration from Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, created in partnership with Netflix and Shondaland. Held in the hotel’s richly decorated dining room, the menu pays tribute to all the key characters, with delicate pastries adorned with miniature crowns and dainty daisies.
As for the savoury delights, the finger sandwiches are all elevated takes on the classics, with tea cured salmon, lemon and caper cream; organic cucumber, cream cheese and chive; and devilled egg mayonnaise and mustard cress. Plus, of course, there are scones. The tea menu is comprehensive – the Queen Charlotte Blend Afternoon Tea, fragrant with rose petal and fruit, is recommended; or opt for the Queen Charlotte Cocktail, inspired by the original Regency Gin Punch. Combining Fords Gin, Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur, cranberry, exotic lychee, vanilla and lime, and topped with Champagne, it’s sure to get the royal seal of approval.
The Queen Charlotte Afternoon Tea is £75 per person at The Lanesborough, Hyde Park Corner, Belgravia, London SW1X 7TA
Afternoon Tea at The Goring
As the only hotel with a Royal Warrant for hospitality services, afternoon tea at The Goring is always a thoroughly regal affair. Served on the hotel’s sun-kissed Veranda, guests taking tea overlook the Goring’s garden and The Royal Border, which is planted with a selection of The Royal Family’s favourite plants and flowers, including the late Queen Elizabeth II’s adored Lily of The Valley.
The menu has been designed to reflect the very best of this much-loved British tradition, with the finest pastries, fruity homemade jams and high-quality tea blends on offer. The menu changes constantly to reflect the freshest, locally-sourced fruits in line with the season – so you’ll just have to keep coming back again and again to sample the latest wonders.
Afternoon tea is available from £65 per person at The Goring Hotel, 15 Beeston Place, Westminster, London SW1W 0JW
Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley
For their latest collection, the Berkeley’s much-loved Prêt-à-Portea will be served with a bold new twist. Expect couture cakes showing Loewe’s viral Anthurium dress, reimagined with Sacher sponge, espresso caramel and Valrhona 70% chocolate mousse, Hermès’ tasselled bucket bag transformed into a Victoria sponge, and a vibrant Moschino look reimagined in tropical mousse with a banana and passion fruit centre, finished with a meringue flamingo.
There’s also an intricately iced biscuit homage to the late Vivienne Westwood, painstakingly piped with royal icing to include her iconic red hair, and this season’s centrepiece: a Kenzo-inspired confection crafted out of velvety citrus cream with lemon confit and coconut gel, set on a Sablé biscuit base and topped with sugar flowers. The epitome of fashionable decadence.
Prêt-à-Portea is £80 per person at The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RL
No list featuring the best afternoon teas in London would be complete without The Ritz. Held in the spectacular surroundings of the Palm Court, their Traditional Afternoon Tea here is the undisputed grande dame of the capital, where your savoury delights and sweet treats are served alongside a musical ensemble from the hotel’s resident pianist.
First, choose your tea – there are 18 different types on offer, all selected by the hotel’s Tea Master, Giandomenico Scanu, who travels around the world to various tea plantations to source the varieties. Then it’s time to move on to the elegant sandwiches and pastries, all made from the finest ingredients and changed to reflect the seasons. Finish off with a glass of champagne or two, as you’re swept away by the gentle tinkling of the ivories.
Afternoon tea is available from £72 per person at The Ritz, 150 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 9BR
Champagne Afternoon Tea at Claridge’s
When it comes to celebratory meals, nowhere does it quite like Claridge’s. The team at this Art Deco jewel have been honouring the ritual of afternoon tea for the best part of 150 years now and often release new seasonal menus to enjoy. If you’re in the market for something more traditional, though, you can’t go wrong with their Champagne Afternoon Tea, which is one of the most elegant offerings in the capital.
All the ingredients used in their sandwiches, scones and hand-made pastries are painstakingly sourced, skilfully prepared and served fresh each day, while their loose leaf tea has been carefully chosen from around the world by their skilled tea connoisseur, Henrietta Lovell (and is served in the finest bone china, naturally). Highlights include their caffee saint honoré caramelised puff and banana, peanut and chocolate tart.
Champagne Afternoon Tea is available from £85 per person at Claridge’s, Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K 4HR
Afternoon Tea Collection at The Langham
Humble British biscuits and treats have been given a luxurious update courtesy of this menu at Mayfair institution The Langham. Served in the elegant Palm Court, the menu has been overseen by Michel Roux Jr. and created by Executive Pastry Chef Andrew Gravett, and focuses on elegant interpretations of classic favourites.
Here, the Ninety-Nine has been transformed into an elevated take on the old school favourite, complete with strawberry ice cream, dulcey cone and cream, while chocolate fudge cake has been reimagined with a double chocolate sponge and ultra creamy chocolate. Even the Custard Cream has been given a luxe spin, combining Madagascan vanilla cream with a caramelised white chocolate shell.
The afternoon tea collection is £75 per person at The Langham, 1c Portland Place, Mayfair, London W1B 1JA
David Hockney Afternoon Tea at the Rosewood Hotel
Held in the hotel’s opulent mirror room, the Rosewood’s art-inspired afternoon teas have become some of the most sought-after in the capital, and their latest iteration is no exception. Inspired by legendary pop artist David Hockney to coincide with his immersive exhibition at Lightroom, Bigger & Closer (not smaller and further away), this is an afternoon tea with a colour-saturated twist.
Inspired by Hockney’s life in Yorkshire and Los Angeles, each of the expertly designed cakes combines classic British flavours with iconic American desserts, and have been crafted as miniature works of art in their own right. Hockney’s world famous painting ‘The Splash’ has been reinterpreted as a chocolate sponge encased in Earl Grey chocolate bavarois with blue glaze to mimic the fluidity of the famous Californian pool. His vibrant spring colours are brought life in a delicate pistachio almond sponge sphere encased in pink cherry mousse, while ‘A Bigger Picture’ has been transformed into a vanilla cheesecake. Enrobed with purple glaze and featuring a strawberry insert that imitates the plum-coloured trunk of a tree, it makes a truly eye-catching display of Hockney’s work.
The David Hockney Afternoon Tea is available from £75 per person
The Rosewood Hotel, 252 High Holborn, Holborn, London WC1V 7EN
Afternoon Tea at Sketch
Afternoon tea in the golden-hued dining room at Sketch is a feast for all the senses. Settle into one of the copper toned banquettes and marvel at the artworks that line the walls – each one created specifically for the space by British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare – before perusing the eclectic menu.
Start off with Eggs Drumkilbo – well-known for being a firm favourite of the late Queen Mother – before tucking into peach cheesecake, raspberry Battenburg and redcurrant and chocolate macarons. Before you leave, make sure to explore Sketch’s other rooms, each more decadently decorated than the last, and stop off at their iconic egg-shaped loos, where birdsong and laughter is piped into each pod.
Afternoon tea is £80 per person at Sketch, 9 Conduit Street, Mayfair, London W1S 2XG
High Tea at Fortnum & Mason
Taking High Tea in Fortnum’s historic Tea Salon is always an occasion. Open for over 300 years, the Salon has held various guises over the centuries, operating as an apartment for the Fortnum family, an interior decorating department in the 20s and 30s and a chic restaurant known as St James’s. In 2012, it was formally reopened by the late Queen Elizabeth II as the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon.
Fortnum’s afternoon tea is renowned the world over for its precisely-cut sandwiches, fresh-baked cakes and unsurpassable scones. Start your High Tea off with Victoria lobster omelette with truffle and beef Wellington, before moving on to scones and patisseries, which change every season. Can’t decide which pot of tea to go for? Ask for a tasting with one of their expert Tearistas, who will help you find your perfect blend.
High Tea is £82 per person at Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, St James’s, London W1A
Afternoon Tea at The Dorchester
After months of lengthy renovations, the Dorchester has finally reopened its doors, and with it comes their new afternoon tea offering. Rather than breaking with tradition, they’ve decided to reinvent it, offering up a new twist on their classic afternoon tea. Held in the hotel’s newly transformed Promenade, redesigned with nature-inspired artworks to give the sensation of strolling through an English garden, their pastries have been given a bold new twist courtesy of multiple award-winning chef Michael Kwan.
Alongside a selection of finger sandwiches, start things off with a seasonal pre-dessert from the chef – which could feature his famous tea-infused ice cream or zesty lemon drizzle – before moving on to the carefully curated selection of sweet treats. Highlights include Earl Grey and bergamot choux, blueberry and blackcurrant Bakewell tart and tropical roulade.
Afternoon tea is £95 per person at The Dorchester, 53 Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1K 1QA
Classic Afternoon Tea at L’oscar London
If you’re looking for the sort of decadently glamorous afternoon tea that Oscar Wilde would approve of, look no further. The new afternoon tea offering at Covent Garden’s L’oscar hotel – named in homage to the man himself – is serving up just that amidst its opulent Jacques Garcia-designed interiors.
The tea itself has been inspired by the historical Grade II-listed building that was once the headquarters of the Baptist Church, and features delicately crafted cakes like the Choux, filled with Earl Grey ganache and mandarin gel. The ornate Forest Mousse, meanwhile, combines red fruit and champagne mousse and is topped with a pink butterfly, in a nod to the recurring butterfly theme that appears throughout the hotel.
Classic Afternoon Tea is from £49 per person at L’oscar London, 2-6 Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 4AA
English Rose Garden Afternoon Tea at The Petersham
When it comes to romantic, floral-inspired afternoon teas, no one does it quite like Petersham. Their bucolic Richmond outpost is famed for its foliage-filled nurseries, but in town it’s all about their Covent Garden spot, where their afternoon tea offering recreates a whimsical English country garden in the heart of the West End.
Start things off with a cold glass of Ayala Rose Champagne before working your way through the menu of dainty finger sandwiches and pastries, all of which have a slight Mediterranean twist in a nod to Petersham’s Italian owners, the Bogliones – think aubergine and oregano sandwiches and tiramisu tarts. Everything is made with the finest seasonal ingredients, most of which are sourced from the Boglione family farm in Devon.
English Rose Garden Afternoon Tea is available from £67 per person at The Petersham, 2 Floral Court, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9FB
Crown Jewels Afternoon Tea at Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square
For their latest afternoon tea offering, the Four Seasons has taken inspiration from the treasures of their neighbours at the Tower of London, dedicating the indulgent ritual to the Crown Jewels, which have been stored at the historic landmark for more than 600 years.
Each of the elegant pastries has been modelled on a different piece in the collection, from The Ruby (inspired by the ‘Black Prince’s Ruby’ in the Imperial State Crown), which is made with chocolate infused timut berry and grapefruit confit, to The Pearl (inspired by the Sovereign’s Orb), a combination of coconut mousse, mango and passion fruit confit.
The Crown Jewels Afternoon Tea is £65 per person at The Four Seasons, 10 Trinity Square, Tower Hill, London EC3N 4AJ
Classic Afternoon Tea at Oblix at The Shard
If you like your afternoon tea with a side order of sky-high views, this brand new offering at Oblix at The Shard is the one for you. Feast on homemade coronation chicken, mango chutney and coriander sandwiches and mini prawn and lobster rolls as you gaze out over the City and Tower Bridge, before moving on to scones served with whipped clotted cream, honey-comb and raspberry preserve.
Pastries, meanwhile, include warm honey Madeleines with chocolate sauce, strawberry, timut pepper and buttermilk tartlet, and passion fruit, mango and pistachio bar. Wash it all down with a selection of teas, from Organic Sencha to Jasmine Pearls, or go for their indulgent bottomless options, which come with either unlimited rosé or Champagne.
Classic Afternoon Tea is available from £58 per person at Oblix at The Shard, 31 St Thomas St, London Bridge, London SE1 9RY
Afternoon Tea at Nobu Hotel London Portman Square
Trust Nobu to give the quintessentially British tradition of afternoon tea an elegant Japanese twist. Created by Nobu’s Chef Michael, the experience starts with a selection of cup sushi, served alongside Nobu’s famous yellowtail jalapeño and tomato ceviche. Next up, there’s a crab salad roll with jalapeño dressing and a beef tataki bun with wasabi sauce, finished off with a Mushroom Matsuhisa taco and crispy chicken kara-age.
The sweet treats are no less inventive, with highlights including Ume Cherry Boshi Mousse, pairing cherry blossom with salted plum, momo yuzu macarons and miso chocolate caramel tart. Pair them with one of their many award-winning teas, from the Iwanaga Ichigo – a sweet and fruity black tea from the Iwanaga Tea Garden in Kumamoto, Japan – to the Benifuki 2022 2nd Flush from Japan’s Kajihara Tea Garden.
Afternoon tea is available from £60 per person at Nobu Hotel London Portman Square, 22 Portman Square, Mayfair, London W1H 7BG
Afternoon Tea at The Stafford
Top Michelin-starred chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen has overseen the menu for this new afternoon tea at The Stafford hotel, which is served on a bespoke cake trolley to add a bit of extra theatre to the experience. Piled high with sweet treats, the trolley is presented tableside, where each guest can choose five seasonal cakes and pastries from the display – popular options include lemon and basil tarts, coffee choux buns and slices of the hotel’s signature Earl Grey and honey layer cake.
Savoury lovers are well catered for too, with H. Forman & Son smoked salmon and horseradish crème fraiche sandwiches and truffle egg buns served alongside sweet and savoury Westcombe Cheddar scones on a traditional cake stand. For something extra special, add a glass of Louis Roederer Collection 243 Champagne.
Afternoon tea is available from £70 per person at The Stafford, 16-18 St James’s Place, St James’s, London SW1A 1NJ
The Secret Garden Afternoon Tea at Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences
Frances Hodgson Burnett’s timeless children’s classic, The Secret Garden, has been transformed into an afternoon tea courtesy of the Taj hotel near Buckingham Palace. Held in the award-winning Kona restaurant, diners are transported to a tranquil Yorkshire garden, with sweet and savoury delights inspired by the British countryside. Chocolate keys are found nestled beneath layers of biscuit soil and edible flowers, while edible butterflies perch on tangy mango and lime tarts.
The savoury dishes are horticulturally inspired too, with fresh garden herb roast chicken and cucumber, basil and beetroot sandwiches on offer. Teas have been selected from Bird & Blend Tea Co, while Kona has partnered with The Secret Garden Gin Distillery to present three botanical gins. Even the restaurant itself has been transformed into a magical garden, complete with wildflowers on the tables and a complementary pack of wildflower seeds so you can plant your very own secret garden at home.
The Secret Garden Afternoon Tea is available from £75 at Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences, 51 Buckingham Gate, Westminster, London SW1E 6AF