The quintessential English tradition of afternoon tea – which dates back to 1840 – is one of the most wonderfully indulgent things to do. Mischievously timed between lunch and dinner and served with Champagne, there is no option but to take the whole afternoon off. And this Christmas, London’s finest hotels and restaurants are offering some spectacular options; The Berkeley is bringing back its much-loved Prêt-à-Portea tea, The Lanesborough has teamed up with queen of cakes Peggy Porchen and there is a live choir singing carols at The Ritz. Here is our edit of the best Christmas afternoon teas in the capital to book now.
For the first time since February, The Berkeley’s much-loved Prêt-à-Portea will be served again with a bold winter twist. Expect couture cakes showing Marc Jacoobs’s 60s-inspired coats, Simone Rocha’s pearl evening bach and Ricardo Tisci’s emerald green Burberry trench. There is also a Marie Antoinette-inspired mini gown by Moschino and a new addition from tastemaker Alice Naylor-Leyland. Alice’s personalised Edie Parker glittering clutch has been recreated as an almond cake with orange segments and marbled Opalys chocolate. The epitome of fashionable decadence.
Prêt-à-Portea is £75 per person at The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, SW1;
The Savoy’s afternoon tea is getting a festive makeover and it is seriously spoiling. Savoury delights include smoked venison loin, chestnut and blackcurrant finger sandwiches and hand-dived scallops fresh from Billingsgate Market. For sweet patisserie treats, you can expect spiced citrus delice, crafted with gingerbread, mandarin and white chocolate and chocolates chosen by connoisseur Cacao Berry. There will be 30 Jing teas and Louis Roederer Champagne to accompany it all, too.
Festive afternoon tea is £70 per person at The Savoy, Strand, W1;
Set in the Grand Banking Hall the The Ned, Millie’s is serving up a Christmassy afternoon tea for its guests this December — on bespoke Burleigh china tea sets, of course. Among the festive menu’s offerings will be gingerbread Santa Claus hats, cranberry and orange scones with jam and clotted cream and an array of delicious finger sandwiches (including veggie options) with a scattering of peppermint chocolate love hearts for good measure. It’s worth popping in to see the giant Christmas tree by Grandi Rosa alone.
£45 per person with teas or £55 per person with a glass of Champagne at The Ned, 27 Poultry, EC2;
Claridge’s has been observing the ritual of afternoon tea for more than 150 years, so you know you are in good hands at this Art Deco gem in Mayfair. Taken in the Thierry Despont-designed foyer, the new festive afternoon tea menu kicks off proceedings with a glass of LLaurent-Perrier “La Cuvée” Brut NV, before moving onto sandwiches: smoked duck with orange spiced sable or Dorrington ham with clove butter. Finish with Claridge’s Christmas pudding with brandy butter, Bûche de Noël and chestnut and kumquat snowballs for a decadent treat.
£78.75 per person Monday – Friday, £83.18 per person Saturday and Sunday at Claridge’s, Brook Street, Mayfair, W1
Taking high tea at Fortnum & Mason is one of London’s most iconic experiences, and for the first time ever, they are putting on a Christmas edition. Hosted in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon – named in honour of Her Majesty’s visit in 2012, when she formally opened the room – the menu starts with lobster bridge rolls, moves onto delightful finger sandwiches (think smoked salmon and orange caper butter, truffled Cotswold Legbar egg mayo and cucumber with nut brown butter cream cheese), freshly baked scones (of course) and festive afternoon cakes and a pot of Fortnum’s sparkling tea. Add a couple of Christmassy cocktails to your order to make it extra special.
£65 per person at Fortnum & Mason’s, 181 Piccadilly, W1;
Set majestically at Hyde Park Corner, the Lanesborough is one of London’s most splendid hotels — and just the spot for afternoon tea after some shopping on nearby Sloane Street. Peggy Porschen is in charge of the afternoon tea offering and is getting into the Christmas spirit with scrumptious new menu. Feast on finger sandwiches featuring roast turkey with stuffing and honey roast pumpkin with brie, as well as cherry and chocolate snowflake cupcakes and strawberry and pink Champagne tartlets. You’ll be sitting either in the Venetian-style Michelin-starred restaurant Céleste restaurant or the elegant Withdrawing Room.
£75 per person including a glass of champagne on arrival at The Lanesborough, Hyde Park Corner, SW1,
At the Langham, the festive menu is overseen by none other than Michel Roux Jr, as well as its pastry chef extraordinaire, Andrew Gravett. The afternoon tea menu has been paired with JING teas and Gusbourne English sparkling wines to create a truly Christmassy experience, ideal for after hitting the shops in central London. Starting with smoked turkey, roast ham, Scottish smoked salmon and classic cucumber and creams cheese finger sandwiches, before moving onto Christmas scones with stilton and port and black pepper chutney, and finishing off with a selection of festive pastries with names such as Christmas Coronet and Snowball and Crunch. The team can whip up vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options too.
From £65 per person at The Langham at 1c Portland Place, Marylebone, W1;.
There are few places ritzier than the Ritz and afternoon tea in The Palm Court is still a London must-do. For Christmas, the iconic Piccadilly hotel has jazzed up its menu to include a mouthwatering selection of festive goodies. Start by choosing which of the 18 loose-leaf teas you would like a pot of, next tuck into delicate finger sandwiches, mince pies, freshly made scones and Christmas cakes. All soundtracked by some glorious carols, sung by The Ritz choir. The Palm Court will be transformed into an Edwardian winter wonderland all centred around a very lavish Christmas tree. In true Ritz style, adults will be greeted with a glass of champers and children with a teddy bear.
£50 per child (up to 15 years old) and £80 per adult at The Ritz, 150 Piccadilly, W1;
Served in the Goring’s smart Veranda Room, the afternoon tea menu has been spruced up for Christmas with Rose Bollinger. Starting with a glass of, naturally, rose Champagne, you will be served an amuse bouche, followed by a selection of quintessential finger sandwiches, warm-from-the-oven homemade scones with Devonshire clotted cream and jam and rounded off by cakes, fondant fancies and tarts. There is a superlative curation of teas to choose from, including Oolong, Ceylon, Assam and various infusions such as Rosebud. This is one to dress up for.
From £80 per person at The Goring, 15 Beeston Place, Westminster, W1;
Head to the light-drenched Crystal Moon Lounge for an afternoon tea that promises to be wonderfully slow-paced, delightfully traditional and a touch festive. A glass of champers starts proceedings, with an array of sandwiches with fillings such as roast turkey and cranberry, cucumber, radish and cream cheese and truffle egg mayonnaise. Next up are scones served with spiced, damson and whisky jam, a brief interlude before the main event: an afternoon trolley inspired by the season. Expect sweet treats such as spiced pineapple and vanilla eclairs, chestnut, vanilla and rum tartlets and traditional Christmas cake.
From £60 per person at The Corinthia, Whitehall Place, SW1;
Afternoon tea at Sketch is usually served in the seriously pink Gallery, but for Christmas, you will be whisked off to an enchanted forest via the Glade Room. Throughout the festive period, diners will be treated to performances from a ballerina while they enjoy their afternoon tea. On the menu, you will find towers of delicious mini sandwiches — think coronation chicken and a luxurious truffle croque — mini cranberry Battenberg cakes with redcurrant snowflakes and chocolate and caramel yule log. Top it all off with a decadent cocktail such as the Sketch Spritz, Grand Marnier and grapefruit bitters charged with Prosecco.
From £70 per person at Sketch, 9 Conduit Street, Mayfair, W1;