The 16 Best Afternoon Teas In London guide image

LDNGuide

The 16 Best Afternoon Teas In London

Where to drink tea and eat finger sandwiches when you want an excuse to gossip for three hours.

Afternoon tea is an activity we sort of engage in by default, whether it be to show off our Britishness to a friend visiting England for the first time, or for the annual and inevitable catch-up with your godmother. But this guide is here to remind you that we really should be partaking in afternoon tea more frequently. It turns out it’s actually quite lovely to eat a stack of sandwiches, followed by a cream tea, followed by an ungodly amount of cake. So next time you feel like sacking off an afternoon to drink tea and gossip for three hours, here’s where to go. These are the best afternoon teas in London.

THE SPOTS

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From £75 per person

We’re pretty sure someone royal was born in Claridges. That, or, someone comes from the palace to spray the place with royal air once a week. That’s one of the reasons why you’re going to be paying £75 for tea here. Another is the Mayfair location, the live pianist and cellist, and the fact that everything here—from the sandwiches to the scones—tastes just a bit better than it does almost everywhere else. You’re also going to definitely want to spend some time with the pastries. The vanilla bourbon religieuse alone blows the sweet section of every other afternoon tea out of the water.


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The Goring

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From £60 per person

If you dream of being fanned and fed grapes in a room that looks like the set from The Princess Diaries, then you should book afternoon tea at The Goring, a five-star hotel in Belgravia. You’ll get the typical fluffy scones and mini cakes, but you’re not really here for the food. You’re here to have your tea poured for you and your plate changed whenever a crumb gets too close to it. And mostly, you’re here for your temporary guardian angel-cum-server who appears out of nowhere if your smile so much as wavers. Typically, the idea of someone hovering over you, and swooping in to check if everything’s OK every millisecond might be invasive, but at The Goring, you won’t even notice. And it’s that effortlessly excellent service that makes The Goring so popular, meaning you should book well in advance, especially for weekends.


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From £67 per person

The Ritz is everything you expect it to be. Assuming that you expect gold detailing, excellent service, and a human tie generator. The afternoon tea is excellent, the pastries and cakes are particularly good, and if you’ve got an extreme sweet tooth, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a cake trolley that’s driven to your table, offering whichever cakes they have that day. It’s easy to get carried away and spend a good couple of hours here, and you definitely should. It’s great for a birthday treat, or if you just want to dress up and try one of the best afternoon teas London has to offer. Just a couple of things to keep in mind: it’s usually booked out weeks in advance, and they’re pretty serious about the dress code.


From £70 per person

If you’ve been around the afternoon tea block, The Langham is the best place to have a chilled-out one in London. This isn’t to say that the surroundings are casual—the mirrored, pillared Palm Court room is very fancy, as is the Wedgwood crockery your tea’s served on. But this is a place you can feel comfortable hanging for a while with your pals without worrying about disturbing others around you. It’s even a good place to bring kids, which helps if your sister absolutely insists on bringing your constantly-in-motion nephews.


From £40 per person

The name alone is enough to get us curious about this tea room inside The Bloomsbury Hotel. What goes on in the coral room? Why not The Salmon Room? The Peach Room? We don’t have the answer to all of those questions, but we do know what happens in this high-ceilinged, artwork-filled room. And it involves little egg mayonnaise brioche buns, a lemon and basil drizzle cake we wish we could supersize, and faultless service. You can order as many refills of tea as you’d like, and if you request it ahead of time, they can cater to any dietary requirements.


From £70 per person

Fortnum & Mason is a department store that’s famous for supplying the royals with their tea, and at times can feel like a very posh human zoo—until you sit down for the extremely pleasant tea service. While some tea services are held in whatever old drawing room a hotel could come up with, the entire fourth floor at Fortnum & Mason was clearly designed for the sole purpose of afternoon tea. Come for a classy experience, and if you’re with someone who refuses to eat clotted cream, they’ll accommodate pretty much any dietary requirement. Don’t turn up expecting a table (remember, this place is a human zoo), but you can usually book online the day before and get a table.


From £36.75 per person

The Wolseley is excellent at anything you throw at it—a fancy breakfast, a business lunch, a late-night dinner, and yes, an afternoon tea. It’s always lively here, and the space—a converted 1920s car showroom with high ceilings and marble columns—would make even a paperclip convention seem like an exciting event. It does get extremely busy and a tad touristy at times, but that’s only because everyone knows The Wolseley is always a good idea.


From £70 per person

The Connaught is the ultimate chic afternoon tea spot. Despite all the five-star formalities, you don’t feel like you’re expected to be serious. It’s lively, there are people having lunch next to you, there are groups enjoying a glass of champagne at half one in the afternoon. And if you ask to be seated by the windows—which you should—there will be people walking down the street with designer shopping bags, while all you’re expected to do is sit back, eat their delicious sandwiches and scones, and have a good time.


From £65 per person

Most traditions are pretty rigid and afternoon tea is no exception. But afternoon tea at the Four Seasons at Ten Trinity Square is more like that fun aunt who accepts that traditions exist but lets you do what you want anyway. Here, rather than offering a single price that gets you everything, you can just pick the parts you want. You want some finger sandwiches but you’re not interested in pastries? Easy, order them for £18. And it doesn’t hurt that the hotel has majestic pillars, a live singer, and is a five-minute walk from the Tower of London.


From £70 per person

We like to think the design brief for the Oscar Wilde room at Hotel Café Royal went a little like this: ‘Dearest designer, we have way too much money—please design a room that looks like our wealth threw up in it’. With gold, velvet, and mirrors, this is by far the most opulent room hosting afternoon tea in London. When you sit down, the high society person inside you just can’t help but click into action—look at you nibbling at excellent savouries and sweets all fancy. You’ll want to keep the champagne flowing. To do otherwise would be sacrilege.


From £65 per person

The Savoy is the best representation of old London glamour in the city, and as you may suspect, having afternoon tea here makes you feel like a real life aristocrat. The Thames Foyer, where you’ll have your tea, is a beautiful space, and it’s easy to get carried away with the whole experience because they look after you so well. There’s no extra charge for refills here, so go ahead and ask for another round of sandwiches and cake.


From £65 per person

Despite sounding like a hippy yoga tent at Glastonbury, The Crystal Moon Lounge, where they serve tea in The Corinthia Hotel, is actually a very elegant spot. The humongous globe-like chandelier would distract you totally from the task at hand if it weren’t for the cakes, which are more ‘diabetes-inducing creative confectionery’ than actual cake. The Corinthia’s also a great place for people watching, and there’s always a high chance of spotting the mum of that celebrity you stalk on Instagram.


From £40 per person

Richmond and afternoon tea feel like a natural combination. Partly because people in Richmond lift their pinky fingers when drinking their morning cuppa anyway, but mostly because the acres of land—also known as Richmond Park—right outside makes you feel very proper. This is one of the more laid-back tea rooms, with quirky feathered lamp shades, an island of foliage in the centre of the room, other diners eating lunch next to you, and servers who whip out a Polaroid camera and offer to take a picture of you mid Earl Grey sip.


From £48 per person

Yes, we were initially sceptical of the Alice In Wonderland-themed Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel—it sounds like an activity you would be emotionally manipulated into by your five-year-old goddaughter. But this is actually one of our favourites in London. It’s served in the foliage-filled courtyard of the hotel, making it one of the few afternoon teas you can have outside, and they also objectively serve the best scones in town.


From £72 per person

The afternoon tea at the Rosewood in Holborn is art-themed, and comes in the form of cakes inspired by different artists like Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso. The whole thing goes down in a beautiful mirror-filled room, so consider bringing the narcissistic, art-loving person in your life. Everyone has one of those.


From £45 per person

The Athenaeum Hotel does a couple of tea menus, most notably a savoury tea which includes a fancy venison sausage roll and a welsh rarebit muffin. As well as that, there’s a lot to like here: the elegant and laid-back setting, the option for free-flowing fizz, and the value for money (£45 all in). They do a ‘normal’ afternoon tea as well, but the savoury one is definitely one to keep in mind if you’re with someone who claims they don’t get down with sugar.


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