Afternoon tea at the Ritz may be the ultimate London cliché. So, why not avoid the uptight dress code and head for an equally glamorous alternative to indulge in the epitome in English dining?
Perfectly sliced crust-less cucumber finger sandwiches, an endless supply of fresh tea, beautifully crafted patisserie cakes and warm scones with clotted cream and jam, it doesn’t get more English than this. Whether you’re in London every day, or visiting for the first time, you simply must indulge. But with so many places now serving afternoon tea, the big question is where should you go? Here are some of my favourite haunts to inspire you.... enjoy!
The fashionistas favourite - The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge
When you’re all shopped out at Harrods and Harvey Nichols, this is the place to come. Pret-à-Portea at The Berkeley is the ultimate fashionistas' afternoon tea. With a sweet collection that changes each season to reflect the latest catwalk trends, you can literally savour the Hermès Birkin and the Burberry trench. And if you’re afraid of popping the top button on your fabulously fashionable jeans, then you need not worry – everyone who comes for tea here leaves with a dinky doggy bag. Simply fabulous, but book early as the tea room isn’t huge.
Afternoon tea £35; to book call 020 7201 1619
The Oxford Circus sanctuary - The Langham, 1c Portland Place, Regent Street
Just a stone’s throw from the madness of Oxford Circus you’ll find The Langham. Step inside and be transported into the most beautiful, peaceful and luxurious interior; the recent renovation clearly had a generous budget. Afternoon tea is served in the Palm Court – supposedly the first place to ever serve afternoon tea over 140 years ago. And, if you fancy taking time to soak up the atmosphere after your afternoon tea, head to the Artesian Bar for a decadent cocktail and savour one of the most beautiful bars and hotels in London - it is simply beautiful.
Afternoon tea £35; to book call 020 7965 0195
The Tea Guild’s favourite - Brown's Hotel, Albemarle Street
As the proud winner of the Tea Guild's Top London Afternoon Tea Award 2009, the Brown's Hotel is clearly setting the standard in London. A cosy, yet contemporary interior, Brown’s has a very laid back atmosphere – with all the plump feather cushions you could easily get lost in conversation for hours here. One tip for tea at Brown’s, leave room for the sweet trolley! As well as the tiered cake stand which is served at your table, Brown’s also wheel round a sweet trolley to allow you to choose a slice of seasonal cake, we were there at Easter and the Simnel cake was really rather special.
Afternoon tea £35; to book call 020 7518 4155
The risqué one - Afternoon Tease at Volupte, 9 Norwich Street
Tempted at the thought of being entertained by burlesque dancing girls while you sip tea and tuck into the freshest warm scones? Well this is the one for you. More than just a tea, this is a whole afternoon of entertainment. In the basement of the Volupte club in the city Afternoon Tease will give you a taste of burlesque from the safety of your tea table, blushes spared. Far from traditional, this must be seen to be believed.
Afternoon tea with show £35; to book call 020 7831 1622 or visit www.volupte-lounge.com. Afternoon Tease is held on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month.
The old school charmer - The Savoy, Strand
Although The Savoy is currently closed for refurbishment (due to reopen in 2010), I felt it should get a mention as one to watch. Previously The Savoy offered old school glamour, without the pomp of The Ritz – it can only get better. Watch this space; I’ll update the guide once it reopens. Can’t wait...
Some tips for making the most out of your afternoon tea
- Go along with an empty stomach, although this may sound like a light meal – it isn’t!
- Running low? Any good afternoon tea establishment will replenish your cake stand, so you can eat until you burst (well nearly...)
- Be aware of multiple sittings. The busier venues will fit up to four sittings into one afternoon, so make sure you get there promptly to get your fill
- Leave your running shorts at home; some hotels have dress codes so check before you leave home
- Lastly, the age old question of whether you should spread jam or cream onto your scone first. Well actually there is no right way; it’s simply a case that jam first constitutes a Cornish cream tea, while cream first is the Devonshire way of doing things. Either way, make sure you get a generous helping of clotted cream....and tuck in!