It’s hard to beat a luxury London hotel as a destination for a decadent afternoon tea — there’s nothing like the attentive service of a besuited butler, the hush of a cozy lounge or the clink of antique silverware on fine bone china crockery. But there’s value in variety, too, with tea aficionados in the capital able to drink their Darjeeling and sip their Ceylon in an increasingly varied range of locations. We’ve gathered our favorites.
The View from the Shard
Take teatime to the next level with this summer’s hottest foodie pop-up, the Fortnum & Mason’s Sky-High tea experience at The View from the Shard (available through September 8). Ear-popping high-speed elevators carry you 800 feet up to the top of London’s tallest building, where the open-air terrace on level 72 has been transformed into an English country garden, complete with grass, more than 2,000 plants and a birdsong soundscape. It’s an unlikely setting, given the urban panorama, but it works. The tea itself comes courtesy of Fortnum & Mason, one of the U.K.’s oldest food stores and a Royal Warrant Holder. Other items include classic finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam, fancy cakes and either tea or champagne (or both!). And just when you think you couldn’t eat another thing, you realize Fortnum’s frozen champagne popsicles are available to cleanse the palate and round off the meal in style.
Why choose just one location for afternoon tea when you could combine sightseeing and snack snaffling with a ride on the BB Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour? This vintage Routemaster — done up with 1950s touches — cruises past London’s most famous sights, taking in the London Eye and more on a 90-minute trek around the city. While gazing at Buckingham Palace, passengers tuck into sweet and savory treats from the family-run bakery. This version of the traditional English repast consists of mouth-watering mini quiches and a range of macarons served alongside all the teatime staples. The Covent Garden café will also prepare you a tea picnic to enjoy in a nearby park or take you on an afternoon tea boat tour this summer (September 13). The tasty three-hour trip will travel up and down the River Thames between Butler’s Wharf and Big Ben.
For an afternoon tea experience arguably most like the one enjoyed by the 19th-century ladies who popularized the tradition, head to the Orangery at the Fan Museum. This gem of a attraction can be found within two converted Georgian houses in beautiful historic maritime Greenwich, and tea is served overlooking a Japanese-style garden. It’s a lighter meal than you’ll find elsewhere, comprising a scone with jam and cream and a selection of freshly baked cakes. This beautiful room — its walls covered with elaborate floral murals — is only open to museum visitors who pay the additional tea fee, giving the midday session an air of elegance and exclusivity.