Even if you can’t differentiate between sips of chamomile and citrus blossom, a visit to London just isn’t complete without partaking in the longstanding English pastime of afternoon tea. Like most customs, just about every place in the capital has its own unique take on things. But as UK correspondent Joe Reaney found out during his sampling of cups in our newest Star-Rated city, when it comes to teas, treats and tradition, few places are more distinctly British than these six spots.
It’s hard to top the award-winning afternoon tea at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Goring. You can take your tea either in front of the fireplace in the lounge or on the sunny terrace. Choose from a wide selection of teas (or even coffee if you prefer) and delight in stack of delicate finger sandwiches and melt-in-your-mouth sweet treats. But make sure you save room for the highlight: a freshly baked (and still warm) scone, served with homemade jam and Devonshire clotted cream. It’s no surprise The Goring was honored with the Top London Afternoon Tea Award for 2013 from the U.K. Tea Council’s Tea Guild.
The perfect option for lighthearted luxury, the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea takes you on a trip down the rabbit hole, and includes menus hidden in vintage books and teapots decorated with kings and queens. But it’s the menu that really makes this work, as it features homemade ham and cucumber sandwiches, delicious scones with herb butter and a “Tick Tock” Victoria sponge cake.
This fun afternoon tea at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Berkeley is designed for fashionistas. The Prêt-à-Portea offers a range of loose-leaf teas alongside cakes and delicious confections resembling the latest designs by some of the biggest names in fashion, including Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg, Lanvin and Prada. So when you want Yves Saint Laurent’s “Cabas Chyc” green Victoria sponge cake handbag or Manolo Blahnik’s “Neurotica” pink polka dot cake, there’s no better way to add a touch of style to your afternoon.
The Dorchester has several different teas to choose from, including its classic afternoon tea offered five times a day. But the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel also features afternoon tea themes that change depending on when you visit. Come in spring to enjoy a range of flowery goodies in honor of the Chelsea Flower Show, or head here in summer for a Wimbledon-themed tea with cakes shaped like grass tennis courts and bright yellow tennis balls, and of course, strawberries and cream.
The glass-roofed Venetian-style dining room at The Lanesborough is the perfect place for a spot of tea—it was the winner of the U.K. Tea Council Award of Excellence 2009 through 2012. Tea is served in the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel’s Apsleys restaurant; and aside from offering a wonderful classic option (freshly baked scones, thick clotted cream and homemade fruit preserves), it’s probably the best place in London for those with dietary restrictions, as it offers delicious gluten-free and dairy-free options, too.
The ultimate in afternoon tea could quite possibly be at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Claridge’s. The hotel offers a quintessentially English menu in a stunning Art Deco setting. Here you can choose from a selection of nearly 40 types of tea and savor a stack of delicate finger sandwiches and sweet, buttery pastries. But make sure you save room for the highlight: a plate of freshly baked raisin and apple scones, served with spiced jam and Cornish clotted cream. The hotel also offers a champagne tea if you really want to up the ante.
Photos Courtesy of Maybourne Hotel Group, The Dorchester Collection, The Lanesborough London Inc and The Goring Hotel