The tradition of afternoon tea is typically English, so where are the best places to go in the capital to experience this treat?
In times past, the people of England would typically have early lunches and late dinners or suppers, meaning that in the late afternoon, a light meal was required – hence the invention of the afternoon tea. In modern times, however, there is less of a need for this meal, maily due to the difference in working hours.
Yet, many of us now view an afternoon tea as a special treat – a time to get together with friends and family and enjoy some tasty titbits, and perhaps even a glass or two of bubbly rather than the traditional cup of tea! A friend of mine recently chose to kick off her hen do with a spot of afternoon tea and I have taken my mum out to a hotel for a lovely couple of hours of conversation, cakes and Champagne. Perhaps it is a longing for tradition that has caused many of us to re-embrace the humble afternoon tea? I would disagree with this sentiment and believe that it is the ‘naughtiness’ of eating and drinking in the afternoon, especially when many of the venues offering this service in London are beyond glamorous.
Most major hotels in London now offer afternoon tea packages. However, you can still find more traditional tearooms such as the Tea and Tattle in the very centre of the capital. This quaint establishment offers pots of fine leaf teas (no alcohol!) served in delicate bone china cups and saucers. The homemade cakes and sandwiches are perfect for a pick me up during a busy day shopping or sightseeing.
If, however, you are looking for more decadent and opulent surroundings, then perhaps some of London’s premier hotels and restaurants will be more to your taste. Five of the best for afternoon tea and Champagne afternoon tea are without doubt The Savoy, Harrods, the Four Seasons, Claridge’s and The Ritz. Each offers their own take on the refined and stylish tradition with the only similarity being the sheer quality of the fare.
I treated my mum to her afternoon tea for her 60th birthday at The Ritz. From the moment we entered the hotel it felt as if we were royalty. The staff could not have been more attentive and the Palm Court (where our tea was served) blew us away with its grandeur. From the dainty finger sandwiches to the unctuous clotted cream served with our scones, the quality of the food was exceptional (and very moreish!). The Champagne also went down a treat!
One tip I must give when going for afternoon tea is to check the dress code of the venue – some hotels (especially the more high-brow establishments) are stricter than others and do not allow jeans of any description! Also, look out for special deals online and try and book as far ahead as possible to avoid disappointment as some hotels can be booked out for weeks in advance.
Author: Jamie Monteath