Tea time in the capital

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Cast aside that cappuccino. Leave the latte alone. Tea is brewing up a storm. Yes, the charming, relaxed ritual of afternoon tea is back in fashion. Underpinning this renaissance are the health benefits of tea, although it has always been considered something of a tonic: “If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are heated, it will cool you; if you are depressed, it will cheer you; if you are excited it will calm you”. So said Britain’s former prime minister, William Gladstone, back in 1865.

For a quintessential afternoon tea experience, head to one of the capital’s top hotels to indulge in the ritual of a formal tea. Claridges may have been named London’s finest venue for afternoon tea in The Tea Guild’s 2011 awards (dubbed the Oscars of the tea world), but for a fashionable twist on the mid afternoon meal try the following on for size. Just don’t expect to be able to eat supper and – for The Sanderson especially – book well in advance.

Room with a brew: the best spots for afternoon tea in town

1 The Stephen Webster Bijoux Afternoon Tea at The Langham

Get a taste for jeweller to the stars Stephen Webster’s latest creations at The Langham’s Stephen Webster Bijoux Afternoon Tea – inspired by Webster’s most recent collection Murder She Wrote. Expect to tuck into deadly treats such as Poison Apple – a decadent dark chocolate shortbread with green pistachio Chantilly cream – and blackcurrant jelly macaroons known as Crustal Clear diamonds. Luxury savoury sandwiches, indulgent chocolate scones and a river of refreshing teas make up the rest of the limited edition afternoon tea which is served in the Langham’s glittering centrepiece, Palm Court.

The Stephen Webster Bijoux Afternoon Tea is priced at £49 per person, and is available until March 31. To make a booking call 020 7965 0195 or visit www.palm-court.co.uk

2 Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley

Prêt-à-Portea adds a creative twist to the classic elements of the traditional English afternoon tea with cakes and pastries inspired by the latest catwalk designs (The Berkeley’s pastry chefs visit London fashion week shows to get their inspiration for the colours and the textures of the new collections). 2011 tea stand treats include a Roger Vivier black and white chocolate striped heel and Victoria Beckham’s much talked about tote. All are served on a bespoke collection of Paul Smith fine china.

Prêt-à-Portea is served in The Caramel Room at The Berkeley and priced at £36.50 per person (£46.50 including a glass of Laurent Perrier champagne, £53.00 per person including a glass of couture champagne). To make a reservation for Prêt-à-Portea, please call 020 7235 6000.

3 Not Afternoon Tea at The Oxo Tower Brasserie

If scones and sandwiches don’t take your fancy, book yourself into The Oxo Tower Brasserie for their deliciously different afternoon tea. The menu offers four dessert tasting plates, expertly matched with cocktails created by the bar team. Choose from Kent Orchard, Taywell Preserved, Tropical Delight and, our favourite, Nuts about Chocolate - a die to for chocolate, orange and almond fondant, peanut and milk chocolate slice, bitter chocolate and pecan tart, hazelnut macaroons and white chocolate ganache which works well when accompanied with an almond mulata (Havana Especial rum shaken with almond syrup and chocolate liqueur).
The decadent desserts and drinks can be enjoyed along with the Oxo’s breathtaking riverside views.

4 Mad Hatter’s Tea at The Sanderson

Haute Living’s favourite mid afternoon spread is arguably The Sanderson’s Mad Hatter’s tea. Guests are invited to “tumble down the rabbit hole” and enjoy a number of Alice inspired gastronomic adventures in the enchanting courtyard garden. Don’t miss the ‘Eat Me’ Queen of Hearts (strawberry and cream mousse) and ‘Drink Me’, a beautiful bottle packed with passion fruit jelly, coconut panna cotta and exotic foam. It sounds weird, but it works! Other treats for the taste buds include blueberry lollipops that turn tongues from hot to cold, hazelnut praline ice cream lollipops which explode with a single bite.

The Mad Hatter’sTea is priced at £35 per person. Please call restaurant reservations at 0207 300 5588 for more information.

5 And one for traditionalists: 
Traditional afternoon tea at The Ritz-Carlton, London

The Ritz-Carlton is graciousness itself. Their excellent old style afternoon tea is served in the iconic Palm Court; expect the full panoply of silver teapots, tip top pastries, crustless sandwiches and scones served on a three tier stand. If you can’t wait for cocktail hour, take the champagne package (£54) with flutes of bubbly to accompany your fantastic freshly baked scones.

Traditional afternoon tea at The Ritz-Carlton, London costs £42. To make a reservations please call 020 7493 81814.

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