Tea is brewing up a storm. Yes, the charming, relaxed ritual of afternoon tea is in vogue – so much so that there is even a National Afternoon Tea Week (which runs until Sunday 17) dedicated to the much loved British tradition. Wondering where to celebrate having your cake and eating it? Haute Time has the low-down on London’s best afternoon tea venues
1 Hotel Café Royal
Hotel Café Royal’s Importance of Being Earnest Afternoon Tea is arguably Haute Time’s afternoon tea du jour. Executive chef, Andrew Turner, and executive pastry chef Andrew Blas’ sumptuous new tea has been created to coincide with the play’s run at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Taking inspiration from the play’s characters and history, Turner and Blas have created a unique and playful menu priced at £55 (including a glass of Veuve Clicquot), held in the iconic Oscar Wilde Bar.
2 The Palm Court at The Ritz
Afternoon Tea at The Ritz is an institution in itself. Housed in The Palm Court and popular since the hotel first opened in 1906, it has now become the quintessential British experience. An extensive choice of 16 different types of loose leaf tea is offered, including a Ritz Royal English tea, a Lapsang Souchong Imperial, and a Darjeeling First Flush. The traditional English Tea menu includes freshly cut finger sandwiches with six types of filling, warm scones with strawberry preserve and clotted Devonshire cream followed by a delectable selection of cakes and afternoon tea pastries topping the tiered cake stand.
3 RAW at La Suite West
Nothing is more British than taking afternoon tea in London, but if you want a healthy contemporary alternative to the Great British tradition, look to RAW. Nestled on the fringes of Hyde Park, the La Suite West hotel’s signature restaurant is serving up a Quintessentially British vegan afternoon tea vegan this summer: think designer finger sandwiches (Roasted butternut squash, Scrambled tofu and Cream of Artichoke and Truffle all feature), home-made scones served with coconut cream and fresh strawberries, followed by a selection of home-made pastries including mini Chocolate and coconut RAW cake and mini Sesame halva. The tea can be enoyed either al fresco on the private terrace or within the Anouska Hempel designed restaurant.
4 The Rosebery at the Mandarin Oriental
Named after Lord Rosebery, The Rosebery has made a welcome return to its roots (it was a stylish tea room back in the 1920s before being used as an event space). The interior design – created by G&A Designs (the team behind the Booking Office Bar at St Pancras) – makes the most of the room’s Victorian origins but employs contemporary touches. Think specially commissioned one-of-a kind art works and seating in shades of forest greens and browns to bring it bang up-to-date. But it’s not just the setting that wows – so too does the food. Expect the daintiest of sandwiches (Slow roasted organic chicken and buttered corn, Smoked salmon tartar with creme fraiche and fill, all shaped in circles as opposed to conventional triangles), fluffy freshly baked sultana and plain scones served with strawberry jam and clotted cream as well as more out there accompaniments (rose jelly and lemon curd) and tip top pastries. Standouts include the Milk chocolate passion fruit tart, Green tea eclair and Raspberry and yuzu macaroon. Mmmm.
5 The Strand Dining Rooms
Enjoy traditional afternoon tea with a twist in the shadow of Nelson’s column at the newly opened Strand Dining Rooms - a stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square. Guests can enjoy classic scones and sandwiches, as well as a selection of pastries and cakes such as Chocolate Orange cake, Banoffee Pie Tartlets and Lemon Drizzle and Basil cake. Wash it all down with rivers of refreshing teas or given the iconic location (The Strand Dining Rooms are located in the grandiosely named Grand Buildings) a glass of Delamotte NV Champagne.