There’s no getting around it — afternoon tea is expensive. It just is. What’s more open for debate is whether it’s actually good value for money. After all, sandwiches can be made at home, and fifty quid equals many dozens of Mr Kipling’s finest. But if the sandwiches are generously filled crustless wonders, the cakes take up several tiers, and the booze is bottomless, well, that’s a bit different. Faintly ropey tea-and-fizz deals are ten-a-penny online right now, but these superior ones are actually worth splashing some hard-earned cash on.Read More
14 London Afternoon Teas That Are Actually Worth The Money
Not a sad sarnie in sight
Overseen by Jason Atherton, afternoon tea in the OTT surrounds of Berners Tavern is cheffy but substantial: toasted crumpets with brown shrimp and caviar, English mustard and cider-cured ham croissants, apple and cinnamon crumble tarts and crisp coffee macaroons, plus a selection of teas. £39.50.
Pan Pacific London
Overseen by renowned pastry chef Cherish Finden having arrived in London in autumn 2021, this hotel’s afternoon tea takes its cues from Singaporean and Malaysian kopi tiam culture, as well as Catonese dim sum. Bao, curry puffs, and char siu pork adorn the savouries, while Finden’s creations will change seasonally, currently coming off the back of a Christmas suite featuring edible baubles and a pistachio “Christmas tree.” £72 / £82 / £114
The Zetter Townhouse Marylebone
This Marylebone bolthole uses zany characters to impress upon diners its choice — Aunt Wilhemina representing trad; Uncle Seymour representing trad, but, a bit less trad. Points for smoked chicken and salt beef on the sandwiches in the former, while Seymour’s sausage rolls and croque monsieur offer some serious alternatives. Even the cakes get a bit of a refresh, with banana and brown butter bringing things home strongly. £39.50
Dean Street Townhouse
From scones with clotted cream, jams and tea (£8) to a three-tiered extravaganza with a Grand Marnier cocktail (£30), the tea offering here in the heart of Soho covers all bases. There’s also a selection of High Tea-style savouries, including Welsh rarebit and, pleasingly, fish fingers.
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Maitre Choux Soho
Eclair specialist Maitre Choux has a two-person “tasting menu” tea in its Soho cafe. There’s a selection of chouquettes, two glasses of Laurent-Perrier champagne and more eclairs than most people could conceivably eat at a sitting, including dark chocolate, Paris-Brest, Tahitian vanilla and pecan and raspberry meringue. £84 for two
No League of Extraordinary Afternoon Teas would be complete without the Claridge’s one. The Mayfair institution serves it every day, complete with fancy sandwiches (Norfolk chicken with gem lettuce, roasted corn, marjoram and mayonnaise on malted bread, for example), pastries (pears Belle Helene, blackcurrant-chocolate pearl and a hazelnut Paris-Brest) and freshly baked scones. It’s the most expensive one on the list, but worth it for a real splurge. £70
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Ham Yard Hotel
Afternoon tea at the Ham Yard Hotel is a seasonal affair, which right now means smoked salmon sandwiches, sausage rolled with mulled wine jam, Dorset crab croquettes, profiteroles, scones, rum-infused fruit cake and a cocktail, plus hot drinks. £42.50
Cakes & Bubbles
“Is a hot dog a sandwich?” is out of date, so it’s time to ask: “Is champagne tea?” At Albert Adria’s dessert palace Cakes and Bubbles, it can be, with the Spanish pastry master’s Baron Bigod cheesecake, air pancake, and mango sorbet stick forming part of a set cake menu that pairs best with a glass of, well, the bubbles. Hotel Cafe Royal serves its own afternoon tea next door, but this is the more interesting and singular of the two. £32 / £42
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Billed as a “tongue-in-cheek take on a high-end 80s dinner party with a bold Lyan twist”, the Fancy Tea at Lyaness (formerly Dandelyan) puts Ryan Chetiyawardana’s cocktails front and centre. It’s actually more plentiful, and less tortured, than it sounds, with the likes of coronation sweet potato and squash sandwiches, devilled eggs, lemongrass tarts, and panna cotta. Lovely river views too. £35 — 55
Fortnum & Mason
Taken in the tranquil surrounds of it Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, Fortnum & Mason’s offering is less a meal, more a clotted cream-enhanced meditation session. They’ve been serving it since 1926, and the formula remains mercifully unchanged: warm scones, perfectly trimmed finger sandwiches (think rare-breed hen’s egg mayo and cress, or cucumber with minted cream cheese) and dinky little cakes, plus something extra from the Cake Carriage. £70
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The Wolseley serves teas every day, ranging from a cream tea at £12.75 to a full-blown champagne afternoon tea at £44.50, complete with freshly baked millefeuille, lemon meringue and rum punch eclairs, macaroons and Battenberg. It’s a good idea to book, especially at the weekend, but they always keep a few tables back for walk-ins.
The Ritz London
The one to rule them all. With 18 varieties of loose-leaf tea, perfect little sandwiches, freshly baked scones and pastries that are topped up on request, plus a pianist, harpist or string quartet in the Palm Court, this very much counts as an actual meal out. £62
‘Very large’ are the words that best describes this one. Look at the size of those slices! And that’s only a quarter of what comes to the table! There are also finger sandwiches, savouries, scones served with strawberry jam and clotted cream. Gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan versions can be pre-booked. An excellent Borough Market option. £30
Award-winning with good reason. At £60 before booze this is spendy even by the standards of London afternoon teas, but everything from the service to the surroundings is properly five-star. Expect plentiful pastries, scones with homemade jams and sandwiches served with blended and first-flush teas from around the world.