By Britain’s standards, the tradition of afternoon tea is actually pretty recent. It was the seventh Duchess of Bedford who first requested a little bread and butter, cake, and tea be brought to her room in the afternoon. As dinner was usually served around 8 p.m., she found it was a long time to wait from lunch and she was getting hungry at around 3–4 p.m. She enjoyed this afternoon snack and started inviting her friends to come over and join her each day. They liked it so much they began making it an occasion by dressing up in their best outfits for this new pastime. And from there, afternoon tea spread and grew into the afternoon treat we now know. Afternoon tea is enjoyed all over the UK, but nowhere more so than in London. This quintessentially English tradition is, of course, most popular in the capital. For a guide to the best places to try out the treat, here are some amazing places for afternoon tea in London.
1. St. Ermin’s Hotel
St. Ermin’s is a hotel that likes to approach each guest as an individual and understands that not everyone wants the same thing. With that in mind, its afternoon tea offers a variety of options, including champagne afternoon teas, vegetarian afternoon tea, and even a kids afternoon tea. Served in relaxed and stylish surroundings featuring ornate original Rococo plasterwork, St. Ermin’s afternoon tea features a selection of sweet and savory treats inspired by seasonal ingredients from the hotel’s very own rooftop kitchen garden. All teas are served with freshly-baked scones, clotted cream, homemade jam, and award-winning teas from The Tea Makers of London; available Wednesday–Sunday between 12–5 p.m.
Pro Tip: If you want to take the grandkids with you, children have their own special seasonally-themed afternoon tea menu which is available on request every weekend. This does have to be booked in advance, as it isn’t on the regular menu.
2. The British Museum
Under the beautiful roof of the Great Court Restaurant in the British Museum, afternoon tea is served. Start with finger sandwiches of Wilshire ham and farmhouse chutney, smoked salmon and cream cheese, coronation chicken and celery, and egg mayo and mustard cress before indulging in a delicious selection of macaroons, chocolate Jaffa cake, meringue torte, and more. For an extra special treat, there’s the option to add a glass of prosecco.
Pro Tip: Take afternoon tea after you’ve been around the museum, or visit just for afternoon tea if you want an unusual setting.
3. Afternoon Tea On A London Bus Tour
Afternoon tea on a London bus tour is one of the quirkier ways to enjoy this delight. You’ll board a vintage double-decker bus and be driven through the streets of London, viewing the capital’s most famous sights while enjoying a selection of sandwiches, cakes, and pastries. Guests discover London’s landmarks, history, and culture from the comfort of their seats including Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament, the London Eye Private, and the Tower of London. And it’s all while experiencing the most English of all things, afternoon tea.
4. The Rubens Hotel
Feel like royalty for the day with an exceptional champagne afternoon tea at The Rubens at the Palace. The lounge boasts spectacular views of Buckingham Palace and has a bold red interior that makes for the perfect romantic and elegant setting. Rubens was royal even before it was a hotel. At this spot, there was once a much larger house, and back in 1700, it was owned by the Earl of Mulgrave. By 1840, it was a row of shops that served the palace and its occupants. The hotel wouldn’t emerge until 1953. Its location and views have secured it as a very royal place to be, which is born out in everything it offers. Enjoy a decadent afternoon tea experience that includes pastries influenced by the House of Windsor and inspired by her majesty the Queen. You can also take advantage of unlimited glasses of champagne during your brunch for a period of 90 minutes.
5. The Montague Hotel
Enjoy afternoon tea in truly special surroundings at the Montague Hotel, once a Georgian townhouse. The bottomless afternoon tea includes a selection of warm plain and raisin scones, cakes, and fresh hand-cut sandwiches with classic fillings like egg mayo, smoked salmon, chicken, cucumber, and cream cheese. You can either choose to sit inside or, if you prefer, you can take a seat on the stunning outdoor terrace. Out on the terrace it’s hard to believe this is central London!
Pro Tip: You can take your pooch along too. Four-legged friends are also very welcome at the venue with a collection of pet-friendly services, including food and water bowls, a dog goody bag containing a toy, treats, and clean-up bags.
6. Brigit’s Bakery
Located in chic Covent Garden, Brigit’s Bakery is something you might not expect to find in London — a French patisserie. As you enter, the first thing you’ll see is the cake counter filled with sweet treats all baked daily by an expert team of French pastry chefs. This selection includes fruit tartlets, chocolate eclairs, cupcakes, macarons, cookies, scones, cakes, and pastries. The full afternoon tea experience comes with a selection of sandwiches, cakes, mini cupcakes, freshly-made scones with clotted cream, as well as a great choice of loose tea and an orange juice. The venue also has a good wine list if you want to splash out.
7. The Biltmore Hotel
Located in London’s prestigious Grosvenor Square, The Biltmore Mayfair is a luxury hotel surrounded by gardens and greenery. Michelin-starred chef, Jason Atherton, has created an exceptional afternoon tea experience, highlighting fresh and heritage produce from across the UK. Afternoon tea is served in the Tea Lounge and offers a range of freshly-brewed teas from the tea trolley, or a celebratory glass of Moët & Chandon Imperial Champagne. Sandwiches include English cucumber with black truffle, as well as crème fraîche and Hereford beef sirloin with horseradish. Scones are served with Cornish-clotted cream and strawberry and raspberry jam. Pastries include a milk chocolate and cherry mousse and a spiced pear and cinnamon macaron. Afternoon tea is served Friday–Sunday from 12:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m.
8. One Aldwych Hotel
One Aldwych, Covent Garden’s independently-owned and run contemporary luxury hotel, has a very unique afternoon tea experience to offer guests. The Charlie and the Chocolate Factory afternoon tea was created in partnership with the Roald Dahl Story Company, and it’s a sensory experience that you most definitely don’t have to be a child to enjoy. Diners can expect a mixture of unusual savory treats like salmon and beetroot macarons, and spinach roly-poly. The sweets are a little more conventional, but equally fantastic. Look out for the blues with desserts like blueberry chocolate tart and scones with snozzberry jam and all the creams. The fizzy-lifting drinks include the swudge chocolate milkshake mixed by waterfall and the Strawberry Juice Water Pistol Punch. It’s the most bizarre afternoon tea you’ll ever experience.
9. Dukes Hotel
Dukes is a five-star boutique hotel in the heart of fashionable St. James’s, London. From the moment you approach the hotel, you can see that everything about it is very British. From the Union flag flying over the door to the doorman in his bowler hat, Dukes tells a story of complete Britishness. So, you know afternoon tea is going to be good here. Afternoon tea at Dukes includes a selection of traditional sandwiches, handmade patisseries, fruit, and plain scones, plus the “cake of the day,” all freshly-baked, in-house, and served in the Drawing Room. Choose from a wide variety of East India Company fine loose-leaf teas and infusions, and toast to true bliss with a glass of fine champagne or even a selection of their world-famous mini martinis.
10. The Goring Hotel
This is an extra special afternoon tea, as The Goring is the only London Hotel with a Royal Warrant from the Queen and an award winning afternoon tea. As the holder of the British Tea Guild Council’s Top London Afternoon Tea Award and the Award of Excellence, The Goring has become renowned for serving one of the capital’s most celebrated afternoon teas. Served in the luxurious, five-star surroundings of The Veranda, the ever changing menu features freshly-baked homemade scones served warm with Devonshire-clotted cream and fruity homemade jam, delicious bakes, fancies, tarts, soft finger sandwiches, and high-quality tea blends. At The Goring, it’s not going to be just any afternoon tea, so as an indulgence, the hotel offers guests the chance to pair the experience with the finest glass of Bollinger champagne.
Pro Tip: 2022 marks the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year and The Goring will be celebrating this remarkable milestone all summer with their afternoon tea. The Goring’s pastry team has come up with a special menu to celebrate this very English tradition. With fabulous cakes and sandwiches, this afternoon tea is one of the tastiest ways to mark the Platinum Jubilee. The Jubilee afternoon tea will be served at The Goring from April–September this year.