Food

Best iconic luxury afternoon teas in London

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Megan Murray
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Can anything beat a classic afternoon tea? We think not. Check out our round-up of the most luxurious and iconic afternoon teas in London. 

Afternoon tea is, quite literally, the food of queens. The now quintessentially British tradition is said to have first been inaugurated by Queen Victoria, after one of her ladies in waiting pointed out that the long afternoons could do with a tasty little something to pick up the women of nobility.

It’s a past time that oozes indulgence, created simply as an excuse to scoff and socialise in style. And in our humble opinion, if you’re going to do it, you need to do it right. Enter: our divine collection of the most gorgeously luxurious and iconic afternoon teas in London. 

A delightful way to celebrate a special occasion, or just enjoy feeling like a lady of leisure with your best friend, some of these venues simply must be ticked off your London bucket list. From The Ritz to The Savoy, these are the most iconic and luxurious afternoon teas in London. 

The Ritz

Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without the one, the only, The Ritz Hotel. This iconic venue has frequented some of our favourite films (we’re looking at you, Notting Hill) and acts as an automatic reference for describing luxury, so it’s no surprise the hotel’s afternoon tea is famed for being one of the best in town.

Held in the Palm Court, guests are treated to the usual fare of finger sandwiches, scones and mini-deserts, all of which are served in high-class style and fulfill all of your flavour expectations. And the interior is everything you would hope for. The court’s walls appear to be brocaded with gold, the sumptuous baby pink decor details match the huge displays of pink roses and there’s an actual water fountain, complete with golden statue, bubbling away at the back of the room. 

You can try one of the 18 different types of tea blends with your meal or indulge in a glass of champagne. Personally we suggest doing both, because the Ritz Royal Blend Tea, available only at The Ritz, is not to be missed. 

When: Daily at 11.30am, 1.30pm, 3.30pm, 5.30pm, and 7.30pm
How much: from £57

Make a reservation here

The Savoy 

If you look up the word ‘sophistication’ in the dictionary, we’re pretty sure you’ll spot a picture of The Savoy alongside it. Okay, maybe not literally, but this infamous hotel is known the world over for its class and elegance. 

Indulging in afternoon tea here is a must for anyone looking for a true London experience, and if you’re hoping for off-the-wall opulence, you won’t be disappointed. As you walk into the Thames Foyer, you’re most likely to be struck by the stunning glass dome at the center of the room, which not only floods its surroundings with natural light but acts as a platform for a live pianist to serenade you from the gazebo. 

The afternoon tea is plentiful (being replenished as many times as you wish) and is served with the most attentive service you could imagine. Choose from a range of teas served with finger sandwiches, homemade scones with clotted cream and jam and a mouth-watering selection of seasonal cakes and pastries created by The Savoy’s Executive Pastry Chef, Ludwig Hely. 

When: Monday to Sunday, 1-5.45pm 
How much: from £60

Make a reservation here.

The Dorchester 

Five star hotel, The Dorchester, is undeniably fabulous, with almost 90 years of history banked at its exclusive postcode. After first opening in 1931, much of the hotel’s furnishings have been restored to retain the glamour of the Thirties, a fact which is evident on first entering The Promenade where afternoon tea is served. 

Surrounded by luxury, tradition and delicious cakes, this is the true definition of a day in London spent well. Gorge on tasty sandwiches such as 21 day aged slow-cooked beef and Lincolnshire onion chutney, or oak-smoked salmon with English wasabi. Tickle your taste buds with warm raisin and plain scones from their bakery and finish it all off with a selection of pastries. 

When: Daily at 1pm, 1.30pm, 3.15pm, 3.45pm, 5.30pm, 6pm
How much: from £60

Make a reservation here

The Goring 

The last of London’s family-owned luxury hotels, The Goring has been wowing guests with its prestigious service for over a century and prides itself on being “the original article”. Nestled in Belgravia, it’s the perfect spot for tea after a day of seeing the sights and there’s no doubt that the refreshments will be more than up to scratch. 

The hotel’s themed colour is a rich marigold hue, and the beautiful room where afternoon tea is served is no different. Enjoy the lavish surroundings while you tuck into scones and sandwiches served with the finest blended and first-flush teas from around the world – topped off with a glass of Bollinger champagne, if you so wish.

The hotel claims to have been perfecting the art of afternoon tea since it opened its doors 100 years ago, and clearly its been working seeing as the hotel holds The British Tea Guild Council’s Top London Afternoon Tea Award and The Award of Excellence. Impressive, right?

When: Sunday to Monday, 3-4pm. Saturday, 1-4pm
How much: from £49

Make a reservation here

Claridge’s 

Since opening in 1856, Claridge’s has attracted attention from some of London’s most notable socialites, movie stars and even royalty. The hotel cites itself as an English institution and therefore, of course, takes serving one of the most well-loved English traditions very seriously indeed.

The afternoon tea is prepared and served fresh each day, with a menu that faithfully follows the traditional combination of sweet and savoury. The hotel has chosen to feature ingredients that they deem British specialities, such as poached Scottish salmon, and change their pastries throughout the year to reflect the fruits of the season. 

If you’re celebrating a special occasion (or not), you can raise a glass of Laurent-Perrier Brut or Rosé to give the afternoon some extra sparkle.

When: Daily at 2.45pm, 3pm, 3.15pm, 3.30pm, 4.45pm, 5pm, 5.15pm and 5.30pm
How much: from £60

Make a reservation here

Fortnum and Mason 

Prestigious store Fortnum and Mason has been selling its famous blends of teas for over 300 years, so it’s no surprise that it considers this loose leafed beverage its “greatest love of all”.

There’s a tale behind every detail of the afternoon tea experience; from the scones baked fresh in their thousands every day in Piccadilly, to the Battenberg cake that’s become a staple since it was first served in 1926.

The afternoon tea menu ticks all the traditional boxes, serving finger sandwiches with fillings such as Coronation chicken and Fortnum’s smoked salmon, and warm scones with an array of mouth-watering fillings including lemon curd and a variety of fruit jams.

When: Monday to Saturday, 11.30am - 9.30pm. Sunday, 12noon - 6pm
How much: from £49

Make a reservation here

If you’re a real afternoon tea enthusiast, we dare you to try something a little bit different with your finger sandwiches, and take a gander at our collection of unique and themed afternoon teas in London. From Alice in Wonderland to international fashion runways, these extraordinary teas draw inspiration from the most creative of places. 

Or, if you’ve got a taste for clotted cream but you’re feeling a little strapped for cash, check out these gorgeous but affordable afternoon teas, also based in London. 

Images: Sheri Silver / Courtesy of the venues

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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