So much more than just scones: Britain’s afternoon teas with a difference

Posted by
Charlotte Duck

Once the reserve of garden parties and twee church fetes, afternoon tea is getting a makeover. The oh-so-British tradition is being reinvented with a modern twist all over the country - whether it be a Game of Thrones theme, tea inspired by the latest catwalk trends, or Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland

Those with a taste for tea can also now enjoy gluten-free menus, Indian-inspired offerings, or even swap out scones for seafood.

We've selected our favourite alternative takes on the afternoon classic in the gallery below.

  • Game of Thrones Afternoon Tea, Ballygally Castle, Co. Antrim

    A must for any GOT addict, Ballygally Castle is just a few miles from the spectacular Causeway Coast where many scenes for the series were filmed. Underneath the 400-year-old castle’s rustic beams and candlelabra, you can dine on Lannister Egg Rolls, Little Finger Mini Chicken Caesar Wrap and, our personal favourite, Hodor’s Pulled Pork Brioche. For afters, there’s Jon Snow Cakes and Sansa Stark’s Lemon Cakes, which are perfectly complemented with a brew from the Thompson’s Family Teas.

    Price: £22 per person

    Photo: Ballygally Castle

  • Vegan or Gluten-Free Afternoon Tea, Ethos, London

    Afternoon tea is a sociable affair so Ethos has made sure that everyone can partake in it, whatever their dietary requirements. Their vegan and gluten-free menu includes healthy black bean brownies, banana bread and lemon drizzle cake, and you can wash it all down with a cup of Black Sheep coffee, Harrogate fine tea or glass of Prosecco if you fancy some fizz. 

    Price: From £20 per person

    Photo: Ethos


  • Punk Afternoon Tea, The Baltic Social, Liverpool

    Afternoon tea can sometimes be a little too formal and fussy so The Baltic Social has injected it with a dose of punk. There’s not a puff pastry or smoked salmon sandwich in sight; instead munch on a melting-middle cheese burger in a brioche bun or gobble down sage and shallot onion rings and mac and cheese balls. In keeping with the relaxed vibe, there’s an Oreo sponge or bubblegum cake for dessert and the only thing you’ll find in the teapot is a boozy cocktail. Definitely leave any snobbery at the door.

    Price: £19.95 per person

    Photo: The Baltic Social

  • The Mad Hatter's Tea Party, The Sanderson, London

    As the name suggests this afternoon tea takes its inspiration from all things Alice In Wonderland. The crockery is wonderfully fantastical with dainty little glasses labelled 'drink me', teapots decorated with kings and queens, and menus placed neatly in vintage books, but it’s the food that‘s the real highlight. You‘ll dive straight into the rabbit hole with mini sponges decorated with clock faces, marshmallow mushrooms and a red velvet Ladybird Cake. Surely, even the Queen of Hearts would approve.

    Price: From £48 per person 

    Photo: The Sanderson

  • Hendricks G&T Afternoon Tea, The Grand Hotel, York

    If you prefer your afternoon tea with an Irish twist, then this is your place. The Grand Hotel in York has added something a little stronger to the water and swapped out traditional tea leaves in favour of Hendricks Gin and Fever Tree Tonic. You don’t miss out on the scones and cucumber sandwiches, which are presented on an elegant cake-stand, and there’s still the chance to play the hostess, as the tipple comes in a stylish Hendricks china teapot.

    Price: £31.50 per person

    Photo: The Grand Hotel

  • High Chai Afternoon Tea, Cinnamon Soho, London

    Be transported to India for the afternoon courtesy of Cinnamon Soho. Instead of the classic finger sandwiches, you’ll enjoy an onion and mint samosa and scones flavoured with carom seed and fig and prune chutney, rather than clotted cream. A highlight is of course the tea. Try the Indian Masala Chai, which is brewed in-house using ginger and cardamom.

    Price: From £12.50 per person

    Photo: Cinnamon Soho

  • Prêt-à-Portea, The Berkeley, London

    Can’t bag a front row ticket at London Fashion Week? At least you can check out the latest catwalk trends in biscuit form at The Berkeley’s legendary Prêt-à-Portea. Just like the collections, this tea changes each season – you can currently sample Stella McCartney’s striped dress recreated as a green-and-white joconde sponge, Christopher Kane’s assymetric shift dress transfomed into a yuzu and pineapple compote and Prada’s new handbag reimagined as a red velvet chocolate cake.

    Price: From £41 per person 

    Photo: The Berkeley

  • Gentlemen's Afternoon Tea, Laguna Kitchen & Bar, Cardiff

    Despite the name, The Laguna Kitchen are quick to emphasise that their unique interpretation of afternoon tea is intended for ladies, too. Whoever you are, you’ll need a hearty appetite. It starts off easily enough with a chorizo Scotch egg and Bloody Mary mayonnaise but then it’s on to seared Welsh steak, mini Brecon Venison burgers and Welsh beef and horseradish-stuffed Yorkshire pudding. If you can manage actual pudding, there’s chocolate fondant and Rum Baba and raspberries.

    Price: £19.50 

    Photo: Laguna Kitchen & Bar

  • The Gelato Afternoon Tea, Selfridges, London

    A summer afternoon shopping along Oxford Street will leave most people in need of something to cool them down. Our advice is head straight to Selfridges, where you can partake in the UK’s first gelato afternoon tea. Located in the Snowflake Gelato Cafe, weary shoppers can revive with mini macaron gelato sandwiches, sponge sandwiches and gelato cannolos. If you don’t fancy a cuppa, try one of their vegan gelato shakes – flavours include coconut & chocolate, banoffee & brownie and caramel & peanut.

    Price: £15 per person

    Photo: Selfridges

  • Seafood Afternoon Tea, The Grand, Brighton

    The Grand’s Executive Chef Alan White is the mastermind behind this fishy twist on the English tea. There are scones but they're salted and served with creme fraiche, Keta caviar and treacle-cured salmon. Then it’s onto the best of the British seas with oysters, fresh crab, mussels, clams, cockles and pickled shell fish all on fresh rye bread. The accompanying tea has been specially selected for this unusual fare and is infused wth lemon and ginger. 

    Price: From £22.95 per person

    Photo: The Grand Brighton


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Charlotte Duck

Charlotte Duck is a freelance editor and writer. She's written about everything from David Beckham's pants to luxury prams, and interviewed Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley and Lee from Blue. She's a rubbish cook but very good at tidying. 

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