If you’re visiting London, you absolutely can’t miss afternoon tea, which is basically the most elevated form of snacking, ever. Tea isn’t just drinking tea; it’s a full-on ritual, one that allows for maximum conversation as well as delicious snacks. If you’re looking for the best afternoon tea in London (many of which are surprisingly kid-friendly), I’ve got seven that you just can’t miss!
Most Londoners agree that for the ultimate tea experience, Claridge’s is really the only choice. Claridge’s has long been the hotel of choice for upper crust British society, celebrities and other notable names, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself sipping alongside, oh, Michael Caine, for example (which is what happened to us).
Everything on Claridge’s menu is underscored with extra — some of the teas served are only served at Claridge’s, and only Claridge’s. All of the savory and sweet delights are made in house, and many of the ingredients used are sourced by Claridge’s for the express purpose of serving you the best of the best. Even better is that, despite the fancy environment, a special children’s afternoon tea is served at £30 per child (prices start at £60 for adults depending on whether you’d like champagne). The cucumber sandwiches are the best in town — the cucumber is sliced so thin that it’s practically transparent, and the herb sorrel adds a fresh lightness. Reservations are essential; book here.
Of all the afternoon tea experiences in London, only the Langham gets to claim that it’s the “birthplace” of afternoon tea. Supposedly the Duchess of Bedford, a friend of Queen Victoria, invented the tea to bridge the gap between a light lunch and late dinner. The Palm Court serves its afternoon tea on tiered tea stands that are so large that they actually sit on the floor and reach all the way to a seated diner’s height. It’s impressive, but not nearly as impressive as the savory sandwiches that are served, like a lobster roll with a slice of shaved truffle on top (which is only seasonally available).
As with most high-end afternoon teas, the Langham happily includes children, serving a children’s afternoon tea featuring Hamley’s, a classic toy store located on Regent Street. In addition to kid-friendly treats, the £29 tea includes a signature Hamley’s teddy bear.
#3 on the list of the best afternoon tea in London is at the Ham Yard Hotel, a sleek, modern and funky take on afternoon tea. The hotel is just off a cozy interior courtyard, but upon entering the lobby, your eyes are treated to a colorful mix of playful prints and lush textures mixed in with traditional English touches, like a library with shelves of leather-bound books just off the main entrance. The afternoon tea is true to the Ham Yard’s funky aesthetic, with the tea served on Kit Kemp’s “Mythical Creatures” Wedgewood china. At £22 for your choice of tea and a selection of treats, it’s also a relative bargain. To book a slot, click here.
Opulence is the name of the game in the tea room at Hotel Cafe Royal, a throwback to the days when everything was gilded and shrouded in innuendo. The tea room claims Oscar Wilde as one of its most famous patrons back in the day, making this location certainly one of the most unique on the list of the best afternoon tea in London. You wouldn’t be out of place enjoying this afternoon tea draped in fur and pearls. The spring afternoon tea starts at £45, which includes traditional scones with clotted cream and gorgeously delicate pastries such as a raspberry lychee rose choux bun. Add a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne and a Diptyque Paris candle for £70.
The Cellarium Cafe next to Westminster Abbey isn’t the easiest to find, but it easily wins as one of the most unique, interesting locations in central London to sip an afternoon tea. At just £17.50 per person for a full afternoon tea of sandwiches, scones and sweet delights. The cafe is located in the courtyard adjacent to Westminster Abbey with views of the famous Rose Window from its upstairs sunroom. Afterwards, you can slip through the corridor of the courtyard and take a peek inside the soaring Abbey. The tea far itself isn’t anything particularly special, but the scones are acceptably flaky, the sandwich fillings are generous, and, most importantly, the tea is hot and welcoming on a gray day.
#6 on the list of best afternoon tea in London is the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum and Mason. But don’t let the ranking fool you — this tea experience is easily my personal favorite in London for many reasons. As the gourmet food purveyor for the royal family for centuries (literally), Fortnum & Mason is a food lover’s delight, with 5 floors of food, tableware, and home goods to explore in addition to its many restaurants. For more about this incredible experience, click here to read my previous post. Tea experiences start at £49 for adults, £23 for children.
For a quaint tea experience that’s equal parts lush and cozy, try the afternoon tea at the Milestone Hotel in Kensington. Tea is served around plush chintz sofas and dark cherry wood coffee tables, and the afternoon tea (£59) includes an upscale array of finger sandwiches, including smoked Scottish salmon and cream cheese, free range egg salad with Hampshire watercress, roast ham and English mustard, Mull of Kintyre cheddar and tomato, cucumber and Greek yoghurt and chicken salad with chopped almonds.
For tea-goers with young children, the Milestone goes the extra mile with their decorate-a-cupcake experience. The cupcakes can be eaten on the spot or taken home in an adorable gift box. Your kid will totally vote for the Milestone as the best afternoon tea in London after sporting a chef’s hat and an all-you-can-squirt icing bag.