In the early nineteenth century it is said that Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford complained of a ‘sinking feeling in the afternoon’, at the time it was common just to eat breakfast and supper, and so she began to snack on sandwiches and little cakes to curb her hunger. On returning to London, Anna started inviting friends over to join her and so the tradition of afternoon tea was formed. Today, the quintessentially English tradition is still as popular as ever and whilst choosing a definitive list is arguably impossible, we’ve rounded up some of our favourites. The only question is: One lump or two?
The Cadogan on Sloane Street are celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Queen’s coronation by including in their afternoon tea, delicious teas from Partridge’s who hold a Royal Warrant as grocers to Her Majesty. But for us, the crowning glory of this afternoon tea has to be the scones. Infused with Earl Grey they are wonderfully light and sweet and the perfect size, they are not the stodgy type which could do some serious damage if thrown. We have rock cakes for that. Being in Chelsea, it is only proper that this tea should include a Chelsea Bun, executive chef Oliver Lesnik has given them a contemporary twist by adding mango and they are definitely worth a try.
The Cadogan, 75 Sloane Street, 020 7235 7141, www.thecadogan.com
Not to do anything by halves, The Dorchester not only serves afternoon tea five times a day, but also offers five afternoon teas to choose from, including the Vintage afternoon tea which includes nostalgic favourites: Victoria Sponge and Lemon Drizzle. Our other favourite has to be the Spaterisserie tea, served in spa, the little treats and smaller cakes, reflect the saying ‘a little of what you love is good for you.’ In fact for the week starting May 20th, there will be six teas to lust over as The Dorchester are offering a Chelsea Flower Show afternoon tea featuring floral inspired cakes. When it comes to choice, The Dorchester is the place to go.
The Dorchester, Park Lane, 020 7629 888, www.thedorchester.com
The English Tea Rooms at Brown’s Hotel serves one of London’s most famous afternoon teas. With a range of 17 teas and a ‘Prestige Seasonal Tea Library’ curated by tea traders, Lalani and Company there are two tea sommeliers on hand to answer any questions. Whilst we love the classic afternoon tea, we are most excited by Tea Tox, the afternoon tea’s healthy counterpart. Featuring Chicory leaves with smoked mackerel and soft boiled quail’s eggs and a flourless chocolate cake, it’s guilty pleasures without the guilty conscience.
Brown’s Hotels, Albemarle Street, 020 7518 4163, www.roccofortehotels.com
Continuously being given the Award of Excellence by the Tea Guild, afternoon tea at Claridge’s is an opulent affair, from the Art Deco interior to the live music. Served in the Foyer and Reading Room guests can enjoy a wide range of regional English teas and Marco Polo Jelly with their raisin and apple scones. Seasonal afternoon teas are another winning feature for The Handbook, and at the end of this month Claridge’s will be offering their Easter afternoon tea which includes Hot Cross Buns. Definitely an Easter treat you can indulge in.
Claridge’s, Brook Street, 020 7107 8850, www.claridges.co.uk
When it first began afternoon tea was popular amongst the most fashionable in society and The Berkeley are keeping this tradition going with their ever so stylish, Prêt-à-Portea afternoon tea. Changed each season to keep up with the latest collections to grace the catwalks, cakes include the Marc Jacobs double breasted chocolate biscuit blazer with show stopping sparkly pink icing and the Manolo Blahnik “Neurotica” pink polk a dot cake pumps with gianduja cream. Combining fashion, cakes and biscuits, what is not to love?
The Berkeley, Wilton Place, 020 7101 8850, www.the-berkeley.co.uk
Perhaps one of the most infamous afternoon teas has to be the Mad Hatter’s Tea in Alice of Wonderland, and now the Sanderson Hotel has recreated this magic with their own version of the Mad Hatter’s Tea, the result of the collaboration with design collective Luna & Curios. It is wonderfully eclectic just like many other English quirks: menus are hidden inside vintage books, napkins are wrapped in riddles, and zebras, birdcages and carousels circle the crockery. If you are looking to escape the madness of London, then ironically the Mad Hatter’s Tea served in the courtyard garden is the perfect place.
Sanderson, 50 Berners Street, 020 7300 1400, www.morganshotelgroup.com
Inspired by and honouring the original Duke of Wellington, the InterContinental London Park Lane, Wellington Afternoon Tea features a menu like none other, they are serious about the finest ingredients and flavours. Influenced by the Duke’s travels, guests can enjoy Spanish monroyo ham, fig and Monte Enebro cheese on potato bread and coconut tart with pistachio confetti. Served in the Wellington Lounge with stunning views of the Wellington Arch, it is no wonder that the InterContinental London Park Lane was awarded the The Tea Guild special Awards of Excellence 2012.
InterContinental London Park Lane, One Hamilton Place, 020 7318 8750, www.wellington-lounge.co.uk
In 1865 the Midland Railway set a competition to design a 150 bed hotel to add glamour and elegance to the soon to be completed St Pancras station. George Gilbert Scott’s decadent, glamorous but rather late entry was inevitably announced the winner, opening in 1873 the hotel was every inch as elegant as the design. The Gilbert Scott restaurant now stands in the former Coffee Room, relative new comers to afternoon tea, they are already winning over the hearts of many, with their simple Champagne afternoon tea served in The Bar. If you are waiting for a train, or can’t wait to discuss the news with your friends who have just stepped off the platform, this has to be the place to enjoy a cup of tea.
The Gilbert Scott, St Pancras, 020 7278 3888, www.thegilbertscott.co.uk