Someone, somewhere in the universe has designated this week national afternoon tea week (only the best week ever to reminisce about afternoons of luxury and who needs more excuse to book a few more?)
It has almost become a blogger cliche, inviting the girls to a few hours of decorous luxury, but one that I rather adore. As I’m getting on in years (feel free to feel sorry for me…) I’ve swiftly come to the conclusion that I’d rather don a pretty dress to spend a little more on sandwiches and scones, than prop up a pub bar and feel very sorry for myself the next day.
Running this list in 2014 and 2015 in honour of National Afternoon Tea Week (but not 2016 as I needed a break from the pinky raising), and as I’m – surprisingly – often asked for recommendations (thank goodness my reputation is for afternoon tea and nothing more scurrilous) it seemed that another top list was in order. I find the hardest aspect of recommending a tea is that everyone wants something different; some people want opulent luxury, some prefer quirky surrounds, some fancy value for money. #bloggerproblems
Having visited a few over the years, it does hone ones expectations of pinky-raising, and with the London market awash in silver tea trays and teapots it means there is an afternoon tea for literally everyone – from dainty on-the-hoof treats to quintessential extravanganzas you need to book 3 months in advance. (Nb: All prices are sans Champagne & service, all links are to my own reviews and any that were comped are indicated with a * in the title – as ever I review as if I had paid for them.)
The less than £25 afternoon tea bracket
The Modern Pantry (gf)
Still an absolute favourite, we were presented with a misleadingly dainty tea tier we marvelled at the selection offered to tempt our tastebuds. No limp cucumber or plain egg sandwiches dare show their faces in this temple to modern flavour. Each mouthful was a moment of pure travel. Exotic delections such as a Lotus root crisp with piled with Persian spiced sweet potato & hijiku, and a quail egg, miso and wasabi cream cheese macadamia dukka open sandwich teased our studied sensibilities… I need to go back asap.
The Wallace Collection afternoon tea.*
For the price, this is a good tea – but could be a little more refined. But I have a deep question – is it just me, or do you simultaneously feel like Peter Pan never wanting to grow up or begin adulting and like a little old lady who frequents art galleries in puzzled wonderment before returning home to her cat? Whilst many people live for tipsy evenings at throbbing nightclubs, I’m really never happier than quietly strolling through hallways lined with majestic artifacts and historical portraiture that tells tales of another time (finishing with a glass of something cheeky obvs.). No? Just me?
The £25-£40 afternoon tea bracket
Mad Hatters Tea (available gf)
The experience felt a little down the rabbit hole compared to many we’ve been to before, but in such a good way. Right from the word go we were presented with a tray of perfumed vials instead of a tradition tea list and encouraged to smell our way to a selection…
Afternoon Tea at the Baglioni Hotel, a chic corner of Kensington*
There is no delicate pinky waving of gossamer pastries or wafer-thin slivers of sandwiches that leave your appetite wanting at the Italian style Baglioni Hotel afternoon tea, but a delectable selection of molto beneclassics that sets this apart as the Maserati of Kensington teas.
(I had loved the Kensington Palace Orangery afternoon tea, but we re-visited a few months ago and it really disappointed us by missing the level of detail and flavour that we had previously loved.)
The opulently £40+ afternoon tea bracket
The Grandame of London afternoon tea, Claridges (available gf)
Setting the bar very, very high for every single tea I’ve ever enjoyed, Claridge’s is simply the epitome of luxurious afternoon tea in London. Every aspect is presented with a grace and style that many hotels attempt to emulate but don’t quite achieve – the mark of 150 years of practice…
Sketch (Not, er, yet blogged)
Ahhh, the infamously insane design doyenne of London afternoon teas, with possibly the most famous bathroom in all of tea history. I was thoroughly skeptical of visiting due to many mixed reviews, but with our late afternoon slot we were treated wonderfully…
The best of the quirky afternoon teas
Egerton Hotel: A pawfectly luxurious doggie afternoon tea.
The hotel is a 28-room oasis of opulence in the heart of Kensington. Pups and their owners gather here both on the weekend (and to stay obviously) to while away a few hours of indulgence. After ordering our tea and clinking our glasses, out came our stands, one for the ladies and one for our gentlepup.
The Genie’s Cave Afternoon Tea at Cutter and Squidge*
We just loved this tea – in the centre of London, quirky, fun and full of fantastic touches. Oh, and the reason that I was able to use the phrase “Unbelievable cakes, indescribable feelings / Soaring savouries, freewheeling / Under an endless diamond sky.”
Combining two of my favourite meals, the Brunch B’N T Afternoon Tea at Le Meridien.*
This tea feels like the Seraphim level of afternoon teas – having progressed through the ranks of tea tasting hierarchies – it is fit for true connoisseurs who are in search of something a little avaunt guard.
Instagram favourite – has to go to Dalloway Terrace.*
We gathered amidst green boughs, tinkling teacups and marbled table tops. On the table champagne flutes sparkled, delicately dove grey striped crockery nestled arranged just so and green blooms drew the eye to the space left for our afternoon tea towers to occupy.
There we have it. Two years of afternoon teas, and oddly enough a few of them were invites. There are so many good ones that didn’t quite make the list but competition was rather fierce – and a fair few cream teas that were definitely up there in quality (including one at Harrods, a secret one and one in the lounge of a good friend – but I’m not sure she’d appreciate me sending strangers to her house.)
Ahhhhh, afternoon tea!
What are your favourites? I need a few new ones to try!