London’s Top Five Special Afternoon Tea Experiences
Henry James was absolutely spot on when he wrote, ‘There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.’
Developed in the late 1800s, this quintessentially British ritual has been enjoyed now for centuries. Enjoyed early or late, afternoon tea can be as simple as cup of your finest builders with a biscuit or two, or more hearty with an abundance of scones, finger sandwiches and small sweet puddings.
Many people say tea should always be poured from a teapot into a cup and not from the kettle and we couldn’t agree more. Making an occasion of it is such a lovely way to catch up with friends.
There are now many hotels and restaurants in London who offer their own unique take of the tradition. If you’re wanting to experience something extra special, Pearl & Pear contributor Sophie Clark has been busy eating and drinking her way through the capitals finest and has listed her five favourites so put the kettle on and enjoy. Hurrah!
Designed by British artist David Shrigley, the pink room at Sketch could be the most gloriously sumptuous space in London. There are more than 200 of his illustrations adorning the walls and you genuinely feel with the domed ceiling, like you are sitting within a real life fondant fancy. Spectacular!
The velvet scallop chairs are iconic with the venue making it the most instragamable we’ve seen. You only need to check out the number of check-ins and images of this room spanning the internet to agree with us.
First of all we waited in The Parlour for our table to be prepped. Once ready, our pink suited butler (!) gave a sensory tour of the wide selection of teas available followed by a delivery of three tiers of afternoon tea heaven – more pastries, cakes, sandwiches and scones than you could shake a stick at. The best bit? They’re not shy about refilling all your food when it runs out and top it all off with the most mouthwatering tarts and eclairs to finish.
Pearl & Pear Must: The cheese sandwich because it’s not just any old cheese sandwich. Seeing is believing. You also have to visit the loos. Just don’t get lost on your way out!
Address: 9 Conduit St, London W1S 2XG
Days and times: Midday daily to 4.30pm
Cost: £58pp or £72pp with Champagne
You can sense the history as soon as you walk into Fortnum & Mason. As one of the oldest shops in London and where royalty have shopped for years, this was never not going to be included in this list.
This review probably wouldn’t have the most educational accolade had we not have experienced the private tea tasting. We learnt more about tea than we knew possible! Fun and informative, you are taught how to smell and sip tea properly and given all sorts of weird and wonderful facts along the way.
The knowledgable staff in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon guide you through the endless book of tea choices. There are more on offer here than we even thought humanly possible.
After tea appreciation and choosing what we would like for the duration of our experience, the food is rolled out with the pianist playing away. With savoury and sweet options to delight, everything is unlimited so you can really go for it – which we did. Especially with the scones as they were other worldly. As was the clotted cream that came with them.
Pearl & Pear Must: The private tea tasting experience and to try all petit fours. Your waistline will never regret it.
Address: 181 Piccadilly, W1A 1ER
Days and times: Monday to Saturday 12pm to 7pm; Sunday 12pm to 6pm
Cost: £44 – £48 dependent on choice of tea with an additional £10 for the tea tasting
The Ritz has been serving afternoon tea since its doors opened in 1906 and its as popular today as it was then.
Dress for the occasion as walking into the Palm Court room is like walking into the most wonderful bygone era. You can just imagine the ladies of high society in their long gowns, elaborate hats and satin gloves walking in. Men are also expected to wear a jacket and tie which sets the tone.
The tea includes a selection of finely cut sandwiches, fresh raisin scones and the most exquisitely presented pastries and teacakes you’ve ever seen. As well as 18 different types of loose-leaf tea to choose from.
Served using only the finest silver teapots and china, our waiter was incredibly attentive and only added to the elegance of the whole experience which was just wonderful. We came away only wishing more of our modern day had such Great British pomp to it. Just splendid!
Pearl & Pear Must: Go for the Champagne option because it’s not everyday one is in The Ritz after all!
Address: The Ritz, 150 Piccadilly, W1J 9BR
Days and times: Daily at 11.30am, 1.30pm, 3.30pm, 5.30pm, and 7.30pm
Cost: £54pp (children £30), or £70 for the Champagne afternoon tea. There are offers too such as a complimentary glass of Champagne Monday – Thursday at the 7.30pm sitting. As well as 15% off the Traditional Afternoon Tea Monday – Thursday at 11.30am and 7.30pm sittings
First and foremost, an Afternoon Tea with no scones? We questioned what kind of Afternoon Tea this would be since we heard this is not your standard served with a glass of Champagne. As it turned out, one that pairs different cocktails with some of the most inventive food you’ve ever experienced. The Mondrian Hotel is now serving what it’s calling Wyld Tea from its very cool, laid back Dandelyan bar. Best known for it’s seriously creative drinks by award-winning mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana, we enjoyed an afternoon of sugary, boozy delight.
With views over the Thames, low lighting and snug sofas – we were consequently reluctant to ever leave. Four courses of what can only be described as heavenly treats were served by bartenders that were seriously cool.
A personal favourite was the Bankside Swizzle that was made up with fresh lemon and pineapple flavours. This was closely followed by the Lemon Verbena and Blackberry Battenberg Cake. Then another cake. Then another cake and also another cocktail. The array of desserts (and in addition more cocktails!) did not disappoint. In conclusion, book now.
Pearl & Pear Must: The Platner Cocktail of Pineapple Ketel One Vodka, blue oolong, lemon sherbet, cherry foam and finally coffee. YUM.
Days and times: 12pm – 5pm Sunday – Thursday
Cost: £55; £65 with Champagne; £35 without booze
Ting describes itself as ‘a living room style restaurant on the 35th floor of The Shard where you can soak in a backdrop of unsurpassed, iconic London views while savouring the best of British fare with an enticing Asian twist’ and that, is exactly what you get.
Our waiter warmly welcomed to experience our especially relevant given the view, ‘tea in the clouds’. You have two options at TING, either the English Classic or the South East Asian menu. Both come with three choices of Champagne and more than 30 teas to choose from.
Given where we were, it seemed appropriate to opt for the South East Asian menu which consisted of Gooseberry Tarts, Pink Guava Mousse, Sirloin Rendang Brioche Bun, Crab Tarts and most noteworthy, the unbelievable Mango Rice Paper Rolls. As a result, not just your average cucumber sandwiches here!
They say you can never have too much of a good thing. At Ting, this certainly rings true.
Pearl & Pear Must: The scones at come with the most delicious gooseberry and elderflower jams in addition to the best clotted cream.
Days and times: Daily 12pm to 4pm
Cost: Classic English afternoon tea: £56, or £64 with a glass of champagne; Asian afternoon tea: £56, or £64 with a glass of Champagne. A gluten free Afternoon Tea option is also available with advance notice
Fancy hosting your own Afternoon Tea party? Click here for our Pearl & Pear tips on how to host your own.
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