In anticipation of Afternoon Tea Week, which runs from Monday 14th – Friday 18th August, we thought we’d bring you our round-up of the finest afternoon teas in London. But first, for the history – so grab a cup of tea and have a read!
Afternoon Tea Week was established to help secure a tradition that has graced British afternoons since the 1840s. In those days, dinner often wasn’t served until 8pm, and lunch wasn’t a recognised meal, so what was a hungry person to do? Traditionally, afternoon tea consisted of tiny finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, and sweet dainties like cakes and pastries to help lift the spirits, bolster energy, and see you through the rest of the day.
As the name suggests, tea was a central part of this meal, a tradition started by Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford. She often found herself feeling weary or worn down in the middle of the day, and a pot of tea with a snack seemed to be the best way to take care of it. She soon invited friends to join her for walks in the field, and thus the tradition that would become Afternoon Tea began.
This simple afternoon meal soon grew into a recognised social event, especially for those in the upper echelons of the day’s society. Afternoon tea became even more prominent once Queen Victoria herself partook of the tradition. From that moment on, the concept of the ‘‘tea reception’’ was born, with lavish afternoon repasts that could host anywhere from a close collection of friends to a couple hundred of society’s most important faces.
To continue the tradition today, we bring you a selection of the must-visit restaurants serving some of London’s finest afternoon teas:
Fashionable Afternoon Tea at Thomas’s Café At Burberry
This August, enjoy Afternoon Tea Week at the fashionable Thomas’s Café in Burberry’s flagship store at 121 Regent Street. Take a front row seat in the heart of London while enjoying a quintessentially British afternoon. Afternoon Tea includes a complimentary glass of Nyetimber rosé, an assortment of finger sandwiches, tea cakes, and miniature British favourite finger cakes, including Victoria sandwich and lemon drizzle, served alongside Thomas’s signature pale orange fondant fancy and apple crumble choux bun. Dine in style while watching the fashion world’s finest come and go.
For reservations, contact Thomas’s Café At Burberry on +44 (0)20 3159 1410, or book via OpenTable at www.opentable.co.uk/thomass.
Japanese Afternoon Tea at Sosharu
For an indulgence that will transport you to the Far East, head to Sosharu for their Japanese-inspired afternoon tea. Centred around the tea ceremony traditions of Japan, the menu features iconic wagashi (confectionary) of the sweet and savoury variety, alongside unique tea blends and specially designed cocktails. The menu replaces traditional British fare with Japanese treats ranging from open tamaki to matcha iced fingers and Taiyaki, a fish-shaped cake filled with white chocolate crème patisserie and seasonal fruits.
Available at Sosharu Friday or Saturday, from 12pm-4pm. Visit www.sosharulondon.com for more information.
Nordic Afternoon Tea at Aquavit London
Nordic Afternoon Tea at Aquavit London offers guests a wonderful array of traditional Nordic delicacies, all served in the stylish new restaurant in St James’s Market. Featuring both sweet treats and savoury delights, the Nordic dishes for which the restaurant is renowned are perfectly combined with the quintessentially British tradition of afternoon tea. To start, an assortment of Danish open sandwiches, called smørrebrød, featuring classic Nordic flavours such as Gravlax, Shrimp Skagen and Beef tartare, are presented in a contemporary style on the restaurant’s distinctive house-made rye bread. The culinary journey continues with a selection of traditional Swedish cakes and tarts from the Fika trolley, as well as a Punsch-roll. There are three afternoon tea packages available, with the Fika Afternoon Tea allowing guests to enjoy the savouries and sweets alongside Swedish coffees from Johan & Nyström and teas from Hoogly (a British brand with Danish roots), while the Champagne Afternoon Tea also includes a glass of Ruinart Brut Champagne. For a touch of luxury, the Aquavit Afternoon Tea has been developed in collaboration with the iconic Danish design company Georg Jensen, and is served in an award-winning tea service from designer Henning Koppel. It also includes a glass of Dom Pérignon, and is served with additional freshly baked cinnamon and cardamom buns.
For more information, visit www.aquavitrestaurants.com/london.
Summer Afternoon Tea at The Conrad London St James
Summer Afternoon Tea at The Conrad London St James is bursting with colours and flavours that celebrate the warmer months of the year. Created by Executive Pastry Chef Diana Sedlakova, who has elegantly blended the tradition of a classic afternoon tea with contemporary flavours and techniques, the tea is served in the stylish Emmeline’s Lounge, named after the 19th century British political activist Emmeline Pankhurst. There is an extensive range of teas from Harney & Sons available, with tea sommeliers on hand to ensure a personalised experience, and for a little extra luxury, guests can enjoy free-flowing champagne during both weekday and weekend services. The menu starts with a selection of savouries including a prawn and crab Bloody Mary or pea and mint pannacotta, as well as sandwiches such as coronation chicken on caraway bread and pickled cucumber with lemon and mint cream cheese on beetroot bread. To follow, there are sweets including a raspberry and pistachio choux bun; strawberry and cream pearl, as well as fresh scones, clotted cream, strawberry jam and zesty lemon curd. On Saturdays, afternoon tea is accompanied by live jazz – the perfect addition to this quintessentially British treat.
For more information, visit the website here.
Traditional Afternoon Tea at The Game Bird
The Game Bird recently launched at The Stafford London Hotel under the helm of Executive Chef James Durrant, and the restaurant has already become renowned for serving wonderful British comfort food dishes with innovative, modern touches. Alongside the à la carte menu, The Game Bird also serves a traditional Afternoon Tea, available in the relaxed restaurant and drawing rooms, as well as the beautiful secluded terrace. The menu includes four bespoke signature blends of tea including the Queen’s Stafford Blend, and the aptly named The Game Bird, to be enjoyed alongside a selection of finger sandwiches, homemade scones with seasonal jams and Cornish clotted cream, and freshly-baked patisserie. The option to add a glass of Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut Champagne is also available, or a bespoke Tea With The Queen cocktail, made with Prosecco, thyme and raspberry syrup, brandy snap and mango sorbet.
For more information, visit www.thestaffordlondon.com/the-game-bird.
High-class Afternoon Fizz at Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square
The Four Seasons Hotel at Ten Trinity Square opened earlier this year, making its afternoon tea offering one of the freshest in London. Beneath the Rotunda Lounge’s grand domed ceiling, the menu is served from Fridays to Sundays. The Ten Trinity Heritage Tea offers a classic spread of finger sandwiches, French pastries, homemade scones, seasonal jams and Devonshire clotted cream, with an optional glass of Delamotte Brut Champagne. Alternatively, The Royal Afternoon Tea adds a sumptuous glass of Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires Champagne and a slice of the freshly baked cake of the day. Tea lovers are spoilt for choice, with a globe-spanning range including leaves from Cornwall, Malawi, China and South Africa.
For more information, visit the website here.