We’re just gonna put it out there: scones, jam and clotted cream are among the best micro-luxuries available on Planet Earth right now. You feel us, right? If you’re lucky enough to be in London and you’re in search of a spot for luxury afternoon tea with friends (or on your own), the hardest part is going to be choosing where to go. Our correspondents Jillian Tangen and Meredith Lepore have collaborated on a list of some of the best most luxurious places for afternoon high tea in London, including Brown’s, Sketch Gallery, Claridge’s, the Goring and more.
what are the best luxury places for afternoon high tea in London right now?
the origin of traditional afternoon tea
Why is afternoon tea such a fundamental national tradition for the British? Well, tea drinking was all the rage in England by the 1660’s, thanks to King Charles II and his wife Catherine de Braganza.
However, it wasn’t until 1840 when tea time became it’s own actual segment of the day. Lamp lighting had just come about, which meant dinner could be pushed to a later tine. And Anna Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, just couldn’t wait until then. Like the rest of us, she got hungry! So she started to have an afternoon snack around 4 PM of tea, bread and butter, and cake. And eventually she added some friends to the mix. Hence, tea time was born.[white_box]
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As time went on, and tea became an even more important event, “society women” would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for it.
Today, afternoon tea in London enjoys celebratory status. In addition to tea and a few treats, today you will find flutes of champagne, delectable finger sandwiches, fluffy scones and pretty pastries. A spread beyond the Duchess of Bedford’s wildest imagination.
Afternoon tea is now served at some of the most beautiful hotels in the world.
Some of these venues host traditional tea with classics like cucumber sandwiches. But others have put a modern spin on it.
With Wimbledon underway right now, it’s the perfect time to make plans for tea. Check out some of the best luxury spots for afternoon tea in London.
16 best places for luxury afternoon high tea in London right now
From royal favorites to innovative, fashion-forward creations, here are some of the most luxurious places to enjoy afternoon high tea in London.
When it opened in 1911, Harrods Tea Room was initially called The Georgian since it was also the year of King George V’s coronation. Since then, the experience has evolved somewhat. In addition to being an iconic luxury shopping destination, Harrods 4th floor tea room is one of the most sought-after afternoon tea experiences in London, offering a true English tea experience.
Enjoy no less than eight pages of teas to choose from together with dainty and delicate crustless sandwiches including the infamous ‘King George’ salt beef. From the pastry selection, the coconut purple daisy and golden egg pastries are as equally pretty and indulgent as they sound.
Yes, the Dalloway Terrace is named after the character created by Viriginia Woolf. So you know you are going to get some rich history along with this tea experience.
It has a delicious menu by Head Pastry Chec, Chris Dodd, and is located in the gorgeous Bloomsbury Hotel.[white_box]
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3. the rosewood
Following its afternoon tea menus paying tribute to the likes of Picasso, Van Gogh, Rodin and Kusama, the latest art infused collection at The Rosewood was inspired by surrealist painter Salvador Dali. Corresponding with Surrealism Beyond Borders at Tate Modern, this afternoon tea also uses augmented reality to immerse guests into the world of Dali.
Alongside the technical aspect, there’s culinary wizardry, including freshly made finger sandwiches, a savory course and a selection of sweet treats including a Lobster Telephone – a nod to one of Dali’s most famous artworks, made of Valrhona chocolate sponge and passionfruit jelly.
4. the ritz
The Ritz London sets the standard for afternoon tea with not only a grand setting, but a strict dress code to match. Men must wear a jacket and tie, while women should dress smart-casual – no jeans or sneakers allowed.
Served in the golden mirrored Palm Court salon, tea-takers can choose from 18 different tea types and learn as much or as little about them as they wish. The food is as you can expect quite traditional. Sandwiches are fresh, crustless and finger-sized, while for sweets you will find warm scones accompanied by strawberry jam and Cornish clotted cream as well as pastries, chocolate cake and fruit tarts. Be sure to book well in advance.
For the last 150 years, Claridges has been serving afternoon tea to the British elite, and it shows. Served in the hotel’s Art Deco-inspired foyer with music from a pianist and harpist or cellist, enjoy a rich Oolong or refreshingly complex Claridge’s Blend that will compliment your courses.
Enjoy finger sandwiches followed by freshly-baked scones topped with stick-to-your-spoon clotted cream and Marco Polo jam. Finally, there’s delectable cakes – including a signature passion fruit chocolate tart to finish it off. You’re definitely going to want to stroll around Hyde Park after an afternoon of indulging here.
6. fortnum & mason
The tea salon at Fortnum & Mason is a peaceful oasis from the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly. Having sold tea for 3 centuries it should come as no surprise that the menu here features no less than 45 infusions with fantastic names like Jasmine Dragon Pearls, Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe and Hattialli, which takes its name from the Assamese words ‘Hathi Alli’, meaning ‘Elephant Road’. Thankfully knowledgeable ‘Tearistas’ are on hand to help narrow down your choices.
In addition to finger sandwiches, soft, warm scones are served with Somerset clotted cream and jams and the cake carriage is filled with mini chocolate-mousse tarts and melt-in-your-mouth salted-caramel choux pastries.
7. the goring hotel
Located near Buckingham Palace, The Goring is no ordinary hotel. Opened in 1910, it is the only hotel that holds a royal warrant and it’s where the Duchess of Cambridge spent the night before her wedding. There are even rumors of a secret tunnel linking the hotel to Buckingham Palace, so the Queen can slip in unnoticed.
Enjoy an afternoon tea in the hushed, old-school gilded dining room that includes the hotel’s own afternoon blend, a refreshing and subtle mix of Assam and Darjeeling, before navigating your way through some more advanced options like dragon well, organic maojian or an herbal infusion. All pair spectacularly with the freshly-baked scones, lemon cakes and dainty finger sandwiches. For a further dash of extravagance, add a glass of Bollinger special cuvée champagne or Bollinger rosé champagne.
8. the Berkeley
Undoubtedly the chicest tea in town, Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley Hotel serves fashion-themed delicacies, changing the menu every six months to reflect the new season’s trends. Currently on offer? Couture cakes inspired by designers from Lanvin to Gucci.
Highlights include a striking orange Oscar de la Renta gown crafted with apricot bavarois, salted Manuka honey and apricot ganache, topped with a meringue frill. A hero handbag from Michael Kors – whose bags were seen filled with flowers on the catwalk and Gucci’s pink silk tuxedo reimagined in bourbon vanilla mousse and Emmanuel sponge and layered with peach compote and glazed with shimmering pink icing.
In addition to gorgeous sweets, afternoon tea also includes elegant canapés and sandwiches, with a selection of loose-leaf teas from their extensive collection. Be warned though if you are a traditionalist, there are no scones here. While the tea and treats are the real deal, this spot is all about fashion, both in person and on the plate.
9. the savoy
The Savoy is a British institution, so it comes as no surprise that its afternoon tea is suitably traditional. Served in the light filled glass dome of Thames Foyer, guests can enjoy their afternoon respite with the soft sounds of piano wafting through the air.
The menu includes all of the usual treats: coronation chicken sandwiches, buttery scones with clotted cream and trays of luscious cakes and tarts. The real selling point here, though, is the beautiful selection of teas with splendid names like Iron Buddha Oolong and Flowering Osmanthus.
For a true tea experience you need to hit up The Dorchester. Under chef Michael Kwan’s direction you will not be disappointed by the finger sandwiches, pastries and large variety of teas (over 50 different ones.) They also do a special Wimbledon-themed tea when the famous tennis tournament runs from now through early July.
Guests will have an option of finger sandwiches, strawberry jam and clotted cream as well as English sparkling wine. The flower arrangements are also to die for. They were created by inhouse designer florist Philip Hammond, inspired by The Queen’s favorite flowers.
Get your phones ready, because you are going to want snap pics of the tea experience at The Langham. Because this is the O.G.: the birth place of afternoon tea. It opened in 1865 and tea was featured on the menu so they were definitely an early adopter of the concept. A palm court not unlike the one at The Plaza Hotel but with its own gorgeous British spin (and a bit more pink.)
Executive pastry chef Andrew Gravett has created an exquisite menu of pink wafers infused with rhubarb and custard creams with a chocolate shell. This is on top of all your favorite classics including JING teas and English sparkling wine and champagne.[white_box]
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Would it even be tea if we didn’t get the royals involved? The wood-paneled Drawing Room at Brown’s Hotel was a favorite of Queen Victoria’s. So you know this is going to be to the nines!
On those beautiful three-tiered tea trays you will be served crimped sandwiches, dainty pastries, vanilla mille-feuille and the fluffiest of scones full of resh cream and jam. Get ready for some traditional British fare as well such as salt beef and pickled cucumber sandwiches.
Yes, Sketch London has become a bit of a tourist spot. You have surely already seen its super pink and a little bit quirky aesthetic all over Instagram. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a trip, especially if you love the color pink.
Featuring a live string quartet, David Shrigley’s artwork, pink plush soft furnishings and décor, this afternoon tea is one not to be missed. The vibe here is slightly more French than traditional British tea, so don’t be surprised to see more guests sipping champagne alongside their tea.
While the menu features traditional scones, you’ll also find some more French fancies, including caviar with quail’s egg, macarons decorated with rose petals and lots of petits gateaux served from a tea trolley. The British style is represented in the delicious cucumber and coronation chicken sandwiches and eclectic little pastries.
And if you liked tea, head back for a cocktail later at the parlor in the 18th century townhouse. Afternoon tea takes place in the Gallery.
14. theatre royal drury lane
If you, like us, love Bridgerton, then head to Theatre Royal Drury Lane for a Regency-inspired afternoon tea served in the historic theater’s Grand Saloon. It was recently restored to its former glory with sugary pink walls, green marble panels and sparkling chandeliers.
For their afternoon tea, the team have collaborated with East London cake queen Lily Vanilli. Influenced by the location’s history, she has masterfully created a historically-themed spread. On the menu? Mouthwatering sausage rolls, madeleines layered with caviar and lapsang souchong-glazed salmon. Sticky toffee puddings, pink lemonade tarts with elderflower jelly. And a rich chocolate cake finished with intricate piping and a chocolate cherub.
Bloomsbury became one of the most fashionable area in London in the 17th century and located just steps from the British Museum you will need to go to the Montague on the Gardens.
If you loved The Secret Garden (that is the name of the place you actually drink tea as well) and tea, then this is for you. They offer delicious plain and raisin scones, cakes, sandwiches and have a special children’s menu as well.
16. The Afternoon Tea Bus.
Finally, you may decide to do what one of our friends and her daughter did on their last trip to London: take an afternoon to have tea on a double decker bus! There’s nothing like multi-tasking, and this is a way to get refreshments and see the sights all at once.
Several companies offer this experience, and it usually lasts 90 minutes.
The 16 best luxurious places for high tea in London right now
That’s our take on the best places for afternoon luxury high tea in London, including Brown’s, Sketch, Claridge’s, the Goring and more. So many sandwiches, so little time . . . which one is at the top of your list, dear reader?
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For access to insider ideas and information on the world of luxury, sign up for our Dandelion Chandelier Newsletter here. And see luxury in a new light.
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Jillian Tangen is the Head of Research at Dandelion Chandelier and a former Senior Research Analyst at McKinsey & Co and Analyst at Shearman & Sterling. She is an avid fan of Nordic design, having owned an independent lifestyle store and sales agency focused on emerging Scandinavian design. Jillian lives in New York and is married with three young children. She loves cross-country skiing, the New York Rangers, reading, travel and discovering new brands.
Meredith Lepore is a freelance writer, editor, and content strategist. Her work has appeared in Marie Claire Magazine, Women’s Health, InStyle, Architectural Digest, The Observer, and Travel & Leisure. She earned her Masters in journalism from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Meredith resides in New York full time, and enjoys reading, jogging, spinning, and playing with her small dog, Otis.