Tea is as British as apple pie is American – it’s just one of those food experiences that everyone associates with the country and culture. Tea was brought to the British Isles in the 17th century, and it quickly became a liquid staple. Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, invented afternoon tea in 1840 when she sought a snack between lunch and – fashionably late, by American standards – dinner. Today, afternoon tea is still offered across the country, and places in the capital vie to be considered among the best afternoon teas in London.
I’ve enjoyed afternoon tea many times while living in and visiting London, including at sketch, The Dorchester, Cutter & Squidge, and The Wolseley. Each experience is unique, and all were delicious – inspiring me to write up a list of the best London afternoon teas. This list is as much to inspire you as to give me a to-do for future London trips too!
If you’d like to try this “afternoon tea thing” while visiting London, look no further. This list is long, yes, but comprehensive. If you aren’t sold on the delectable, indulgent offering from at least one place on this list, maybe tea just isn’t your thing! (Try one of these must-have London foods instead?) In any case, here are the best afternoon teas in London, to inspire you and whet your appetite.
A few notes before diving in: First, all photos are the property of the respective restaurant. Second, be aware that tea can be quite expensive. It usually starts from £20 per person – but can be as much as £100. You may only be able to budget for 1-2 during your London trip.
1. Balthazar London
Having tea at Balthazar London is like having tea at two of the most amazing cities in the world: London and New York. One of the best afternoon teas in London, Balthazar creates a palpable 1920s New York atmosphere, with Art Deco lighting, brown leather, shimmery floor tiles, and buzzing noise.
The food follows the same line. For example, instead of the traditional glass of champagne, you can choose a whiskey cocktail to accompany the sandwiches. The Cookies ‘n’ Cream tart decorated with America’s flag colors also screams NYC. Don’t be shy and ask for a doggy bag. You’ll appreciate it in the morning.
Brown’s is one of the London afternoon teas that has reinvented this indulgent tradition the right way. And signing up for one of their high teas is almost a religious experience. Tea is served at their award-winning English Tea Room; the tea menu alone is so long that it’s been called a library.
Don’t despair, their staff – with the characteristic English politeness – will help you decide which tea suits your taste. During the tea, you’ll also enjoy miniature treats, a selection of sandwiches and desserts, and of course, scones served with clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam. If this doesn’t convince you, Brown’s was a favorite of Queen Victoria.
If you want to feel pampered like the friends that the Duchess of Bedford had over back in the 19th Century, Claridge’s is the place for you. Known for its warm atmosphere, Claridge’s has been serving tea for the last 150 years and has kept its authenticity intact. The elegant backdrop, fine china, and delicate array of sweet and savory delights make Claridge’s a fine idea for a special occasion.
The highlight of this place is the freshly-baked scones served with clotted cream and Marco Polo jam that taste like a piece of heaven. Just like fine wine, Claridge’s afternoon tea only gets better with age.
4. Dean Street Townhouse
Located right in the heart of Soho, Dean Street Townhouse welcomes guests in a laid-back atmosphere that resembles Soho’s lively spirit. Their afternoon tea is served in the lounge, where guests sit on velvet armchairs and listen to murmuring jazz. The dainties include fluffy scones, Burford Brown-egg-and-mayonnaise sandwiches, chocolate Swiss rolls, mini Victoria sponges with strawberries and cream, and many more.
The treats are as delicious as the presentation. The tea – of which there are ten varieties – comes in black-and-white floral-print Burleigh Pottery. Those who indulge in a glass of Collet Brut Champagne enjoy it in a cut-glass coupe.
5. Fortnum & Mason
This iconic Piccadilly department store epitomizes London’s afternoon teas. Founded in 1707, Fortnum & Mason is intrinsically rooted in the British tradition. When they inaugurated the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at the top of its Piccadilly building, the Queen, Duchess of Cornwall, and Duchess of Cambridge all came to open it.
Enjoy your tea on their newly opened outdoor terrace (as of 12 April 2021); it includes a cake carriage with mini chocolate-mousse tarts and salted caramel choux pastries and finger sandwiches. As you enjoy the mouth-watering delicacies, sip one of the teas from their extensive listing of around 45 infusions like Jasmine Dragon Pearls and Hattialli.
6. Harrods Tea Rooms
Among the tea rooms which have stood the test of time is the iconic Harrods. Harrods has been serving afternoon tea since 1896; its new Tea Rooms have now relocated to the ground floor of the department store with a new alfresco dining terrace on Hans Road.
Their spectacular menu features a unique take on the British tradition. This includes diverse finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones, and exquisite seasonally changing fancies. The tea menu offers one of the best selections of globally-sourced teas, from Earl Grey to Hawaiian Black. If you want a truly British afternoon tea, Harrods is one of the best high teas in London to experience that.
7. Lyaness at Sea Containers
Lyaness at Sea Containers is one of the best afternoon teas in London. Although I must warn you, it isn’t for purists. In collaboration with Hoppers (Sri Lankan restaurant), Mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana and Lyaness have put together a bold afternoon tea that nods to Sri Lanka, its flavors, and its people.
Instead of the classic champagne glass, you’ll find the menu offers cocktails infused with Sri Lankan flavors by the mixologist. The food menu features sandwiches, savories, and sweets using bold Sri Lankan flavors and spices. Please note that from August onwards, Lyaness will return to their Spirited Tea menu.
8. Oblix at The Shard
One of the best afternoon teas in London to have a panoramic view of the city is Oblix at The Shard. Perched on the 32nd floor of The Shard, Oblix adds a modern twist to the British tradition. Their delicious menu is designed to use a blend of ingredients sourced from favorite local purveyors found throughout London’s boroughs.
Among the mouthwatering fancies, they have duck egg and truffle mayonnaise, the celeriac-lined ham, and Alexandra cheese sandwiches. On the sweet side, the yuzu and grapefruit posset, pistachio and cherry mirliton, and scones served with fresh honeycomb, seasonal jam, and clotted cream are a feast for the senses.
9. Palm Court at the Kimpton Fitzroy London Hotel
Afternoon teas in Palm Court at the Kimpton Fitzroy London Hotel take a step back from all the pompous atmosphere surrounding the British tradition. Interior designer Tara Bernerd recently helped renovate The Palm Court; it now boasts a cool, airy atmosphere with its mosaic-floored lobby.
The menu by Roger Olsson and Ryan Thompson also steps back from tradition. Finger sandwiches are concocted using Asian ingredients, and the scones come in unexpected flavors like matcha and sesame or Earl Grey. The pastries, conjured up by chef Thibault Marchand, also speak of the hotel’s simplicity, like the beautiful petit fours.
Don’t be fooled by the name: while Roast is chosen by Londoners who want to enjoy a good meat cut, their afternoon teas are equally deserving of praise.
Tucked in the Floral Hall, Roast offers incredible afternoon teas and at a very affordable price. The generous experience starts with a glass of Ambriel Cuvée. Then, you’ll be presented with traditional roast beef, smoked salmon, Coronation chicken, cucumber and cream cheese, and tomato sandwiches. The sweets procession commences with top-tier cakes followed by a Victoria sponge alongside a pudding and lemon-posset.
As for the tea, among the standard Earl Grey, Assam, and mint are some more exotic options such as Pai Mu Tan and Jasmine Pearls.
11. Rosewood London
Housed in a restored Edwardian mansion, Rosewood London has an artistic take on the British tradition. Not long ago, Rosewood London introduced Art Afternoon Teas to their offer. This consists of conjuring up a selection of desserts that feature the artwork of artists exhibited at the Tate Modern.
For example, in May, Executive Pastry Chef Mark Perkins combined unique Japanese flavors with traditional French pastry and patisserie to express Yayoi Kusama’s contemporary works. The delicious and creative afternoon tea is served in the pleasingly elegant and intimate Mirror Room. They also offer a Children’s Afternoon Tea, where little ones can enjoy finger sandwiches and art-inspired pastries.
12. Sexy Fish
Sexy Fish is another afternoon tea that adds a completely new twist to the indulgent tradition. Decorated with ocean-inspired art (white fish hang above the bar, and a crocodile sprawls across a wall beside red booths), Sexy Fish lives up to its name.
The eclectic menu is a perfect fusion of British and Asian flavors, with matcha-tea shots, Champagne, and a selection of teas. Sushi-inspired rolls, Thai-curried chicken, a smoked-salmon bao bun, and toasted miso-tuna brioche round out the savory menu. Sweet delicacies include a Victoria sponge with cream and cherry jam, a coconut-and-mango dome, and a chocolate-and-caramel dulce.
With pink plush scalloped chairs, dusty pink hues on the walls, and humorous illustrations scattered through the wall, sketch not only is one of the best high teas in London but also one of the most Instagrammable ones. Their menu is quintessentially British, serving finger sandwiches, Comté cheese paninis, hot chocolate, and caramel fondants.
A raspberry marshmallow flump tied into a knot and a spiced miniature apple tart in a square flaky pastry case are the two menu highlights. The pistachio choux and citrus and raspberry cake also deserve a special mention. As for the tea, there’s an exotic selection of blends you can choose from with the help of a specialist tea master.
14. The Coral Room
The Coral Room at The Bloomsbury Hotel is a floor-to-ceiling coral room with beveled mirrors, gold-framed illustrations, huge chandeliers, and a marble-topped bar that welcomes those who want an upscale afternoon tea in London.
Here, guests can enjoy unlimited refills of iced coffee, matcha and turmeric lattes, jasmine silvertip, and lemon verbena tea. Following the beverages are savory sandwiches, four vanilla scones with clotted cream and fresh raspberry jam, and miniature treats so elegant you’ll feel bad for eating them. Of course, echoing the opulent style, everything is served with sturdy silverware and gold-rimmed, grey- and white-striped fine china.
15. The Dorchester
Arguably the most traditional afternoon tea in London, The Dorchester‘s afternoon tea is designed more as an experience in itself; this was the first “high” tea I ever enjoyed in London. Charming servers welcome you into a lavish room, with marble-effect pillar towers and quilted-brocade sofas. Throughout the experience, the same gold-star staff makes sure each guest feels like the most important person in the room.
The spectacular menu includes palate-cleansing green tea, sandwiches with fillings such as chicken with ginger, shallots, or poached wild salmon with heritage tomatoes on cut rectangles of white, multigrain, and wholemeal bread. They also serve creative vegetarian delicacies, including truffle tofu with vegan mayonnaise and a salt-crusted golden-beetroot sandwich.
16. The Goring Hotel
If you’re a fan of the Royal Family, The Goring Hotel is where you should book your afternoon tea. The Duchess of Cambridge spent the night before her wedding, and the Queen holds her annual staff Christmas lunch in this hotel. Found on a hidden side street in Belgravia, the Goring Hotel has been a family business since 1910. CEO Jeremy Goring is also the in-house master of tea and has concocted the most decadent selection of blends. (The Goring’s own afternoon blend is a must-try.)
The gem of the Goring Hotel is its private garden out back, where you can enjoy your tea just like the Queen would.
17. The LaLIT
The LaLIT serves one of the best afternoon teas in London with a twist. Their take on the traditional English afternoon tea strikes the perfect balance between Indian luxury and British classics.
High Chai, LaLIT’s afternoon tea, is full of Indian delicacies that replace British ones. Instead of finger sandwiches, you’ll enjoy paneer Kathi rolls, quail’s scotch eggs with black mustard seeds, and samosas. Traditional desserts like gajar halwa (carrot fudge) and boondi laddoo (bumpy sugar-glazed sweets) substitute scones and cakes. As for the tea selection, there are plenty of options ranging from world teas to Indian Masala Chai.
18. The Landmark London
I truly believe there’s no better way to while away on a sunny afternoon than the High Palms High Tea at The Landmark London. They’ve been serving tea for over a century, so it is not a surprise they’ve perfected the art so well. Today, you can experience their quintessentially London afternoon tea in their Victorian Winter Garden atrium.
The whole atmosphere there is just delicious: soft piano music, mouth-watering sandwiches, and delicate pastries, all enjoyed beneath elegant high palms. Of course, the freshly baked scones served with rich Cornish clotted cream and delicious preserves, along with a selection of crafted cakes and pastries, are the highlight of the house.
19. The Lanesborough
The Lanesborough is another place where chefs take the opportunity to add their twist to the British tradition. There, talented London baker Peggy Porschen conjures up the most beautiful and delicious afternoon tea menu. Her signature colorful aesthetic is visible through the pasties and mouth-watering layered cakes and is served on a specially designed cake trolley.
Enjoy tea at The Lanesborough in the majestic Céleste or the elegant Withdrawing Room. These two Lanesborough rooms will make you snap a few pictures for Instagram.
20. The Pelham London
Taking tea at The Pelham London feels like going back to the 1960s. At this white-stone townhouse hotel in South Kensington, tea is served in a nook-like room with wood-paneled walls and a lofty ceiling with an ornate chandelier at its center.
While the scones and savory treats are exquisite, their sandwiches are probably the best in London –the salmon and chive cream cheese fingers and salty ham and mustard on spinach bread are standouts. The tea offering lies on the typical end, but they take a step away from the traditional champagne and offer various cocktails to kick off your afternoon tea.
21. The Potion Room at Cutter & Squidge
Can you enjoy Harry Potter and a cup of tea at the same time? I bet you can! After all, the boy wizard is about as British as can be, and that includes afternoon teas. The Potion Room at Cutter & Squidge hosts wizarding-themed afternoons.
During the experience, you will indulge in delicious sweet and savory delicacies inspired by classic British flavors. As for the drinks, well, you will concoct your own drinkable potions! They also have many afternoon tea packages designed for different ages and catering to many dietary requirements. While this is an extremely popular venue, due to COVID restrictions, it has postponed opening its afternoon teas until further notice.
22. The Ritz
Afternoon teas at The Ritz attract locals and visitors alike. The British institution has been serving afternoon tea since it opened in 1906 – and it sets the bar high. Served in the hotel’s decadent Palm Court salon, the tea menu and food are proudly traditional.
The large menu offers 18 types of the best teas. For insights about each infusion, you can ask the staff, with all members having spent many months in Sri Lanka, tasting and experimenting to bring back the perfect blend. As for the food, sandwiches are fresh, crustless, and finger-sized; the scones are warm and accompanied by strawberry jam and lashings of Cornish clotted cream. The top of the three-tiered stand holds sweets: pastries, chocolate cake, and fruit tarts.
23. The Savoy
Another British institution, The Savoy also serves utterly traditional afternoon teas. Tea is served in the Thames Foyer, and the menu includes the classic English treats: chicken finger sandwiches, moreish raisin scones, and trays of luscious cakes.
But the standout here is the beautiful selection of teas, ranging from the house blend to the splendidly named Iron Buddha Oolong and Flowering Osmanthus. Service is spot-on, with charming servers who attentively cater to guests’ needs without being overbearing.
24. The Wolseley
A crowd favorite set within a modernly-converted car showroom on Piccadilly, The Wolseley is all about traditional afternoon teas. And certainly everything at The Wolseley –from the immaculately presented classic food to the seamless service– is highly protocolar. The delicacies and beverages are served on silver-plated teapots and silver strainers engraved with The Wolseley monogram.
There are four afternoon-tea menus available, including assortments of classic finger sandwiches, delicate pastries, and delightful cakes accompanied by a selection of their most popular teas.
Here is the last one of our best afternoon teas in London list! XU is the newest Taiwanese restaurant from the acclaimed Bar team. Recently, they decided to focus on the ground floor of the restaurant to serve afternoon tea.
At XU, the afternoon tea is given a Taiwanese makeover. Indulge in a single cup of tea or book a full-on traditional tea ceremony all headed up by the in-house tea master who’s also responsible for importing the best varieties from Taipei. The menu includes classic Taiwanese delicacies, ranging from fried peanut mochi to hawthorn berry jelly.
In addition to these famous tea spots in London, there are hundreds of other smaller cafes and places where you can enjoy tea across the city. Share your favorites or any questions about these places in the comments or ask it in my London Travel Tips Facebook group!