One quintessentially English thing to enjoy on a visit to London is the full-service afternoon tea. This is less of meal and more of an experience, where diners are served delicate sandwiches and fancy cakes with pots of tea. Although at first glance the cost of an afternoon tea might seem steep, an afternoon tea is time unlimited and if there’s a particular sandwich or cake that takes your fancy, you’re welcome to request as many more as you can manage.
There are some exceptionally fine places in London to enjoy an afternoon tea, ranging from the expensive and prestigious through to the homely and welcoming.
Tea at the Ritz
One of the most famous afternoon teas in the world is that served at the Ritz Hotel in Piccadilly. Known the world over, the Ritz’s teas are served in the hotel’s spectacular Palm Court and include a selection of 17 different types of loose leaf tea and a selection of freshly cut traditional finger sandwiches.
Tea at the Ritz is a formal affair. Reservations are always needed and gentlemen are required to wear a shirt and tie at all times. At £45 per person, or £57 with a glass of fine champagne, it’s not a cheap way to have tea by any stretch of the imagination. However, with superb service, enormous prestige and a wonderfully fresh and delicious selection of sandwiches, cakes and teas you won’t be disappointed. For a celebration or event, it really can’t be beaten.
Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon
Also in Piccadilly, fans of the afternoon tea will find another fine menu at the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. On the fourth floor of Royal Charter epicureans Fortnum and Mason, the Salon was renovated to co-incide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and re-opened by the Queen and her daughter- and granddaughter-in-law the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge in 2012.
The Royal seal of approval is entirely warranted by the quality of the tea served. The afternoon tea menu is complemented by a full a la carte tea menu stretching to 12 pages and offering a variety of sweet and savoury goodies along with teas, wines and homemade lemonade. At £40 for tea it’s a little less expensive than the Ritz and comes with the cachet of having dined where Her Majesty the Queen has recently taken tea with her family.
The Modern Pantry
An altogether more modest price but no less fine fare is offered at The Modern Pantry on St John’s Square near Farringdon Tube Station offers a delicious selection of home-made sweet and savoury bites to tempt you. Although the setting isn’t as salubrious as the Ritz or as prestigious as Fortnum and Mason, the price tag of £15 for afternoon tea is much more reasonable and allows almost anyone visiting the city to get a feel for this traditional genteel way to spend an afternoon.
With a modern twist on the traditional favourites, green tea scones and triple-decker sandwiches with mouth-watering fillings, you won’t feel short-changed. You’ll also find a range of carefully selected teas from a local supplier to go with your nibbles, which are also made from locally sourced produce wherever possible.
While there are some extremely extravagant and opulent ways to experience afternoon tea in London in fancy surroundings, enjoying the experience doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. If you have a special occasion to celebrate on your trip to the city, choosing one of London’s finest establishments to enjoy your afternoon tea is a great way to mark the day. However, there are plenty of alternatives that allow you to have your cake and eat it.