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What better way to spend a day in London than to take a luxurious and dainty afternoon tea in a quintessentially English location? From tea sommeliers and finger sandwiches to cream horns and baby-pink fondant fancies, here’s Square Meal’s guide to the best cream teas in the capital.
Affirming its true Brit credentials, this Soho restaurant does a mean afternoon tea. Buy finger sandwiches, cakes such as Black Forest gateau, and even finger-licking buttered crumpets, separately, or go the whole hog with a Townhouse Tea.
So popular is the afternoon tea at this upmarket hotel that there are five sittings a day, served at set times. Despite its tradition (the scone recipe has remained unchanged for more than 50 years), the hotel has fun with its teas: they’re themed during special events, such as Wimbledon. Look out for The Spatisserie for extra indulgence.
Perched on the top floor of London’s foremost food and luxury goods emporium, the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon is far removed from the bustling consumerism below. Tinkling piano renditions of show tunes set the tone for a sedate afternoon of self-indulgence, held in a light-filled, spacious room decked out in the store’s trademark eau-de-Nil.
These seasonal afternoon teas (served with fresh strawberries in summer, or taken by a roaring fire in winter) combine traditional sandwiches and scones with dainty desserts, such as rhubarb pannacotta, white-chocolate cheesecake, and plum-and-almond jalousie.
The Lanesborough, in Knightsbridge, is as luxurious as they come, and the Apsley’s afternoon tea does the hotel proud. The pastries and sandwiches are delicious, but tea is the focus here: they’re bought at auction and served by England's first tea sommelier in samovars (traditional Russian metal urns).
Take a seat in the art-deco conservatory of this elegant hotel and indulge in its award-winning afternoon tea. Tiny individual glazed fruit tarts, ganache-topped chocolate cakes, and picture-perfect macaroons, all served on artfully spiralled cake stands, make this an enticing destination.
Beloved of tourists and refined older ladies, this is afternoon tea for purists. Relax in the sumptuous setting and enjoy charming service, crustless sandwiches and miniature cakes, as you let the tinkling piano in the background take you back to England’s glory days.
Small but perfectly formed, the Sitting Room at the Capital Hotel offers all the allure of a grand afternoon tea, only on a more intimate scale. Tuck into luxuriously filled mini sandwiches, warm scones with clotted cream, and bite-sized sugar hits such as saffron-custard tart and 'sunken' chocolate cake.
The chintz and eclecticism of The Parlour at Sketch are a designer’s delight. Kick back in one of the various antique armchairs or stools and treat yourself to individually wrapped mini sandwiches, rich scones with thick clotted cream and zingy lemongrass macaroons, as well as tea served in mix-and-match vintage cups.
The Wolseley never fails to impress, and its ambrosial three-tier afternoon tea is no exception. Enjoy homemade scones and pastries, divine Earl Grey tea, or the house blend – decaffeinated tea is also available for those who are only there for the sugar rush.