The single best afternoon tea in London is a hard thing to define, so we’ve had to make our selection against varying critera. Forgive us for being greedy (it’s in our nature) but the thing is, people are looking for different things when they weigh up the merits of what’s on offer. Are you looking for the best afternoon tea setting or the best afternoon tea scones? Do you like your sandwiches to come in finger form, or do you prefer something a little more robust? You see the conundrum.
We’ve reviewed each entry and included information on their highlights – whether that’s the food, drinks or ambience. And there’s no saying you just have to stick to one, if you're a big afternoon tea fan we think that it is only right that you would begin to work your way through the below and make it your mission to try the entire list.
When it comes to the history of this refined pastime, we have got the lovely Duchess of Bedford to thank for the tradition of afternoon tea, who decided in 1840 that she simply could not last between lunch and dinner without another meal. The Duchess sounds like our kind of woman. Since then, the idea of grazing on sandwiches and scones in the late afternoon has seriously caught on, with nearly everyone agreeing it’s a pretty solid idea. The only controversy that can flare up on the subject of the best afternoon teas comes when we get to the scones. Do you put jam or cream first? People from Devon are passionate that cream should go on their scones first, before being topped with jam; while the crowds in Cornwall insist it’s easier to go with jam first and then top with cream. While we won't wade in on the debate, we know one thing, whichever way the toppings go on a scone they always taste delicious.
SKIP TO THE BEST SECTION FOR YOU
Anyway, enough of the talking. If you are on the hunt for the best afternoon tea in London, you’ve come to the right place. Afternoon tea in London can mean many things, whether that’s your traditional offering, something a little quirkier, or even scones paired with bottomless fizz. Check out our picks of the best afternoon teas in London below, and don’t forget to stick your pinky finger out before taking a sip.
The best traditional afternoon teas in London
Sticking to tradition isn’t always a good thing, but it’s generally acknowledged that in the case of afternoon tea, the traditional ones are the best. Check out some of our favourite traditional afternoon teas below that span spreads at London's top hotels and in some of the capital's most refined lounges. Yes, the prices might be punchy, but you do get a LOT of food at one of the fancy afternoon teas, and if you aren't able to finish all your treats the team will generally box up any leftovers for you to take home for supper. Think of it like two meals in one.
Palm Court at The Langham, Marylebone
What: Claiming to be the spot where afternoon tea was invented over 150 years ago, it's no surprise that The Langham's offering is, without doubt, one the very best in London. Having recently relaunched with an all new menu, courtesy of highly renowned chef Michel Roux Jr, Palm Court's tea combines some classic elements with other more playful reinventions. Wonderfully warm savoury cheese scones are followed by a series of spectacular takes on traditional sandwiches; the highlight being a smoked trout creation topped with horseradish and watercress in caraway bread. However, the real genius of this afternoon tea comes in the form of of the sweet treats, which have all been inspired by classic British biscuits. A stunning tempered custard cream-shaped chocolate comes filled with vanilla cream and wafer, while an Iced Gem is an almond sable with apricot compote and cream. Add to this the impressive selection of teas being served from the trolley, and the live piano music being played in the background, and you'll struggle to find many places quite as pleasant.
Where: 1C Portland Place, W1B 1JA
How much: £62 per person
The Crystal Moon Lounge at Corinthia London, Whitehall
What: The best afternoon teas include little extras, to enliven the typically gentile atmosphere, and The Crystal Moon Lounge at Corinthia offers live music to do just that. Tinkling away in the background a pianist will accompany your afternoon of eating and drinking to create a refined but enjoyable ambiance. Menus change with the seasons, to reflect the very best ingredients, but tried and tested combinations aren’t shunned, with plenty of familiar favourites routinely making their way to the table. Truffle egg mayonnaise is a typical sandwich filling, while you might find a strawberry choux or a French Canele on your top tier.
Where: Whitehall Place, SW1A 2BD
How much: £60 per person or £70 with a glass of Champagne
Rotunda at Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square, City
What: Sitting under the domed ceiling of the Rotunda lounge at the Four Seasons near Tower Bridge, you will be waited on hand and foot. Staff are attentive and gracious, and the space is very much traditional, with its offering being labelled as a heritage afternoon tea. Whatever day of the week you visit, there will be layers of sandwiches, scones and cakes to demolish – as well as a wide selection of teas and Champagnes.
Where: 10 Trinity Square, EC3N 4AJ
How much: £40 per person or £48 with a glass of fizz
The Wolseley, Mayfair
What: The Wolseley is famed for its careful and attentive service, so expect to be treated like a VIP during your afternoon in the restaurant’s care. Alongside the usual afternoon tea offering, The Wolseley also offers a cream tea (£12.75), giving you the option of just having a scone with cream and jam instead of the whole three-tiered affair. If you do go all in, you can expect assorted finger sandwiches, scones and a selection of pastries, as well as a choice of tea.
Where: 160 Piccadilly, W1J 9EB
How much: £29.75 per person
The Petersham, Covent Garden
What: The Petersham was never going to do a half-hearted job of afternoon tea now, was it? If you’re lucky enough to find yourself sitting at one of its tables in the afternoon, you’ll be presented with a hand blown Florentine glass cake stand that showcases all of the delicious things you’re about to tuck into. There’s an emphasis on ingredients, and how they’re sourced. Incorporating the nursery element, Petersham also tops its creations with edible flowers, making it a real Instagram opportunity. Expect a mix of cuisines – from crisp pani puri dough balls to English Earl Grey tea cake. A nice additional touch is that this afternoon tea always has a charity affiliation, so for every diner a donation is made to the chosen cause that month. If closer to you, Petersham Nurseries over in Richmond do a similar serve.
Where: 27-31 King Street, WC2E 8JB
How much: £45 per person or £55 with a glass of Prosecco
TING Restaurant & Lounge, London Bridge
What: To add to the British feel of your afternoon tea experience, how about choosing a spot with a view of nearly the whole of London? TING has just that, and delivers a traditional tea in its stunning setting, on the 35th floor of The Shard. Its Asian main menu is delivered with a British twist, fusing flavours for a deliciously different afternoon tea option. Think sandwiches filled with wasabi, cucumber and cream cheese as well as a traditional scone selection served with a pandan and coconut jam.
Where: 31 St Thomas Street, SE1 9QU
How much: £62 per person or £72 with a glass of Champagne
The Savoy, Thames Foyer, Covent Garden
What: There’s a reason the afternoon tea at The Savoy is world famous – it’s in quite the setting. You’ll be seated under a large glass dome in the hotel’s Thames Foyer, where a pianist will play music as you drink and dine. The menu features a spread of sandwiches, as well as another little savoury option – a fig and goat's cheese tartlet. Scones are served warm, and there are both plain and raisin included, and the cakes are a signature selection of The Savoy pastry teams’ favourites. This isn’t one to miss.
Where: Strand, WC2R 0EU
How much: £65 per person
Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, Mayfair
What: The elegant Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason started off life as an apartment to the Fortnum family themselves, so you know it’s in a prime spot within the Piccadilly department store. Decorated in soft duck egg hues and lit with individual table lamps, this wonderfully traditional spot will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Fortnum & Mason is famous for its homemade still-warm scones, but there will also be finger sandwiches and cakes galore to satisfy both your sweet and savoury tooth.
Where: 181 Piccadilly, W1A 1ER
How much: £60 per person
The Palm Court at The Ritz, Mayfair
What: Possibly the most famous afternoon tea in the world, the offering from Palm Court at The Ritz is nothing short of luxurious. Expect to be serenaded by a live pianist while being surrounded by gilded mirrors, marble pillars and palm trees. During your time dining in the Palm Court you’ll be treated to unlimited cakes, scones and sandwiches – all you have to do is ask if you’d like more. Although we challenge anyone to get through the first serve alone. The cakes change regularly with the seasons but the scones remain consistent – both raisin and plain are included – and the sandwiches are filled with things like tarragon chicken and mayonnaise or egg mayonnaise with chopped shallots and watercress.
Where: 150 Piccadilly, W1J 9BR
How much: £55 per person
The Promenade at The Dorchester, Mayfair
What: Filled with palms and pink marble, The Promenade at The Dorchester is over the top in the very best kind of way. While you feast on your afternoon tea, you’ll be treated to a performance by one of the daily pianists, setting a relaxed tone to the whole affair. The afternoon tea menu changes seasonally but you can expect things like a lemon choux bun or a peach and pistachio slice along with the expected scones and sandwiches.
Where: 53 Park Lane, W1K 1QA
How much: £60 per person of £70 with a glass of Champagne
The Dining Room at The Goring, Westminster
What: When it comes to afternoon tea, The Goring is a bit of a hotel heavyweight, holding multiple awards from The British Tea Guild Council. Your tea will be served to you in the opulence of the five-star Dining Room and you can expect the menu to change with the seasons, to reflect the best ingredients on offer at any one time. You can order a gluten-free afternoon tea in advance, if you wish. Sandwiches are cut into lovely little fingers, scones are served with Devonshire clotted cream, and there will also be a whole host of cakes, bakes, fancies and tarts on offer.
Where: The Goring, SW1W 0JW
How much: £50 per person or £62 including a glass of Champagne
OXO Tower, South Bank
What: The OXO Tower Restaurant delivers that quintessential afternoon tea offering along with stunning views of St Paul’s and the Thames, quite the combo. Alongside your typical sandwiches OXO also offer savoury bites that include morsels like a a chilled cucumber soup and a chorizo madeleine with quince aioli. These are served with a selection of cakes and scones, as you'd expect, as well as offering some seriously good views of London.
Where: Barge House Street, SE1 9PH
How much: £35 per person or £45 with a glass of Champagne included
The Foyer & Reading Room at Claridge’s, Mayfair
What: Bedecked in that quintessential Claridge’s blue, the Foyer & Reading Room at this top London hotel helps you feel like you’re somewhere sophisticated from the moment you step through its doors. It’s here that afternoon tea is served, in all its pomp and ceremony. As you might expect there is silver, there is fine English china, and there will be a pile of edible delights. You can expect to tuck into the usual sandwich selection - including cucumber, egg mayonnaise, and ham – as well as fruit and plain scones, and a selection of pastries, cakes and biscuits.
Where: 55 Brook Street, W1K 4HR
How much: £75 per person, or £85 with a glass of Champagne
Jean-Georges at The Connaught, Mayfair
What: Right in the heart of Mayfair, this high-end hotel is a fitting backdrop to the very loveliest of celebrations. Stepping things up a little from the usual fare, Jean-Georges at The Connaught offers an amuse-bouche before your sandwiches (which come with fillings like tandoori turkey or homemade salt beef), which are then followed by a plate of pretty desserts and a final flurry of scones. And just when you think it’s all over, your waiter will spin you a parting gift of candy floss to take with you on your way, a real delight if you have little ones with you.
Where: Carlos Place, W1K 2AL
How much: £55 per person or £65 with a glass of Champagne
Boozy afternoon tea London
If you want something a little stronger than tea to accompany your afternoon delight, why not try out a boozy afternoon tea instead? Whether it’s cocktails, gin or fizz, our pick of boozy afternoon teas should have something for you. Many offer bottomless cocktails or fizz - similar to a bottomless brunch deal - while others give you the choice of a set number of drinks to enjoy alongside your afternoon tea.
Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour, Covent Garden
What: Aptly named Tipsy Tea, the afternoon tea at Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour is a celebration of all things Victoriana and comes with the option to make your meal 'bottomless'. You’ll drink gin-based cocktails served in cutesy teapots, while tucking into a selection of sweet and savoury goods that’s a little different to your usual afternoon tea fare. Delicate finger sandwiches are swapped out for large varieties, stuffed with the likes of chicken and roast vegetables, while the sweets might see double chocolate brownies or buttermilk fruit scones topped with lemon curd.
Where: 1 New Row, WC2N 4EA
How much: £44 per person
The Lounge at The Cavendish, St James’s
What: Want to spice up your afternoon tea? Head to The Lounge at The Cavendish hotel where you can enjoy 90 minutes of free-flowing Prosecco or Champagne alongside a range of sweet and savoury delights. You’ll begin with a selection of freshly-made sandwiches, before moving on to scones slathered with clotted cream and preserves. To round things off, tuck into an assortment of miniature cakes and pastries, while toasting with your glass (or glasses) of fizz.
Where: 81 Jermyn Street, SW1Y6JF
How much: From £45 per person
Lyaness, South Bank
What: Lyaness serves an exquisite Spirited Tea that brings together cocktails and teatime treats, pairing each course with a drink. You'll start with the likes of fragrant roast chicken which is slathered in creamy tarragon mayonnaise. From the sweet side of things, the caramelised banana and chocolate eclair takes you back to your childhood with banoffee undertones and a hint of salt to counteract the sweet inside, while drinks include the refreshingly sweet Rock Melon Gimlet and the rum-based Rosebud which is matched with flavours of galangal and ginger.
Where: 20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD
How much: £55 per person, including paired cocktails
Zetter Townhouse, Clerkenwell
What: Served between 12-5pm, the afternoon tea at Zetter Townhouse is an all-day affair that celebrates tried and tested favourite combos – smoked salmon, creme fraiche and dill sandwiches, an apricot Bakewell tart, a truffle Scotch egg… We could go on, but we’re getting hungry. While it may all seem very traditional (and to some extent it is), Zetter’s offering differs in that you can pair your meal with tea-infused cocktails… chin, chin.
Where: 49-50 St John's Square, EC1V 4JJ
How much: £49.50 per person
What: As with a few of the restaurants in our best afternoon tea roundup, Hush’s offering changes with the season. A typical example would be its Gin afternoon tea which sees gin cocktails served alongside your tea stand. Scones here are warmed, as they always should be, and served with preserves like gooseberry, blackberry and rhubarb jam, for something a little different. Sandwiches are a mix of sourdough, soft white and rye bread – making sure there’s something for everyone – and sweets usually include a fun play on tried and tested favourites. Passion fruit Jaffa Cake, anyone?
Where: 8 Lancashire Court, W1S 1EY
How much: £45 per person
St Ermin’s Tea Lounge, St James’s
What: If you have something to celebrate, it only makes sense to pimp up your afternoon tea with 90 minutes of free-flowing Prosecco. You can do just that at St Ermin’s Tea Lounge, while tucking into freshly-baked scones served with clotted cream and a selection of jams, as well as other sweet treats such as a pear and chamomile macaron, apple mousse with vanilla biscuit and cinnamon, and key lime pie. Gluten-free and vegetarian afternoon teas are also available here.
Where: St. Ermin's Hotel, SW1H 0QW
How much: £49 per person
116 The Athenaeum, Mayfair
What: 116 at The Athenaeum bills its afternoon tea as ‘fit for royalty’. While we can’t promise you’ll bump into The Queen scoffing miniature cakes, we can guarantee that you’ll get to enjoy a whole host of afternoon tea treats. The selection of sandwiches to start include classic fillings such as egg mayo with garden herbs, while homemade sweets see the likes of a strawberries and cream roulade and a fruity macaron. You can also add 90 minutes of free-flowing Prosecco for just £15 extra.
Where: 116 Piccadilly, W1J 7BJ
How much: £39 per person
Quirky afternoon tea London
If you’ve had your fill of classic afternoon teas and want to try something a little different, there’s a quirky afternoon tea in London for you. Check out some of the weird and wonderful options to try below. From themed teas through to fully immersive experiences, we can't get enough of a quirky afternoon tea. If you want to go all in, don't miss the Harry Potter afternoon tea which run both across the UK in London each week.
The Collins Room at The Berkeley, Belgravia
What: With an ever-changing schedule of themed afternoon teas, you never know what to expect from The Berkeley. A recent popular invention has been the Christian Dior-inspired spread. The pastry team at The Berkeley recreated renowned Dior pieces as sweet treats – from a Bar Jacket made from a chocolate biscuit to the Junon gown sculpted from jelly. In addition to the carefully crafted sweets guests are served savoury skewers, taster spoons, canapes and sandwiches.
Where: Wilton Place, SW1X 7RL
How much: £64 per person
Mirror Room at Rosewood London, Holborn
What: Rosewood London isn’t known for doing things by halves, and the afternoon tea it offers certainly goes all the way to impress. With an ever-changing menu that reflects the seasons, you can expect your afternoon tea treats to be themed to within an inch of their life. The latest tea is inspired by the exhibition at the Tate Modern - ‘Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms’ and includes intricately designed cakes that celebrate Japanese flavours.
Where: 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN
How much: £65 per person
Sketch: The Gallery, Mayfair
What: The quirky setting for afternoon tea at Sketch is nearly more renowned than the tea itself. The interiors are all pink, with velvet banquette seating and soft frosted glass globe lighting that will make you feel like you’re on the set of a Wes Anderson film. Once you’ve had enough of drinking in the scene before you, you can get started on the eating part. Assorted finger sandwiches have fillings like coronation chicken and salmon with cream cheese and there are alternative savouries too, like foi gras tartlets – this is a spot for embracing pure indulgence. Little cakes are included along with scones, and a homemade traditional Victoria sponge served from a trolley to your table, for a touch of theatre.
Where: 9 Conduit Street, W1S 2XG
How much: £59 per person
Aqua Shard, London Bridge
What: A charming afternoon tea experience inspired by everyone’s favourite childhood tale, Peter Pan. Served in the swanky surrounds of Aqua Shard – a dizzying 31 floors up – the menu includes an array of creative savouries, such as mysteriously named baked pigs and a musroom chimney, as well as freshly-baked scones with homemade jam and clotted cream, and a selection of cakes and pastries.
Where: 31 St. Thomas Street, SE1 9RY
How much: £52 per person
Brunello at Baglioni Hotel, Knightsbridge
What: If you’ve tried and tested all the classic afternoon tea types, then how about switching things up with an Italian slant? Afternoon tea at Brunello includes delicious savouries like brioche with mortadella and pistachio and white bread with capricciosa salad. The sweets have been given a similar treatment, with delicious fresh Italian twists. We particularly love the Sicilian cannolo filled with ricotta and orange. Set in a Kensington dining room, you’ll be able to see Hyde Park stretched before you while you tuck into tea.
Where: 60 Hyde Park Gate, SW7 5BB
How much: £42 per person, including a glass of Prosecco
Ginza St James’s
What: For something a bit different to the usual offering Ginza St James's has put a Japanese twist on afternoon tea. Instead of finger sandwiches you’ll find sushi, while the tea on offer comes from renowned Japanese tea house Tsujiri. There’s a slant towards more savoury fare on Ginza’s menu but there are a couple of sweets too. Soy bean blancmange with black sugar syrup is rich and sweet while the chocolate gateau with mocha ice cream and matcha sauce is the perfect finisher. Everything is served on a sculptural wooden stand for added theatre.
Where: 15 Bury Street, SW1Y 6AL
How much: £29 per person or £37 including a cocktail
Prefer your afternoon exploits to be a little more unique? Check out our pick of London’s best themed afternoon teas.