There is no denying the popularity of afternoon tea, that most British of pastimes which typically involves taking tea in the late afternoon. You normally begin with a selection of finger sandwiches, before moving on to scones and then finishing up with an array of sweet treats. Up until recently though, vegans have been unable to join in on all of the fun, because of afternoon tea’s reliance on butter and milk for sweets and cakes, as well as meat and fish fillings for sandwiches.
Times are changing though, and vegan afternoon tea has certainly become popular in the capital. In fact, there are now several cafes,hotels and restaurants in London which serve up vegan alternatives to traditional afternoon tea. It’s a world away from the origins of the tradition, which actually began hundreds of years ago.
Afternoon tea was originally brought to the UK in the year 1840 by Anna Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. At the time, it was fashionable to serve dinner at 8pm, but the Duchess would find herself getting hungry around 4pm. So, she did what any hungry person with a brain would do and began taking afternoon tea to combat her hunger pangs – at the time, her tea tray simply featured a pot of tea, some bread and butter and a cake. As everyone knows, afternoon tea is now a much grander affair and often thought of as something to be enjoyed for a special occasion.
If you follow a vegan diet, but still want to get in on the action, there are plenty of vegan afternoon teas that you can try. Our selection of plant-based afternoon teas ranges from casual cafes to some of London's most upmarket hotels, so if you are looking for the best vegan afternoon tea London has to offer, check out our list below – remember not to scrimp on the vegan clotted cream, either.
Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason
What: Fortnum & Mason has been serving afternoon tea since 1720, but that doesn’t mean it refuses to move with the times. In the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason, which is set apart from the main shopping floor, you can enjoy vegan delights such as passionfruit and avocado mousse, or vanilla cheesecake with raspberry jelly.
Where: 181 Piccadilly, W1A 1ER
Farmacy, Notting Hill
What: Farmacy may be known for its health-conscious menu and Instagram-friendly interiors, but it still allows for a little bit of indulgence via its High Tea. This vegan spread begins with the likes of smoked tofu and truffle sandwiches and spinach and mushroom quiche, followed by CBD chocolate truffles and cinnamon and orange jelly cheesecake.
Where: 74-76 Westbourne Grove, W2 5SH
The Savoy, Covent Garden
What: Afternoon tea is a quintessentially British past time, so it only makes sense that you enjoy it in one of London’s most famous hotels. The Savoy’s vegan afternoon tea kicks off with avocado and sun-dried tomato on multi-grain bread, as well as roasted courgettes and babaganoush on lemon bread. Next up, expect a selection of vegan pastries and sweet treats.
Where: Strand, WC2R 0EU
The Sanderson, Fitzrovia
What: The vegan afternoon tea at The Sanderson is themed around the Mad Hatter’s Tea from the classic novel Alice in Wonderland. The savoury section features cucumber sandwiches and a chia seed wrap filled with bean salad, while sweeter options include a dark chocolate ‘chessboard’ gateau and a Queen of Hearts pecan, chocolate and coconut cookie.
Where: 50 Berners Street, W1T 3NG
Dukes, St James’s
What: The bar at Dukes may be best known for its world-class Martinis, but its Drawing Room is where you’ll find a truly scrumptious vegan afternoon tea. Freshly-baked vegan scones are a highlight, but you’ll begin with finger sandwiches filled with the likes of vegan cheese and fig chutney, as well as mustard and apple coleslaw on beetroot bread.
Where: 35 St. James’s Place, SW1A 1NY
Café Forty One, Paddington
What: Café Forty One may look like your typical French patisserie, but it’s actually an entirely vegan venue. Afternoon tea here begins with a selection of sandwiches (think fillings such as tofu mayonnaise with cress or coronation jackfruit), while the selection of sweet treats available depends on what the patisserie is cooking up that week.
Where: 41-51 Inverness Terrace, W2 3JN
The Ampersand, South Kensington
What: Far from your usual vegan afternoon tea, Ampersand's celebration of all things science (in honour of the neighbouring Science Museum) is full of fun and theatrical elements. Tuck into the likes of a guacamole and vegan cheese sandwich, followed by sweet treats including a chocolate and coconut half-moon cake and a rhubarb and orange jelly ‘petri’ dish.
Where: 10 Harrington Road, SW7 3ER
Cake Boy, Battersea
What: With kitsch theming and plenty of sugary treats to choose from, Cake Boy is an obvious choice for a spot of vegan afternoon tea. The offering includes a glass of Champagne, while food-wise you can expect to feast on the likes of hummus with veggies, followed by sweet treats such as red velvet cake and raspberry macarons.
Where: Unit 2 Kingfisher House, SW18 1TX
Drink, Shop, Do, King’s Cross
What: Available on weekends only, the vegan afternoon tea at Drink, Shop, Do is a simple, but effective affair. You’ll start off with a selection of finger sandwiches (fillings include hummus with carrot and paprika or guacamole with onion and coriander), while sweets are taken care of via vegan cakes and summer fruits served alongside a dollop of vegan cream.
Where: No. 9 Caledonian Road, N1 9DX
Egerton House Hotel, Knightsbridge
What: Egerton House may find itself in a traditional townhouse setting, but it’s not afraid to keep up with modern sensibilities. On the savoury side of things you’ll find grilled vegetables in a baguette and chickpea coronation on granary bread, while sweet-toothed vegans can get their fix via lemon drizzle cake, iced chocolate brownies and a vanilla and coconut sponge.
Where: 17-19 Egerton Terrace, SW3 2BX
What: A casual vegetarian spot, Ethos is big on plant-based dining. Its vegan afternoon tea kicks off with the likes of a broccoli and beetroot muffin and tomato salsa on bruschetta, before moving on to crudités including mixed peppers and heritage carrots. To finish up, you can enjoy freshly-baked vegan scones lashed with helpings of cashew cream.
Where: 48 Eastcastle Street, W1W 8DX
Ham Yard, Soho
What: Afternoon tea is a bit of a speciality at Ham Yard, the smart restaurant which is part of a hotel with the same name. If you fancy coming here for finger sandwiches, scones and sweet treats, don’t be put off by the fact that they appear to only serve a regular afternoon tea – reduced sugar, gluten-free and vegan offerings are all available on request.
Where: One Ham Yard, W1D 7DT
The Rubens at the Palace, Westminster
What: Making the most of its proximity to Buckingham Palace, Rubens is a stickler for tradition and patriotism. It’s not afraid to keep up with the times though, serving a vegan afternoon tea that features the likes of a Gin & Tonic macaron, earl grey and chocolate orange ‘crown jewels' and a specially made Ruben’s chocolate box.
Where: 39 Buckingham Palace Road, SW1W 0PS
By Chloe Covent Garden, Oxford Circus, O2 and Tower Bridge
What: Vegan US import By Chloe has taken London by storm, opening four locations in less than two years – Covent Garden, Oxford Circus, O2, and Tower Bridge. Afternoon tea here starts with the likes of a ‘tuna’ salad sandwich, before moving on to tempting sweet treats including red velvet cupcakes and rainbow star scones with jam and coconut cream.
Where: 34-43 Russell Street, WC2B 5HA; 4-5 Langham Place, W1B 3DG; Unit 9, 1 Peninsula Square, SE10 0DX; 6 Duchess Walk, SE1 2SD
OXO Tower, South Bank
What: Fancy a vegan afternoon tea with views across the Thames? Head to OXO Tower, where you can snack on savouries such as a chestnut and mushroom ‘sausage’ roll and a quinoa bon bon, before indulging in homemade scones topped with jam and vegan cream, plus sweet treats such as cinnamon and plum mousse and pineapple and lemon thyme cake.
Where: Oxo Tower Wharf, Barge House Street, SE1 9PH
The Rosebery Lounge, Knightsbridge
What: Found at The Mandarin Oriental, the chic Rosebery afternoon tea lounge serves a vegan offering that’s sure to get your taste buds racing. Begin with savoury delights such as sautéed mushrooms with pepper and red onion or avocado guacamole, before rounding things off with the likes of a raspberry tart, a banana cookie or mango and coconut pannacotta.
Where: Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, SW1X 7LA
What: If you’ve been feeling a bit sluggish lately, the ‘tea-tox’ afternoon tea at Brown’s might help you out. The all-vegan offering includes savouries to start (think a mushroom and truffle tartlet or a quinoa cracker) followed by desserts free of milk, eggs and butter; tuck into banana and peanut butter loaf cake, dark chocolate mousse or a sticky date and ginger cake.
Where: 33 Albemarle Street, W1S 4BP
InterContinental London Park Lane, Mayfair
What: Let’s face it, afternoon tea always feels like a bit of a special occasion, so you might as well enjoy it in one of London’s sleekest hotels. At the InterContinental London Park Lane you can enjoy a vegan tea that features the usual savouries followed by scones. To finish, you’ll scoff the likes of a coconut rice pudding and raspberry mousse on matcha shortbread.
Where: 1 Hamilton Place, W1J 7QY
The Potion Room at Cutter & Squidge, Soho
What: While the vegan afternoon tea at Cutter & Squidge has no official association with everyone’s favourite boy wizard, it’s an obvious choice for Harry Potter fans. Don your wizard’s cloak and tuck into sandwiches filled with the likes of avocado and roasted vegetables, followed by vegan chocolate cauldron cake and ‘potion’ cocktails.
Where: 20 Brewer Street, W1F 0SJ
If you enjoy eating vegan fare at any time of the day, check out our pick of the best vegan restaurants in London.