We love afternoon tea here at SquareMeal and will never miss a chance to get dressed up and oh-so-daintily stuff our faces with sandwiches, scones and pretty patisserie. Sometimes, though, the experience can be a little samey and while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a traditional afternoon tea experience, it’s nice to mix it up from time to time.
Enter: themed afternoon teas. While – for most of them, at least – there might still be sandwiches and scones up for grabs, there are also intricately designed cakes and savouries that centre round all sorts of things – from children’s storybooks through to fried chicken (yep, you read that right). The beauty of experiencing one of London’s best themed afternoon teas is the combination of traditional and modern, which we think sums up the city so perfectly. There might be tiered trays of treats, but there will also be unusual, carefully crafted patisserie or deliciously savoury treats that aren’t just your typical cucumber sandwiches (although no shade to cucumber sarnies, we have all the respect in the world for this British classiqué).
Whatever the event, a themed afternoon tea will give your gathering a sense of occasion. From celebrating a baby shower or hen do through to simply marking the middle of the week, there’s no excuse too big or small that afternoon tea can’t improve frankly. We love using this moment in the day as an excuse to get dressed up and take a couple of hours away from our screens to help us get back to what we do best… eating.
That’s why we’ve hand-picked the best themed afternoon teas in London for you to check out. None are too out-there – we like a change, but we’re still British – but all bring something a little different to the treat-laden table. Pinkies at the ready!
Peter Pan afternoon tea at The Shard, London Bridge
What: Where better to escape reality than up in the clouds with Peter Pan? This special themed tea celebrates J.M Barrie’s much loved characters with Tinkerbell cookies and Hook cakes, as well as sandwiches from The Lost Boys and all kinds of little surprising extras. Even drinks have been given a fairytale spin, with a magic cocktail for the grown ups and a fun, fruity mocktail for the kids, cleverly called Never Grow Up.
Why: Perfect for special celebrations, this would make a gorgeous birthday treat for kids or a great way to escape reality for grown-ups. The added bonus of incredible views across London's skyline makes this an experience to remember.
When: Thursday-Sunday, 12.15-4.15pm
Where: 31 St Thomas Street, SE1 9RY
How much: £52 per person or £68 with a glass of Champagne
Book now: Peter Pan afternoon tea at The Shard
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-inspired afternoon tea at One Aldwych, Covent Garden
What: A tribute to the wonders of Roald Dahl’s magical story, this Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-themed afternoon tea is bursting with pure imagination. Plates piled high with Wonka-worthy cakes, sweets, mousses and scones can be washed down with chocolate or lemon sherbet tea at this alternative afternoon tea experience.
Why: This one’s spot on for special occasions, particularly with children, though there’s no reason you shouldn’t book in for an indulgent afternoon simply for the pleasure of it as a grown-up. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of the tastiest tales ever told, and this afternoon tea is a credit to it.
When: Monday-Saturday, 12-3pm; Sunday, 12-4pm
Where: 1 Aldwych, WC2B 4BZ
How much: £58 per person
Book now: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-inspired afternoon tea at One Aldwych
Chicken wing afternoon tea at Randy’s Wing Bar, Hackney
What: Think afternoon tea is all pomp and circumstance? Think again, as Randy’s Wing Bar in Hackney Wick has created the ultimate afternoon tea for lovers of all things wings. This three-tiered affair is loaded with burgers and dirty fries, followed by an array of chicken wings and a sweet finish of chocolate brownie bites to round things off.
Why: This is the perfect antidote for any of your friends who think afternoon tea is boring, and it certainly will leave you fuller than dainty finger sandwiches. Why not play a little game of wing roulette with your selection (watch out for any spicy sauces!), or pair your tea with a glass of fizz from Randy’s drinks list, so that you still feel at least a little classy.
When: Monday-Saturday, 12-9.30pm; Sunday, 12-8.30pm
Where: 28 East Bay Lane, E15 2GW
How much: £55 for two people
Book now: Chicken wing afternoon tea at Randy’s Wing Bar
Art afternoon tea at Rosewood London, Holborn
What: This is a visual feast of an afternoon tea that is routinely inspired by a current London exhibition. Comprised of typically abstract-looking pastries, each taking their inspiration from different works of art, this afternoon tea is anything but conventional but is certainly a lot of fun.
Why: If you're a fan of art, or simply the abstract more generally, you won't find many better afternoon teas than this. It changes in line with what is currently being shown in London's best art galleries. Once you're finished tea you can always go and have a look around one afterwards for a full day of excitement.
When: Wednesday-Sunday, 12-5.45pm
Where: 252 High Holborn WC1V 7EN
How much: £72 per person or £75 per person including a glass of bubbles
Book now: Art afternoon tea at Rosewood London
London Landmarks afternoon tea at Town House, Kensington
What: This is a darling miniature London Eye tea stand featuring some of London's most iconic landmarks, including The Gherkin, made from white chocolate and dark chocolate ganache, The Shard, constructed with carrot cake and milk chocolate, and a Big Ben-inspired lemon curd tart.
Why: If there's a more delicious way to see London's sights, we don't know it! This cutesy afternoon tea is perfect for treating visitors to after a day's tour of the capital's real-life landmarks and won't do your Instagram any damage either. The only concern is that it does all just look too good to eat.
When: Monday-Sunday, 12-4pm
Where: 109-113 Queen's Gate, SW7 5LP
How much: £55 per person
Book now: London Landmarks afternoon tea at Town House
Science afternoon tea at The Ampersand Hotel, South Kensington
What: Inspired by the hotel's South Kensington neighbour, the Science Museum, this interactive afternoon tea experience is a whole lot of fun. Instead of the usual sandwiches and cakes, you can expect exciting and curious dishes including jelly served in a petri dish, fossils hidden in chocolate 'soil' and toppings such as freeze dried pineapple for your scones.
Why: Who doesn't want afternoon tea that involves dry ice? It might appear to be geared towards children (and there is a children's version available), but grown-ups are sure to find this unique offering fun as well. Plus with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free menus available, it's an experience that everyone can take part in.
When: Weekdays, 12.30–6.30pm; Weekends, 12–5.30pm
Where: 10 Harrington Road, SW7 3ER
How much: £49.50 or £64.50 with a glass of Charles Heidsieck Champagne
Book now: Science afternoon tea at The Ampersand Hotel
Staycation afternoon tea at St Pancras Brasserie and Champagne Bar by Searcys, King's Cross
What: This one has a staycation afternoon tea menu featuring playful interpretations of delicacies from a handful of UK locations, all served in an adorable mini suitcase. The generous menu includes a selection of savouries, sweets and scones, and there’s the option to add a bit of pizazz with a glass of fizz.
Why: Tempting treats such as passion fruit éclairs, a yuzu chocolate tart and a pistachio cherry slice, alongside York ham and wholegrain mustard sarnies will more than get you in the mood for travelling, even if that's travelling across our home nations for now.
When: Monday-Saturday, 3-4.45pm
Where: St Pancras International Station, N1C 4QL
How much: £45 per person
Book now: Staycation afternoon tea at St Pancras Brasserie and Champagne Bar by Searcys
High Chai at The LaLit, London Bridge
What: This Indian-inspired afternoon tea experience will whisk you from the South Bank to the fragrant streets of India in one sip of masala chai. The menu includes savouries such as kathi roll and Bombay bhel, while sweets include gajar ka halwar, plus there's a variety of teas from Camillia’s Tea House.
Why: Bright, beautiful and with views of the glorious Great Hall, The Gallery at LaLit London is a charming place to enjoy an Indian-themed afternoon tea. Plus, the authentic selection on offer promises to please even the most discerning High Chai enthusiasts.
When: Monday-Sunday, 12.30-4pm
Where: 181 Tooley Street, SE1 2JR
How much: £55 per person
Book now: High Chai at The LaLit
Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea at Sanderson, Fitzrovia
What: A tea party beyond your wildest imagination, this gorgeous spread is brimming with tributes to Lewis Carroll’s much-loved children’s story. Discover menus hidden inside vintage books and containing delights such as a Queen of Hearts rose and strawberry Jammy Dodger, and a Mad March Hare vanilla pocket watch macaroon.
Why: Few afternoon tea experiences can be more fun than this one. The attention to detail is outstanding and everything from the Alice-inspired tea infusions to the tiny bottle of ‘Drink Me’ potion are sure to make your experience down the rabbit hole one you'll never forget.
When: Monday-Sunday, 12-4pm
Where: 50 Berners Street, W1T 3NG
How much: £48 per adult or £58 with a glsss of Champagne
Book now: Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea at Sanderson
Japanese afternoon tea at Ginza Onodera, St James's
What: Here you'll find a beautifully-presented selection of mainly savoury bites, such as spider rolls, wagyu sliders, and crab croquettes, washed down with premium-grade green tea. Afternoon tea takes place in the modern surrounds of the restaurant, with its sleek marble sushi bar, pale woods and monochrome furnishings.
Why: For those lacking a sweet tooth, afternoon tea is generally a no-go, but this flavourful selection of Far Eastern bites bridges the gap nicely. Excellent presentation and tranquil surroundings make it ideal for parties looking to escape the usual buzz of an afternoon tea sitting.
When: Saturday-Sunday, 2-4pm
Where: 15 Bury Street, SW1Y 6AL
How much: £45 or £63 with a glass of Champagne
Book now: Japanese afternoon tea at Ginza Onodera
Indian-inspired afternoon tea at Cinnamon Bazaar, Covent Garden
What: This one's a colourful, Indian-inspired take on the quintessential tradition of afternoon tea. You'll find all sorts on this special menu at Cinnamon Bazaar in Covent Garden, from chaat to sweet treats and wonderfully warming masala chai.
Why: The bespoke menu has been created by legend of the culinary world, Vivek Singh, and Great British Bake Off star Tamal Ray, so you can be sure everything will taste as good as it looks. Inspired by the duo’s shared family roots in Kolkata, this Indian-inspired afternoon tea brings a dose of fire and spice to the traditional tea-time spread.
When: Monday-Sunday, 12-4pm
Where: 28 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7JS
How much: £27.50 per person
Book now: Indian-inspired afternoon tea at Cinnamon Bazaar
Looking for a more traditional afternoon tea experience? Check out our guide to the best afternoon teas in London