Best afternoon tea in London

Afternoon tea is a British institution, and who are we to turn our noses up at tradition (especially when there’s cake involved)? When it comes to the best afternoon teas in London, you’ll find them right here. If you can’t get enough

Posted on 17 May 2018

Best afternoon tea in London

Afternoon tea has taken London by storm over the past few years and has become one of the most popular culinary experiences. There are many afternoon tea venues to choose from in London, so check out the very best that the capital has to offer with our handy SquareMeal guide to the best afternoon teas in London. Every one of the afternoon teas in London featured in SquareMeal’s list of London’s top places for afternoon tea has been tried and tested by food critics and our own customers so check out the reviews and book a table online with SquareMeal today.


Afternoon Tea at Corinthia Hotel London

Afternoon Tea at Corinthia Hotel London

£30 - £49
Afternoon tea

Corinthia Hotel, Whitehall Place, SW1A 2BD

Afternoon tea is a British institution, and while there are plenty of off-the-wall variations to be found in London, places like The Corinthia hotel get it right by resolutely sticking to tradition. And tradition dictates that tea kicks off with a selection of dainty finger sandwiches, including a decadent egg and truffle mayo variety, and a supremely fresh smoked salmon and crème fraiche option. Next up, a choice of scones (plain or studded with raisins) arrive in a wooden box alongside bundles of clotted cream, strawberry jam and, for the less sweet of tooth, a tart rhubarb jam. Other highlights include the rich chocolate peanut sphere and a zesty lemon drizzle cake from a selection of miniature desserts delivered on a trolley, and marshmallows trimmed to scoffable size at the table, while the extensive selection of teas ranges from house blends to caffeine-free herbal infusions. Stylish, hand-painted china, impeccable service and the grand setting (complete with a huge Baccarat chandelier and live piano music) elevate this relatively affordable experience (from £45 per person) beyond a standard afternoon tea, and you can add a glass of Champagne if you’re looking for a touch of extra sparkle.

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Laurent at Café Royal

Laurent at Café Royal

£50 - £79
International

Hotel Café Royal, 68 Regent Street, London, W1B 4DY

The latest restaurant to join the culinary line-up at Hotel Café Royal is headed by acclaimed French chef Laurent Tourondel, who already has locations in New York, Hong Kong and Kazakhstan. The glamorous art-deco space on the hotel’s first floor is warm and welcoming thanks to cosy booths and soft lighting, but it’s chic too with a grey colour scheme and marble-topped tables. Friendly, knowledgeable staff are happy to talk guests through the extensive menu, which is replete with international influences. Start with tightly packed, perfectly formed sushi – don’t miss the intense crispy lobster roll with a slightly bitter yuzu tartare, or the yellowtail-topped roll that conceals guacamole and a kick of feisty jalapeño. Appetisers also showcase Tourondel’s international larder, ranging from grilled octopus pepped up with ’nduja, to a wasabi tuna tartare. Main course highlights include a sharp, spicy blue-fin tuna poke bowl with avocado sriracha – or you can opt for a steak from the grill. Cocktails stick to the classics, but an impressive wine list veers from the flash to the yet flashier. Come dessert, you’ll discover the luxurious likes of cocoa-dusted chocolate sponge, topped with warm chocolate sauce, ice cream and edible gold (naturally). Big, bold and on-trend, Laurent at Café Royal is a smart addition to this famous hotel’s dining options. Prices? Yes, they’re high.

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The Promenade at The Dorchester

The Promenade at The Dorchester

Over £80
British

The Dorchester, 53 Park Lane, W1K 1QA

The stunning pillared Promenade is the first thing visitors see when they enter The Dorchester, and the magnificent green and gold room is quite a sight with its gilt mouldings, marble columns, chandeliers and rich rugs strewn over marble floors. Service from impeccable tail-coated staff is as smooth as it comes and a pianist serenades the crowds as they recline on tufted divans and indulge themselves. Afternoon tea is the main event and it’s worth kicking off in style with a glass of Laurent Perrier Rosé, before waves of goodies start to arrive: plates of crust-free sandwiches, then warm scones with jam and clotted cream, other sweet distractions and finally a whole tray of French pastries, cakes and tarts to sample. Breakfast, lunch and supper bring in the punters, and the Promenade also boasts a rather good, oval leather bar – if something stronger than tea is required.

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sketch: The Parlour

sketch: The Parlour

£30 - £49
International

9 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XG

Take your pick of three highly individual, amusingly designed lounges at this Mayfair must-do from Mourad Mazouz (of Momo fame). With its theatrical rococo découpage forest backdrop, The Glade could be a set for South Pacific as choreographed by the Bolshoi Ballet, while The East Bar (a futuristic cocoon) might have been lifted from a Kubrick sci-fi movie. However, we find ourselves repeatedly drawn to The Parlour, a raffishly postmodernist drawing room that wouldn’t look out of place in ex-Sex Pistol John Lydon's LA punk château. Disport and pose while you scrutinise a cast of eccentrics and fashionistas as you knock back dependably good drinks from a constantly evolving list. House wines and sips such as Nolet and the Whale (vodka, Aperol, peach and almond syrup) won't break the bank, although the same can’t be said of the patrician French fizz and pukka comfort food.

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The Palm Court at The Langham

The Palm Court at The Langham

£50 - £79
Bars
International

The Langham, 1c Portland Place, London, W1B 1JA

Built in 1927, The Palm Court is a dazzling Grade II-listed art deco vision of palatial proportions. For its commendable afternoon and high teas (from £37), and fine drinks, this arresting space should be a destination for discerning London bar hounds – as well as wealthy tourists and guests frequenting the hotel’s glorious ballroom. Alas, the room’s 2016 refurb, part of the hotel’s multimillion pound makeover, fails to inspire. A hodgepodge of garish bling looks provincial, featuring bland plush, cheap-looking crystal-fringed lights and token Kentia palms. At this level, cocktails are fair value at £12 for Sazerac and Patrón Silver Margarita, or £14 for deco delights such as The Astor (a Cognac, maraschino and absinthe Sour). Appealing too, are jerk chicken, rice and peas; or seared mackerel and gado gado salad – at not much above pub prices. But given the location’s potentially fabulous good looks, the makeover is a missed opportunity.

Thumbnail image/fifth image in carousel credit: Paul Judd Food Photography

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The Ivy Chelsea Garden

The Ivy Chelsea Garden

£30 - £49
Modern European

197 King's Road, London, SW3 5ED

Richard Caring doesn’t do things by half. Not content with moving his burgeoning Ivy brand to the King’s Road, he has duly bagged one of the best sites around, taking over a vast Edwardian building near the fire station. Caring’s eye for opulence has given the cavernous space real character, from the stately, panelled front room to the verdant Orangery and an “amazing”’ manicured garden that’s perfect for “lazing on a sunny afternoon”. The kitchen delivers “great” renditions of the Ivy’s trademark “cosy but sophisticated classics”: a Brit take on carpaccio charged with horseradish and mustard cream; crispy duck salad with five-spice dressing; the iconic shepherd’s pie loaded with slow-cooked lamb shoulder, plus desserts such as blackberry sundae. Juices and healthier salads please Chelsea’s fashionistas, breakfast brings in the early birds and tea the shoppers, and the set menu is “surprisingly economical”. We’re pleased that service seems to have smoothed out after a few early blips.

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TING Restaurant & Lounge

TING Restaurant & Lounge

£50 - £79
Modern European

Shangri-La Hotel, 31 St Thomas Street, London, SE1 9QU

Soaring straight to the top of London’s skyscraper charts, Ting, the Shangri-La Hotel’s new eatery, is The Shard’s highest restaurant on Level 35. An oriental theme to the furniture and wall hangings is subtle, leaving the astounding cross-city vista to dazzle. The arresting skyline is matched by a menu that uses seasonal British ingredients in Euro-accented dishes: many peppered with bright Asian flavours. Plump scallops come prettily served with edible flowers on a creamy carrot purée lifted by ginger, mandarin and coriander, while meaty halibut responds well to the teriyaki treatment – but a robustly flavoured yet delicate rib-eye steak with truffle jus provided our standout gastronomic experience. Prices are as breathtaking as the views (£19 for that scallop starter); a slightly cheaper menu is served in the lounge, where a tuna sarnie costs a mere £14. Off-the-wall wine pairings from the charismatic sommelier make a big impression, too.

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The Wolseley

The Wolseley

£50 - £79
Modern European

160 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9EB

“The daddy of them all” declares a fan of The Wolseley – and he’s not alone in cheering this “rather posh” grand café to the skies. Whether you’re here for the all-conquering breakfast, afternoon tea or a late-night pick-me-up, the barnstorming Wolseley always delivers – “it doesn’t matter what you look like, you’ll get treated like a VIP”. The sheer razzmatazz of the fabulously converted car showroom is part of its attraction, as regulars seek out their favourite tables, others mingle in anterooms and a regular trickle of walk-in celebs, creatives and shoppers adds to the spice of it all. To begin, you might find yourself dusting off the cobwebs over a bowl of Birchermuesli, a crispy bacon roll or a full fry-up; later on, thoughts could turn to steak tartare, salade niçoise, burgers, schnitzels or coq au vin – and there’s never a bad time for the Wolseley’s luscious array of creamy patisserie, cakes and ice-cream coupes. Service is always “top-notch” too. In short, The Wolseley is the complete West End package, and we concur with the reader who remarks that “I always come away with my high expectations satisfied and met”.

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Rotunda at Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square

Rotunda at Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square

Bars

Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, 10 Trinity Square, London, EC3N 4AJ

The bar at Four Seasons’ latest London hotel occupies an august beaux arts-style building. It’s a striking setting, featuring a sunken lounge with marble and sculpted stucco, a magnificent glass dome and a grand piano. Ladies and gents of leisure come here for afternoon tea, flutes of fizz, or an aperitivo-hour Spritz. Alternatively, they could settle in for vintage spirits by the glass (1922 Croix de Salles Armagnac, perhaps) and bar snacks of vegetable tempura, mini lobster roll or foie gras terrine. The drama of The Rotunda’s high-backed bar, doors folded back reminiscent of a Japanese Shinto altar, is somewhat diluted by the monumental scale of the space it inhabits. Sit at the copper-topped bar for classic and modern fixes: the likes of Ivory (mezcal, Brazil nuts, bergamot oil, oolong tea and shiso leaf).  

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Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason (afternoon tea)

Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason (afternoon tea)

£30 - £49

181 Piccadilly, London, W1A 1ER

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 of Piccadilly 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. The classic afternoon tea, presented on fine china and beautiful silverware, runs from neat lines of finger sandwiches filled with the pick of ingredients from F&M’s food hall, to just-right scones with clotted cream and house jam. A top tier features daily-changing treats, all made on-site – from moreish chocolate cake tinged with Earl Grey and filled with fresh apricots, to incredibly moist white-chocolate-and-cherry fancies. Staff – working dapper waistcoats and cut-glass accents – are discreet but charming.

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The Delaunay

The Delaunay

£50 - £79
Modern European

55 Aldwych, WC2B 4BB

Like its sibling The Wolseley, this "lovely buzzy restaurant" bears all the hallmarks of a Corbin & King success story, from "spot-on" service to please-all cooking for a big-city crowd. No wonder The Delaunay has become a perennial favourite on all counts: the welcome is "always friendly" and the David Collins interior "impresses straightaway" with its glossy dark wood, gleaming brass and polished stone floors. There's an "old-school Viennese" vibe here, so expect to find wiener schnitzel, choucroute and rich borscht, as well as traditional dishes from elsewhere in Europe such as chicken Kiev and the ever-popular kedgeree. Tempting patisserie and viennoiserie – including an exemplary sachertorte – are worth a visit alone: luckily the adjoining Counter at The Delaunay sells many of these goodies to go. We urge you to book ahead for the phenomenally popular pre-theatre slot, or start your day in splendid fashion with a gut-busting breakfast. In short, "a great London institution".

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The Collins Room at The Berkeley

The Collins Room at The Berkeley

International

The Berkeley, Wilton Place, London, SW1X 7RL

Formerly the Caramel Room, this chic dining area certainly lives up to The Berkeley’s luxe reputation. The all-day menu includes a decadent afternoon tea option, as well as a selection of libations. Staying true to the hotel’s roots, the menu (designed by executive chef Shaun Whatling) is classically British, with the emphasis on fresh daily specials and extravagant design. The lavish Prêt-à-Portea afternoon tea is an ode to all things fashion, featuring the likes of Stella McCartney’s popular striped dress and Prada’s red and white handbag in edible form. Our highlight was a dolce and white chocolate mousse on a hazelnut sable with zigzag meringue detailing, aka Emilia Wickstead’s ‘sleek summer coat’. Paired with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne and an array of loose-leaf and herbal teas, this is a luxurious treat. If you’re not after the Prêt-à-Portea, more savoury choices include sautéed tiger prawns with girolles and shellfish sauce. Named after the late interior designer David Collins and designed by his protégé Robert Angell, the Collins Room is an all-out luxury experience.

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The Petersham Covent Garden

The Petersham Covent Garden

£50 - £79
Italian

27-31 King Street, London, WC2E 8JB

It’s only to be expected that Petersham Nurseries has lost a little something on its journey from bucolic Richmond to Covent Garden, but it has gained plenty in the process too, namely a wine merchant’s, café-bar (La Goccia), florist’s, delicatessen and sun-dappled courtyard. The business started in 2004 as a shabby-chic garden centre but is now a ‘lifestyle brand’, with the Petersham (the complex’s more formal restaurant) at its apogee. The venue looks gorgeous, a World of Interiors centrefold of abundant cut flowers, Murano glass, artworks and glistening chandeliers. The courtyard area is somewhat less convincing, the presence of passing shoppers compromising the idyll. However, it only takes one Rose Petal Prosecco to shake off the feeling of dining in a mall – along with a glance at a menu that transports you to Italy by way of an English country garden. The kitchen observes the seasons with gusto: in early spring serving pea, lovage and quinoa tartlets with even more peas on the side; and in midsummer, introducing broad bean hummus to heritage radishes. Italophile starters such as risotto, or sopressini pasta with beef shin ragu, lead naturally into a shared main course of salt-baked hake; seasonal side dishes always include the Petersham garden salad. Living the dream here is an expensive business, so dip a toe in first with the £29.50 pre-theatre menu and order carefully from the all-Italian wine list.

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Céleste at The Lanesborough

Céleste at The Lanesborough

Over £80
Modern European
French
One michelin star

The Lanesborough, Hyde Park Corner, SW1X 7TA

With its Wedgwood-esque bas relief, enormous chandeliers and the odd bust here and there, as well as a chap tinkling the ivories in one corner, this huge conservatory is almost a caricature of the best and grandest of British. Coupled with charming, gliding service and acres of white linen, it creates a style to which many of us would like to become accustomed. The menu is predictably littered with big-money ingredients (native lobster with smoked broccoli purée, saddle of wild roe deer with quince confit), but the chefs seem just as happy working with less highfalutin raw materials: cauliflower is roasted and dressed with lemon curry-infused oil and aged Parmesan, while boned quail is accompanied by petits pois à la française and a ring of girolles. “Slick and smart” describes the service, and the wine list impresses without breaking the bank. Despite Céleste’s Michelin-starred status and the unrelenting grandeur all around, prices aren’t too scary and some of the set menus are a positive bargain. Breakfast and tea are occasions in their own rights, too.

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The Palm Court at The Ritz Hotel (afternoon tea)

The Palm Court at The Ritz Hotel (afternoon tea)

Afternoon tea
International

The Ritz Hotel, 150 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9BR

At the heart of The Ritz’s unashamedly opulent Edwardiana, The Palm Court hits a crescendo of gilded gold and lemon among polished marble pillars, Grecian urns and elongated birdcage chandeliers. Add the gentle tinkling of ivories, a veritable army of discreet white-jacket staff and compulsory Sunday-best attire, and you have the makings of afternoon tea at its most sedate and nostalgic – no wonder everyone wants a photographic memento of the experience. This is a three-tier event stacked in silver: at the bottom are childhood sandwiches – all crustless and finger-sized of course; above them, scones of unparalleled lightness with abundant clotted cream and jam; and at the top, a treasure trove of patisserie, from fruit-studded madeleines to cream-filled pastry boats. Crowning it all is tea itself, proffered in suitably ornate and weighty pots.

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Afternoon tea at Cinnamon Bazaar

Afternoon tea at Cinnamon Bazaar

£30 - £49
Afternoon tea
Indian

28 Maiden Lane, London, WC2E 7JS

Part of Vivek Singh’s ever-expanding Cinnamon Collection, this Covent Garden site boasts a colourful interior and laid-back atmosphere. Cinnamon Bazaar’s daily afternoon tea offering is available from 3pm until 5.30pm, swapping out cucumber sandwiches for authentic Indian alternatives. Alongside a range of teas, including ginger and cardamom masala chai, a selection of snacks is on offer – think tandoori chicken and chutney sandwiches, ‘bhangra’ lamb sliders and vegetable samosas. The sweet side of things is taken care of with carrot halwa rolls (a Cinnamon twist on carrot cake), or a more traditional dark chocolate and walnut cake. Tea comes in at just £30 for two people (or £40 with two Cinnamon Bellinis), making this an affordable and refreshingly different afternoon tea.

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Fait Maison at The Park

Fait Maison at The Park

Under £30
Cafes

Ravenscourt Park, Paddenswick Road, London, W6 0UL

This tea house run by an accomplished catering company sets standards high for London’s other park cafés. Fait Maison’s range of colourful, health-conscious salads, gourmet baguettes and wraps, and child-friendly dishes (which range from homemade fish goujons to cheese-and-tomato quiche) are a draw in themselves, but factor in this venue’s proximity to leafy Ravenscourt Park, and its extensive outdoor play area (safely fenced off from its surroundings, and regularly host to alfresco kids’ activities), and you’ll see why it’s usually packed with happy locals, especially families. Fait Maison’s other forte is afternoon tea - it would be rude not to pop in here after a bracing walk in the park for a quality cuppa and one of the company’s celebrated macarons, scones or cream-filled sandwich cakes - wouldn’t it?  

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The Gilbert Scott

The Gilbert Scott

£50 - £79
British

St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, Euston Road, London, NW1 2AR

Matching the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel’s awe-inspiring grandeur would be a tall order for any restaurant, but on current form, Marcus Wareing’s team can compete with the architectural splendour of this fabulous dining room. We swooned over plates of cooked-pink duck hearts and perky chanterelles on smoked bone marrow, before chomping on red mullet and roasted prawns perched on creamy brandade, and a dish of silky hake with pickled egg purée, summer vegetables and black pudding. As for pud, we’d advise saving room for the gorgeous praline tart with caramel ice cream. Lunchtime set deals such as mackerel with gooseberries and runner beans followed by lamb shoulder with glistening pea broth are worth it just to gawp at the room’s vast architraves, glorious art and gold lamé pillars, while suited service hits an informed (but informal) sweet spot. Linger over the chunky wine list or indulge in a swift flute of something English before the train.

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Aqua Shard (afternoon tea)

Aqua Shard (afternoon tea)

£30 - £49
Afternoon tea

Level 31, The Shard, 31 St. Thomas Street, SE1 9RY, London, SE1 9RY

Ramping up the excitement surrounding the notion of afternoon tea is Aqua Shard, the 32nd-floor restaurant from Hong Kong’s glamorous Aqua group. Tea, cake and a spot of Champagne is a happy combination in itself, but factor in incredible panoramic views across the city and you have one of those ‘red-letter day’ London experiences. Aqua’s contemporary-style afternoon spread includes fashionable, subtly innovative spins on teatime classics including chicken sandwiches perfumed with lavendar mayonnaise and Victoria sponge cake with bugglegum macaroon. Leaf teas are by the Rare Tea Company. Expect to pay £42, or £55 with a glass of Veuve Clicquot.

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The Goring (afternoon tea)

The Goring (afternoon tea)

The Goring Lounge and Terrace, 15 Beeston Place, London, SW1W 0JW

The redoubtable, family-owned Goring has been a hit with the royals for more than a century, and it recently received a royal warrant from Her Majesty – the first she has bestowed on a hotel. No wonder there’s a terrific buzz about the place these days. The restaurant occupies a sunny room with walnut columns, well-spaced tables and eccentric Swarovski chandeliers – a Mecca for power breakfasts, Establishment lunches and low-lit evening romance fuelled by generous amounts of comforting, proudly British food. Everything is served with panache, from rabbit-and-bacon terrine with rhubarb chutney, or lobster-themed eggs Drumkilbo (the Queen Mum’s favourite) to daily roasts from the silver trolley (including excellent beef Wellington) and seasonal puds such as gooseberry fool. The wine list has great depth, although some think it’s ‘grossly overpriced’.

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Cafe Monico

Cafe Monico

£30 - £49
Modern European

39-45 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 6LA

Set up by the Soho House group, Café Monico adds a much-needed sense of occasion to the Shaftesbury Avenue scene, with classic styling and a broad menu befitting its position between two major West End theatres. What was the double-height Avalon nightclub has had a mezzanine level added, with the upper level radiating around a central bar and blown-glass chandelier. Well-dressed “knowledgeable” staff run the show, jazz bubbles away in the background and swathes of green leather add a touch of class. Overseen by London veteran Rowley Leigh (founder of Kensington Place), the menu covers all the bases: in the evening, you might find devilled kidneys, crispy-topped spinach lasagne and Leigh’s signature – moreish Parmesan custard with chewy anchovy toast. Sea bass comes with black cabbage, while meaty lamb is paired with merguez sausages, chickpeas and a lightly spiced sauce. A short cocktail list offers refined classics, and the wine list provides ample mid-priced choice. Tea is an occasion, too. 

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Jean-Georges at The Connaught

Jean-Georges at The Connaught

£50 - £79
International

The Connaught Hotel, Carlos Place, London, W1K 2AL

Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Vong at The Berkeley was a huge hit in the 90s (and much missed following its closure in 2002), but now the New York-based Alsatian chef is back with Jean-Georges at The Connaught. The curving space that was formerly the hotel's Espelette restaurant might still have the feel of a breakfast and afternoon tea rendezvous, but the food is far more adventurous than the setting suggests. Playful luxury is a running theme on the menu – silky egg yolks sandwiched between caviar-topped brioche toast, lobster partnered by a crispy fried squash flower stuffed with prawns, or a gooey pizza of Fontina cheese and black truffle. Ingredients are also top notch, from firm tentacles of grilled octopus arranged cruciform-style to a salad of sweet jumbo prawns dressed with Champagne vinegar. Exquisite-looking desserts should not be missed, although the spectacular-looking candy floss creation is easier to Instagram than it is to eat. Service is as deferential as the hotel setting demands, and the final size of the bill the only intrusion of reality into a delightfully escapist confection.

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Hush Mayfair

Hush Mayfair

£50 - £79
International
£50 - £79

8 Lancashire Court, London, W1S 1EY

Tucked away in the heart of busy Mayfair, with a spacious outside terrace and a menu which isn’t eye wateringly-expensive, Hush is somewhat of a rare find. Once inside, leather banquette seating, a marble-topped bar and backlit displays remind you where you are, but the buzzy atmosphere remains warm and unpretentious. Friendly staff are happy to recommend picks from the lengthy menu, which includes adventurous dishes like the hearty confit duck shepherd’s pie, and an impressive cacio e pepe pasta, which is made in a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese at the table. We’d also suggest making a beeline for the monkfish which successfully combines a fiery topping of grilled chorizo with the gentle, clean flavours of the fish and a helping of earthy white beans. Be sure to save room for the stand-out mars bar cheesecake, which is an intense, velvety dream. When the sun’s shining, make the most of Hush’s cobbled courtyard by enjoying a Peach Spritz and some deep fried, feta-stuffed olives, just be sure to book ahead for an outdoor table. Afternoon tea, a private dining room and a separate upstairs bar complete the picture.

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German Gymnasium

German Gymnasium

£50 - £79
German

1 King’s Boulevard, London, N1C 4BU

Built in 1864 for the German Gymnastics Society, D&D London’s immaculate restoration of the German Gymnasium is a return to the mega-brasserie style of their 90s heyday, with brasserie-style food served on the ground floor (lunch, weekend brunch etc.) and a more refined menu available in the main restaurant. The vast ‘grand café’ space is a real spectacle with theatrical staircases linking the sprawling, marble-floored dining room to secluded tables tucked behind gleaming white architrave pillars upstairs. By contrast, the Mittel-European menu is more homely than awe-inspiring, although its stellar renditions of think-cut veal schnitzel, beef broth with calf’s liver dumplings, stroganoff with spätzle or crisp, gooey apple strudel are certainly no less memorable. Meat fiends will warm to Black Forest hams and ample wursts (including a curry version), while a ‘butcher’s plate’ loaded with steak, ox tongue, sausages and sauerkraut outshines the pedestrian rib-eye with crispy onions. Ambitious pricing is offset by lunchtime specials, and the German-led wine list is heaven for fans of Riesling and Spätburgunder. “Exceptionally friendly” suited staff match the stylish setting. Afternoon teas get good reports, too.

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OXO Tower Restaurant

OXO Tower Restaurant

£50 - £79
British

Oxo Tower Wharf, Barge House Street, London, SE1 9PH

“Great place for the four Cs: celebrating, chilling, chatting and crowd-watching”, says a fan of the Oxo Tower’s restaurant – a perfectly located terrace venue on the eighth floor of the monolith, which still boasts “one of the best views in London”. The menu promises sophisticated dishes in the modern idiom, from seared peppered beef with smoked sweetcorn purée, tenderstem broccoli and roast asparagus to sea bream poached in vanilla anise accompanied by a stuffed courgette flower. To finish, why not share a cherry soufflé with vanilla ice cream and Black Forest gâteau. The wine list, from Harvey Nics, is a cracker (although you won't find many bargains) and afternoon tea also looks “very tempting” – no wonder fans say it’s “definitely a place to take a person you want to impress”.

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The Foyer & Reading Room at Claridge

The Foyer & Reading Room at Claridge's

£50 - £79
Modern European
Afternoon tea

Claridge's, 55 Brook Street, London, W1K 4HR

Once Claridge’s library, this all-day dining room has replaced bookish silence with an appropriately civilised buzz, while marble-cut fireplaces, velvet columns and a gorgeous Dale Chihuly glass sculpture up the art-deco ante. The kitchen invests in produce rather than dazzling technique, but pricey satisfaction is guaranteed, whether you order smoked haddock risotto, roast pork belly with braised red cabbage and apple or cod with spelt, brown shrimps and cauliflower. The venue is also a diamond for breakfast, “midnight snacks” and sell-out afternoon teas complete with a tinkling piano – so book well ahead for leisurely repasts with leafy brews from the Rare Tea Company and a host of delights arrayed on spindly silver stands. Service is discreet yet totally attentive, and the whole shebang comes with a liberal helping of A-list celebs.

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Afternoon tea at The Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell

Afternoon tea at The Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell

Afternoon tea

49-50 St John's Square, London, EC1V 4JJ

The quirky, antique-stuffed interiors of The Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell seem incredibly fitting for a spot of afternoon tea. What better place to go pinkies up then somewhere that feels like the sitting room of an eccentric great aunt? The names of the two menu choices reflect that feeling, offering a selection of classic finger sandwiches from Aunt Wilhelmina or truffled sausage rolls and meat pastys from Uncle Seymour. Homemade brown sauce with the latter is particularly good. Both come with freshly baked scones and cakes like salted caramel and apple choux buns. A Royal Air Force Traditional English Breakfast is the obvious choice from the Rare Tea Co. selection served in painted china, but we opted for a smooth Bronze Faun cocktail of rum, crème de cacao and elderflower cordial. Available in the lounge from 2-5pm every day, afternoon teas here start at £33pp depending on your tipple of choice. 

 

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Dean Street Townhouse

Dean Street Townhouse

£50 - £79
British

69-71 Dean Street, London, W1D 3SE

Recently bolstered by nearby Café Monico, Soho House’s presence hereabouts is pretty strong, with its backbone being this classy British workhorse. Dine in enticingly soft armchairs, amid an abundance of heavy fabrics with low ceilings helping to absorb the chatter that constantly zips across the glowing room from the rammed wooden bar. Atmosphere is Townhouse’s trump card, so the menu plays it simple with lots of comfort on offer – from delectable lamb rump with grilled artichoke or partridge and oxtail on toast (lifted by the juice of blackcurrants), to salads of perhaps chicory, squash and walnut. It’s all thoroughly hearty, seasonal and rather pricey, although a full English for less than a tenner explains why breakfast is so popular here. Service is predictably cosseting, and a broad wine list should reveal something for most tastes. There’s an adjacent, cloistered room for those seeking a more muffled evening, but this “always entertaining” restaurant is best for higher tempo occasions.

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