The Rubens at The Palace might be the most glamorous setting for afternoon tea in London, if not the entire UK, and the hotel offers vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and halal menus, as well as a special kids afternoon tea. This stunningly-restored five-star hotel overlooks Buckingham Palace and boasts two restaurants, three bars and one of the city’s largest living walls. Given the hotel’s sense of history and tradition, the afternoon tea offering feels surprisingly up to date too.
The primary offering is the royal afternoon tea, which is a masterclass in British elegance. Diners can start with a ‘little sparkle’, such as an Imperial Paloma, Espresso Martini or The King's Swan, a mix of gin, Maraschino liqueur, citrus, cucumber and grapes, served with Lanson Champagne.
As usual, finger sandwiches open up proceedings, but The Rubens at The Palace offers something more elevated than your standard beef and horseradish. There's roast beef, rocket and English mustard on beetroot bread, Souchong-smoked salmon with capers and chive sour cream on brioche, and roast chicken with sage and onion stuffing in a black charcoal bread.
After that, freshly baked plain, fruit and cheese scones arrive with a range of condiments, jams and curds, before immaculate patisserie steals the show. Executive pastry chef Sarah Houghting may be recognisable to some for her appearance on Bake Off: The Professionals in 2021, when she was a finalist. Her precision sweet treats include 'The Crown' - a dark chocolate mousse with grapefruit confit and chocolate brownie; a berry violet tart with strawberry marmalade, red berries, violet cremeux, vanilla yoghurt and basil spone, and a hazelnut pate a choux with pear and a praline and coffee ganache.
As any afternoon tea enthusiasts know, what’s in the cup is just as important as what’s on the plate. Here, this rule is very much followed, with excellent teas aplenty and recommended pairings for each one too. Other brews include Himalayan Hand Rolled, Chai Cinnamon, Imperial Chocolate and Apple Cinnamon.