Best afternoon tea in London: 5 places that'll make you feel like an insider
By Alyson Sheppard, Jan 2020
Finding the best afternoon tea in London is no small task. While times have changed since Queen Victoria made breaks for tea and delicate cakes fashionable, the formal ceremony of being served hot drinks paired with savory sandwiches and sweet pastries lives on in England, particularly during holidays, special occasions or whenever locals fancy a treat.
Here are six places serving the best afternoon tea in London, whether classic or quirky.
1. Thames Foyer
For a super traditional take on afternoon tea, visit the glass-domed Thames Foyer at the Savoy hotel. Dining tables are covered with white tablecloths and surrounded by marble columns and chandeliers. A pianist regales diners with classic tunes that are as relaxing as a warm pot.
At this customary event, diners can choose from a wide range of the hotel's exclusive teas, such as Moroccan rosebud tea and multiple Darjeelings. Your beverage of choice is served with finger sandwiches, such as English cucumber and minted goat's cheese, and homemade scones with clotted cream and jam. Seasonal cakes (such as a hazelnut cake), pastries and jellies take snacking to the next level. As an appeal to more modern tastes, the Thames Foyer also serves vegetarian and vegan versions of the spread.
Get a taste of the Cronut, a croissant-doughnut hybrid, at Dominique Ansel Bakery.
Dominique Ansel is one of the world's most famous pastry chefs, and his flagship bakery is one of the best places to find the best afternoon tea in London. Ever heard of the Cronut, the croissant-doughnut hybrid? That was him.
Ansel's conceptual London bakery serves festive and themed afternoon teas to complement the seasons, all year long, inside a covered garden terrace. In the winter, for example, sweet and savory bites, presented on a handmade ceramic-tiered stand, are designed to resemble miniature ornaments and Santa's reindeer. Picture a little Rudolph filled with Valrhona Kalingo chocolate mousse and cherry jam and a Santa Claus composed of creamy cookie ganache, cookie crumbs and meringue. There are fresh-baked scones, too, but this time, the strawberry jam and clotted cream are inside a truffle.
A modern, farm-to-table take on high tea can be unearthed at Farmacy in Notting Hill. Everything on the menu is free of dairy, refined sugars, additives and chemicals, and many of the ingredients are grown on the restaurant's private, biodynamic farm in the Kent countryside.
Expect reimagined classic sandwiches with plant-based ingredients such as smoked tofu and truffles and quiches made from chestnuts and squash. Depending on the season, you can also find vegan mince pie made with dried fruits and spices, and fresh pumpkin cake with chocolate ganache.
At XU, Taiwanese tea culture is infused in the English practice. Its indulgent ceremony includes its own tea sommelier, who'll walk you through the menu. Diners begin with a glass of seasoned cold-brew tea then switch to hot teas, steeping their selections in a traditional hand-crafted clay pot and brewing tray.
Teas are imported directly from Taipei and are organized by oxidation and fermentation levels and age. Try creative and savory bite-sized takes on Chinese and Taiwanese dishes, including sweet potato taro dumplings and spinach custards, or sweet offerings like steamed red bean buns and fried cinnamon mochi.
5. The Gallery
For an Indian twist on afternoon tea, partake in High Chai at the Gallery at The LaLiT London. Tea is served in the hotel's mezzanine, where diners can see and be seen overlooking the hotel's great hall. Choose from chai options such as Masala and Darjeeling Goomtee, which are served in traditional kettles, or make a selection from the bespoke menu, from which tea is presented in test tubes.
Instead of traditional open-faced sandwiches, nosh on khaman dhokla (steamed chickpea cakes) with tomato jam and samosas with tamarind chutney. Sweeten the deal with Indian desserts like dodha barfi (milk fudge) and gajar ka halwa (carrot pudding), and end your meal with a mango lassi that will energize you for the rest of your day.
You may not have heard of Sketch, but you've certainly seen it: Its Gallery is one of the most Instagrammed dining rooms in the world. Here, all the rounded booths and plush seats are upholstered in monochromatic rosy pink, and the walls are lined with hundreds of whimsical sketches. The afternoon tea menu is just as eclectic, offering finger sandwiches stuffed with long-stemmed broccoli and tiny desserts like marshmallows, colored pink, of course.
When it comes to the best afternoon tea in London, the options, whether classic or modern, traditional or international, are as diverse as the city. You won't be disappointed if you decide to try one or try them all!
Ready to get your taste of this city's finest tea? Browse our London vacation packages today!