It’s autumn. And whether it’s darting in out of the rain and settling in over a steaming cuppa or escaping the Christmas shopping rush for a finger sandwich and maybe a glass of champagne or two, there’s nothing quite like afternoon tea to warm chilled bones.
The Ritz and The Dorchester may be the time-honoured venues for old-fashioned grande dame-ish afternoon tea, but for our money it’s Claridge’s that takes the top spot. What’s more the Tea Guild agrees with us, as the hotel picked up its top award this year. On the surface of it, the offering is a fairly straightforward spread of tea, scones and sandwiches. But little details keep jumping out at you – whether it’s the tea-infused jam or the choice of 30 teas (top tip: try the quasi-mystical Royal White-Silver Needles – it’s only picked on two days of the year at dawn) served in lovely peppermint and white striped pots.
Afternoon tea at Claridge’s – from £35 per person; call 020 7107 8872 for reservations.
(From November 26-January 2, Claridge’s will be putting on a festive afternoon tea with champagne, Christmas cake and stöllen and Christmas carols on weekend. Price: £55 per person.)
Read ELLEuk’s full review of Claridge’s
Like Claridge’s, The Connaught is not only one of the best places for afternoon tea in London, it’s also one of the very grandest. It doesn’t rest on its (ultra-luxurious) laurels, though. Featuring the likes of sesame frangipane tartes and ginger scones made by chef patissier, Kirk Whittle, a menu of home-made Christine Ferber jams and a wide range of teas (from green Sencha Gyokuro Asahi Pearl Dew to the black house blend, Royal Connaught Afternoon), its ‘Chic and Shock’ tea in Espelette is superb from start to finish.
Afternoon tea at The Connaught – from £35 per person; call 020 7107 8861 for reservations.
Read ELLEuk’s full review of The Connaught
Afternoon tea at Brown’s spells Christmas. Not only is the English Tea Room a lovely, snug wood-panelled slice of traditional London, but it’s surrounded by the glitteringly festive shop windows of Mayfair (with Dover Street Market across the road). The service is stellar, too, and well-informed staff will help you to a cake or two from the trolley or guide you through the tea options available. For proper tea fanatics, they even do a ‘Tea-torial’ – a class in how to make afternoon tea by pastry chef Theodore Ndeh followed by a chance to tuck into the real thing.
Afternoon tea at Brown’s – from £38.00 per person; call 020 7518 4155 for reservations.
(The next Brown’s Tea-torial is on Sunday, 27 November at 2.30pm. Price: £85 per person.)
The Berkeley offers one of the more unusual of London afternoon teas. Fashion-centric to the core (we recently gave it a hat-tip as one of our top London Fashion Week hotels, and you can hire a gorgeous vintage dressing-up box stuffed with Chanel and Dior for the night…) its Pret-a-Portea afternoon tea is catwalk-inspired, changing seasonally so you can work your way through everyone from Miu Miu (high heel-shaped biscuits) to McCartney (a quite lovely polka dot sponge cake).
Afternoon tea at The Berkeley – from £37.50 per person; call 020 7107 8866 for reservations.
Read ELLEuk’s full review of The Berkeley
The Langham is another recent Tea Guild winner – having snaffled its top afternoon tea in London gong back in 2010. And it’s easy to see why: served in the cavernous Palm Court against a backdrop of a tinkling piano, it’s a very civilised set-up indeed. Best of all, though, is the hotel's location – at the upper end of Regent Street, you can bowl in, put your bags down and your feet up and, having consulted the tea sommelier, discuss the day’s shopping over a steaming cup of something or other.
Afternoon tea at The Langham – from £42.00 per person; call 020 7965 0195 for reservations.