Tea Time Treats
No eating experience in London can rival the sensual pleasure of taking a sumptuous tea with an old friend or date at one of London's premiere tea establishments. And what could be more English? Taking tea, a ceremony normally performed between 3.30 and 5pm, should start with glass of champagne whilst you choose which type of exotic tea brew you would like. First come the platter of dainty finger sandwiches; normally with ham, smoked salmon, cucumber and chicken; if they are made well they are quite delicious. An hour later, after you have been offered more sandwiches and are quite full, out come the scones. English scones are far nicer than their American cousins; light and fluffy little cakes, perhaps with raisins, that you slice in half, smother with huge amounts of clotted cream (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clotted_cream), top with jam or preserve and devour!! Warning! One is quite enough as you still have the last course to go! To finish with you are presented with a tray or two of French patisserie; small bundles of sweet but deadly goodness in all shapes and sizes. Needless to say Afternoon Tea is never a rushed affair. A full tea takes at least one and a half hours, but one should put aside three hours to be sure. You won't need supper as you will be full to bursting at the end of it!
All prices below are excluding 12.5% 'optional' gratuity, except the Ritz.
This was my personal favourite until they stopped serving Dom Perignon with their teas (big mistake!). However, the sandwiches were the best I've tasted and their curious Marco Polo tea jelly was to die for. One feels completely pampered and relaxed here; the tea-room is quite fabulous, even nicer than the Ritz, and they leave all the sandwiches, scones and patisserie at a little side table so you never feel too greedy tucking into more......
£30.50 for Afternoon Tea
£38.50 for Champagne Tea (It was excellent Laurent Perrier when I was there)
£48.50 for Dom Ruinart Champagne Tea
Tea at the Dorchester is taken in the Promenade - an Art Deco masterpiece in a very long plush corridor. Tables are private and quiet, though make sure to book a table with mini-sofas for maximum comfort. Here you can start off with a good-value glass of pink champagne, though if I were pushed, I would say the food was missing some of the magic of the other venures. Perhaps it is because it is served straight to your plate, by rather sporadic service, rather than being able to relax and take your own.
£28.50 for Afternoon Tea
£34.50 for Champagne Tea
This classic afternoon tea venue is hard to beat. Gilded ceilings, posh chairs and string quartets, this is wonderful English decadence. If you come for the evening sitting (it's still afternoon tea!) you are offered a free glass of Champagne; for £35 all inclusive it is also quite affordable. Serivce was perfect - they kept topping up our sandwiches and cakes without being asked. My only reservation is that it was slightly touristy in comparison to the other establishments, but you'd only know that if you were a regular on the whole tea-circuit.
£35 for Afternoon Tea, includes free glass of champagne at the 7.30pm setting
Tea is taken here in the stunning Winter Garden, a vast glass-roofed Victorian atrium complete with soaring palm trees, white walls and huge plush chairs. Each spacious table was nicely hidden behind some ferns or flowers and the service was impeccable. I felt like a pampered British viceroy in tropical colonial India!
On their menu, and why wouldn’t one pay an extra £2 for the Champagne menu?, was a rather unusual Cornish tea called ‘Tregothnan’, a 14th century estate in South West England which has its own tea plantation. A delicious blend of Assam and China leaves, it was full-bodied, well-rounded and rather interesting, but what really made the Landmark teas stand out over its competitors were the delicious strawberries and cream, classically British and perfect with Champagne, but unfortunately seldom seen on the tea circuit.
Thoroughly recommended. www.thelandmarklondon.co.uk
£30 for Afternoon Tea
£32 for Afternoon Tea with glass of Taittinger Champagne and Strawberries & Cream
£35 for Afternoon Tea with glass of Taittinger Rose Champagne and Strawberries & Cream
Tea at the Wolseley is a bargain. You can soak up the lavish continental-style brasserie atmosphere over a full afternoon tea for just £18.50, or if you don't have the hunger of a shark, they offer scones and tea for under £8. They also offer 'Hot Chocolate Gourmand' - a pot of divine melted chocolate presented to you with hot milk which you mix together yourself (make sure it's piping hot - we had to send both ours back -oops!). Alternatively if you are feeling more continental, there's a trolley of tempting European patisserie and cakes for under £5 and some fantastic coffee concoctions, such as 'The Wolseley Imperial' made with mandarin napolean and cognac, hot espresso, hot milk topped with chocolate and whipped cream.
It's also a lovely place to go for a bottle of wine (from £15) and some light bar snacks from the all-day menu.
£18.50 for Afternoon Tea
£7.75 for Cream Tea (scones and tea)
£5.00 for Hot Chocolate Gourmand
£7.00 for The Wolseley Imperial
See all their menus at:
Inn the Park
Although advertising a variety of afternoon teas with park vistas, I was sorely disappointed with this choice. Perhaps it being winter they had stopped serving afternoon tea, so we were obliged to choose our sandwiches and cakes from the self-service canteen and sit on tiny, over-crowded tables whilst the rest of the 'restaurant' was left empty. You can't eat yesterday's scones with tiny scrapings of jam and clotted cream nor should you drink Earl Grey out of a polystyrene cup. Not very good, not very fresh and staff not very friendly. Afternoon tea shouldn't be reduced to this - don't come here unless you need a cup of tea on the run.
Approx £15 for two, self-servce
www.innthepark.com (NB: website not entirely truthful!)
Establishments I have yet to review though are on the tea circuit;
Fortnum & Masons
Invitations to these venues taken at GastroShark@gmail.com