Afternoon tea in London is no new thing. Tourists come from far and wide to nibble finger sandwiches and sample our brews. Friends gossip over tiers of sugary treats and families meet for a classic cream tea on special occasions. But here are 11 afternoon tea offerings in London that you won’t have heard of before
1 The Queen’s scones, St James’s
Chefs at St. James’ Court have been inspired by the uncovering of a letter sent from Queen Elizabeth to President Eisenhower in 1960 which includes a recipe for drop scones. The letter was brought to light by a book ‘Letters of Note’ by author Shaun Usher and reads:
‘Dear Mr. President,
Seeing a picture of you in today’s newspaper, standing in front of a barbecue grilling quail, reminded me that I had never sent you the recipe for the drop scones I promised you at Balmoral. I now hasten to do so and I hope you will find them successful’.
The Queen then goes on to include hints and tips in the art of drop scone making. The new afternoon tea at St. James’ Court, inspired by The Queen, includes miniature Victoria sponge sandwiches, white chocolate crowns, elderflower and strawberry jelly, homemade Jaffa Cakes and raspberry Bakewell Tart. Sandwiches include coronation chicken, smoked Loch Fyne salmon with rocket, cured Gressingham duck with redcurrant jelly, Cornish Yarg and tomato with Branston Pickle, as well as English cucumber and minted cream cheese on beetroot bread. It costs from £27.50 per person, and from £39.50 with Champagne or Pimm’s.
2 A fashion stylist’s tea, King’s Cross
Katy Taylor, the former fashion stylist for MTV and Vogue who is now taking the baking world by storm with her bakery Bunny Little, has launched Lady Bunny’s Designer Tea pop-up at The Gilbert Scott – until 5th October. Taking inspiration from London Fashion Week, Katy has rustled up devilish chocolate and raspberry cheesecake brownies, –based on the trend of after-dark dressing and velvet – pretty in pink strawberry and basil meringues channelling ballerina pastels, passion fruit and ginger marshmallows – vibrant and zesty just like Dior’s AW14 collection, plus Lady Bunny’s infamous ‘Lemon Sable Bunny Biscuits’ in tribute to catwalk queen Cara and her bunny Cecil. On the savoury side, there’s the likes of parmesan and thyme popcorn – a fun and light as a feather pick-me-up for all fashionista’s to enjoy, (and a favourite of Rihanna so we’ve heard…) and lady-like and best of British poached salmon, cucumber and dill sandwich, honouring Brit girls ruling the runways at fashion week. The Gilbert Scott’s barman Dav Eames has created an early grey infused vodka cocktail, ‘The Fashion Bunny’, with lemon, pink grapefruit juice and homemade peach syrup to go with the tea.
3 DIY cupcakes for little artists, Chelsea
Gallery Mess has launched a new Little Artists Tea designed to encourage creativity with its artistic take on the classic afternoon tea. Along with traditional tea sandwiches and a babyccino, tea for children comes on an easel-shaped plate holding a DIY cupcake. Paints are supplied in the form of jams, along with other tasty toppings so that little artists can set about creating their dream cupcake. Little Artists Tea is available daily, for £7.50pp. There’s regular afternoon tea for adults for £15.50.
4 Yum cha at Ping Pong, various locations
Afternoon tea or Yum Cha is the whole concept behind Ping Pong and comes from the traditional dim sum trolleys filled with steaming buns that are pushed around tea houses in China. Ping Pong’s afternoon tea offering include chicken shu mai, pak choi dumplings, har gau, Vietnamese rice paper prawn rolls, roast pork puffs petit choux passion fruit, mini chocolate fondants and a tea of your choice for £16 per person. The Chinese tea service is available from 3-6pm at the Westbourne Grove and Southbank branches (as well as Wembley and Soho).
5 Not Afternoon Tea at OXO Tower, Southwark
OXO Tower’s Not Afternoon Tea takes an alternative look at afternoon tea by promising to leave out the ubiquitous sandwich and scone line up. Instead, it will be offering three alternatives: Chocolate Decadence, the ultimate afternoon tea for chocolate lovers; Go Wild Go Wild a foragers dream, using flavours including acorn and rosehip; Autumn Falls, which celebrates the flavours of the season like pumpkin, pears and plum, and Taywell Preserved, a more fruity option of tea made from autumnal berries. Not Afternoon Tea costs £24.50 including one bespoke cocktail or £34.50 including two bespoke cocktails, and is available from Sunday to Friday from 3pm to 5pm and Saturdays from 2pm to 4.30pm.
6 Dine before you fly, Heathrow Airport
I’m not suggesting a trip to Heathrow especially for this afternoon tea, but if you just so happen to be flying out of the West London airport then afternoon tea at The Gorgeous Kitchen is a very civilised way to start your holiday. The menu at the restaurant at Terminal 2 has been created by an all-female line up of four British chefs Gee Charman, Jo Pratt, Caroline MiLi Artiss and Sophie Michell (Claudia Schiffer’s ex-private chef and head chef at our Pont St) and its afternoon tea is served from midday. Afternoon tea dishes are made from British produce, have a healthy spin on them and cost £24.95 per person.
7 Wheat-free sandwiches, Mayfair
When young chef Sophie Michell isn’t creating menus for discerning travellers, she’s rattling the pans in Mayfair kitchen Pont St. A favourite of celebrities and models, Pont St has plenty to offer the health conscious, including its wheat-free afternoon tea. Savoury open sandwiches come on rye bread, along with wheat-free scones, pistachio cakes and the not so healthy rich chocolate delight. Sophie’s afternoon tea costs £35 per person.
8 Royal Opera House’s new tea, Covent Garden
I’ve snuck this tea into our round-up even though it’s not strictly in our patch! But we couldn’t ignore an afternoon tea from the Royal Opera House. It’s surprising that it hasn’t offered tea before, I somehow feel that ballet and tea go perfectly together – although I doubt you’d find a ballerina taking down three-tiers of éclairs. But plenty others will, especially when the new menu has been created by world-renowned master pastry chef Claire Clark MBE, who spent five years working with Thomas Keller at The French Laundry. Claire has taken inspiration from traditional British recipes and nostalgic childhood favourites, combining this with her typically innovative presentation. Royal Opera House Gateau Opera, banoffee macaron, and pistachio éclair with praline are among the delights in store, and over the festive season the tea will take an Alice in Wonderland twist.
9 Sushi not sandwiches, South Kensington
TOMBO Cafe in South Kensington re-opens next week and among its new offerings will be afternoon tea with a difference. Being Japanese, the TOMBO tea will see diners settle in to an afternoon of sushi rolls, Japanese cakes, served with green tea and sparkling sake.
10 Tea ceremonies, Borough
Ting Lounge at Shangri-La at the Shard boasts one of London’s largest tea collections and it’s here where London’s highest afternoon tea is served, with guests choosing between a classically English or Asian-inspired tea. The Asian afternoon tea features signature cakes such as the Coco – coconut Dacquoise, calamansi curd, ginger and coriander-infused pineapple; and Cha, matcha tea sponge with green tea cream and red beans alongside a selection of savoury dim sum. A number of bespoke teas have been blended especially for Shangri-La guests by Camellia’s Tea House, including the welcome tea – delicate white tea leaves, apricot pieces and very fine jasmine tea; and the afternoon tea – a gentle blend of Darjeeling, Ceylon and Taiwan tea.
11 Game for it afternoon tea, Westminster
Known for marrying contemporary Western cooking styles with traditional Indian spices, Executive Chef Vivek Singh and his team at The Cinnamon Club welcomed the British game season with the launch of its Game High Chai – an Indian-inspired game afternoon tea – this month. Served in the restaurant’s impressive Library Bar within the historic Grade II-listed Cinnamon Club in Westminster, the Game High Chai menu will run until the 31st October, choose from the likes of Tandoori partridge and chutney sandwiches, Bengali spiced grouse and Bombay-style venison burger in a cumin brioche.