There are things you can do in London that are very similar to other major tourist destinations, like shopping, sightseeing or checking out latest trendy bar or restaurant. And there are experiences that are very specific to Britain and afternoon tea is one of them. You probably already know that tea is a big part of British culture and should not be treated lightly! Just Google ‘aftenoon tea London’ and you will end up with over 3 million search results!
Personally, I am a huge fan of the afternoon tea. There is something very refined and classy about the etiquette of the British afternoon tea: from serving exotic tea blends in exquisite tea sets to dainty finger-size sandwiches, mouth-watering scones with clotted cream and small cakes and pastries.
History of afternoon tea
It started in the 19th century with Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, who felt she needed an afternoon snack before dinner that was usually served around 8pm. She would request some tea, bread and cake to be served around 4pm and soon has been inviting her friends for the afternoon tea, at which she would catch up over the latest gossip! The Duchess’ new invention soon became a fashionable social trend among the upper-class British aristocracy.
Fortnum and Mason afternoon tea
Today there are plenty of choices for afternoon tea in London and prices vary according to one’s budget. However, if you want to have a quintessential afternoon tea experience, head to any top class hotel, like Claridges, Savoy, Ritz or Dorchester or department store, like Harrods or Fortnum and Mason. Each of them have their own tea room and serve some of the finest blends of teas flung from every corner of the world. My personal favourite place is Fortnum & Mason, a luxurious department store dating to 1707, which carries its own selection of fine teas, coffees and various sweets.
The afternoon tea is served in its tranquil Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon that was opened by Her Majesty, the Queen, in 2012. Prices for the afternoon tea vary between £44 and 48 per person and menus offer both classic and savoury options. While it’s not by any means a low-cost activity, it’s definitely worth experiencing – as I call it – a gastronomic spa both in terms of visual presentation and taste!
Once you get seated in one of the 3 rooms of the Salon, you are presented with two menus – the afternoon tea menu and a tea list. Since we booked a noon slot on Saturday, we chose savory menu.
I chose Countess Grey, while my husband opted for Moroccan mint tea which were served in the famous Fortum and Mason mint green coloured tea sets.
The savoury menu we chose included five kinds of finger sandwiches (e.g. salmon, coronation chicken and honey roast ham) and two types of scones (one of which was made with stilton cheese and served with salmon pate).
Interestingly enough, the pastries were savoury as well. For example, they included puffed pastry filled with wild mushroom pate and smoked salmon tartare.
And if you think unlimited supply of sandwiches, scones and pastries wasn’t enough, there is also a cake trolley with a variety of cakes to chose from.
Being a chocolate addict, I had to try Fortnum and Mason’s chocolate cake which was divine!
Two hours went by so quickly enjoying our relaxing and tasty afternoon experience eating delicious, high-quality delicacies while listening to live piano and having a casual chat. It was an absolutely marvellous way to start the weekend! I hope you check it out at some point and experience one of the greatest British traditions.
Other afternoon tea top picks
In addition to Fortnum and Mason, here are other top choices for the afternoon tea in London:
The Savoy, The Strand, London WC2 (Price: £52-55)
The Ritz London, 150 Piccadilly, London W1 (Price: £52)
Ting Lounge at Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street SE1 (Price: £54)
Claridges, Brook Street, Mayfair London W1 (Price: £58-82)
The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London SW1 (Price: £52-70)
Dean Street Townhouse, 69-71 Dean Street, Soho, London W1 (Price: £21)
Dorchester Collection, Sixth Floor East, Lansdowne House, Berkeley Square, London W1 (Price: £52-90)
The Magazine restaurant at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, West Carriage Drive, Kensington Gardens, London W2 (Price: £25)
German Gymnasium, 1 King’s Boulevard London N1C (Price: £18.50)
Ham Yard Hotel, 1 Ham Yard, London W1 (Price: £22)
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1 (Price: £53)
Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott Hotel, 86 Park Lane, London W1 (Price: £42.5-54.5)
The Gilbert Scott, St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, King’s Cross, London NW1 (Price: £29-45)
Sketch, 9 Conduit Street, Mayfair, London W1 (Price: £45-57)
Harrods Georgian Restaurant, 87-135 Brompton Rd, London SW1 (Price: £39-52.5)