When you’ve shopped till you’ve literally dropped under the weight of your purchases, nothing will revive you more than a quintessential high tea in one of London’s finest establishments. But make sure you’re hungry!
You’ll find them in all the posh hotels and some department stores and restaurants, but choosing just where to stick your pinky out and sip your Earl Grey is difficult.
I’ve rounded up the most popular, the award-winner, the quirky – and one for the blokes! Here are my picks for high tea in London:
For afternoon tea with a twist, the Berkeley’s Pret-a-Portea is all about fashion. Imagine savoring a Manolo Blahnik pink polka dot pump, a miniature Yves Saint Laurent sponge handbag or a Fendi maple and ginger ankle boot biscuit.
The waiter will talk you through the menu which includes catwalk photos that have inspired each exquisitely decorated cake. A must for the girls!
Cost: £42.50 or champagne tea £52.50 – £58.50
Times: 1pm-5pm daily
This one’s for the blokes. While the girls are out for a mani/pedi you and a mate head to the rooftop terrace of the Sanctum to enjoy this manly fare: oyster with bloody mary relish, steak on sourdough, lamb and potato hot pot, mini burger, rabbit pasty and a little roast beef-stuffed Yorkshire pudding. Follow that by the twice cooked chocolate fudge cake with Jack Daniels ice cream, washed down with tea or coffee, then imbibe in a tasting of three varieties of Jack and top it off with a cigar.
I can think of a few men who would fly to London just for this occasion!
Cost: £50 – but I can tell you now your little lady won’t be getting much change from £50 to have her toenails done.
Time: 2pm-6pm daily
This small family-run 5-star hotel has taken out the Oscars of the Afternoon Tea world by winning The Tea Guild award for ‘Top London Afternoon Tea 2012’.
Expect delicious finger sandwiches, macarons, fresh scones and crumpets with homemade jam and clotted cream and cakes including bird cookies, fairy cakes with sugar flowers and regular or herbal tea in the garden room.
Costs: £29.50 for the Evergreen Tea to £43 with champagne
Times: 12.30pm, 3.00pm, 5.30pm daily.
For my money, you can’t go past the Goring. Not only is this hotel frequented by royalty (the Middleton’s took over the whole hotel before Kate and Wills’ wedding), but it’s almost always dotted with the rich and famous enjoying the high life in some nook or other. The hotel was the first in London to install ensuite bathrooms (back in 1910) and was recently stamped with a Royal Warrant by the Queen for being the hotel she prefers to send her guests to when the palace is full.
The highlight for me was crayfish mousse in a shot glass, coronation chicken finger sandwiches and a teeny warm scone with jam and clotted cream.
Cost: £47.50 or £52.50 with Bollinger
I stayed at the Ampersand a couple of months ago and LOVE the lobby of this stylish and chic hotel inhabiting an old Victorian townhouse in South Ken. It has quite possibly the most beautiful décor I’ve ever sat amongst. It’s quirky but not ridiculous, colourful but not garish and above all, sumptuous – which is what you need in a fancy hotel.
Afternoon tea can be taken as a set menu or items purchased individually. What’s not on your 3-tier cake rack is the huge pillow meringue drizzled in berry couli which is perfect with a cup of tea or bubbly. Not very ladylike to eat, but they’re so cool that I’ve tried (and failed) to make them at home.
Costs: £16.50 for the Classic Afternoon Tea or £25 with champagne
Times: 2.30pm-5.30pm daily
Spice up your life! They shouted when Harvey Nicks opened their 5th floor and with that they rolled out a clever high tea based on each of the the UK’s iconic Spice Girls.
See if you can spot who is who. You’ll get a ginger and lemon layer cake with Union Jack decoration; a (not so scary) chilli chocolate roll with leopard printed chocolate discs; a zesty and energetic orange chocolate chip cake pop; a very posh sponge shopper and a sweet and innocent vanilla and raspberry mousse prepared ‘baby style’.
There’s also savouries to get you started and some lovely teas – like winter chai.
Costs: £30 per person, or up to £42.50 with Harvey Nichols brut
Times: 3pm – 5pm daily. Check on the attached link as the Spice Girls theme might not be permanent.
The most famous afternoon tea is probably here at Ritz, and clearly a lot of people think so because it can take months to get in.
Glide into the Palm Court in your finery (gentlemen are required to wear jacket and tie) and enjoy live music as you sip from the extensive tea menu on your bone china and enjoy the traditional fare of finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones with clotted cream and jam as well as cakes and pastries.
Costs: £45 (£22.50 for children) or £57 with champagne. Be aware that if you book for more than five people, you’ll need to pay in full in advance.
Times: 11.30am, 1.30pm, 3.30pm, 5.30pm, 7.30pm daily
This post is sponsored by Singapore Airlines, but the high teas I’ve picked are my own recommendations.