London’s best afternoon teas
One of Britain’s most enduring traditions has evolved from a sophisticated social event to a great excuse for a fancy sugar kick (and perhaps a tipple or two). No wonder London’s hotels have been jumping at the chance to outdo their neighbours’ tiny tiered sandwiches and inventive pastries. High Life has been on a mission to find the best in the biz. From shoe-shaped sweet treats to hit Netflix show-inspired finger food, these are the crème de la crème of the capital’s teatime offerings
Four Seasons at Ten Trinity Square
Updating its signature afternoon tea for a summer of Platinum Jubilee celebrations, Four Seasons has launched this menu, inspired by the flora and fauna of the Superbloom over the road at the Tower of London. Kick things off with a Wild Garden cocktail concocted of gin, tea and lavender, before getting stuck into treats summing up Her Majesty’s reign. You’ll obviously be expecting coronation chicken and smoked salmon sandwiches, but the showstoppers come from the pastry selection centred on a destined-for-Instagram crown consisting of strawberry, shiso leaves and yuzu. Nut allergy sufferer? You’re in the right place – we were grateful to find all dishes were nut-free, a real surprise for luxury patîsserie, and something to put your mind at ease.
From £50pp, until 18 September
Oblix, The Shard
Demands for “cake and fine wine” may have sent the Penrith Tearooms into a tailspin in the British cult classic Withnail and I, but at Oblix, located on the 32nd floor of The Shard, it’s practically de rigueur. Afternoon tea is taken to new heights with a choice of signature single origin teas, rosé or Champagne packages to accompany towers of delectable sandwiches, scones and pastries, all of which are given a contemporary twist with accents of the east such as yuzu and rambutan. If tea and Champagne aren’t your thing, there are also signature cocktails and bottle-fermented beers on offer to complement the stunning views of London’s skyline.
The Orchid Lounge at Pan Pacific London
Presentation is everything, and at The Orchid Lounge in the City’s Pan Pacific London, they know it. This delightfully playful afternoon tea was formulated by award-winning executive pastry chef Cherish Finden in celebration of both the Platinum Jubilee and the aforementioned Superbloom installation. While guests can experience a traditional afternoon tea, we recommend the Kopi Tiam, a tea inspired by Singapore’s coffee shops and which presents dim sum, rice dumplings and bao buns in delicate bird cages that hang around the table. Other pleasing touches include candy floss, a corgi shortbread and a Tower of London pastry melded from pistachio financier, mascarpone and raspberry.
From £72pp, until 31 August
Gatsby’s Room, The Beaumont
To know about The Beaumont is to have a secret you almost don’t want to share. This five-star gem, tucked away in the heart of Mayfair, one of London’s most salubrious areas, is not somewhere you stumble across, it’s somewhere you know about. It’s no wonder, then, that a sense of exclusivity imbues every experience here – particularly the afternoon tea, which is held in the intimate Gatsby Room, an appropriately sophisticated space recently refurbished by New York super-designer Thierry Despont. Sipping a posh cuppa here amid the 1920s-inspired walnut, cream and rust-coloured furnishings is like travelling both back in time and across the Atlantic to the grandeur of America’s Roaring Twenties. Choose from a bespoke artisan tea list created for the hotel by JING Teas, then savour a selection of impeccable sandwiches and pastries (including our favourite, the ‘Snickers macaroon’) – all complemented by exquisite service and softly tinkling ivory keys.
The Stage at The Londoner
While tourists seem to flock to Leicester Square, Londoners have less readily understood why. The Stage at The Londoner (see more below) offers a credible answer. Within the ‘world’s first boutique hotel’ (surely an understatement, considering there are 350 rooms, six restaurants and a ballroom for 1,000?), this vast velvety, glittery Champagne bar holds court, serving as applause-worthy an afternoon tea as you might expect for a venue in the heart of theatreland. While a piano player belts out torch songs, a delectable amuse bouche du jour arrives to set the right tone. This is followed by dainty sandwich squares that elevate everyone’s favourite fillings to new levels of deliciousness, then sumptuous scones and, for the grand finale, a choice of show-stopping patîsserie. The melt-in-the-mouth Victoria slice and giant ‘black truffle’ are worth a curtain call alone. Toast this feast with East India Company loose leaf tea or a choice of more than 45 Champagnes. Encore!
Prêt-à-Portea, The Berkeley
Not many afternoon teas come with their own committee. In Knightsbridge, The Berkeley’s fashion-inspired feast has had one since it launched the unique concept back in 2015 – upon which eight of the nation’s most pre-eminent fashion editors sat and talked cake. That’s right – twice a year (32 spring/summer and autumn/winter seasons have been served thus far – the latter can be booked from October) a fresh set of designers, fashionistas and catwalk creations are honoured in a centrefold of couture confections. Trad sandwiches and posh bites down the hatch, it’s time for the show: Michael Kors’ iconic rose-filled bucket bags immortalised in Victoria sponge and lime-brushed buttercream, Richard Quinn’s yellow dress showstopper reimagined in a pineapple and star anise sorbet, Gucci’s silk tuxedo now a thin chocolate jacket, stuffed to the seams with bourbon vanilla mousse. A glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne is the ultimate accessory for just a tenner more.
Bridgerton Afternoon Tea, The Lanesborough
Emerging from the Lanesborough’s sumptuous hallway into the sunlight-flooded dining room, it’s easy to see how this luxe London hotel by Hyde Park secured Netflix’s no-doubt coveted Bridgerton Afternoon Tea deal. Eggshell blue friezes, Corinthian columns, crystal-clad chandeliers and lilting piano pieces coalesce into a dining space made for fans of the saucy period drama. In this oasis of sophistication, guests can savour a limited-edition menu inspired by the Regency era. Classic finger sandwiches come paired with delectable pastries entitled The Rake, A True Love Match and All Is Fair in Love and War. We loved The Queen’s Diamond, a honey, green cardamom and white chocolate ganache delivered in a jewel-coloured ring box. What could easily be kitsch elsewhere is anything but so here. It’s a delightful experience bolstered by attentive staff Lady Whistledown herself would approve of. Now, where’s that ballroom?
From £65 pp
Where to stay
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Locations don’t get much more prestigious than The Lanesborough, a majestic Regency hospital-turned-hotel overlooking Hyde Park Corner. Inside, Alberto Pinto’s vibrant aesthetic is a feast for design devotees, with each room dressed individually, some featuring walnut wood, yolk yellows and emerald greens, others organic, oriental-inspired prints, autumnal tartans and burnt orange panelling (and don’t get us started on the stunning glass dome-roofed restaurant). Staying here is a truly superior experience – views feature Big Ben, the London Eye and The Shard – and there’s a price tag to match. Clues can be found in the first option of the ‘In Room Delights’ à la carte menu: caviar. Then there’s the 24-hour on-call butler for each and every room, not forgetting the extensive spa that doubles as a members’ club with a yearly fee of £6,000. But then, what did you expect from a hotel that calls Buckingham Palace its neighbour?
High Life says: We couldn’t get enough of the sweet-smelling bath gel presented in a novel honey pot container made for The Lanesborough by Roja Parfums. Luckily you can forfeit leaving it behind for just £55.
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Heralded as the new ‘super boutique’ hotel in London on its arrival last year, this behemoth was the address to watch in the capital. Has it lived up to its significant hype? We’d say so. Occupying an entire corner of Leicester Square and still deceptively large (it has more square footage below ground than above), this luxe location is a collection of bamboo, cinnamon and oak-hued ‘spaces’ catering to the busy Londoner’s every need. A sophisticated rooftop izakaya, French fine dining restaurant, two-screen cinema, expansive ballroom and The Retreat – an entire floor of wellness spaces – are just some of its charms, but really it’s the array of restaurants and bars here that guests want to look out for. Amir Jati of Nobu fame oversees them all, guaranteeing superlative dishes wherever you dine, though we loved signature eatery The Whitcomb for classic French cuisine done delicately (try the courgette spaghetti with chilli for a light yet zingy dish).
High Life says: Bedside binoculars give new meaning to “people watching”, particularly from a Corner Suite, which comes with near-180 degree views of the square and quaint side streets.
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