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. No wonder London’s hotels have been jumping at the chance to outdo their neighbours’ tiny tiered sandwiches and inventive pastries, especially as we’re celebrating Afternoon Tea Week in the UK. Here is the crème de la crème of the capital’s teatime offerings
Oblix at 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 single origin teas, rosé or Champagne packages to accompany towers of delicious sandwiches, scones and pastries with a contemporary twist. 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. Its delightful Summer Garden Afternoon Tea pays homage to the season, using British summertime herbs throughout, alongside tropical fruit flavours in a nod to the hotel group's Singaporean roots. Guests can experience a traditional afternoon tea, but we recommend the Kopi Tiam, a tea inspired by Singapore’s coffee shops. Start with an iced pea and mint shot and follow with Asian savouries including a siu mai basket of prawn, spinach and beef, strawberry and chocolate scones, and steamed sweet potato buns made with glutinous rice and topped with coconut flakes. Other pleasing touches include delicate handmade pastries with the evocative names of Basil Smash, Mint Breeze and Tropical Storm.
Gatsby’s Room at 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 from 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 ‘philly cheesesteak’) – 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 vegan black forest and banoffee pie sandwich are worth a curtain call alone. Toast this feast with East India Company loose leaf tea or one of a vast choice of Champagnes. Encore!
Prêt-à-Portea at 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, 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. Among other delights, savour Zimmerman’s playful striped coord immortalised as a Joconde sponge with chocolate skirt and wafer thin biscuit legs, Hermes’ hero handbag created from Victoria sponge and apricot jam and Thom Brown’s avant-garde look as fraise des bois tart with strawberry crémeux, topped with a lime and mint truffle and a red chocolate hat.
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. The ‘In Room Delights’ à la carte menu features caviar. Then there’s the 24-hour on-call butler for every room, not forgetting the extensive spa. The hotel also doubles as a members’ club with a yearly fee of £425. But then, what did you expect from somewhere 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.
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Heralded as the new ‘super boutique’ hotel in London on its arrival a couple of years back, 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 Whitcomb’s for classic French cuisine done delicately.
High Life says: Bedside binoculars give new meaning to ‘people watching’, particularly from a Corner Suite, which comes with near-180° views of the square and quaint side streets.
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