As kids, we delight in the spectacle of the whole experience. The unnecessary removal of crusts from cucumber and egg sandwiches. Fighting over whether the cream or jam goes on the scone first. And getting to choose from a whole assortment of teas we’ve never heard of
We then grow up to learn of all the other iterations of afternoon tea which exist out there. We look for complimentary Champagne, a weird but well executed theme, and a more modern setting – perhaps with a view.
But we still fight over how a scone should be eaten, and inspect each sandwich for even the faintest bit of crust the chefs have overlooked. It’s homey, nostalgic, new and luxurious all at once.
But just about every hotel in the City of London serves up an afternoon tea. Knowing which one to go to can be almost impossible. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the best out there, each bringing their own special something-something to the table.
Pan Pacific Orchid Lounge
Created by award-winning Executive Pastry Chef, Cherish Finden, the Afternoon Tea has been curated with a Singaporean twist, which you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Blending tea especially for the occasion, Cherish has also fused her Asian heritage with the quintessentially British classic.
Unlike most afternoon teas, you’ll start with steamed bao buns filled with mushrooms, colourful dim sum almost too pretty to eat and dainty spiced pork pastries called Char Siu Sou. Moving onto to the cakes, which are closer to works of art than food, you’ll wash it down with expertly blended tea. Delicious,
80 Houndsditch EC3A 7AB
Voted the Best Contemporary Afternoon Tea in the UK for the second year running, Executive Pastry Chef, Mark Perkins, has created a colourful collection of pastries, inspired by the latest exhibition at Tate Britain. Served in the hotel’s Mirror Room, the Van Gogh afternoon tea includes a selection of finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones and loose-leaf teas accompanied by creative pastries which resemble some of his most famous artwork. They are in the shape of sunflowers and almond blossoms as well as one which resembles Starry Night. It’s different done exceptionally well.
252 High Holborn WC1V 7EN
The Four Seasons Hotel at Ten Trinity Square
This opulent hotel located right by the Tower of London hosts an impressive set of fine dining restaurants. But the Rotunda, the large circular bar and lounge space in the centre of the hotel, is a hidden gem in the Square Mile. In the middle of the room the grand piano will be humming tunes while guests tuck into scones, finger sandwiches and French pastries. And for the new Crown Jewels Afternoon Tea, which runs throughout spring and summer, guests can even book a private roof terrace overlooking the Thames, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. This is where you take your our-of-town relatives to afternoon tea.
10 Trinity Square EC3N 4AJ
Fortnum and Masons at the Royal Exchange
Traditionalists in the City are well catered for within the old halls of the Royal Exchange building. Fortnum and Masons have set up their own luxurious bar and dining area within the space, and now offer a brilliant classic afternoon tea. Sample some of the Fortnum and Mason blends of tea, tuck into five differently flavoured finger sandwiches, and add on a few small cakes before washing it all down with some high-end Champagne. It’s all very simple and elegant here, much like the building it resides in.
Royal Exchange EC3V 3LR
The Ned is still the king of the Square Mile when it comes to dining destinations. Of the eight restaurants located within the historic 3,000square metre former banking hall, two serve up some top-notch afternoon teas. Millie’s Lounge is all about relaxed yet formal British dining and their afternoon tea slides perfectly into that category. It’s traditional and well executed but Kaia, their Asia-Pacific inspired restaurant, offers up something a little different. It includes homemade sushi, seaweed salad, and matcha and chocolate cakes. Add some sake on the side and embrace the afternoon tea’s Japanese twist.
27 Poultry EC2R 8AJ
Just across the Millennium Bridge on the Southbank sits this absolute gem of a bar. Lyaness has always focused on making particularly unusual and exciting offerings accessible (not crazy expensive) to all, while bringing a sense of fun to proceedings. Lyaness Spirited Tea fits right into this, taking the classical form of an afternoon tea and giving it a distinctive Lyan twist. They blend in a whole array of different botanical flavours (something they are famous for) while adding just the right amount of kitsch. Each course folds a tale from the colourful world of cocktails into the wonderful world of tea and scones.
20 Upper Ground, South Bank SE1 9PD
Main image: Afternoon Tea at Pan Pacific’s Orchid Lounge