The Square Mile is brimming with hotels and restaurants serving up afternoon tea, each offering up a different take on this quintessential British past time.
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.
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.
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
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 team behind by CHLOE have recently launched their all-new afternoon tea – a nostalgic revival of the sweet memory of a children’s party with a creative vegan twist. They say it is a much needed antidote to the formality of the traditional British pastime. All the food is plant-based and made to be super fun, both for kids and adults. And one of the best bits is the decor; they’ve created bespoke tablecloths and vibrant crayons for the occasion, encouraging guests to break the rules of not scribbling on the table. Embrace your inner child at this one.
One Tower Bridge, 6 Duchess Walk SE1 2SD
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 Wyld 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
One of the City of London’s top rooftops also hosts one of the area’s best afternoon tea experiences. Taking inspiration from their own name, the Savage Tea menu features a modern update on the great British tradition, featuring sumptuous savouries such as rare roast beef and wasabi remoulade that can be enjoyed before tucking into an array of sweet treats such as a dark chocolate cremeux sphere. Feast on all manner of deliciousness up on one of two terraces overlooking the surrounding cityscape, being sure to sample some of their world-class cocktails, too. Ain’t life hard?
Floor 12, 7 Pepys Street EC3N 4AF