The Mandarin Oriental
For a sophisticated, contemporary tea that oozes style, the Mandarin Oriental’s Rosebery Lounge is the perfect destination. Every detail boasts an artistic flourish, from food served in a birdcage suspended from a delicate branch, to the range of intricate pastries painstakingly adorned with gold leaf and tiny edible flowers. Sandwiches are formed into perfect circles, encasing fillings such as Wiltshire cured ham with heritage tomatoes and smoked salmon tartar with dill, while handmade pastries are almost too beautiful to eat – enjoy yuzu-flavoured macarons and an unbelievably light pomegranate and yogurt mousse cake.
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, SW1C 7LA. www.mandarinoriental.com/london
Famous for being the hotel that Kate Middleton spent her last night in as a single woman before marrying Prince William in 2011, The Goring serves up an award-winning afternoon tea with all the traditional touches to please a Duchess. Enjoyed in either the decadent lounge (complete with twinkling chandeliers and historic paintings) or on the terrace overlooking the hotel’s private gardens, this has to be one of the grandest teas in London, filled with plates of perfect little pastries bursting with gorgeous flavours. This summer, the hotel is also celebrating its royal connection with a special afternoon tea to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday. Served until the end of August, it features everything from a choux bun in Her Majesty’s image piped full of butter cream and topped with a fluffy pastry crown, to a golden orb filled with passion fruit and coated in white chocolate ganache. Add a glass of Bollinger champagne to the experience for the ultimate indulgence.
The Goring Hotel, Beeston Place, SW1W 0JW. www.thegoring.com
For an afternoon tea unlike any other, Sketch is the ultimate unique destination. It is served in the pink Gallery designed by artist David Shrigley, where his humour can be found not just on the walls but also on the crockery, which conceals messages at the bottom of the teacups and under sandwiches. This sense of fun extends to the food, where the presentation is as refined as the flavour. Sandwiches arrive topped with perfectly circular fried quail’s eggs and dainty spheres of caviar, while carpaccio-style shavings of cucumber are layered in delicate perfection on top of precision-cut bread. Pastries include choux buns oozing pistachio filling, mini meringues sandwiched with a citrus jam and irresistibly rich slices of chocolate gateaux. Look out for a special Wimbledon-themed tea running between June 27-July 10, and make sure you don’t leave without visiting the futuristic toilets!
Sketch, 9 Conduit Street, W1S 2XG. www.sketch.london
To mark the 25th anniversary of her international beauty brand, Bobbi Brown is teaming up with Balthazar restaurant to launch a cosmetics-themed afternoon tea featuring culinary recreations of some of Brown’s most popular products. The menu includes a Foundation Stick reimagined in chocolate praline, a Shimmer Brick created from Champagne-infused rhubarb and a Moisture Balm as lemon panna-cotta with gingerbread crumble. Brown has also developed a customised shade of red lipstick for the collaboration, created in rosewater mousse with financier sponge for the tea and available to purchase as a real lipstick at the brand’s Covent Garden Studio, a stone’s throw from the restaurant. The tea will be served throughout the summer until September 29.
Balthazar, 4-6 Russell Street, WC2B 5HZ. www.balthazarlondon.com
Celebrating its 110th anniversary this year, The Ritz hotel provides one of London’s grandest backdrops for afternoon tea. The Epicurean Tea Tasting tea is a suitably refined affair, served to just four people a day. Tea master Giando Scanu has collaborated with the hotel’s head chef to match six rare loose-leaf teas with delicate sandwiches and patisseries. Each tea is brewed to the perfect temperature over individual burners and accompanied by explanations from Scanu himself on the history of tea and the journey each blend took to arrive in your cup. Culinary highlights include fresh scones served with Earl Grey jelly and praline cream.
The Ritz, 150 Piccadilly, W1J 9BR. www.theritzlondon.com
Since launching a few years ago, the Berkeley’s Prêt-à-Portea afternoon tea has remained an enduring hit with fashion lovers, providing the chance to munch on miniature replicas of all the latest designs, fresh from the catwalk. The SS16 edition will feature tasty morsels from high-end designers including Dolce & Gabbana, Ralph & Russo, Oscar de la Renta and Manolo Blahnik, immortalised in biscuits, canapés and delicate patisseries, washed down with a choice of refined teas.
The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, SW1X 7RL. www.the-berkeley.co.uk
To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death on April 23, the Globe’s Swan restaurant is launching a special afternoon tea themed on Emma Rice’s staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which will be playing in the theatre this summer. Inspired by the pea flower from which Oberon’s love potion is squeezed in the play, the menu features a floral theme that includes lemon and rose cake, strawberry delice with elderflower meringue and hibiscus and apricot dessert shots. Bespoke crockery has been specially etched by Annika Wester with illustrations themed on the plot of the play and a bespoke Love Potion cocktail has been created from a mix of Earl Grey infused gin, honey, blackberry puree and prosecco.
Swan, Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, SE1 9DT. www.swanlondon.co.uk
The Lobby Lounge at the Corinthia brings a dash of modern glamour to the tradition of afternoon tea, crowned with a spectacular Baccarat chandelier hung from a glass dome which floods the room with natural light. The tea itself also boasts modern twists, including finger sandwiches served on artisanal breads as well as delicate fancies with artistic flourishes. In addition, an expert tea sommelier is on hand to help you navigate the wide range of blends sourced from around the world by master blenders Harney & Sons. From June 27, a special Wimbledon-inspired tea will be served to diners, featuring a menu influenced by one of the most important dates in the sporting calendar.
The Corinthia Hotel, Whitehall Place, SW1A 2BD. www.corinthia.com
As one of London’s most famous destinations for afternoon tea, Claridge’s serves up its menu with lashings of traditional glamour in Thierry Despont’s Art Deco-inspired Foyer. The classic tea features finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones and a selection of pastries accompanied by a choice of 24 teas from across the globe, handpicked by expert Henrietta Lovell from little-known producers. A tea themed on the Chelsea Flower Show will be served from May 23-29, along with a Wimbledon-inspired menu from June 27-July 10.
Claridge's, Brook Street, W1K 4HR. www.claridges.co.uk
Radio Rooftop Bar
For an afternoon tea with a view, you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere more spectacular than Radio Rooftop Bar, overlooking some of London's most iconic landmarks. This year marks the launch of the bar's first ever afternoon tea which features a contemporary menu including delicacies such as compressed watermelon with feta and black olive tapenade and a liquid nitrogen frozen fruit sorbet with earl grey mousse and popping candy. Traditional and herbal teas will also be on offer, alongside a selection of high-end champagnes and cocktails. The tea is served Monday-Friday between 12pm and 5pm and reservations can be made by emailing London_reservations@togrp.com or calling 020 7395 3440.
Radio Rooftop Bar, ME London, 336-337 Strand, WC2R 1HA. www.radiorooftop.com