Curating luxury for the discerning traveller

Tea Time: London's Finest Afternoon Teas

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To celebrate Afternoon Tea Week (August 13-19) Beatrice Squires goes in search of London’s best scones, finger sandwiches and brews, finding experiences to suit every taste

The novelist Henry James once said: “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” This most quintessential of English pastimes was conceived in 1840 by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, who would order bread, cakes and tea up to her room at around four o’clock to curb her hunger between lunch and dinner. The habit soon turned into a social occasion with the Duchess asking friends to join her for ‘afternoon tea’. Thus, the tradition was born and if London’s eclectic variety is anything to go by, it is now more popular than ever.

Dining
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BEST FOR TRADITION: THE RITZ

If it is an iconic experience you are looking for, tea at The Ritz is as good as it gets.The Grade II-listed, five-star hotel in Piccadilly is widely considered to be one of the world’s most prestigious and certainly looks the part, decorated in the lavish style of Louis XVI. Tea is taken in the Palm Court, a combination of opulent mirrors and sparkling chandeliers, while the resident pianist provides a musical accompaniment. Indulge in a selection of freshly cut sandwiches such as Scottish smoked salmon with lemon butter on sourdough bread and roast beef with horseradish on malt bread as well as freshly baked scones and pastries.The tea list is extraordinary, and it’s no surprise.The hotel’s tea sommelier regularly travels the world to handpick special new blends.

theritzlondon.com

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BEST FOR VIEWS: OBLIX WEST

Rainer Becker’s restaurant Oblix occupies the entire 32nd oor of The Shard. In fact, it is so big that it is divided into three separate spaces, one of which is Oblix West, delivering upscale, sophisticated, urban dining. Other than the astounding views across Westminster and its sleek surroundings, what makes this offering stand out is that it is completely gluten-free. With delectable buttery scones, delicious savouries such as the duck egg and truf e mayonnaise sandwich, and moreish sweet treats (orange and chocolate cake) available, it’s difficult to believe such an incredible selection is any different from the norm; it’s certainly no less delicious.

oblixrestaurant.com

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BEST FOR ART LOVERS: ROSEWOOD LONDON

Located in central London’s Holborn, Rosewood London hotel is like an artwork in itself. The beautifully designed five-star heritage space retains many of its original features, including a monumental seven-storey marble staircase. In the intimate Mirror Room, the award-winning Art Afternoon Tea changes on a rolling basis, depending on which major art exhibition is chosen as a theme. At the time of writing, the tea was inspired by The British Museum’s Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece. Executive pastry chef Mark Perkins created intricate pastries and artisanal chocolates inspired by the French sculptor that were miniature sculptures themselves – which guests were invited to chip away at. To find details of the next Art Afternoon Tea, check the website.

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BEST FOR CLASSIC CHIC: CLARIDGE’S

Iconic Mayfair hotel Claridge’s has attracted society’s biggest movers and shakers, from statesmen to movie stars and fashion designers, since the 1920s with its effortless Art Deco-style glamour and impeccable service. Held in the crisp, elegant surroundings of the Foyer and Reading Room, this award-winning afternoon tea – served on the trademark fine white and jade-striped china – offers seasonally changing pastries and incredible savoury treats, including an ever-changing sandwich ‘special’. Look out for the warm scones with Marco Polo gelée (jam infused with bergamot and vanilla) and Cornish clotted cream. With classical musicians playing in the corner, it’s the height of sophistication.

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BEST FOR FOODIES: AMETSA WITH ARZAK INSTRUCTION AT COMO THE HALKIN

Those with a hunger for something different will delight in the offering at COMO The Halkin’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Ametsa with Arzak Instruction. Influenced not by British, but by Basque cuisine, the talented team has created a menu brimming with passion. Think savoury tapas rather than sandwiches: Garlic pintxo, txangurro (spider crab) and tomato and raspberry soup. As for the sweet stuff, there is plenty of it – Catalan cream, passionfruit cake and the obligatory chocolate with churros are all presented with the sort of minimalist, awless attention to detail one would expect from a restaurant of this calibre.

comohotels.com

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BEST FOR CREATIVE FLAIR: SKETCH

For a multi-sensory experience that lingers in your memory, nothing beats Sketch. Conceived by French master chef Pierre Gagnaire and restaurateur Mourad Mazouz as an expansive space where food, music and art combine, tea takes place in the Gallery Room, where visual artist David Shrigley is currently artist in residence.

With a ‘millennial pink’ colour scheme, cloud-like velvet armchairs and Shrigley’s satirical sketches adorning every inch of wall space, it is nothing short of a fairy tale.The food is as stylish as the surroundings, with nger sandwiches, buttery scones and a wonderful selection of petits gâteaux that range from pear Bourdaloue tart to caramel and chocolate éclair. Not forgetting the homemade Victoria sponge, served from a glittering gold cake trolley, of course.

sketch.london

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