Top 5 Places for Afternoon Tea in London
Interested in having afternoon tea in London? Learn about the best London tea houses from someone who's tried them all.
Afternoon tea in London is a wonderful experience because it allows you to slip away from the hectic energy of the city, sip fine teas, and refuel with warm scones. Whether you've spent the day exploring the many London museums or traveling between the historic London sites, you'll not only get a break you need at tea time, but you'll feel like royalty.
When I was about five years old, my grandmother, Neenie, first started taking my sister, Betsy, and me to tea at the Ritz. The three of us sat in the tea room for a couple hours, listened to the calming live piano music, admired the oil portraits, and devoured the delicious tea cakes and sandwiches from the silver platter sampler at our table. Even at age five, I appreciated the ritual of afternoon tea, even though it took me a while to figure out the intricacies of the event. Here are my five favorite spots for afternoon tea in London.
The Connaught in Mayfair
This tea room dates back to 1897 when the gentry of England needed a place to retire during their busy capital visits. For them, afternoon tea in London became a staple. You'll enjoy the simple elegance of the Connaught with doormen in white gloves and tall black top hats, an intricate mosaic floor and a splendid, sweeping wooden staircase. Famous starlets including Sharon Stone and Lauren Bacall (my favorite actress) have enjoyed afternoon tea at the Connaught. For an authentic exposure to afternoon tea in London, try Connaught's traditional tea which comes with house-made crumpets, pastries, scones and a wide selection of teas.
Fortnum & Mason
Fortnum Mason is always at the top of my list when I visit London. I first came here when I was 12 years old. My mom, Betsy and I were totally worn out after hours of walking around London and I remember feeling relieved as my body plopped onto the soft sofa in the Fortnum & Mason's St. James tea room. (Instead of normal chairs, most seating at the Fortnum & Mason consists of couches). Fortnum & Mason offers a great traditional tea which they've served since 1707, and they also have a wide variety of options for different occasions (birthdays etc.) and dietary needs (including vegetarian, gluten free and diabetic options). If you're looking for authentic gifts from London to bring home to friends and family, consider buying a can of the Fortnum & Mason Royal blend, which can only be purchased in England.
The Ritz is nothing less than an institution. At the Ritz, everything runs on a perfect schedule with five tea sittings a day, at 11:30AM, 1:30PM, 3:30PM, 5:30PM and 7:30PM. The wide selection of teas and the gorgeous setting in the Ritz's Palm Court is unparalleled. Afternoon tea in London does not get any more elegant than at the Ritz; the only problem is that you need to make a reservation well over a month ahead of time. Yes, afternoon tea at the Ritz is that popular.
If you're a fashionista or admire the work of creative pastry chefs, you'll enjoy tea at the Berkeley whose tea house serves cookies and pastries in the shape of the newest and hippest fashions. The Berkeley proves that afternoon tea in London doesn't have to be traditional; in fact, it's more fun when it's not. Tea at the Berkeley is nothing less than a modern, stylish and fun affair. If you order Prêt-à-Portea, "A Fashionista's Afternoon Tea," you'll get to try a clog-shaped cookie, bite into a marzipan purse or munch on pastry in the shape of a gown. I like to look at the display of pastries in the front of the tea room and compare the original fashion pictures to the pastry chefs' creations.
Men's Afternoon Tea in Deville Restaurant
While my mom, my sister and I enjoyed tea at Fortnum & Mason, my dad wandered the city alone because he mistakenly thought afternoon tea in London was only for women; it's not. Actually, there is an entire Tea reserved only for men at the Mandeville Hotel. In addition to tea and pastries, they serve champagne, whiskies, roast sirloin sandwiches and chicken satays. The bar also provides a selection of games including Backgammon.
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