AF­TER­NOON TEA

Where London - - Where Now Winter Warmers -

Even if you gave a corgi a bowler hat and taught it to howl GodSaveTheQueen, you couldn’t get more Bri­tish than af­ter­noon tea. This does not re­fer merely to the drink­ing of tea from china cups, pos­si­bly with your lit­tle fin­ger pointed sky­wards, but to an ex­tra light meal art­fully sand­wiched be­tween lunch and din­ner. The con­cept was pop­u­larised by the Duchess Of Bed­ford in the first half of the 19th cen­tury, ad­mit­tedly when lunch it­self was un­com­mon.

The ul­ti­mate tea, of course, is at The Ritz (above). It is served in the Palm Court, with its or­nate gold ceil­ing and the sound of a pi­ano tin­kling in the back­ground. It has all the key in­gre­di­ents: fin­ger sand­wiches, tea cakes, pas­tries and, of course, scones with jam and clot­ted cream. There is a se­lec­tion of 16 teas (Cham­pagne may be sub­sti­tuted for tea, if you are so in­clined). Ties are re­quired for men, and book­ing is es­sen­tial.

Other venues for tra­di­tional teas in­clude The Goring ho­tel, last year’s win­ner of the Tea Guild’s award, where you can re­lax on leather ban­quettes and en­joy a roar­ing fire; Clar­idge’s, which ser­e­nades guests with a pi­anist and cel­list; The Dorch­ester, where you can sit on the bal­cony over­look­ing the ho­tel’s lobby; the Lan­caster, with views of Hyde Park; or the Bul­gari, which serves pas­tries cre­ated by Alexan­dre Tal­paert.

London be­ing London, you can also find tea with a twist. Take a trip back to the 1940s, com­plete with vin­tage jazz, at Soho’s Se­cret Tea Room above The Coach & Horses pub. At the Volupté in Hol­born, there are bur­lesque acts and singers. En­joy the fash­ion-themed Prêt-àPortea at the Berke­ley ho­tel, with cakes shaped like bags and boots (in­set). If you’re trav­el­ling with chil­dren, the Eger­ton House Ho­tel and Ch­ester­field May­fair both of­fer a ‘Lit­tle Prince and Princess Tea’ for un­der-12s; One Ald­wych of­fers a ‘scrum­did­dlyump­tious’ tea in­spired by the nearby mu­si­cal, Char­lie­AndThe­Choco­late Fac­tory ; and you can roll tea and sight­see­ing into one with the BB Bak­ery af­ter­noon tea served inside of a dou­ble-decker bus, de­part­ing twice daily from Northum­ber­land Av­enue off Trafal­gar Square.

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