Par­tak­ing of qual­ity teas in lush sur­round­ings is a re­gal ex­pe­ri­ence. Sandy Guy takes us to the most ex­quis­ite tea­rooms in London and sam­ples mac­a­roons, éclairs and hot-pink stiletto bis­cuits.

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the best places to take tea

Thomas Twin­ing opened his first tea shop for ladies in London in 1717, and since then Bri­tons have sipped it con­tin­u­ally – in the UK to­day around 165 mil­lion cup­pas are downed daily, ac­cord­ing to the UK

Tea and In­fu­sions As­so­ci­a­tion.

As a re­fined af­fair for the wealthy, dur­ing the 18th cen­tury an af­ter­noon tea of sand­wiches and cakes evolved into some­thing of a na­tional in­sti­tu­tion – for the work­ing classes, it be­came “high tea”, the main meal of the day.

To­day, London fea­tures a pro­fu­sion of af­ter­noon tea venues, from the op­u­lent to in­for­mal, tra­di­tional to cheek­ily con­tem­po­rary.

Tea at The Ritz London, served amid Louis XVI fur­nish­ings and glit­ter­ing chan­de­liers, is so pop­u­lar it has five daily sit­tings, and will set you back from £57 ($111) per per­son.

I set forth to seek out some of the city’s less well-known teas, and dis­cov­ered some that are not only great value, but haunts of the rich and fa­mous.

The Lanes­bor­ough Ho­tel

A grand Ge­or­gian ho­tel, the Lanes­bor­ough has long been a favourite af­ter­noon tea venue: co­me­dian Dawn French, who was seated at the next ta­ble on one of my visits, has re­ferred to the Lanes­bor­ough as “sim­ply the best place to take tea in London”. Af­ter­noon tea is served in the Miche­lin-starred restau­rant Céleste (French for “heav­enly”) and, as you would ex­pect from a five-star ho­tel, is truly grand. Sam­ple clas­sics such as fin­ger sand­wiches, just-made scones and amaz­ing French pas­tries, served with fine din­ing fi­nesse, and a tea som­me­lier to help choose from al­most 40 va­ri­eties of tea.

£39 ($76) per per­son or from £49 ($95) with Cham­pagne.

The Lanes­bor­ough Ho­tel, Hyde Park Cor­ner, London. Visit oetk­er­col­lec­tion. com/des­ti­na­tions/the-lanes­bor­ough.

The Berke­ley Prêt-à-Portea

The five-star Berke­ley ho­tel puts a con­tem­po­rary spin on af­ter­noon tea with its Prêt-à-Portea, where cakes and pas­tries are in­spired by the lat­est de­signs from lead­ing fash­ion houses (mid­dle pic­ture, right). The spring/ sum­mer 2018 col­lec­tion in­cludes fashionista fan­cies such as Tom Ford’s hot-pink choco­late stiletto bis­cuits, Ralph & Russo’s pink ruf­fle dress trans­formed into an ice-cream cone, and but­ter­fly hand­bag cake in­spired by de­signs from Aruna Seth.

Tea is served in the chic Collins Room, a favourite of the fash­ion crowd. Af­ter­noon tea is £52 ($101); Cham­pagne tea from £62 ($120).

The Berke­ley, Wil­ton Place, Knights­bridge, London.

Visit the-berke­

The Rubens at the Palace

Sit­u­ated on Buck­ing­ham Palace Road, over­look­ing the palace’s Royal Mews, Rubens at the Palace (left, at bot­tom) serves an af­ter­noon tea that in­cludes del­i­ca­cies in­spired by the neigh­bours, such as Coro­na­tion chicken sand­wiches, gin and tonic cheese­cake, and English rose mac­a­roons. Teas range from the Royal Ju­bilee

Blend, cre­ated to cel­e­brate Queen El­iz­a­beth’s Di­a­mond Ju­bilee, to ex­otic va­ri­eties such as Rosy Fig White Tea. Nib­ble sweet treats in the ho­tel’s plush draw­ing-room and, af­ter tea, stroll up the road to see the Chang­ing of the Guard. £39 ($76) per per­son; the Prince and Princess Royal af­ter­noon tea for the kids is £15 ($29).

The Rubens at the Palace, 39 Buck­ing­ham Palace Rd, London. Visit ruben­

You can have gin and tonic or Cham­pagne (left) with tea at Dukes.

Lanes­bor­ough’s high tea. Be­low: Céleste restau­rant.

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