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.
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.
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 rubenshotel.com.
You can have gin and tonic or Champagne (left) with tea at Dukes.
Lanesborough’s high tea. Below: Céleste restaurant.