Afternoon tea seems like such a decadent occasion. You while away the hours in cosy surrounds with your closest friends, catching up on all the girly gossip and indulging in french fancies and finger foods while supping cups of tea or glasses of bubbly. And with the weather still frightfully cold, going for a spot of afternoon tea is the perfect way to add some cheer to the day.
Dating back to 1865, English Afternoon Tea is credited to Anna Maria Russell, the Duchess of Bedford. The Duchess is said to have experienced a ‘sinking feeling’ in the middle of the afternoon one day and asked her footman to deliver all the tea making equipment with some bread and butter to her private room. She found this new meal so satisfying and enjoyable that she soon started inviting her special friends to join her for ‘afternoon tea’.
Now we don’t all have a manor house where we can receive guests and a footman to deliver delicacies but there are a number of places around London that serve exceptional afternoon teas. Here are our top five:
The Dorchester Afternoon Tea begins with savoury finger sandwiches. Crusts are removed from fresh baked white and brown breads and the delicate slices are filled with smoked salmon, egg, chicken, cream cheese and cucumber. Warm scones arrive next, made from a recipe unchanged at The Dorchester for over half a century. They are served with glistening strawberry jam and Devonshire clotted cream. The final course is the pièce de resistance, the platter of cakes and tartlets. Served five times daily, it costs £36.50 per person.
And from April 11th to 15th The Dorchester will be serving a Mad Hatters Tea Party to celebrate with performances by English National Ballet School’s young dancers in collaboration with English National Ballet on The Promenade at The Dorchester and of course delectable bites for young and old to enjoy. £50.00 per adult including a glass of Champagne and £30.00 for children. Visit www.thedorchester.com for further information and to book online or call 020 7629 8888.
The Palm Court at The Langham hotel is famed as the place where the tradition of afternoon tea was born over 140 years ago, an indulgence that lives on today. And last year it was awarded the tea equivalent of the OSCARS, the Tea Guild’s ‘Top London Afternoon Tea’ award for 2010! Our favourite of their afternoon teas is the Bijoux afternoon tea, a unique offering of fashion and bespoke tea which is super, luxurious, irresistible and indulgent. Think uber luxury, think Bijoux Afternoon tea. Bijoux tea is charming and bewitching in the service style, appealing to all of one’s senses, with the product, the service and the ambience.
And in the month leading up to the Royal Wedding in London on Friday, 29 April 2011, Cherish Finden, the hotel’s Executive Pastry Chef, has created delectable savoury and pastry treats for ‘Tea Royale’, which will be served in Palm Court for the entire month of April.
This indulgent afternoon tea captures the spirit and enchantment of a Royal Wedding with many tempting delights such as Freshly made lobster and cucumber finger sandwiches with fennel pollen; finger sandwiches of Scottish salmon poached in pink Champagne with green peppercorns; Westminster Abbey chocolate cake;
Apricot and raspberry Royal Crown and Royal Champagne jelly. Tea Royale is priced at £51.50 per person, inclusive of a glass of Champagne Laurent-Perrier NV to toast the happy couple. Visit www.langhamhotels.co.uk for further information and to book online or call 020 7965 0195.
Even if you are watching your weight, it doesn’t mean that you have to forgo the pleasures of afternoon tea. The Metropolitan has taken the quintessentially British afternoon tea and updated it with a cool touch of avant-garde, waist-friendly chic.
Their delicious selection of sweet and savoury cupcakes, fruit scones, and ‘no-bread sandwiches’ are made using healthful alternatives including flour substitutes, and low fat crème fraîche. Fresh fruit purées replace unrefined sugars, olive oil is instead of butter, as well as natural, organic and locally sourced produce wherever possible.
The menu is accompanied by a selection of fruit infusions and an ‘Ultimate Iced Tea’ as well as a seasonal selection of ‘Eco-Tini’s’ to choose from. The Afternoon De-Light menu is available Thursday to Sunday 3pm-6pm and costs £27 per person. To book visit their website or call 020 7447 4757.
The Berkeley London designer afternoon tea, Prêt-à-Portea, is inspired by the themes and colours of the fashion world. The menu is transformed every six months to follow the changing seasons in fashion. London’s most fashionable afternoon tea has seen Haute Couture cakes come and go, and to celebrate the 5th anniversary of Prêt-à-Portea, The Berkeley has invited fashion aficionados to vote for the most memorable creations of the past 5 years, suitably named “Greatest Hits”.
It consists of a mouth-watering selection of miniature savoury skewers, taster spoons, elegant canapés and tea sandwiches. This is followed by a collection of cakes and fancies in in the colours of the fashion season and in the style of the world’s finest designers: Alice Temperley apple and pannacotta mousse with Manolo Blahnik high heel tuille, S/S 2005; Philip Treacy chocolate hat cake with Monarch butterfly A/W 2009; Zac Posen chocolate striped Joconde sponge shoe with chestnut bavaroise A/W 2007; Alexander McQueen pale green pistachio dress biscuit with silver belt S/S 2006; Anya Hindmarch cassis sponge tote covered in baby blue icing with iconic bow S/S 2009; Fendi chocolate baguette with praline croquant A/W 2008; Paul Smith orange and pink cranberry mousses topped with white chocolate bowler hat S/S 2010; and Christian Louboutin sparkly high-heeled ginger show biscuit with signature red sole S/S 2008.
Prêt-à-Portea is served in the Caramel Room daily from 1pm to 6pm and costs from £36.50. Visit their website for more or to book call 020 7201 1619 .
The Orangery at Kensington Palace
The 18th century Orangery is a stunning setting to partake in the pleasures of afternoon tea and they offer one of the finest tea selections in London with over ten different flavours to enjoy, as well as a range of premium wines and champagnes. When the weather is fine, sit outside on the terrace and enjoy the view of the palace and its elegant gardens.
Our favourite afternoon tea is the Royal Champagne Tea which comprises of a flute of Champagne, served with an assortment of finger sandwiches, signature orange scented scone with Cornish clotted cream & strawberry jam. Finished with a delectable eclair and orange and passion fruit tart. Served with a choice of teas or coffee. It is £20.45 per person. The Orangery doesn’t take bookings so go early to ensure a nice table. Visit the Kensington Palace website for further details.