For a taste of the traditional with a playful twist, Jean-Georges at The Connaught is a lively Mayfair setting in which to take high tea. From the Louise Bourgeois art hanging on the walls to Jean Jullien’s illustrated menus, it is a celebration of the fun and frivolity of the culinary custom. The chef’s passion for eclectic flavors is incorporated into finger sandwiches – think cucumber with a hint of lime and mint, and chipotle smoked salmon. The cake and patisseries stand is a sight to behold, and the pièce de résistance is the delectable chocolate fondue, served with sponge fingers for dipping.
Under the beautiful domed ceiling of The Lanesborough’s Celeste restaurant, afternoon tea is served in collaboration with the world-famous, fairy-tale-pink Peggy Porschen bakery. Guests will find themselves immersed in the restaurant’s frothy florals and pastel hues as they indulge in Porschen’s signature creations, reimagined for the season. For Christmas, look forward to turkey and stuffing sandwiches, a strawberry and pink-champagne tartlet and a show-stopping cranberry Christmas pavlova.
For a wondrous combination of fashion and food, look no further than The Berkeley’s renowned Prêt-à-Portea. Paying culinary homage to the catwalks each season, the delights are a collection of perfectly formed creations, which are almost too pretty to eat (almost). From biscuit trench coats to cake handbags, this is the place where haute couture meets high tea.
Popular plant-based restaurant Farmacy, in Notting Hill, is bringing a contemporary update to traditional afternoon-tea fayre. High tea here is 100 percent plant-based and free from dairy, refined sugars, additives and chemicals; and it’s a crowd-pleaser – for vegans and non-vegans alike. The menu ranges from cheesecakes, lemon meringue pie and pavlova to vegetable quiches, bruschetta and even a smoked tofu and truffle wrap.
Mayfair’s landmark hotel is the ultimate bastion of Englishness; a 200-year-old grande dame whose afternoon tea in the magnificent art deco foyer still regularly tops global ‘best’ lists. And for good reason: here, you’ll find organic cucumber and French sorrel sandwiches, Instagram-friendly Bernardaud green-and-white-striped porcelain, chestnut and vanilla éclairs and an unparalleled selection of rare teas (including a White Silver Tip from the mountains of Fujian and the most perfect Earl Grey, grown in a 14th-century walled tea garden in Cornwall). But aside from all that, it’s the soaring level of comfort and gastronomic attention that make Claridge’s a perennial favorite.
Marbled parquet flooring, plush velvet scalloped chairs and pink, pink, pink everywhere – welcome to The Gallery, the prettiest room in London. It’s the perfect setting for Sketch’s utterly charming afternoon tea: cucumber finger sandwiches and mini comté cheese paninis; pastel-hued petits gateaux, including passionfruit tartlets and rose marshmallows; and the fluffiest warm scones you’ll ever eat, all washed down with a glass of crisp champagne and a seemingly endless loose-leaf tea menu. It’s all devoured from David Shrigley-made chinaware – in the cult artist’s typically idiosyncratic style, plates and bowls are labelled ‘food’; teapots and dainty milk jugs contain ‘ghosts’ and ‘dreams’ – while 91 of his sketches line the walls. Serenaded by a string trio, your sweet tooth will be well and truly satiated.
No matter the season, there is a crowd colonizing the Palm Court of The Langham, clamoring for high tea. The Marylebone hotel has been serving afternoon tea on its menu since 1865, having popularized the tradition when it became the first hotel to offer the new mealtime on its menu. Alongside the usual spread of sandwiches and cakes, the emphasis here is on a seasonally inspired menu. The Festive Afternoon Tea takes inspiration from beloved British biscuits and baked tarts, paired with champagne or English sparkling wine and an extensive array of teas. For the younger aficionado, the hotel has launched a children’s afternoon tea with its neighbor Daunt Books, including a special curated mini library and a charming menu that features jigsaw-puzzle sandwiches.
Walking into The Wolseley – with its distinctive black-and-white marble floor, towering arches and lofty pillars – always feels like a special occasion. The whole place oozes high-octane glamour, thanks to London restaurateurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, who understand that a good dose of tradition and history, mixed with fantasy, are vital to hold attention. Tea is a quintessentially English affair here, with the usual finger sandwiches and fruit scones alongside classics including treacle tart and Battenberg. Éclairs come in wonderful flavors, such as tangy lemon meringue and rum punch. For refreshment, try the Wolseley-made chocolate tea – an exceptional blend of loose-leaf Assam and Yunnan, Peruvian cocoa nibs and Madagascan vanilla.
BULGARI HOTEL LONDON
Since this hotel borders both Hyde Park and one of London’s high-end shopping districts, it’s not surprising that Bulgari Hotel London’s granite-clad lounge attracts a leisure-minded crowd, longing to put their feet up in front of an open fire as tea time morphs into cocktail hour in one of the city’s buzziest and most glamorous lobbies. Famed for its speciality loose-leaf teas – including the rare Hu Shan Yellow Buds – the Bulgari gives a sophisticated edge to English favorites, such as warm raisin scones with clotted cream and smoked-salmon sandwiches with crème fraîche.
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