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 of that, it’s the soaring level of comfort and gastronomic attention that make Claridge's a perennial favorite.
Just a stone’s throw away from the glorious Victoria and Albert Museum, The Franklin is Knightsbridge’s best kept secret. This red-bricked townhouse on Egerton Gardens is a comforting pocket of timeless elegance and unchanging tradition. Expect a more cultured take on the classic afternoon tea at this total gem of a hotel, where the menu is always inspired by the current V&A highlights, whether it’s a Frida Kahlo mescal-infused affair or an elegant array of cakes and sandwiches inspired by the upcoming Dior retrospective.
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 over 200 of his sketches line the walls. Serenaded by a string quartet, your sweet tooth will be well and truly satiated.
No matter the season or time of year, there is a crowd colonizing the Palm Court of the Langham, clamoring for high tea. Alongside the usual spread of scones and sandwiches, the emphasis here is on a seasonally inspired menu, highlighting artisanal British food (artichoke and truffle sandwiches, cabbage coleslaw, almond sponge and blackcurrent mousse are favorites for fall/winter). There’s also the decadent option of free-flowing Perrier-Jouët, which makes it all the more fun as you spill into early evening. For the younger tea aficionado, the Langham has recently launched a children’s afternoon tea with their bookstore-neighbor Daunt’s, including a special curated mini-library and a charming menu that features jigsaw-puzzle sandwiches.
Whether for a power breakfast or pre-theater dinner, 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. They have upped the ante with the new Chocolate Afternoon Tea: while still offering a quintessentially English affair with Victoria sponges and sherry trifles, it includes a delicious roast beef with pumpernickel and cocoa bread, scones served warm with white chocolate cream, dark chocolate and raspberry éclairs, and Wolseley-made Chocolate Tea – an exceptional blend of loose leaf Assam and Yunnan, Peruvian cocoa nibs and Madagascan vanilla.
Since this hotel borders both Hyde Park and London’s high-end shopping area, it’s not surprising that Bulgari’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 takes a sophisticated turn on English favorites, such as warm raisin scones with clotted cream and smoked salmon sandwiches with crème fraiche.
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