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The best places for afternoon tea in London

Afternoon tea at Four Seasons Hotel Ten Trinity Square in London.

©Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square

The best places for afternoon tea in London

Discover where to enjoy the best afternoon teas at some of London’s finest hotels.
08 May, 2023

When in London, one has to indulge in afternoon tea – a tradition dating back to the early 19th century that owes its origins to Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. Hotels in London have set the bar high to make this now-unmissable British ritual magical, unforgettable and fun. Here are our recommendations for the best places for afternoon tea in London.

Pan Pacific London: the magical one

Afternoon tea at Pan Pacific London.

Courtesy of Pan Pacific London

Served at The Orchid Lounge, on the ground floor of the Pan Pacific hotel in Shoreditch, this afternoon tea definitely has the wow factor. Created by the hotel's former Executive Pastry Chef Cherish Finden, this sophisticated, beautifully designed experience is colourful and playful, with tea served in stunning porcelain bone china. The fact that this afternoon tea incorporates Southeast Asian flavours – to stay true to the hotel’s Singaporean roots – makes it extra special. Expect steamed buns, dumplings, matcha scones, and steamed pandan mantou (served with kaya jam – a coconut spread), a fireplace and excellent service.

The Connaught: the classic one

Dining room at Jean-Georges at The Connaught in London.

Courtesy of The Connaught

Served in Jean-Georges’ luminous restaurant, afternoon tea at The Connaught, Mayfair, is unmissable. This classic take on afternoon tea has a gourmandise feeling to its small cakes, with subtle yet perceptible French heritage notes – the cherry on the cake is a chocolate fondue. As for the scones, they are simply perfect. Also, if you want to bring home extra treats, the hotel has a pastry shop, where you’ll find croissants, pains au chocolat, and all sorts of viennoiseries and cakes.

The Carlton Tower Jumeirah: the gourmet one

Rhubarb tart at Carlton Tower Jumeirah in London.

Courtesy of The Carlton Tower Jumeirah

Signed by Jessica Prealpato, formerly Alain Ducasse’s pastry chef at Plaza Athénée in Paris, this afternoon tea stands among the most interesting and scrumptious in London. Prealpato brings her knowledge of desseralité – desseralité being the translation to pastry of Ducasse’s naturalité approach to savoury. Meaning, cream and sugar are both the enemy here, and ingredients bring strong flavours on their own, with limited additions. As a result, cakes and tarts taste lighter than usual, and better, too. The whole affair is inventive, modern and original; finger sandwiches, for example, have been Frenchified (the croissant à la truffe is to die for). There’s also a nettle scone. The gourmet touch makes this afternoon tea one of a kind.

Hotel Café Royal: the fun one

Afternoon tea at Cakes & Bubbles in London.

©Hotel Café Royal

Spanish chef Albert Adrià has created a unique afternoon tea at Hotel Café Royal, in Piccadilly. Served at Cakes and Bubbles, his ‘salon de thé’ at the hotel, this afternoon tea features unique and surprising desserts, such as Adrià’s now iconic cheesecake, combining cheese, hazelnut and white chocolate, his golden egg flan (a Spanish ‘flan de huevo’, here served in the shape of an egg) and his rose lychee (served in an actual rose). Entertaining and intriguing, note that this all-sweet afternoon tea doesn’t include finger sandwiches.

Rosewood London: a cultural journey

Afternoon tea at Rosewood London.

Photo: Patricia Niven

Served in one of the most luxurious hotels in London, the Rosewood’s afternoon tea is beautiful to look at. Its distinguishing factor is its artistic take, paying vibrant, perfectly executed tributes to major artists (who are usually exhibiting in London at the time), including Salvador Dali, Yayoi Kusama and David Hockney. Signed by Executive Pastry Chef Mark Perkins this afternoon tea is highly Instagrammable, boosted further by where it is served: in the opulent Mirror Room – a spacious, modern, longitudinal room giving ballroom vibes, filled with mirrors and lights.

Corinthia London: the luxurious one

Afternoon tea at Corinthia London.

Photo: Jack Hardy

At the Corinthia, located between the River Thames and Trafalgar Square, afternoon tea is served under a massive, spherical Baccarat chandelier, in the hotel’s Crystal Moon Lounge. As treats and cakes arrive on silver gilded trolleys, a pianist entertains guests with classical music – making the experience even more charming. Scones arrive in elegant wooden boxes, while tea is considered a proper gourmet drink. The whole thing is highly sophisticated, yet cosy. Gorgeous flower compositions also grace the lobby, adding further panache.

Four Seasons Hotel Ten Trinity Square: the beautiful one

Afternoon tea at the Four Seasons in London.

©Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square

Set in another stunning building – the former headquarters of the Port of London Authority, located right next to the Tower of London – this afternoon tea takes place in a majestic rotunda, where a pianist plays classical tunes. The experience kicks off with excellent finger sandwiches (coronation chicken and cucumber being the best), followed by warm scones. It finishes with beautiful small cakes, each representing a crown jewel; the crown-like one is so perfectly done, one feels almost bad to break it – but the strawberry confit is worth the crime.

Shangri-La The Shard: the best view

This afternoon tea’s forte is the mesmerising view, served as it is on the 35th floor of the hotel, with huge bay windows for a maximised view of the London panorama. A musical duo graces the afternoon tea, in which a chocolate replica of The Shard (one of Europe’s tallest buildings) melts when served. A lovely, theatrical moment, high in the sky.