Six of the best London afternoon teas

20 November 2016

For high tea with a twist, try one of these London treats for more than just Victoria sponge and an Earl Grey

This article was first published in July 2014 and updated November 2016

1. Afternoon tea at The Kensington Hotel

The lowdown Leafy streets, elegant three-story townhouses, and smart ladies walking dalmations… it can only be South Kensington, AKA the nicest place in London for afternoon tea. In fact, the very nicest place for afternoon tea is The Kensington Hotel, refurbished earlier this year and boasting a shiny new bar and lounge area that will have you snapping photos for future home decorating inspiration. But of course, squishy sofas and fancy wallpaper can only be part of the story when it comes to tea. The real test is the sandwiches (which can be deceptively difficult to get right). Happily, The Kensington delivers: our favourites were the Dorset crab and avocado with lemon purée, plus the Wiltshire ham with tarragon mustard and pea shoots. We also loved the decadent amuse-bouche of smoked salmon gougère with horseradish crème fraîche. (In the kitchen is clearly a chef who knows his stuff.) The pastries were another high point – delicate bites of confection, part childhood nursery, part Marie Antoinette’s tea-time.
Price £35 per person or £45 with a glass of Champagne. 
Value for money: Two spoons of sugar (£)
Where: From noon to 6pm daily, The Kensington Hotel, 109-, 113 Queen's Gate, London SW7 5L, (+44 (0)207 589 6300;

2. BB Afternoon Tea Bus Tour
The lowdown: The BB Bakery has taken over a classic red Routemaster London bus, where you can enjoy afternoon tea while touring London's historic sights. Tea is served in a ceramic beaker. You'll pray for a red traffic light — this is the only opportunity you'll have to gulp your Earl Grey safely. Refined it is not. Hen parties will love it. 
Price £49 per person.
Value for money Our cup of tea (£)
Where Pickup at the London Eye, 12.30 and 3pm weekdays, 12.30, 3pm and 5.30pm weekends. Book online (+44 (0)20 7237 3392,

3. 24 Karat Gold Afternoon Tea, Taj 51 Buckingham Gate
The lowdown
A hidden gem in a tiled courtyard at this hotel just down the road from Buckingham Palace. You're sure to be dazzled by delicately prepared sandwiches and cakes sprinkled with gold covered popping candy and edible gold leaf, washed down with Luxor Champagne, in which real 24-carat gold flakes dance among the bubbles. Fun and very bling. 
Price £150 for two.
Value for money Rich tea (£££)
Where Taj, 51 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6AF (+44 (0)20 7769 7766;

4. Asian Afternoon Tea at The Shangri-La Hotel, The Shard
The lowdown
A slice of Asian style on the 35th floor of London's iconic Shard building, the new Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard serves a chilled out afternoon tea laced with dim sum and spices in its tranquil lounge, Ting (meaning 'living room'). A traditional Chinese musician playing a pipa soundtracks your feast of steamed dumplings, open sandwiches and chamomile scones with mango jam. Cakes feature exotic ingredients from matcha to coconut and coriander. Opt for Pu'erh or Oolong tea to continue the theme.
Price £54 per person (£62 with a glass of Champagne)
Value for money High tea (££)
Where 2pm-5.30pm weekdays, 11.30am-6.30pm weekends. Level 35, Shangri-La Hotel At The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, London, SE1 9QU (+44 (0)20 7234 8108;

5. Charlie and The Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea, One Aldwych
The lowdown
Served in the hotel's lobby, a stone's throw from the theatre now showing the musical stage version of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, afternoon tea here is a delight for the senses. Small children's eyes will grow ever wider as the treats appear (tiny bottles of caramel milk, rhubarb and custard candy floss, cheesecake-filled gilded chocolate eggs). Just the (golden) ticket for a pre- or post-show treat with kids.
Price £35pp, £45 with a glass of Champagne or smoking 'Cocktail Charlie'.
Value for money Our cup of tea (£)
Where 12.30-4pm daily, One Aldwych, 1 Aldwych, London WC2 4BZ (+44 (0)20 7300 1000;

6. Taste of Italy Afternoon Tea, No. Ten Manchester Street
The lowdown
Served to a background of spa-style music in Dieci, the hotel's Italian restaurant, terrace and cigar bar, No 10's afternoon tea consists of an extensive but not excessive range of delicious teas to be sipped along with a couple of finger sandwiches, oven-fresh scones and tiny pastries and macarons.
Price £26 per person (£34 including a glass of Prosecco, £35 with Peach Bellini or Rossini)
Value for money Our cup of tea (£)
Where 3-5pm daily; 10 Manchester Street, London, W1U 4DG (+44 (0) 20 7317 5924;

Words: Hannah Hudson, Caroline Egan, Katie Gatens, Lucy King, Ruth Metzstein, Lucy Thackray