When it comes to afternoon tea, there’s a certain comfort that comes with the classic ritual you find in most experiences you try. A quaint atmosphere, a trusty display of the usual delicacies — it’s reliably easygoing and enjoyable. In fact, you can find a full guide to the the top (traditional) afternoon teas here.
But if you’re looking to push the boundaries of the lovable British staple beyond the iconic hotspots, London has plenty of alternative spots to dip your toes into — no need to worry if you have a furry friend you wish to bring alongside you, or if you fancy checking out the capital’s tourism hotspots as you tuck into a cucumber sandwich.
For this year’s afternoon tea qeek, we roamed the capital to find the coolest and quirkiest alternative spots to enjoy afternoon tea, from taking it back to the Jurassic age, to falling into the fictional world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
Brigit’s bakery bus tour
Can you get more quintessentially British than afternoon tea on a double decker bus? Brigit’s Bakery’s bus tour lets guests revel in what London has to offer, touring around iconic sights across the capital whilst guests sip on a cup of Earl Grey. Couples, families, and friends can take a booth, where they are offered an array of classic, tried-and-tested finger sandwiches and delicacies to polish off while they wander through the city’s landmarks.
Starting at Victoria Coach Station, the double decker heads past Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St James’s Park, Hyde Park, The Royal Albert Hall, Marble Arch, Nelson’s Column, Downing Street and more. The bus is covered head-to-toe in bunting and floral trimmings, with timeless tunes played overhead throughout the journey for you to unashamedly sing along to.
Alongside the staples of afternoon tea like cucumber sandwiches, scones, and smoked salmon, there’s also the chance to try quirky reinventions of familiar favourites and a generous list of teas and coffees. With a variety of different bus tours on offer, including gin-lovers and Percy Pig themes, there’s lots to be enjoyed.
£38, Victoria Coach Station, 164 Buckingham Palace Road, SW1W 9TP, b-bakery.com
The Great Scotland Yard Hotel’s dog-friendly tea
The Great Scotland Yard Hotel’s decadent afternoon tea offering is Jubilee themed, and fit for dogs too. After testing the idea with a successful one-off event, the concept is here to stay until October 30.
The Parlour, where the tea is held, is gorgeous. The staff were lovely and very accommodating to the five or six dogs present – if you feed a dog, you’ve made a friend for life.
For vegans, the savoury offering was diverse and delicious, and the Brit-themed cakes were wonderful. The omnivore option was just as enjoyable, including a beautifully crafted rendition of a jaffa cake.
The dog-friendly delicacies offered for your furry friends is delivered on a delightful mini stand for them to enjoy alongside yours. Be warned, however - one taste of the high life and your pooch may nevery turn back.
£65, 3-5 Great Scotland Yard, SW1A 2HN, hyattrestaurants.com
The Berkeley’s ‘Prêt-à-Portea’
Oozing with style, The Berkeley’s couture-inspired afternoon tea is a must for any fashion lover. Featuring Oscar de la Renta, Gucci and Lanvin, the 2022 Prêt-à-Portea delivers a bold cakewalk of sweets.
With exquisite detail, The Berkeley has recreated a host of this season’s catwalk hits including a hero handbag from Michael Kors made from Victoria sponge, and Gucci’s pink silk tuxedo in a bourbon vanilla mousse.
The fine presentation of this menu is equally matched by its flavours, with each of head pastry chef Mourad Khiat’s cakes tasting as good as they look. The range is also impressive, varying from delicate wafer cones formed into Richard Quinn’s buttercup yellow gown, to a towering Lanvin floral platform heel painstakingly piped onto a chocolate biscuit.
The savoury first course is just as delectable, offering a thoughtful menu of sandwiches and salads, alongside teas, bubbles, cocktails and mocktails. Vegans and vegetarians are also well catered for, with full separate menus available, so no one misses out. Pair that with impeccable service, and striking decor in the heart of Knightsbridge and this tea is a pure lesson in luxury.
£75, Wilton Place, SW1X 7RL, the-berkeley.co.uk
The Ampersand’s science experiment
The Drawing Rooms at The Ampersand are a beautiful setting for tea, scones and a quick science experiment. The tea blends physics and chemistry to provide a truly interactive experience: from making lemonade to pipetting a flavoured sauce into a macaron, there are plenty of nods to science and space. It seems fitting to be neighbours with the Science Museum.
The traditional savouries plate offers the likes of smoked salmon and cream cheese blinis, a seasonal quiche and a basil chicken bun, which are particular highlights. The passion fruit curd in a squeeze tube makes for a fun addition to the scones course.
It is the pastries that are truly spectacular, with a delicious chocolate and blackcurrant planet plus a raspberry, pistachio and almond moon cake. The dry ice adds to the occasion. While the classic tea and Champagne are present, the cocktails are particularly noteworthy: the Darwin Draught (Earl Grey-infused vodka), Marie Cure-all (gin and passion fruit) and Newton’s Prism (strawberry vodka and red wine syrup) are all divine.
£49.50, 10 Harrington Road, SW7 3ER, ampersandhotel.com
The Ampersand heads back to the Jurassic era
The Ampersand doesn’t just have one afternoon tea offering. Elsewhere is the newly launched Jurassic afternoon tea. Inspired by the time dinosaurs roamed the earth, the prehistoric creatures feature heavily throughout to great effect; it is this attention to detail that makes this tea so special.
While the sandwiches and scones offer a satisfying familiarity, the spectacle is really on the top layer. With caramel dinosaur eggs, blackcurrant mousse mountains and a raspberry volcano, the tea offers a fun alternative to afternoon sweet treats. It is interesting with lots of different colours and textures. Chocolate pebbles, edible mountain moss and even chocolate mud to dig through for a fossil; all great fun.
With a cocktail to complement each layer, the Jurassic afternoon tea is a well-rounded affair, but remains for all the family too. A children’s version — served on a giant dinosaur platter — offers even more fun colours and textures. With additions like mini hot dogs and dinosaur shaped sandwiches, there’s something for everyone.
£49.50, 10 Harrington Road, SW7 3ER, mpersandhotel.com
The Sanderson’s Mad Hatter tea
The Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea in the Sanderson Hotel is dedicated to detail, from playing cards with descriptions of themed tea — try the the Queen of Hearts — to a tiny bottle of pink liquid that says “drink me”, everything is thought through.
Toast with a glass of Champagne to a storybook afternoon as an assortment of savoury sandwiches appear — the Tweedle Brothers Choux Pastry was a favourite — followed by desserts including Red Knight shortbread cookies and a blueberry and hazelnut caterpillar eclair. Afterwards, finish off with classic homemade scones, jam and clotted cream. Unlike Alice, you won’t feel lost at all through this experience. In fact, you’ll feel right at home.
£48, 50 Berners Street, W1T 3NG, sbe.com
The Mandeville’s gentleman’s afternoon tea
The Gentleman's Afternoon Tea experience at the Reform Social & Grill at the Mandeville Hotel was fantastic and I'd recommend going - everyone is welcome – this isn’t just for men!
The classy interior and decor which oozed class, and the leather booths and dark wooden furniture are sophistication personified. There is also a nice private dining area for larger groups too.
The restaurant is accompanied with a lovely bar which is perfect if you want to post-meal aperitif, cocktail or (for some) a rest from all the glorious food!
The twist on the traditional afternoon tea menu is a fantastic idea at an affordable price compared to other hotels in Central London. The crispy haddock fish finger and tartare sauce, mini-Yorkshire pudding with chicken and gravy (beef available too) and coronation chicken sandwich were particluarly enjoyable. There is also a nice selection of vegetarian options too which can be served.
The cakes too were delightful, with the ‘coffee opera’ tiramisu, lemon meringue tart, and passionfruit cheesecakes being excellent choices. They also have an great choice of teas – with the assam and masala chai both amazing. Perfect for the modern man!
£37, Mandeville Place, W1U 2BE, mandeville.co.uk
The Mayfair Chippy’s ‘afternoon sea’
Sick of desserts? This one is for savoury-loving seafood seekers. From this September, the Mayfair Chippy will be serving three tiers of freshly caught, locally sourced, platters of seafood as part of their “Afternoon Sea” experience.
Located just off London’s bustling Oxford Street, the award-winning restaurant has taken a quintessentially British experience and given it its own original spin.
The full spread includes daintily-presented crab bruschetta and salmon; mussels, oysters, crab meat seasoned with radishes, king prawns, lobsters and plenty of lemon wedges.
The shellfish selection comes with a bottle of Champagne, a loaf of freshly baked bread and a choice of three dips: finely chopped onions in vinegar, pesto and a delicious spicy seafood sauce.
For those craving something sweet, try their delicious sticky toffee pudding.
£38, 14 North Audley Street, W1K 6WE, .mayfairchippy.com
Sherlock Holmes Afternoon Tea
After entering an unsuspecting ‘opticians’ in a west London Shopping Centre, where a secret code must be given to enter, guests are led inside into a cosy, fully immersive lounge with an impressive bonfire and an array of paintings, where it feels like Mrs. Hudson herself could enter any minute.
Sweet and savoury treats come presented with a selection of freshly made sandwiches including very British fillings such as cucumber and cream cheese. Tempting bites are served from inside an antique box, adding to the Sherlock Holmes experience. These bites are all accompanied by both Earl Grey tea and prosecco, and there are mini-puzzles provided for those who fancy themselves as detectives.
As far as afternoon teas go, this is a theme-lovers paradise and the quirky details with board games and puzzle mysteries will be right up any Sherlock Holmes fan’s street. The experience is fairly priced amongst others in London at only £30 a head, or £35 for a boozy twist including a choice of prosecco, draft beer or seedlip and tonic for the 90 mins duration.
£30, Ground Floor, West 12 Shopping Centre, W12 8PP, thegameisnow.com