Alternative Afternoon Tea in London
Alternative Afternoon Tea in London
Afternoon Tea is one tradition that London has perfected and there are countless venues serving finger sandwiches, dainty cakes and buttery scones. But, for those who fancy something a little bit different, there are also a number of unique takes on this very English tradition. From mini burgers and milkshakes to dumplings served with tea, there's something for all tastes.
High altitude high tea at the iconic Oxo Tower.
Oxo Tower Wharf, Barge House Street, South Bank, London, SE1 9PH
Tube: Temple Station
The name says it all; Not Afternoon Tea at the Oxo Tower is an eccentric alternative to the traditional afternoon tea. With a tasting plate of four indulgent desserts accompanied with either a cocktail or a glass of bubbly, these unique packages are perfect for anyone with a luxurious sweet tooth and love of cocktails. Guests can choose from a number of options, including the recently added 'Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb', 'Nuts About Chocolate' and 'English Puds', as well as the long-standing 'I Believe in Pink' and 'Something to Celebrate', offering a range of desserts, cocktails, champagne and even a little goodie bag to take away. Served in the Oxo Tower Brassiere this dining experience boasts one of the best views in town; the commanding panorama rivals the views from the London Eye and has a slick and sophisticated décor that comprises sparkling blue neon lights embedded in a sloping, slatted ceiling with leather banquettes and cool slate tables. With the combination of spectacular views, mouth-watering desserts and colourful cocktails, this alternative to the traditional afternoon tea oozes glamour and decadence and won't break the budget with its £24.50 price-tag (which includes one cocktail).
£24.50 - Not Afternoon Tea (one bespoke cocktail)
£34.50 - Not Afternoon Tea (two bespoke cocktails)
Burgers and doughnuts replace cucumber sandwiches and scones.
187 Wardour Street, London, W1F 8ZB
Tube: Oxford Circus Station, Tottenham Court Road Station
The long-standing British tradition of afternoon tea has been given a radical makeover by American restaurant BRGR.CO, with burgers and doughnuts replacing cucumber sandwiches and cream and jam filled scones. Served in the humble restaurant, which has simple wooden chairs and tables, exposed brickwork and walls adorned with cow heads, the location is as far removed from the traditional afternoon tea setting as you can get. The menu continues the theme with diners treated to three sliders - a classic cheeseburger, a chicken Ceasar bun and a lobster and bacon slider - served with mini fries, warm doughnuts filled with salted caramel, a raspberry cheesecake and a chocolate brownie. To drink, you could opt for traditional British tea but there's also the choice of vanilla milkshake, homemade iced teas made from mint and pomegranate, green tea or ginger and lemongrass, or a glass of prosecco.
£17 per person
Asian teas are served alongside dim sum and open sandwiches.
The Coach House, 14a St Lukes Road, London, W11 1DP
Tube: Westbourne Park Station
The Teanamu Chaya Teahouse offers afternoon tea with an Asian twist, serving a vast selection of teas and bespoke tisane infusions, which can be mixed and matched to suit your taste. Located within a converted Notting Hill House, the quaint teahouse provides an intimate and ceremonial experience. Guests are guided through the different teas and can choose among options such as lychee black, ginger tangerine sencha and shanghai chic. Food wise, a number of tempting delicacies are available and diners can choose between two menu options: the Sabi Afternoon Tea, including wakame seaweed brown bread open sandwiches and a selection of sweet patisserie, or the Wabi Afternoon Tea, which also includes a serving of dim sum. The menu regularly changes but typical options include yuzu ginger preserve and cheddar sandwiches, vegetarian dumplings with chilli oil, mango seed cake and peanut sesame cookies. Scones also make an appearance and are served with clotted cream and rose petal jam. With additional touches such as a self-boiling kettle on the table and the tranquil décor, it's a true all-round experience and a great alternative to the sugar laden customary.
Sabi Afternoon Tea: £18 per person
Wabi Afternoon Tea: £24 per person
Traditional afternoon tea is given a 1920s twist.
73 Blythe Road, London, W14 0HP
Tube: Kensington (Olympia) Station
This charming fine food pantry and tea room has a 1920s theme running through it, from the tea ladies in vintage dresses, beads, hats and ruby red lipstick, to the music and layout of the store. The shop itself is named after '20s movie star Betty Blythe - famous for films such as Queen of Sheba and She, Miss Blythe was quite the seductress, becoming one of the first actresses to film a nude scene. Shop owner Lulu Gwynne initially wanted to name the shop Betty Blythe partly due to its location on Blythe Road, but her research revealed Betty did actually exist and everything fell into place. As well as a variety of meats, artisan breads, coffee and cupcakes, the deli also serves Afternoon Tea. Menu wise the offering is very similar to traditional afternoon tea - finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, and a selection of homemade cakes. However, with the addition of a dressing up box and optional pre-dining activities, the tradition is given a unique twist. Guests can choose between activities such as cupcake decorating, burlesque dancing, Charleston dancing, fascinator hat making and a vintage photo shoot - a great option for elegant hen parties, baby showers and birthday parties.
£21 per person | Optional corkage (bring your own bottles) £2.50 per person
The classic cream tea gets a distinctly saucy makeover at Volupte Lounge.
9 Norwich Street, Holborn, London, EC4A 1EJ
Tube: Chancery Lane Station
Spice up your afternoon tea with a naughty but nice trip to this intimate early 20th century style salon, cabaret and vaudeville club. Appropriately titled 'Afternoon Tease', visitors' fancies will be tickled with a range of burlesque entertainment while sipping delicately on the finest tea infusions and champagne cocktails. Tea-leaf reading, gateaux vivants, cabaret singers and more than the odd unexpected forms of distraction are on the menu alongside the traditional afternoon tea fare. Served up by the titillating Teasemaids, heaving platters filled with sticky buns, cream-filled cakes and dollops of jams provide suitably indulgent refreshment. Not for the afternoon tea traditionalist (the burlesque tradition of lampooning the rituals and rites of the upper classes is only too evident here), this is a truly fun and fabulous alternative to this potentially stuffy, age-old ceremony. There's no dress code but this is a tea best enjoyed as glammed up and gorgeous as possible.
£42 - Afternoon Tease
Throughout summer, afternoon tea is served in one of London's most iconic buildings.
Houses of Parliament, London, SW1A 0AA
Tube: Westminster Station
Enjoy afternoon tea in one of the world's most iconic buildings, The Palace of Westminster. More commonly known as the Houses of Parliament, the palace's history dates back to the 11th century when Westminster Hall was used for meetings between the King and his council. Now, the palace has transformed into the home of a 21st century democratic Parliament. As part of the summer behind the scenes tours, visitors can now choose to enjoy the optional add-on of afternoon tea. Taken in the historic Pugin Room in the House of Commons, diners will have wonderful views over the River Thames. Despite the unique venue, the menu stays true to tradition with options including marinated Scottish salmon with cream cheese, lemon curd and chive on a mini bagel, and egg mayonnaise and watercress sandwiches; plus, sultana scones with jam and clotted cream and Valronha chocolate delice.
For the tour and afternoon tea: £36.45 per person
Cream teas and scones are served above a West End pub.
Upstairs at the Coach & Horses, 29 Greek Street, London, W1D 5DH
Tube: Leicester Square Station, Tottenham Court Road Station, Covent Garden Station, Piccadilly Circus Station
Venture up the rickety stairs of the Coach & Horses pub in Soho - London's first vegetarian pub - and you'll discover Soho's Secret Tea Room. With a noticeable signpost outside, the tearoom isn't exactly as secret as the title conveys but, once inside, it is a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of Soho's streets and feels as though one has stepped back in time to another era. The retro room is adorned with fine bone china, kitsch tablecloths and lace dollies, trinkets and vintage wall décor. A 1940s jazz and swing soundtrack played through a gramophone completes the ambience. With sixteen teas to choose from and a selection of homemade cakes, scones, jams and sandwiches, the menu treats diners to all the sumptuous goodies afternoon tea is renowned for. Diners can opt for traditional cream tea and afternoon tea or the champagne afternoon tea.
A Cantonese twist on a very English custom.
101 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 0SJ
Tube: Victoria Station
The Grand Imperial restaurant at the Grosvenor Hotel has replaced cakes, sandwiches and pastries with pork buns, dim sum and prawn crackers for an oriental inspired afternoon tea. Served in the beautiful restaurant, which has been designed around the ancient practice of Feng-shui and features original artwork and calligraphy as well as traditional artefacts, it's the perfect spot to enjoy a Cantonese twist on a very English custom. Presented on a three-tier cake stand, just like a traditional afternoon tea offering, the Hong Kong Cantonese delicacies include prawn dumplings, duck rolls, crispy soft shell crab and seafood dumplings, while sweet treats come in the form of a crispy water chestnut roll and an oven baked egg tart. The unlimited refills of Chinese tea take the spotlight, with a number of floral varieties and fermented options - a highlight is the Jasmine King Tea with a subtle, sweet flavour. There's also the option of adding some fizz to the occasion with a glass of Charles Henry Brut Champagne.
£22 for two people, £30 for the addition of two glasses of champagne
A masculine take on a traditionally dainty custom.
Sanctum Soho Hotel, 20 Warwick Street, London, W1B 5NF
Tube: Piccadilly Circus Station, Oxford Circus Station
With afternoon tea often considered to be a girly affair, the Sanctum Soho Hotel rectifies this with the masculine Gents Afternoon Tea. Made up mainly of meat and alcohol, the hearty menu is enough to put hairs on any man's chest. Diners start off with a poached oyster and Bloody Mary relish, seared steak with peppers and mushrooms on toasted sourdough and a mini smoked salmon, caviar and watercress bagel. Following this, there's a feast of lamb and potato hotpot, a mini beef burger, rabbit and pancetta pastry, and a roast beef and horseradish stuffed Yorkshire pudding. Then, with some form of sweet treat a necessity for afternoon tea, the banquet is concluded with a twice baked chocolate fudge cake served with Jack Daniels ice cream. The final touch comes in the form of a choice between three varieties of JD in silver tankards, completed with complimentary cigars to enjoy on the roof terrace. Dainty finger sandwiches and cute cakes this certainly isn't.
£50 per person
Learn how to make your own Classic High Tea.
15B Little Portland Street, London, W1W 8BW
Tube: Oxford Circus Station
Ever wondered if you could bake better scones than Claridges or create fancier fancies than The Dorchester? Well, now's your chance to find out. The Cookery School at Little Portland Street have introduced a new class that celebrates the most quintessential of British culinary traditions, Classic High Tea. Using the best British, locally sourced ingredients, Rosalind Rathouse and her team will guide you through how to make plain and fruit scones with the accompanying jam and clotted cream, mini cheese and herb scones, mini scotch eggs, feather-light Devonshire cream cake and tempting lemon curd tartlets. Plus, a range of traditional sandwiches including egg mayonnaise and smoked salmon. After putting your skills to the test, you'll be invited to taste the fruits (or cakes) of your labour with the accompaniment of Chapel Down sparkling wine and Tregothnan Cornish tea.
£150 per person, 4.5 hour course.