Sanderson Hotel gives visitors the chance to climb down a rabbit hole and explore the wonderland beneath at their Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea. Served in the hotel's Courtyard Garden, an open-air retreat with flowering trees, fountains, mosaics and a reflecting pool, diners are fully encompassed in the magical affair. Creating a twisted version of the traditional British afternoon tea, menus are hidden inside vintage books and napkins are wrapped with riddles, while teapots adorned with kings and queens and sandwich plates featuring birdcages, carousels and ticking clocks play host to wondrous fare. Re-launched in 2015 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the menu is a heady mix of colourful savoury dishes and striking sweets. Offering something more than just finger sandwiches, the savoury options include a crab éclair and a croque-monsier, while traditional flavours still feature with a smoked salmon and caviar scotch egg and a cucumber and cream cheese sandwich on fresh lime bread. Each of the sweets are beautifully intricate, with every aspect carefully constructed and perfectly matched with the Alice in Wonderland theme - the menu took four months to finalise and the level of detail is apparent. From the red velvet ladybird and blue caterpillar to the Queen of Hearts Oreo cookie solider and magic marshmallow mushrooms, each addition tastes as good as it looks. Scones are light, delicious and generously portioned, the themed teas perfectly balanced, and the Alice drink me potion a refreshing conclusion. It's all gloriously bonkers.
Alternative Afternoon Tea in London
This top afternoon tea experience is also one of London's quirkiest.
The Sanderson Hotel, 50 Berners Street,, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 3NG
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 'Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb', 'Boozy Chocolate', 'Tantalizingly Tangy' and 'Tea Party', 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, Soho, London, W1F 8ZB
The long-standing British tradition of afternoon tea has been given a radical makeover by American restaurant BRGR.CO, with burgers and brownies replacing cucumber sandwiches and 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 - butchers cut and cheddar cheese, southern fried chicken and coleslaw, and prawn and salmon - served with mini fries, lemon tart, mini raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake and mini 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, Notting Hill, 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 wabi sabi afternoon tea, including wakame seaweed brown bread open sandwiches and a selection of sweet patisserie, or the ichi-go ichi-e afternoon tea, which also includes a serving of dim sum. The menu regularly changes but typical options include garlic miso-pickled cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches, vegetarian dumplings with chilli oil, mango seed cake and peppercorn and peanut honeycomb. 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.
Ichi-go ichi-e afternoon tea: £30
Wabi sabi afternoon tea: £25
Traditional afternoon tea is given a 1920s twist.
73 Blythe Road, London, W14 0HP
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 different themed teas, 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.
Betty Blythe Afternoon Tea: £22 per person
Traditional Victorian Afternoon Tea: £26 per person
Alice's After Wonerland Tea: £28 per person
Glamourous Great Gatsby Afternoon Tea: £30 per person
Optional corkage (bring your own bottles) £2.50 per person
A masculine take on a traditionally dainty custom.
Sanctum Soho Hotel, 20 Warwick Street, Soho, London, W1B 5NF
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
Feast on sandwiches and scones while touring central London.
8 Northumberland Avenue, Westminster, London, WC2N 5BY
If sitting in a hushed hotel nibbling quietly on finger sandwiches isn't your thing, gather your friends and book onto the BB Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour instead. Combining the long-standing tradition with a spot of sightseeing, the tour invites guests upon a London Routemaster bus to feast on sandwiches and scones while nosing at some of the capital's most notable attractions. While feasting on mini cupcakes, macarons, mini quiche and pasties, you'll pass by The London Eye, Big Ben, St James's Park, The Royal Albert Hall, Nelson's Column and many more. You can also choose between hiring the entire bus, just the top or bottom deck, or just booking an individual 'table'.
Adult from £45
Child from £35
Sup on alcoholic teas alongside your scones and sandwiches.
15 Bruton Lane, Mayfair, London, W1J 6JD
Tube: Green Park Station
For a naughty addition to your cuppa - and we're not talking about an extra sugar - book in for Tipsy Tea at Mr Fogg's. Putting a twist on the traditional offering, guests are invited to sup on a selection of tea cocktails, blending Early Grey and English breakfast with Hendrick's gin and Jasmine and Rooibos with champagne. Sugar cubes may be replaced with ice cubes but all cocktails are still served from a traditional teapot and food also remains loyal to the custom, with finger sandwiches, macaroons, and Victoria sponge and lemon drizzle cake all on the menu. Diners can choose whether to sit inside, surrounded by Mr Phileas Fogg's trinkets from around the world, or outside in the botanical garden.
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
Afternoon tea is served in one of London's most iconic buildings.
Houses of Parliament, Westminster, 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 behind the scenes tours, visitors can now choose to enjoy the optional add-on of afternoon tea. Taken in the elegant surroundings of the Terrace Pavilion, 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.
£27.50 (in addition to the price of the tour ticket)
A Cantonese twist on a very English custom.
101 Buckingham Palace Road, Victoria, 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
Learn how to make your own Classic High Tea.
15B Little Portland Street, Fitzrovia, 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.
The hotel presents a limited edition dog-themed afternoon tea.
1 Piccadilly, London, W1J 7BX
Celebrating 55 years since the classic film 101 Dalmations launched in the UK, the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane has launched a limited edition Dotty Dalmation Afternoon Tea and dog-friendly package that's perfect for pampered pooches. In honour of the original characters, the hotel has also appointed a modern day Pongo and Perdy to be the official mascots. Guests enjoying the afternoon tea will be treated to a lemon mousse and Oreo biscuit that resembles Perdy's paw and a blueberry cake with violet cream inspired by Pongo's dog bowl. There's also a white chocolate cream brownie, a dotty chocolate sponge with raspberry jelly, and a polka dot macaroon made of confit salmon, crème fraiche and dill. A doggy bag will, of course, also be available if you can't quite manage it all. The Dotty Dalmatian Afternoon Tea will be served daily until 31st August in the hotel's iconic Palm Court with sittings at 12pm, 2pm, 4pm and 6pm.
Prices start at £37 per person.
IN THIS ARTICLE
Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea, Sanderson Hotel
Not Afternoon Tea at the Oxo Tower
BRGR.CO - Soho
Teanamu Chaya Teahouse
The Sanctum Gent's Afternoon Tea
BB Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour
Tipsy Tea, Mr Fogg's
Volupte Lounge Afternoon Tease
Houses of Parliament
Grand Imperial Oriental Afternoon Tea
The Cookery School
Sheraton Grand London Park Lane
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