Renowned English writer Samuel Johnson was quoted as saying: ‘By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show’. London is undoubtedly one of the most sought-after travel destinations in the world, boasting attractions such as the Tower Bridge, Big Ben, the London Eye as well as an age-old tradition, the English high tea.
I always get that excitement when staying over in London. You have such an eclectic mix: the grand hotels of The Savoy and Dorchester, the funky, independent quirky ones around Shoreditch and Hoxton, and then the upmarket, boutique hotels dotted around the city. There are so many cool and unusual must-stay hotels in London that make a trip to the big smoke more exciting!
And one thing London hotels and restaurants pride themselves on is the tradition of an English high tea. Dating back to the mid-1700’s as an afternoon meal usually served between 3 and 4 o’clock. Today, luxurious afternoon teas are served in hotels, restaurants and tea rooms all across England and continue to be exceptionally popular among locals and tourists alike. It’s honestly one of my favourite things to do, whether it’s with a group of girls, my other half, or my family.
While you can find eateries on just about every street in London, there are a number of institutions such as the following that is considered to serve some of the best afternoon teas in the entire country.
There are some hidden gems in areas such as Kings Cross and towards London Bridge.
Here are four of the best:
Saint Pancras Renaissance Hotel London
Afternoon Tea at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel is served in a special room called The Hansom. It is literally one of the most unique afternoon tea venue of King’s Cross, in it’s exquisite setting, yet close for commuters at Euston and Kings Cross Station. No matter where in London you are, you’ll find trains travelling to London Kings Cross, along with those from further afield and the outskirts, too.
It plays on the traditional English high step, yet is steeped with historic stories. They even tailor their sweet offerings to give a nod to the areas history
As Saint Pancras Renaissance Hotel say, “The coming of railways into the area in the past made King’s Cross the hub for anything and everything – potatoes, furniture, tobacco and timber, most vital of these goods was coal. Victorian London was a city powered by coal, and Coal Drops Yard, the new shopping district in King’s Cross was its coal store. Inspired by this colourful history, we present our 62 % Dark Chocolate and Raspberry “Coal” Clusters.”
They also give a nod to other areas of the country, famous for afternoon tea. For example, their Cherry Drop Bakewell Tart plays on the most famous Bakewell tart in Derbyshire.
If you are after a lavish, bespoke afternoon tea suitable for the whole family, look no further than the Palm Court at the Langham that has been serving a lush afternoon tea for more than 150 years. Despite the opulence of the restaurant interior, it is not stuffy as one would imagine.
The Langham High Tea with Wedgewood offers world-class teas served with an array of impressive savouries and pastries including Summer pea hummus on mini za’tar breads. The Langham embraces patrons of all ages and is very proud of their Children’s Afternoon Tea with Hamley’s which features a variety of treats such as Maltesers chocolate mousse, jigsaw puzzle-shaped sandwiches, lemon meringue tartlets and strawberry yogurt.
As a special treat, each child gets to take a special Hamley’s bear back home that is bound to get tons of cuddles. Palm Court is undoubtedly the place to be if you are wanting to put on a pretty dress, do your hair and indulge in one of England’s favorite past-times – drinking tea.
Aqua Shard, which is situated on the 31st floor of the world-famous Shard offers both glorious views of the London skyline as well as a particularly-impressive English afternoon tea. The Mary Poppins High Tea is one of the most popular menu items and offers patrons a sumptuous and selection of savories such as Cackleberry egg and black truffle sandwiches, mini crumpets served with salmon and dressed Devon crab.
Freshly-baked scones served with homemade jam and clotted cream, golden syrup tarts, gingerbread stars and even candy floss are served with your choice of tea, liquor-infused champagnes or a lemonade float for the children. After enjoying a high tea at Aqua Shard you are bound to return for one of their cocktails or other flashy yet affordable treats in the near future.
Hotel Café Royal
Afternoon tea at this historical establishment is served in the luxurious Oscar Wilde bar that has been opened since the mid-1800s. Apart from the standard tea selection, the Café offers a range of unusual flavors such as a rose and lychee noir, an 1865 signature English breakfast tea and a caffeine-free organic rosebud.
The tea’s savoury round includes delicacies such as sweet pickled apple muffins topped with piped goat’s cheese, organic Cotswold chicken with a verbena dressing and smoked salmon and dill crème fraîche sandwiches. The dessert round consists of fluffy scones served with strawberry jam and clotted cream, lemon cheesecake, rose victoria sponge, and a dreamy violet and blackcurrant cassis tart.
No trip to London will be complete without spending an afternoon or indulging in a decadent high tea. Even if your itinerary is filled with our touristy activities such as sightseeing and shopping you won’t regret setting aside some time to partake in one of the oldest (and most enjoyable) traditions there is.