In the early 19th century, the seventh Duchess of Bedford announced 'that sinking feeling' in the late afternoon, thereby leading to the development of a pot of tea and a light snack in the afternoon. Over the decades, and especially in London over the last 20 years, the concept of afternoon tea has gown in popularity and elaborate detail. Now, it's a quintessential London experience. Try out some of our favourites.
Houses of Parliament
The headquarters of British democracy, the Houses of Parliament, offers afternoon teas as an optional extra to its guided tours. After you’ve taken in the art, history and architecture of this landmark gothic building on the Thames, take your seat in the Terrace Pavilion, in the House of Commons, with grand river views. Here, you can sample the chef’s tempting delicacies such as citrus-marinated Scottish salmon, fresh scones with chick cream and jam, and tea in Parliament-crested china cups. If you wish to add a glass of champagne, that will be poured from a bottle which also boasts the crest.
Royal Opera House
A visit to the opera has got to be up there with the most decadent experiences, especially at this world-famous venue. At the Royal Opera House Afternoon Tea, guests can take in the elegant surroundings while sitting in the glass-vaulted Victorian conservatory, Paul Hamlyn Hall, and indulge in treats such as smoked salmon blini and banoffee macaroons.
The Long Room, Lords Cricket Ground
For your average cricket fan (of course, the quintessential English sport) with a sweet tooth, little can match the experience of afternoon tea at Lord's Cricket Ground, acknowledged to be the home of world cricket. The location of tea actually takes some beating, laid out in the iconic Long Room, nucleus of the pavilion. Until a few years ago, women were not even allowed to enter that hallowed room. No problem these days, as you take a seat overlooking the pitch and surrounded by oil paintings of greate players of bygone decades while working your way through the three-tiered tea tray.
Afternoon Tea at Hotel Café Royal
Held in the iconic Oscar Wilde Bar, it offers finger sandwiches and pastries and even edible icons (they have even done unique tea services in the past; a service timed to a production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest included such unusual additions as light jellied miso eels. Hotel Café Royal, 68 Regent Street, W1B 4DY.
BB Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour
Sightseeing, whilst eating delicious cakes at a leisurely pace? Who would have thought it? Now, thanks to the BB Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour, visitors can experience the city’s culture and history. Dine on sandwiches, pastries and cakes, washed down with a cup of tea, while you pass iconic sights such as The London Eye, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey (where Prince William and Catherine Middleton were married). The tour lasts approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes, and departs from the London Eye (check for times). 020.7237.3392
The Chesterfield Mayfair
Climb up to the hotel's rooftop and you’ll find a beehive where bees make honey for the Afternoon Bee, a tea dedicated to summer and its bees. Start off with a refreshing iced mint tea, then tuck into a variety of sandwiches and cakes. Continuing the theme, there are flower pots filled with chocolate mousse, almond soil and an edible bee. Other sweet offerings include rosemary and honey macaroons with chocolate ganache, and carrot cupcakes topped with ginger and honey cream, all dusted with ’pollen’. Round it off with one of the loose-leaf teas, such as the rosebud infusion, and you're sure to 'bee' satisfied.
The Royal Horseguards
Overlooking the river, the luxurious five-star hotel The Royal Horseguards offers award-winning afternoon teas, served in The Lounge. The Royal Horseguards Afternoon Tea features finger sandwiches and handmade cakes, as well as pastries and scones. Choose from the extensive tea, and champagne menu. There’s also a children’s mini-tea offering, should you have any small companions. 2 Whitehall Court, SW1A 2EJ, 0871.376.9033.