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June 13, 2022
Legend has it that the Duchess of Bedford invented afternoon tea because her husband came home so late, she was too hungry to wait for the evening meal.
In fairness, this was probably a necessary invention among the wealthy classes. Back in the 1840s when a desperate Duchess called for buttered bread, tea and cakes to cope with that 5pm feeling, the custom was to tuck into a hearty breakfast first thing, while lunch was so meagre, dinner at eight must have felt like a lifetime away.
And so the ritual of afternoon tea was born. Admittedly it dwindled to a fairly restrained affair, the kind of thing treasured by fearsome aunts in PG Wodehouse books. But not anymore.
One of the lasting legacies of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations has to be our new–found fondness for afternoon tea. This Summer (and beyond) London is indulging in everything from traditional elegance to post–modern irony, along with many an international twist. And a glass of champagne… after all, the Victorians were partial to a glass of sherry or claret with their finger sandwiches.
The great thing about an afternoon menu is that it dovetails very nicely with a weekend or overnight break, easily combined with a visit to London’s famous theatres, shows, museums, shops and sights. So follow the Duchess of Bedford’s example, and enjoy delicious pastries, or even tea–time sushi, along with your Central London Hotel Deals.
Meanwhile, here are a few insights into Her Majesty’s devotion to afternoon tea, courtesy of former royal chef Darren McGrady, who worked for the royal family for 15 years.
During McGrady’s time with the royals, he served afternoon tea on most days and even across time zones. While touring Australia, although it was 5am local time, The Queen was still operating on GMT, and so it was that in the early hours, McGrady was back in the kitchen, making scones for Her Majesty.
But most importantly, the Queen favours the Cornish method of eating scones: jam first, dollop of cream on top. They reverse the jam/cream arrangement in Devon, we are told. This difference in traditions has caused a few online tea tiffs. But then, where would social media be without a pointless argument?
So choose from any of the following suggestions and maintain the afternoon tradition, long after the Jubilee celebrations have taken their place in our memories and photo albums. From eccentric tea rooms to grand hotels in London UK, the variety is dazzling.
Scoff & Banter
350 Oxford St, W1.
Behind busy Oxford Street is this cosy retreat, which opens 1pm-7pm every day for all–day afternoon tea. Sweet and savoury treats to suit all tastes – gourmet, glutton or minceur.
Mr Fogg’s G&Tea afternoon tea
Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals
48 Newman Street, Fitzrovia.
Lots of champagne and gin cocktails here, each infused with a speciality tea. These teapot cocktails come with promising names (e.g. the cherry Bakewell gin cocktail) and the sandwiches and scones win a thumbs up. Relaxed and satisfying tea–time experience.
Westminster Garden Party
June 2 till 5, 1pm-9pm
The Wellington Gardens, 71 Vincent Square, SW1.
A Royal Jubilee garden party in Westminster over the bank holiday from Blue Orchid London in Wellington Gardens. Celebrate Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee – whether you are a guest at the Wellington Hotel, a local resident, or if you just happen to be here. Over four days, 1pm till 9pm, just minutes away from Victoria Station, Buckingham Palace and Tate Britain. Wood–fired pizza, pastas and salad, decadent desserts and Jubilee cocktails. £27.50 per person
Parisian Afternoon Tea
38 King Street, Covent Garden, WC2.
Restaurant specialising in tea gastronomy plus a tea museum in London’s vibrant Covent Garden. Mariage Freres offers an extensive tea menu, including plain and bourbon vanilla and raisin scones, both served with fragrant tea-infused jelly. Savouries and patisserie as well. Experts on hand to help with tea choices. Irresistible teas, beautifully presented.
Gracechurch Street, EC3.
One of the City’s most photogenic historic market halls, its 35 boutique shops, restaurants and bars will be filled with Jubilee decor (purple crown bunting and themed flowers). Plus every Wednesday evening throughout June you can hear the story of Leadenhall’s 12th century links with the monarchy, when it was first recognised as a market, up to the present day. Tickets £7 per person, 6.30pm till 8pm.
Grand Saloon Afternoon Tea
Theatre Royal Drury Lane
“Decadent and delicious” afternoon teas in this historic theatre with its Grand Saloon, all green marble and pink walls, plus chandeliers. Among the top 20 afternoon teas according to Vogue. Sausage rolls, madeleines, pink lemonade tarts… plus a terrace that overlooks Covent Garden piazza.
Sushi and Fizz Afternoon Teas
134-136 Wardour Street, W1 & 11-14 Hanover Place, WC2.
Soho and Covent Garden provide the settings for this alternative afternoon tea. Fresh sashimi and maki rolls, gyoza and futomaki. An hour of bottomless bubbly too.
26–27 Lisle Street, Soho, WC2.
Another alternative teatime venue, where each tray of goodies has up to nine different dishes, including dim sum and seasonal treats, all with traditional Cantonese pots of tea. No frills Chinatown classic. Available on Thursdays and Fridays from noon till 5pm, and Sundays from 3pm till 5pm.
Superbloom at the Tower of London
June 1 till September 18
This Platinum Jubilee year the Tower of London boasts Superbloom, when its famous moat is transformed into accessible fields of wildflowers. Stay in nearby Tower Suites London, with its boutique apartments and rooftop bar with sweeping views of iconic landmarks. Tower Suites also provides its own guided tour of this historic area.
The Ivy Chelsea Garden
195-197 King’s Road, SW3.
Said to be the more relaxed younger version of The Ivy proper, it’s a green and pleasant spot for afternoon tea. Macarons, red velvet cake, scones and finger sandwiches served daily, 3pm–4.45pm. There’s a Jubilee Afternoon Tea menu from June 2-5, too.
Laduree Covent Garden
There is a (heated) terrace and balcony here that overlooks the grand piazza, as well as delightful tea rooms painted in soft pastels, and furniture in the style of a long dead French monarch. But it’s the macarons that people go crazy for. Try the sandwiches, scones and patisserie as well. Served daily, 11.30am–6pm.
The Petersham Covent Garden
Floral Court, 2 Floral Street, WC2
This afternoon tea comes with the added incentive that it raises funds for an organisation (1000 Bamboo Villages) that aims to restore 2 million hectares of ravaged land in Indonesia. So rest easy that every garden herb scone and rhubarb chiffon cake could be doing some good on the other side of the world. Offshoot of Richmond’s famous Petersham Nurseries.
Lyaness at Sea Containers
20 Upper Ground, SE1.
Mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana is famous for his cocktails… and now you can drink them with your afternoon tea at 4pm. Scones with clotted cream and blueberry lemon thyme jam. There is also a gin based drink with honey and apple, or fizz with rum, rose and galangal.
Fortnum & Mason
181 Piccadilly, W1.
Iconic teatime institution, served in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon (opened by Her Majesty the Queen, in 2012). Teas include Jasmine Dragon Pearls and Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. Also “tearistas” to help with the tea choices.
Holy Carrot, Knightsbridge
2–4 Hans Crescent, SW1.
Vegan restaurant that offers an ethically sourced, gluten free menu… Includes purple crostini with faux crab salad, miniature lemon tarts and snickers and passionfruit bonbons.
160 Piccadilly, W1.
Once a plush car showroom on Piccadilly, now serving all–day continental food and proper afternoon teas. Monograms on everything. Old school charm, delicious AND there’s a champagne afternoon tea.
Royal Time At The Tower
Tower Suites, 100 Minories, EC3.
There are Royal treats aplenty at Tower Suites on Minories in the heart of London. Enjoy a Royal Platinum Jubilee VIP rooftop package; savour champagne and fine food while you relax in a private cabana with family and friends and watch history take shape as you celebrate the Platinum Jubilee in style.
Or opt for The Royal Treatment, when you can share luxury spa treatments with someone special, as well as enjoy a uniquely curated Royal Platinum Jubilee Afternoon Tea.
Finally, there’s the Royal Jubilee Afternoon Tea at the Tower: cream teas, indulgent pastries, finger sandwiches and a wide range of teas, as well as time to tour the Tower of London’s Superbloom transformation – the historic moat turned into a spellbinding field of flowers.
Japanese afternoon tea at Ginza St James
15 Bury St, SW1
Nestled between Mayfair and London's West End, Ginza St James combines British tradition and sophisticated Japanese cuisine for its afternoon tea for two. Beautifully presented, you can savour a selection of Japanese teas as well as an assortment of sweet and savoury foods. Tuck into lightly grilled teriyaki beef, black cod croquette with wasabi mayonnaise, wagyu burger with Japanese pickles, chocolate brownie and more. Plus a glass of Champagne each.
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