As quintessentially British as Big Ben and
Buckingham Palace, Cornish Pasties and Steak and Kidney Pie, the
gracious afternoon ritual of High Tea has been a British staple
since it was introduced in the late 1700’s by the Duchess of Bedford
to stave off hunger between breakfast and dinner (lunch didn’t exist
at the time). Today, more than 200 years later, tea growers,
blenders and caterers are keeping the tradition alive in London’s
grand hotels and cozy teashops.
With some exceptions, the “full works”—regular,
herbal or infusion tea (or coffee or hot chocolate), finger
sandwiches, scones with preserves and clotted cream, crumpets and
various other pastries—costs between L15.00 and L35.00, but keep in
mind there are no extras like the bottles of wine and flavored
coffees that can double the price of lunch or dinner. In fact,
theatergoers can easily replace dinner with High Tea at any of the
well-known establishments below as a cost-effective albeit
calorie-rich prelude to an evening show.
Winner, along with Brown’s
Hotel, of a 2009 Tea Guild Award for Top London Afternoon Tea, the
Athenaeum has revived a whimsical Victorian tradition called Pink
Tea. As the name suggests, all table decorations and accents must be
pink. The summer Floral Garden Tea menu offers pink champagne and
pink meringues along with its more traditional menu items.
Hours: 2 to 6 pm daily.
Price: L26.50 or L33.00 with a glass of Kir
Royale or Pink Champagne.
Founded in 1837 by James
Brown, a former valet to the poet Lord Byron, Brown’s guests have
included, Rudyard Kipling, Alexander Graham Bell, and Agatha
Christie. Its recent
refurbishment notwithstanding, the venerable English Tea Room
retains its original wood paneling, Jacobean plasterwork, and
town-house atmosphere, where guests can sink into armchairs while
the waiters fetch any one of 17 different teas and a choice of
almost as many bakery items.
Hours: 3 to 6 pm weekdays; 1 to 6pm Saturdays
Price: L35, or L44-48 with a glass of
As if its five-star
accommodations and service weren’t reason enough to visit the
Capital, this charming Knightsbridge property just steps from
Harrods boasts the only Michelin two-star hotel restaurant in
London. Its maverick chef Eric Chavot is a specialist in the art of
innovative and truly exciting cuisine. In the hotel’s cozy Sitting
Room silver sets dispense a wonderful selection of teas and some of
the most delicious patisserie in all of London. To avoid
disappointment, book ahead.
Hours: 3 to 5:30 pm.
Price: L18.50, or L29.00 with a glass of
Hidden away on the ground
floor of London’s landmark department store, Laduree is a branch of
a well-known Paris establishment founded on the Rue Royale in 1862.
Traditional Afternoon Tea at this Knightsbridge location includes a
choice of tea, coffee or hot chocolate, dainty finger sandwiches,
buttery croissants, and assorted tarts and other pastries. Laduree’s
signature macaroons come in about a dozen different flavors; they’re
pure ambrosia and not to be missed.
Hours: 3:30 to 6 p.m.