With thanks to the Duchess of Bedford's insatiable appetite, afternoon tea was created in the nineteenth century, and has remained a decadently indulgent tradition ever since. Whether it's an engagement celebration, a niece's bat mitzvah, or just a idea for your own birthday, it's a pastime that isn't going out of style any time soon. Between London's most esteemed hotels, forward-thinking restaurants and pastry cafes, choosing where to order your Darjeeling has become an impossible task. In an attempt to make it a little easier, we've rounded up our favourites in the city. It's all here: traditional scones with generous helpings of clotted cream, pistachio choux buns, duck egg and truffle mayonnaise finger sandwiches, and even a CBD-infused cocktail.
Step into Marie Antoinette's dreamworld at Sketch. Thankfully, the millennial-pink interior is not just for the influencer elite, but is sure to impress the younger members of your party. Aptly named The Gallery, the setting of your afternoon tea is as equally delectable as the delicacies on your plate. Everything from the quirky prints lining the walls (by David Shrigley) to the string quartet in the corner (playing the Beatles), this is London at its most polished, freshest and most exciting.
You'll be seated in the Promenade on arrival at The Dorchester and will immediately feel like royalty. Sink into the Chesterfield sofas amidst the plush drapery and become friends with the attentive, tailcoat-wearing staff – the tantalising service at The Dorchester is almost as famous as the unlimited finger sandwiches. Almost. With so many creative options to choose from, experimenting with vegan mayonnaise and all types of bread, make sure to arrive hungry.
Booking a table at Farmacy is sure to earn you cool points with the family. Yes, you're ahead of the curve and attempting a flexitarian diet and no, you're not embarrassing. Guilt-free indulgence is Farmacy's speciality – everything served is free from dairy, refined sugars, additives and chemicals. It's also the first London restaurant to serve CBD. Find it in the homemade chocolates and infused in the welcome cocktail.
We couldn't create this list without including a restaurant with a view. The afternoon tea at Oblix West is a traditional medley which compliments the 360º panoramic views, without trying to steal the show. Great for: impressing relatives from out of town. Not so great for: those afraid of heights – you'll have to travel up to the Shard's thirty-second floor.
The Savoy's timeless offering was a winner in the best traditional tea category at the Afternoon Tea Awards in 2019. We're not sure how you become a judge, but that's one job we wouldn't mind extending our retirement for. They seem to have perfected the balance of grandeur and elegance, without feeling stuffy or pretentious. It's one that will never let you down and it's great for all the family.
'You only get better with age' might as well be the motto at Claridge's. Served in the Foyer, the elegant Art Deco restaurant, their traditional offering of afternoon tea has been arriving at tables for over 150 years. The friendly staff will make you feel like family as soon as you walk through the door, so be sure to make the most out of their knowledgable recommendations.
For an equally indulgent backdrop to your experience, choose a stay in one of these classic London homes:
Feeling hungry? Check out our round-up of the 11 best full English breakfasts in London.