Where to Find the Best High Tea in London
Not all high teas are created equal - discover the best with our guide to this quintessentially British tradition
The elaborate ritual of enjoying finger sandwiches, cakes, and fine leaf tea in the middle of the afternoon was first popular among the aristocracy, who traditionally ate their last meal late in the evening and often felt peckish around 4pm (don't we all?). Though "high tea", in contrast to the rather more genteel "afternoon tea", was generally the term used by the working classes to refer to the evening meal, today the phrases are near synonymous. Whatever you call it, a traditional afternoon or high tea should consist of freshly brewed tea, dainty sandwiches, cakes, and perhaps scones with jam and clotted cream. With that in mind, let us here at Plum Guide walk you through where to enjoy the best high tea in London - from the unique to the simply indulgent. We are the experts after all.
One Aldwych Hotel for a chocolate focus
For a really unique and special celebration, enjoy an afternoon tea inspired by Roald Dahl's “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” characters. At One Aldwych hotel, you’ll be treated to a sweet-filled teatime which even includes a chocolate tea made with Peruvian cocoa nibs. The presentation, including a miniature milkshake bottle with a striped straw, and a cheesecake filled chocolate egg dusted with gold, will also delight. See if you can guess the flavor of your personal homemade candy floss and be sure to bring your illustrated menu home - it’s a gift! This is a fun and quirky take on this traditional English ritual, and among the best high teas in London for children - why not combine with a stay in one of London's best neighbourhoods for families?
Brown's Hotel for the healthy option
Afternoon tea is generally an indulgent experience and consumed infrequently, but if you would prefer to make the meal a little healthier (or perhaps for dietary or health reasons you need some lighter fare), consider booking your high tea at Brown’s Hotel. Their “Tea-Tox Healthy Afternoon Tea” features fruity iced teas, salads, a beetroot crepe, lots of fresh fruit and some sugar - and gluten-free baked treats.
The closest underground tube station to this Regent Street spot is Piccadilly Circus, where you can also find plenty of upscale Plum Guide homes. Just steps away from Tiffany and Co and a 12-minute walk to Buckingham Palace, at Brown's Hotel you're perfectly placed for a post-tea walk in St James's Park - the autumnals colours of the trees are a must-see if visiting London in October.
Hotel Cafe Royal for a floral experience
For sheer opulence and to really echo the aristocratic beginnings of afternoon tea, head to the Hotel Cafe Royal. Here you’ll find the magnificent Oscar Wilde lounge, adorned with golden details and rich red seating and named after one of the most famous guests. The hotel has partnered with French perfumer and artist Diptyque to inject fresh cut flowers and spring aromas into the traditional menu. Start the taste exploration with an amuse bouche of goats cheese and orange blossom muffin, before enjoying a royal favourite of coronation chicken with golden raisins. The service also includes the option to sample the exclusive "Oscar" blend, named after the famous poet and playwright and made with Lapsang Souchong leaves.
Lyaness for an unforgettable day out
For a slightly more grown-up option in this guide to the best high tea in London, just add cocktails. Lyaness is the award-winning cocktail bar at the Mondrian London Hotel, offering views across the Thames. This Wyld afternoon tea includes botanically inspired cocktails such as the Bankside Swizzle, which blends Bacardi, pineapple cordial, citrus and lemon balm; or the Fluff and Fold Royale Lime, made with fresh basil and cacao liqueur, all topped up with bubbly prosecco and served with a lemon marshmallow. Things only get better when the food arrives. You’ll be served a goats cheese rarebit on 7-grain toast, a selection of sandwiches and shortbreads and, of course, plenty of cakes and tarts. Stay close by in the artsy South Bank district, or explore other homes in our guide to the safest places to stay in London.
Claridges for classic afternoon
When it comes to the best high tea in London, it would be unthinkable not to mention Claridges. This iconic London establishment opened in 1856 and serves a variety of afternoon teas daily, including a sitting designed just for children - complete with a colouring page and dainty fairy cakes. Adults can choose to add champagne to their tea service to make it an even more indulgent treat and will also enjoy a selection of sandwiches with luxurious fillings like Clarence Court duck egg and smoked salmon, all served on elegant Art Deco-inspired bone china.