I have a confession: no matter where I am in the world, however lovely the location, a little piece of my heart always longs for England. The place of green and pleasant land – and the afternoon tea.
Tea makes everything better. In my world this is fact. And tea accompanied by finger sandwiches and baked goods is, in my opinion, a thing of true beauty. It’s been a few years since I’ve lived in London, but when I did I made it my business to enjoy the ritual of a traditional afternoon tea at a beautiful hotel as often as reasonably possible. And every time I go back to my favourite city in the world, an afternoon tea is a priority. Oh England – thank you for understanding that a love for tea is a real thing.
Here are a few of my favourite afternoon teas of all time.
Tea at The Ritz
Well. Doesn’t that just say it all? Tea at the Ritz isn’t all that easy to come by (you need to book months in advance), but – oh! – so worth the wait. My BFF took me for my birthday one year and we tea’ed like queens. Afternoon teas are served in “shifts” throughout the day in The Palm Court – a room that has been a social institution and which truly makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time. You can choose from 18 different types of tea leaves (although I confess never to have strayed from the traditional English), and eat until you feel dizzy. I never realised that scones could taste like tiny puffs of heaven until I ate them at The Ritz.
Fashion Forward at the Berkley
The Berkeley hotel in Knightsbridge offers a whole different take on the traditional afternoon tea. Called the Prêt-à-Portea, served in the bright, airy and contemporary Collins Room, the menu has a fashionista twist which is updated every six months to follow the changing seasons in fashion. We took a girlfriend there for a special treat with her bridesmaids before her wedding and the staff couldn’t have been more welcoming – as sweet and fun as the gorgeous creations the were serving.
Laid back glamour at the Dorchester
Ever since the 2004 film Wimbledon I have been mildly obsessed with the beautiful 1930s art deco Dorchester hotel, and was beyond excited to get a booking there for afternoon tea there while I was over in London on a shopping trip from the Isle of Man. It didn’t disappoint. Tea is served at the heart of the hotel in The Promenade, and is relaxed but opulent. My primary memory from my experience at the Dorchester was the taste of the tea (again – traditional English). The server poured for me with a steady gloved hand and the delicacy of the leaf along with perfect balance of milk and sugar sent me into raptures. Tea at the Dorch. Do it.
Number Sixteen, South Kensington
I discovered this little West London gem a few years ago, and ever since, I keep returning. Quiet, sophisticated, and with interiors to swoon for designed by Kit Kemp, this South Kensington terrace, complete with black wrought iron railings and a beautiful back garden, is a world away from the sweaty District Line I used to travel on to get to it. Tea is served on the patio, in the dining room or in the lounge, while you sit and gossip with your girlfriends in what feels like your very own (although much plusher) home. A discreet boutique hotel, Number Sixteen is a favourite with celebrities (I once bumped into one whose name I shall not mention in reception) and the well-to-do, but the greeting upon arrival is warm and friendly. I absolutely love this place.
If you want to take afternoon tea to a whole new level of glamourous, the Savoy is the place – it’s OTT in all the right ways. Sweep into the Thames Foyer, where you will be serenaded by a pianist who plays from a winter garden gazebo while you sip tea under a stunning glass dome which floods the whole place with natural light. Believe me, you will feel like you’ve stepped straight into an Oscar Wilde play.
Do you have a favourite spot for afternoon tea? I’d love to hear about it. This is a subject I could absolutely never get tired of!