The ritual of afternoon tea began in 1840 when Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, asked for tea and bread and butter to combat ‘that sinking feeling’ in the late afternoon. Then, people tended to eat just breakfast and lunch, so it’s hardly surprising she felt peckish. The Duchess began to invite her friends to join her and, before long, this pause for tea became a fashionable social event.
Today we rarely stop for tea at four, with scones and finger sandwiches, but the tradition has become something of a novelty and a special (often rather expensive) treat. Here are five of the best places in London to indulge…
The Dorchester has been serving luxurious and elegant afternoon teas since the hotel opened its doors in 1931. There are now two venues: The Promenade, with its fountains of flowering plants and plush couches, and the Spatisserie, which is exclusive to The Dorchester Spa and serves bite-size treats that reflect the ethos that ‘a little of what you love is good for you.’ From £39 per person.
The ‘Chic and Shock’ afternoon tea at the Connaught in Mayfair is a good choice for the sheer quantity and quality of food, including 16 different flavours of homemade jam, and served in a pretty setting overlooking Tadao Ando’s new water feature. From £35 per person.
The Berkeley’s Prêt-à-Portea
Afternoon tea at The Berkeley is inspired by the the latest themes and colours of the fashion world. The current Spring/Summer 2012 collection of miniature cakes replicate the catwalk designs of likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Jason Wu and Valentino, including the return of the Miu Miu vanilla bikini biscuit with red hot icing and a playful white bow. From £39 per person.
The Orangery at Kensington Palace
It’s not your traditional afternoon tea, but Queen Anne’s 18th-century Orangery in Kensington Gardens offers a fine selection of teas and plenty of sumptous homemade cakes and pastries. Cakes from £3.50.
Met Bar (The Metropolitan)
Hip & Healthy’s editor Sadie Macleod recommends ‘Afternoon De-Light’ at the Metropolitan’s Met Bar, which offers a waist-friendly afternoon tea that’s ‘super healthy and super yummy as well.’ They also cater for food intolerences, with low-gluten scones and cupcakes, wheat-free macaroons and no-bread sandwiches. From £27 per person.