I am always being asked where my favourite place for afternoon tea is. As I do an afternoon tea themed walk people are under the impression I've tried them all. Unfortunately I haven't as they are mostly just too expensive and I would get too fat! However over the past year and a bit I have had more than my fair share and 3 places stand out to me. In no particular order ...
The Chesterfield in Charles Street, Mayfair was the venue for my recent 50th birthday celebration tea. They have won the Award for Excellence from the Tea Guild
3 years running. The setting inside the hotel is amazing; the outside
gives no clue as to what the interior will be like. [There should be a
photo at this point but I don't have one!]
My original intention had been to go to Duke's Hotel in St James's. I have recommended their tea (£24.50) on countless of my St James's walks to clients and friends and some friends have enjoyed it so much they have been twice! I have yet to go. The reason I decided against it for my birthday was because tea is served in the Drawing Room where you are sitting on armchairs and I thought a big group wouldn't work as we would all be too far apart. It's still on my "wish list" though. I should get a discount for all the people I've sent there but then they don't know that and I'm too shy to tell them!
For my birthday at the Chesterfield we sat on a grand round table slightly separate from the other tables but on a previous occasion there I've sat on a table overlooking the outdoor area of the English Speaking Union next door so you can people watch (there's usually a wedding party going on) whilst you eat your tea.
It's a few months ago now so I can't remember exactly the selection of cakes and sandwiches and scones we had but do remember the scones were amazingly light so room was left to stuff ourselves with the other cakes. I also remember the mini chocolate eclairs which are my favourite.
Secondly I would recommend Sotheby's in New Bond Street for their small cream tea. It is the Sotheby's tea that started me off on the afternoon tea themed walk. The price has risen since I started the walk but is still only £8.25. It is what it says on the tin - ie 2 small scones with cream and jam, a toasted tea cake and tea. It is incredibly good value. Their "high tea" consisting of the small tea plus a selection of open mini bagels is £13.25 add a glass of Champagne to that and it's just over £20. I need to return! The restaurant is only open Monday to Friday and make sure you time your visit so you can have a look at whatever exhibition is on of items coming up for auction.
Last week I was lucky enough to go to the Savoy for tea and was also taken on a tour of the hotel. It was funny as whilst the rest of the group were taking loads of photos as they had never been in there before as I have been to the American Bar twice already this year I didn't feel as awestruck as they did - well I did but in a different way; I didn't feel the need to take photos as knew I would be back.
This is possibly the grandest setting for tea that I have been to. The tea was served in silver tea pots and left on a stand next to our table. Whenever we needed topping up the waiter was right there remembering who had what tea and which pot contained it.
I liked the way we were given the food in courses - sandwiches and scones first with as many top-ups as we needed, followed by a tray of amazing mini pastries. Amongst those I tried were a rather unusual lavender iced eclair and a strawberry tart where the strawberry had been helpfully cut into four to make it easier to eat! This wasn't all though; this was followed by your choice of fruitcake, Victoria sandwich or chocolate cake. There was no danger of leaving there hungry.
We were seated close to the pianist and we were all very impressed with her playing. The music wasn't just the tinkling of ivories in the background but full blown jazz classics - All that Jazz was the one that almost had me singing along!
So ... where shall I go next for my afternoon tea sampling? I would like to try the Berkeley with its Pret-a-Portea or maybe the Athenaeum winners of this year's Best London Afternoon Tea but I really think my next place for tea should be Duke's ... but would equally be happy with a return to Sotheby's ...
Lastly if you're thinking of booking afternoon tea it is well worth checking out this website first as they regularly have special offers ie 2 for 1 etc.
Where would you recommend?
The author of this blog (Joanna
Moncrieff) is a qualified City of Westminster Tour Guide who
specialises in food and drink themed walks in the West End.
Details of all her bookable private walks are listed here and upcoming public walks are here.
Labels: afternoon tea, hotels, Mayfair, Sotheby's