London’s Boutique Hotels Offer Exquisite Traditional Afternoon Tea
Experience this magnificent English tradition for yourself, at these singularly delightful London boutique locations
The traditional Afternoon Tea, according to legend, was created in the 1840s by Anna Maria Standhope, Duchess of Bedford and one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting. In those days, the noon meal was rather slight, and the evening meal wasn’t served until 8 o’clock. The Duchess, complaining of “a sinking feeling” at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, would take tea and a few breadstuffs in her private chambers. Later, she began inviting friends to join her for an additional afternoon meal at Belvior Castle. The Duchess continued this practice upon returning to London, where it was eventually picked up by the Queen herself.
Queen Victoria evolved the Afternoon Tea to a much larger event, known as a “tea reception.” Such receptions might have as many as two hundred attendees, personally invited to visit any time between 4 and 7 PM.
Afternoon Tea consists of savouries, which are finger sandwiches or appetizers, scones with clotted cream and jam, sweet pastries and cakes, and, of course, tea. In England today, Afternoon Tea is partaken of as a special event or sometime indulgence—and is a delicate, noble living slice of British history.
1The Zetter Townhouse
28-30 Seymour St, Marylebone, London, UK
+44 020 7324 4577
Seymour’s Parlour, inside the Zetter Hotel, serves traditional Afternoon Tea in their Marylebone location every day from 12 noon to 5 PM, and on Sunday from 12 noon to 6 PM. The hotel was create by Michael Benyan and Mark Sainbur’s, The Zetter Group. Named by Vogue as one of the best in London, you can choose from Wilhelmina’s dainty tea with finger sandwiches, or Uncle Seymour’s heartier menu with a selection of pasties. Seymour’s Parlour also serves Afternoon Tea at their Clerkenwell location.
Image by The Zetter Townhouse
2The Ham Yard Hotel
1 Ham Yard, Soho, London, UK
+44 (0)20 3642 2000
The Ham Yard Hotel—owned by Firmdale Hotels, Tim and Kit Kemp—was awarded “Best Afternoon Tea” at the prestigious Harden’s London Restaurant Awards 2016. The tea offering includes alternative menus including savoury, healthy, reduced sugar, gluten free and vegan options. Firmdale Hotels Executive Head Chef, Robin Read and his talented team are continually producing new ideas for extraordinary cakes, macaroons, desserts, scones and home-made jams.
Image by Ham Yard Hotel
3Hotel Café Royal
10 Air St, Soho, London, UK
It is in this very room—now named the Oscar Wilde Lounge—that Oscar Wilde fell in love with Lord Alfred Douglas, Aubrey Beardsley debated with Whistler, David Bowie retired Ziggy Stardust and Mick Jagger, the Beatles and Elizabeth Taylor danced the night away. Today, this dramatic setting hosts the hotel’s award-winning afternoon tea service. Hotel Café Royal is part of The Set Hotels where Stephen Alden serves as their CEO.
Image by Hotel Cafe Royal
4The Kensington Hotel
109 - 113 Queen's Gate, South Kensington, London
+44 20 7589 6300
Taking inspiration from London’s most recognisable and historic landmarks, Town House at The Kensington’s London Landmarks Afternoon Tea leads diners on a tour of the capital’s architectural feats and culinary traditions, with tributes to London’s most famed structures. Given the hotel’s iconic location, they thought it was only fitting to honour the city with their Afternoon Tea offering. The Kensington Hotel is part of the Doyle Collection with Pat King as their CEO.
Image by The Kensington Hotel
2-6 Southampton Row, Holborn, London, UK
+44 (0)20 7405 5555
The Saint & Sinner Afternoon Tea offers traditional sweet and savoury bites with a contemporary twist. The suitably themed sweet treats include Adam and Eve’s pudding, Devil's food cake—and no afternoon tea is complete without traditional scones served with cream and jam. To wash it down, saints can choose from an extensive tea selection while sinners can sip on indulgent tea-based cocktails. L’Oscar is the brainchild of Jacques Garcia.
Image by L'Oscar
15 Beeston Pl, Westminster, London, UK
+44 (0) 20 7396 9000
The Goring was opened in 1910 by the Goring Family, and has been run by the family ever since and currently, the CEO is Jeremy Goring. The hotel has been perfecting the art of Afternoon Tea since its inception. As the holder of The British Tea Guild Council’s Top London Afternoon Tea Award and The Award of Excellence, it continues to delight guests with delicious pastries, fruity homemade jams and high quality tea blends.
Image by The Goring London
7The Stafford London
16-18 St James's Pl, London, UK
+44 207 493 0111
The decadent afternoon tea at The Stafford London, owned by Brittania Hospitality, takes you on a journey around historic St James’s and its secluded streets. Finger sandwiches and delicious, homemade sweet and savoury scones are accompanied by dainty cakes and pastries inspired by some of St James’s oldest boutiques.
Image by the Stafford London