The best London Tearooms
What better way to celebrate her Majesty’s Jubilee than to enjoy an afternoon tea? It’s a tradition known for its pomp and ceremony and, of course, includes a wide range of classic and speciality teas, scrumptious cakes and delicious sandwiches?
The tradition of enjoying afternoon tea began in the early nineteenth century when only two main meals were served, breakfast and a late dinner. According to legend, Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, complained of a ‘sinking feeling’ in the late afternoon and was served a pot of tea and a light snack of cakes and sandwiches in the privacy of her boudoir.
Today, there are tea rooms and tea houses throughout England to suit all styles and tastes. In honour of Her Majesty’s Jubilee, Escapist Traveller previews five tea rooms in London that exemplify this very British tradition.
The Garden Room, Athenaeum Hotel, Mayfair
Described as ‘the essence of Englishness’, The Garden received the coveted Tea Guild’s Best Place in London for Afternoon Tea for 2012. Originally built in the mid-nineteenth century as Hope House, the Junior Athenaeum Club bought the building in 1864, giving way to a new namesake ‘Athenaeum’, which served as a popular entertainment venue for London’s elite.
Renovated in the 1930s and again in 1971, the building was turned into a hotel and the Athenaeum became home to stars filming at Pinewood and Ealing studios. The Garden Room’s speciality is the tantalizing Honey Afternoon Tea — which includes honey roasted ham, honeycomb marquises, honey cakes and macaroons and a glass of honey fizz, for £39 per person. The honey tea option requires 24hrs advanced booking. Other selections are available, from £28.50 to £35. There are three sittings (12.30pm, 3.00pm, and 5.30pm) daily, and you need to book in advance. The dress code is smart casual.
The Athenaeum Hotel, 116 Piccadilly, London W1 (Tele: +44 (0) 20-7499 3464; or book online at http://www.athenaeumhotel.com/food/afternoon_tea.aspx)
The Palm Court at The Ritz
Top image is of the Ritz. Afternoon Tea in the Palm Court at The Ritz is an affair to remember. Before it was built in the early 1900s, the site was occupied by a coaching inn called the Old White Horse Cellar. During World War II The Marie Antoinette Suite, a small private dining room, was used by Churchill, de Gaulle, and Eisenhower for summit meetings. This year The Palm Court is hosting another historic event by with a Jubilee Tea (£65). Guests will enjoy afternoon tea and watch live coverage of the queen’s Jubilee celebrations. A souvenir menu and a fine bone china commemorative dish from the Diamond Jubilee collection are included as gifts. Other specialties include Traditional Afternoon Tea (£42), Champagne Afternoon Tea (£54), and for special occasions try the Celebration Tea (£53) with champagne (£64). Daily sittings are at 11.30am, 1.30pm, 3.30pm, 5.30pm, and 7.30pm, and you have to book, sometimes eight to ten weeks in advance. Gentlemen must wear a jacket/blazer and tie, and jeans and sports shoes are not allowed.
Egerton House Hotel, Knightsbridge
Tucked away in a quiet side street in one of London’s key fashion districts, and strategically located in Knightsbridge, is the Egerton House Hotel. Originally built in the mid 1800s, Egerton Terrace was named after the Honourable Francis Egerton. The Drawing Room’s Afternoon Tea speciality is perfect for those looking for a royal experience. The Royal Afternoon Tea (£50) includes Joseph Perrier Rose Champagne, a fine selection of sandwiches, fresh berry tartlets, and delicious macaroons. Other options include Traditional Afternoon Tea (£31.50, with Guy Cadel Champagne, £42.50), Devonshire Cream Tea (£15), and for young afternoon tea-goers (12 and under), the Egerton has prepared a special selection for £15. Afternoon tea is served from 12pm every day, and booking is essential; there is no formal dress code.
17-19 Egerton Terrace, Knightsbridge, London, SW3 2BX (Tel: +44 (0) 20 7589 2412)
Winner of a Tea Guild Award of Excellence for 2012, The Wolseley boasts a classic and understated grandeur for a memorable afternoon tea. This stylish café/restaurant was built in the early 1920s for Wolseley Motors as a flagship car showroom. Inside, the Venetian architecture boasts high arches, pillars, and a stunning black and gold grand staircase. In 2003 the one-time showroom was restored, renovated and opened as a restaurant. Today, The Wolseley serves a full afternoon tea of finger sandwiches, fruit scones, pastries, cakes, and a variety of teas, including The Wolseley’s own Afternoon Blend. Selections include the full Afternoon Tea (£21), The Wolseley Champagne Tea featuring Pommery Brut Royal (£29.75), or The Wolseley Cream Tea (£9.75). Daily sittings at the Wolseley are from 3.00pm to 6.30pm, Saturday from 3.30pm to 5.30pm, and Sunday from 3.30pm to 6.30pm. Bookings are required, but there is no formal dress code.
160 Piccadilly, London W1J 9EB (Tel: +44 (0) 20 7499 6996)
The Orangery at Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace, once home to Princess Diana, hosts one of the finest tea houses in London. In the palace’s gardens is Queen Anne’s eighteenth century Orangery, originally built in 1704 to hold the royal plants during winter. As well as hosting lavish parties, The Orangery also played host to the Maundy Ceremony—a medieval tradition where the Monarch distributed special coins to the poor on Maundy Thursday. Today, the Orangery is a favourite with tourists and locals alike. Specialties include the Champagne Afternoon Tea or The Tea Palace English Tea. Other options include orange-themed tea (£14.85), chocolate-themed Enchanted Palace Tea (£17.95), or selections from the a la carte menu. Sittings at the Orangery are daily from 3.00pm to 6.00pm. However, there are no booking requirements, no dress code, and patrons are not required to purchase admission to the palace.
The Orangery, Kensington Palace, W8 3UY (Tel: +44 (0) 20 3166 6112)
Written by Cindy Eccles. Born in Alaska, Cindy is an anthropologist/archaeologist and a freelance writer living and working in the UK. Her fascination with culture and history heavily influences her travel choices, and she prefers unique methods of travel and accommodations and hole-in-the-wall diners. Thus far, her favorite destination is Cannes, south of France.
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