The beginnings of afternoon tea are disputed. Some say it simply started as an afternoon snack in the Victorian era for manual labourers, something substantial to accompany their post work pot of tea. Sandwiches and meat to go with a hot cuppa sounds pretty plausible, albeit kind of boring. The version we are going with is the creation of afternoon tea some 150 years ago by the 7th Duchess of Bedford, who introduced afternoon tea as a ‘meal-between-meals’ for the fancy and elite members of society. Regardless of which story you believe there is a formula to the snack that beats all snacks, and it supposedly follows the Duchess’ recipe; scones with lashings of cream and jam, cucumber finger sandwiches, trays of pastries and cakes all followed by many pots of Darjeeling and Earl Grey. I know, I know, it sounds amazing.
Now if we consider how large London is, and how much of an institution afternoon tea has become, then it actually becomes quite difficult to narrow down where you should actually go for afternoon tea. So let us help you make the most of your Paddington hotel special offers by bringing some serenity to the absurd amount of choice London presents when it comes to the delectable snack. Let’s take a look at some of the best versions that can be found across the city.
This is an obvious place to start. If you are looking for sumptuous food in a lavish and beautiful setting, then your search is done. Afternoon tea is held in the Gatsby Room, so named due to the opulence and grandeur that is not dissimilar to the wealth on display in ‘The Great Gatsby’. In fact, you can almost imagine F. Scott Fitzgerald reclined in the corner with a cigarette and a glass of champagne. Straight out of the roaring 20s, this dining room will blow you away; then the food will arrive. European refinement clashes with classic American flavour, this is afternoon tea transatlantic style; Reubens and chicken caesar finger sandwiches, warm scones and of course the pastries. The Boston cream pie is a highlight, but the show stopper is the peanut butter and jam chocolate macaroon. True bliss.
Fortnum and Mason
The quintessential afternoon tea. Need i say more? Okay, I will. Fortnum and Mason is such a British institute that when the famous department store opened its new Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duchess of Cambridge and the actual Queen herself came to open it and sample the goods. You can’t get much more British than that. Offering the traditional afternoon tea; starting with the classic finger sandwiches of suffolk cured ham and english mustard, and cucumber with minted pea cream cheese. Moving on to warm scones with jam and cream (obviously), then jumping into the patisserie style course of incredible cakes and sweet treats. The china tea sets, impossibly shiny silver cutlery and quaint bouquets at every table really make this a quintessentially British experience. This is one of the best places to grab afternoon tea near Paddington Station, right in the city’s centre.
If you are lucky enough to be staying at The Chilworth London Paddington hotel, an acclaimed 5* institution, then you have probably already been eyeing up the afternoon tea menu. The dining room is a luxury, wood panelled room, with private alcoves and large open spaces as well. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d stumbled onto a film set, such is the elegant warmth on offer here. The afternoon tea itself is an absolute treat, with a modern twist on the classic elements. A carrot and walnut cake that goes oh so perfectly with a cup of earl grey tea, a tuna mayo sandwich on carrot bread will catch you off guard but delight you, and the macarons are to die for. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy then try the chocolate version; yes that’s right, all the sweet treats are chocolate based, what more could you want? Obviously this can all be enjoyed with a crisp glass of champagne, because why not treat yourself! If you’re on the lookout for a spa near Paddington, then look no further than your own front door. The Chilworth offers a fully operational spa; so after all your hard work tasting delicious treats, you’ll need a good massage and steam!
Afternoon Tea Bus Tour
If you are looking for something a bit different, or perhaps have limited time in the city, then this is the afternoon tea for you. Enjoy an afternoon tea that has absolutely no right to be as good as it is, as you tour the city with a quiet ‘voice over‘ tour guide taking you through your surroundings. This beautiful, vintage double decker serves coffee eclairs, mini pastrami burgers, cupcakes and tarts as well as the classics; all as you cruise through the city centre. If you’re visiting with kids then there is a peppa pig afternoon tea option, and for those who are definitely without kids there is a gin version of the tour as well. It covers pretty much every base!
High Chai at Lalit London
This Indian inspired version of high tea is an absolute must for those of you looking for something more than a bit different. Served in an incredibly opulent old grammar school that seems to have had no trouble accessing funds and based on the subcontinent’s street food, this afternoon tea will keep you guessing and delight your taste buds throughout. The finger sandwiches are replaced with incredibly delicate and beautiful samosas and Kathi rolls, and the sweet treats are a collection of Indian classics like fudgy halwa and slices of gorgeous, milky barfi. All this accompanied by beautiful, creamy chai tea. What a wonderful twist on a British classic.
So there you have it, a list of afternoon teas that simply can’t be missed. In fact you may even need to make several trips to London in order to visit them all- or just extend your stay. Either way, you’ll love these incredible afternoon teas.