List Words : Susie Maggie Thorne | 04 June

London's unique choices for afternoon tea

Susie Maggie Thorne has found the most eccentric, bizarre and also traditional places to enjoy the old English past-time of afternoon tea in the UK's capital city

1. “Mad Hatter's Tea”

Address: Sanderson Hotel, 50 Berners Street
Nearest London Underground stop: Oxford Circus or Tottenham Court Road
When and how much? £35pp (£45 champagne option); 12.30-5.30pm daily

This luxury hotel has focused on every detail of the design aspect for their afternoon tea, with bespoke crockery, menus hidden in vintage books and napkins wrapped in riddles. Their menu changes to suit the season with sweet and savoury treats such as smoked Cumbrian ham on sun-dried tomato bread; cucumber and chive cream cheese on spinach bread; and sweet and savoury scones with herb butter and fruit preserves.

Their puddings include a tempting array of 'strawberries and cream’ homemade marshmallow mushrooms; a carrot meringue served on a bed of pea shoots; a ‘Tick Tock’ traditional Victoria sponge clock; and a melting mango cheesecake coated in rainbow patterned white chocolate. They also invite guests to their 'Jelly Wonderland' to sample a variety of fruit jellies made in Victorian moulds.

Although the theme is very quirky, and the designs are made to make you feel very much like you're in Wonderland, no fancy dress costumes are allowed.

2. The Tea Rooms

Address: 155 Stoke Newington Church Street, Hackney 
Nearest London Underground stop: Manor House
When and how much? £20pp (£23 inc. prosecco); Mon-Fri 11am-6pm; Sat/Sun11am-6.30pm

“Everything is free-range, home-made and locally sourced, with an emphasis on quality and taste, using our favourite family recipes.” This gem is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of central London leaving visitors with a quieter affair for a cup of tea and slice of cake.

They favour a more traditional menu with delights such as smoked-salmon finger sandwiches or scones with homemade raspberry jam but have a laid back atmosphere so that everyone feels welcome. They also offer alternative green or black teas as well as gluten free options so that all dietary requirements are catered for.

3. The Haberdashery

Address: 22 Middle Lane, Crouch End 
Nearest London Underground stop: Highgate
When and how much? No set menu; Mon-Fri 8am-6pm; Sat/Sun 9am-6pm

A quirky café with lots of village character, knitted goods and vintage crockery included. The Haberdashery uses local, family-owned tea specialists W. Martyn for all of their tea needs in order to give back to the local community. They also host monthly craft bazaars, 'barboot' sales and gigs, giving the place a real homely feel, an aspect which is important to the owners.

They specialise in loose leaf teas with herbal, infusions and black options available as well as catering for veggies on the foodie front. Freshly baked cakes and pastries are available as well as main meals such as sandwiches, salads and soups.

4. Teanamu Chaya Teahouse

Address: Coach house, 14A St Luke's Road, Westbourne Green
Nearest London Underground stop: Westbourne Road
When and how much? £18pp; Sat/Sun 12-6pm

An alternative to traditional afternoon tea with both sweet and savoury foods but with an eastern influence thrown in for good measure. Try yuzu ginger preserve and mature cheddar followed by Singaporean coconut and banana hun kweh jelly.

They also have tea appreciation and master classes celebrating tea as an art form and important social ritual.

The man behind the concept, Pei Siong Wang, says: "You enter the tearoom, enjoy the tea and revel in the moment. You don't think about the emails you need to answer or deadlines, and take a respite from our hurly-burly lives." 

He adds, "A tea poet friend of mine uses a phrase that sums it up best: 'Giving a cup of tea is like giving a cup of now.'"

5. Bake-a-boo

Address: 86 Mill Lane, West Hampstead
Nearest London Underground stop: Kilburn
When and how much? £16-£17.50pp (2 person minimum); Fri/Sun 12-6pm; Sat 10am-6pm

Think pink, cutesy and granny-chic... fun and frivolity don't come any girlier than a Bake-a-boo tea party. Cafés catering to specific dietary needs can sometimes be hard to find but this particular pink-lover's-paradise offers: “A delicious range of speciality cakes and treats free from the common allergens of wheat, gluten and dairy, suitable for coeliacs, and allergy and intolerance sufferers.” On top of this they also rustle up egg- and sugar-free treats.

They have a regular menu for £16 and a 'sensitive' menu for £17.50 which is gluten free with caters for common food allergies. The first includes delights such as teapot shaped vanilla biscuits while the second offers treats like dark-chocolate-dipped strawberries and gluten free cupcakes and, most importantly, both come with unlimited tea!

6. Gallery Mess

Address: Kings Road, Chelsea
Nearest London Underground stop: Sloane Square
When and how much? £9.50 or £11.50/£22; 2.30-6pm daily

For people who like their tea with a side of art, Gallery Mess is part of the Saatchi Gallery in London's upmarket and fashionable area of Chelsea. Their menu changes seasonally as they endeavour the use the freshest ingredients. They have daily specials on top of the usual suspects likes scones with cream and, as with all the best afternoon teas, cakes are homemade.

Tea and scones are £9.50 and afternoon tea costs £11.50 or £22 depending on your choices. Walk off the sweet treats with a shopping trip in Chelsea's trendy boutiques. Entrance to the Saatchi Gallery exhibitions are free for your pre- or post-tea culture fix (or both).

7. Le Chandelier

Address: 161 Lordship Lane, Dulwich
Nearest London Underground stop: Denmark Hill
When and how much? £6.75-£24; 3-6pm daily

Le Chandelier aims to supply you with that elusive hour of peace in the busy city. A little outside of the centre, they believe: “Taking tea is a celebration of tranquillity, a time to reflect and to give back to your mind and your body that which a busy lifestyle takes away”.

They offer a very classic and quaint British backdrop and a menu to match. For a light bite, treat yourself to cream tea or for something more substantial take high tea, which includes a warm meal like Croque Monsieur or Eggs Royal; but the prices suit all budgets. In traditional Salon style they have their teas on display in glass jars and with over 30 to choose from, from oolong to puer, prepare to have your taste buds tantalised.

Special dietary requirements are £3 more and three days notice are needed for vegan afternoon-tea.

8. The Modern Pantry

Address: 48 St John's Square, Clerkenwell
Nearest London Underground stop: Farringdon or Barbican
When and how much? £17 (£22 with bubbly); Mon-Sat 3-5pm

Away from the kitsch of most tea rooms, The Modern Pantry offers a fresh alternative with experimental menus. While their afternoon tea menu seems pretty classic with scones, cakes and a variety of teas, their regular menu offers up something a little more unusual. Their brunches, for example, have dishes such as “spring onion, feta, polenta and curry leaf waffles, smoked streaky bacon, roast tomato, avocado, spring onion and yuzu salsa”. Phew! Plus there are more dishes, like traditional boiled egg and soldiers, for those who don't want such a mouthful. The food and pastries look so good you'll want to munch your way through the lot.

Although this has a more contemporary style than most tearooms, it still has that 'Britishness' about it that many visitors want to experience.

9. Orange Pekoe

Address: 3 White Hart Lane, Barnes
Nearest London Underground stop: Richmond or East Putney
When and how much? £8-£23.95; 2-5pm daily

These guys are passionate about tea – their motto is “for the art, the philosophy, and the love of tea”. Their unusual name refers to a grading for high quality tea and, as this namesake would suggest, they serve only the best-of-the-best themselves.

They veer more towards the classic afternoon tea with twee crockery but rather than the stuffy snobbery, Orange Pekoe creates an informal setting which allows you to relax. They say: “There is no fuss, no dress code, no minimum spend... If you want to join us for tea in your shorts then that’s fine, however, if you fancy putting on your prettiest dress and a pair of heels then we love that too! Anything goes.”

That's our kinda place!

10. “Prêt-à-Portea”

Address: The Berkley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge
Nearest London Underground stop: Knightsbridge or Hyde Park Corner
When are how much? £39 (£49/£55 Champagne option); 1-5.30pm daily

For a couture tea experience, Berkley doesn't just serve scones, biscuits and pastries, they present – wait for it – Alexander McQueen honeycomb cream dresses topped with a marzipan bee... D&G pistachio panna cotta dresses and Manolo Blahnik slingback chocolate biscuit heels.

Not only stylish, the teas and treats are also delicious with a variety of flavours, “Inspired by the themes and colours of the fashion world.” And never wishing to be off-trend the menu is transformed every six months to follow the changing seasons and styles in fashion.

Hyde Park is right around the corner for a post-tea walk in the park à la mode. A dream destination for fashionistas everywhere, you'll be dining in style with The Berkley's enforced elegant, smart-casual dress code.

11. “Not Afternoon Tea”

Address: OXO Tower, Harvey Nicholls, South Bank
Nearest London Underground stop: Temple or Southwark
When and how much? £24.50; 3-5pm daily

As the name suggests, this isn't any old afternoon tea, fact you'd be hard pushed to find yourself reaching for a cup at all with the cocktails they have on offer. The brassiere have four different menus to choose from, all at the same price, with different themes. Choose from Hot & Sticky, Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb, Chocolate Fruit & Nut Case and Mad Hatter's Tea Party which each have distinctive taste themes for their pastries and cakes and their own unique cocktail; who could say no to a warm cocktail entitled “Drink Me”?

Themed menus like 'Hopeless Romantic' can also be bought as 'gift experiences' costing from £30 per person to £70 or £95 for two.

12. The Kingsway Hall Hotel

Address: 66 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden
Nearest London Underground stop: Holborn
When and how much? £16.95 (£25.50 champagne option); 12-7pm daily

For a typical English menu right in the heart of London, Covent Garden is the perfect backdrop for both the dainty and quaint. The regular menu has classic British treats but also gluten-free and veggie (like fresh strawberry meringues). Not wanting anybody to miss out, it's at the cheaper end of the scale too, meaning it's a bargain afternoon in a cracking location.

13. Beas of Bloomsbury

How much? £19 (£26.50 champagne option)
Where and when? Camden: Sat/Sun 12-7pm; St Paul's: Mon- Fri 2-7.30pm, Sat/Sun 12-7pm

Bea used to be Nobu's pastry chef so is a genius in all things sweet. There are two outlets for afternoon tea at Theobalds Road, Camden and St Paul's. Be aware that bookings are required. Sweet Teas (without baguettes) can be done via drop-in at both shops Monday-Friday 2pm onwards and take-away is always available.

After business partner Helena's trip to the USA spawned a love for real All-American breakfasts and pancakes, the cake queen has now also opened a third outlet called Bea's Diner on Maltby's Street. Pop in for the real deal giant pancakes with maple syrup, streaky bacon, French toast and poached eggs. A taste of New York in London.

14. The Orangery at the Fan Museum

Address: 12 Croom's Hill, Greenwich
Nearest London Underground stop: Take the London Underground to Canary Wharf then DLR train from Heron Quays to Greenwich
When and how much? £6 (plus £4 museum entrance charge); 2:15pm and 3:45pm, Tues and Sun

This one is worth the trek out of the city. Located right next to Greenwich park, it's a real day out. Visit the Fan Museum in the morning, take your tea in the afternoon and go for a stroll around the park, along the river.

A bargain price for tea and coffee, scones with cream and jam and a selection of homemade cakes. A relaxed day out for your caffeine, cake and culture fix.

15. "Charlie and The Chesterfield"

Address: The Chesterfield Mayfair, 35 Charles Street
Nearest Tube Stop: Green park
When and how much? £32.50 (£39.50 champagne option); daily 13 May- 1 September

The Chesterfield have decided to add a bit of Oompa to their afternoon tea. Inspired by the latest addition to the West End, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they've given their traditional menu a “Chocolatey Twist”.

Charlie and the Chesterfield has all of the classic components you'd expect to see such as sandwiches, scones and pastries. However, from 13 May until 1 September, chocaholics rejoice as “Wonka Bars, Oompa Loompa cupcakes, fizzy lifting drinks and candy canes of all sorts” are added to the menu. As well as a cuppa, you can now help yourself to hot chocolates or an ice-cold milkshake, if the weather's warming up.