When I think afternoon tea, I think perfect manners and pinkies up. I imagine layering scones with dainty amounts of jam and clotted cream with my grandmother (who, in my imagination, looks suspiciously like the Queen of England), not quirky afternoon tea. London always has a way of surprising me though. What I discovered in this gorgeous, tea-loving city is a whole host of themed afternoon tea in London.
Fancy hotels and chic cafes all around London are catering to the millennial crowd desperate to relive their 90s childhood. Instead of the traditional high tea, quirky afternoon teas are popping up all across the city, and I made it my mission to try as many of the unusual afternoon teas in London as possible.
Check out these 12 spots where you can find unusual, themed and downright quirky afternoon tea in London
B Bakery Gin Bus
£55 per person
Earlier this year, the B Bakery Bakery Bus Tour exploded on Facebook. It went viral, and within days, the planned dates for 2017 were sold out. Can you blame them? A boozy afternoon tea on a red Routemaster bus driving the streets of London is the epitome of cool and a unique afternoon tea!
Lucky for me, they added extra dates in response to its newfound popularity, and I snagged a couple seats for a Gin Lovers Afternoon Tea Bus Tour of London in November. London is a special place year-round, but it’s particularly magical at Christmastime.
Board the bus at Victoria Coach Station to festive 80s music. Music from Wham! and Whitney Houston are toe-tapping when sober, but as the gin flows, the Routemaster quickly becomes a karaoke on wheels (at least it did for our table). Our tea-master, Marion, explained that she’d bring three rounds of drinks as the bus traveled around the city. In addition to cocktails, we could order hot drinks throughout the evening, too.
The music paused from time to time so we could learn about the historical, cultural and architectural significance of the sights as we passed. We sipped our way through the streets of Knightsbridge and paused at Harrods, known for having the best Christmas windows in London. The recorded voice overhead told us that of the 12,000 lightbulbs that adorn the store, 300 are changed every day!
Our cocktails were all made with Haymans Gin, a brand I’d never heard of until this tour. It’s certainly not the last time I’ll be drinking Haymans Gin, though. We began with a classic gin and tonic to appreciate the flavor of Haymans Gin before moving on to something a bit fancier. Next, we were served a glass of prosecco with gin and elderflower, garnished with an edible flower. Last, we received a gin and lemonade cocktail with a maraschino cherry garnish.
We balanced out the drinks with savory and sweet treats from Brigit’s Bakery. I loved the little pink and green buns filled with salmon and cream cheese and the cupcakes were divine. There was so much food, we couldn’t finish it all, so we were given cute pink lunch boxes to bring home leftovers. And as if that wasn’t an awesome parting gift in itself, we all received reusable coffee cups. From now on, I’ll be saving the environment in style!
B Bakery’s Gin Lovers Afternoon Tea Bus Tour was the most unique afternoon tea in London and among the most quintessentially British experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure to take part in. Whether you’re a tourist or born and bred in London, there’s something for everyone.
A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream Afternoon Tea by Swan at Shakespeare’s Globe
£28.50 per person, £35 per person including a love potion cocktail, £38.50, £39.50 or £40.50 per person with a glass of Balfour Leslie’s Reserve, Hush Heath Estate, Lanson Père & Fils or Lanson Rosé respectively
Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea: £32.50 per person or £37.50 with a tankard of Pale Ale or Curious Brew lager
Back in my middle school days, I was something of an aspiring actress. My first play was “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.” My first role: Hippolyta.
The new Midsummer’s Night’s Dream tea by Swan at The Shakespeare Globe is inspired by the characters in Shakespeare’s great romantic comedy, with “the pea flower of Oberon’s love potion, the apricots Titania feeds to Bottom and, of course, mulberries from the lovers’ tree.” Poor Hippolyta isn’t mentioned at all! (As they say in theatre… there’s no small parts, only small actors!)
You can choose a menu with bubbles, a Love Potion cocktail or purely with tea. Savory and sweet are balanced and you can expect to taste a wild mushroom and leek quiche, smoked salmon and chicken and egg sandwiches. The sweet tier is decadent with Poire William and salted caramel Opera cakes, rosewater jelly, hedgerow berries and vanilla-infused cream among other sweets. And, of course, no afternoon tea is complete without scones. These are served with clotted Devon cream and a midsummer berry jam.
If sweets aren’t really your thing (I can’t relate), there’s a Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea that’s available for men and women with a savory tooth. This tea includes a black pudding Scotch egg, a pulled beef slider and potted salmon and chive rillette among other savory options.
All of this is served bespoke crockery designed by Swedish illustrator Annika Wester to reflect the characters and themes of the play. And at only £28.50, this is one of the most affordable afternoon teas in London!
Want to explore the iconic Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre? Check out these tours!
Prêt-à-Portea: The Dior Couture Collection at The Berkeley
£60 per person, £70 including a glass of Laurent Perrier champagne, or £76 per person including a glass of rosé champagne
Prêt-à-Portea: The Dior Couture Collection is a catwalk of culinary proportions, crafted with the same detail and precision as Dior himself. The afternoon tea begins with the Bar Suit – a look synonymous with Dior since 1947- re-imagined as a chocolate biscuit and ends with a vanilla biscuit rendition of Dior’s J’Adior slingback. From head to toe… this afternoon tea will fill you with style and creative combinations that would make Dior proud.
The savory course includes six mini sandwiches including roast corn fed chicken, truffle celeriac remoulade, lettuce, thyme cress on onion bread and home-smoked salmon, shallot soya miring butter, daikon, nasturtium leaves on rye bread. Other savory treats pair unique combinations like a baked Camembert brioche, spiced Victoria plum jam and Manchego cheese.
The sweets are a picture of grace and sophistication. Don’t be fooled by the pink Miss Dior eau de Parfum on your table… it’s actually a lychee and raspberry cake topped with lychee path de fruit. And the red velvet Lady Dior Handbag, a miniature replica of the same purse gifted to Princess Diana by France’s first lady, Bernadette Chirac combines chocolate and strawberry ganache. The expertly crafted designs will leave you wondering if the items on your plate are edible or miniatures for a fashionista Barbie doll.
The Berkeley’s Pastry Chef Mourad Khiat said “It was important for me to respectfully emulate Monsieur Dior’s timeless and iconic fairy-tale gowns using ingredients that best celebrate these opulent and beautiful creations. Seeing the exquisite garments displayed in real life at the V&A really makes me appreciate the detail and precision that goes into these ingenious designs.”
This tea ends July 14, so grab your handbag, put on some high heels and head over to The Berkeley. Don’t fret, though, fashionistas. Prêt-à-Portea is London’s legendary designer tea, transforming every six months to bring you a new menu of fashionista delicacies.
Floral Afternoon Tea at The Pelham
£30 per person or £55 per person with free-flowing Tattinger Champagne
This tea is bloomin’ adorable! The Pelham is quintessentially British, and their floral afternoon tea is everything girly and colorful and fresh.
Tea is served on a tier and in a wicker basket that reminds me of Easter egg hunts from my childhood (and also my 20s… no judgement, I’ll hunt for chocolate at any age!). The Pelham sticks with the theme and offers The Pelham’s cake farm, The Pelham’s bulbs and The Pelham’s savoury brunch. Throughout the afternoon tea, you can expect to try a lime posset with chocolate and pistachio crumble, passionfruit tart, apricot and traditional scones and a selection of finger sandwiches among other treats. All sweet dishes are decorated with sugary flowers and butterflies, evoking the feeling of being in your own edible garden.
The tea selection from Camilla’s Tea House is extensive. Many of the teas feature floral undertones, like the Signature Pelham tea with rose and violet, White Apricot with marigold and rose, and Jasmine Bai Mao Huo. Want to get healthy while drinking tea? Skinny B*tch, Toxin Killer and Beautiful Skin each have their own properties for good health. Not into the health craze? Me neither! Upgrade your tea to a bottomless Tattinger free-flowing champagne tea for an additional £25.
Inspired by the tea to visit some of London’s great gardens? Check out these tours!
Christian Dior Afternoon Tea: Designer of Dreams Tea at The Franklin
£40 per person
“Happiness is the secret to all beauty. There is no beauty without happiness.” – Christian Dior
No beauty without happiness… and no happiness without afternoon tea. Dior has certainly made his mark! The Franklin promises a culinary fashion experience with their new afternoon tea, also inspired by the new Christian Dior exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Prepared by Michelin- starred Chef Alfredo Russo and designed in partnership with luxury event planners, La Fête, this is no ordinary afternoon tea. Each item on the menu pays homage to the couturier with an explanation, so even the least fashion-forward guest can follow along.
Fashion and gastronomy collide with ‘The Train to Montecatini’: a chou filled with traditional foie gras and strawberry jam, ’Éclair Cousu-Main’: a delicately baked ‘finger’ cheese fondue with black truffle and ‘The Granville’: a light, flavorsome mushroom flan. And the sweets are a feat of culinary creativity. From makeup palettes of chocolate and sable petit fours to ‘J’adore’: a peanut sponge and dulcey chocolate cream served with vaporised Calvados aptly housed in a Dior-inspired perfume bottle.
Add a Mitzah cocktail for £16. Inspired by Mitzah Bricard, Dior’s leopard-wearing muse, the cocktail is the perfect balance of Sauvelle Vodka, L’Original Combier, Triple Sec, Combier Crème de Violette, lemon juice, egg white, sugar syrup and blackberries.
Feeling inspired by Christian Dior? Upgrade your tea and for £50 per person you’ll get entrance to the V&A Museum exhibit featuring the fashion house’s influence from 1947 until today.
Want to enjoy this tea kid-free? Let your 8-16-year-olds explore the V&A Museum on a special kids’ day out!
Science Afternoon Tea at The Ampersand Hotel
£39.50 per person or £49.50 with a glass of Charles Heidsieck Champagne
The planets have aligned for this tea that’s a little bit geeky and a whole lot of fun. The team at The Ampersand Hotel took inspiration from their neighbor, The Science Museum for a family-friendly afternoon tea experience that’s out of this world!
The tiers comes out smoking, thanks to the science of liquid nitrogen. Start with the savory sandwiches: chicken, roast beef and salmon, and a mushroom and truffle tart. All afternoon teas have scones with jam and clotted cream… but not all teas offer lemon curd in a squeeze tube and freeze dried raspberry, freeze dried pineapple and crunchy caramel toppings.
Bite into spacemen made of chocolate and excavate dinosaur biscuits from chocolate ‘soil’ in an archaeologist’s box.
This tea won the Best Themed Afternoon Tea at the Afternoon Tea Awards 2018, and with all the fierce competition, this has to be good!
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tea at One Aldwych (Currently closed for refurbishment, set to re-open in April)
£44 per person, £54 per person with a glass of Lallier Grande Réserve Champagne or a Cocktail Charlie
I’ve always loved Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. There’s something satisfying about watching the nice guy finish first, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that it’s my dream to live near a chocolate river.
When I found out about the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory inspired tea at One Aldwych, I jumped at the chance to join. We were seated under the fuchsia Christmas tree, trimmed with lights, golden musical notes and brightly colored candy scenes. The tables were set with hand-drawn versions of the most famous characters from the movie, which doubled as our menu. Looking down the list at bubble-gum panna cotta with berries and meringue and chocolate caramel milk, I knew I had won the golden ticket.
It was my last day in London, so I decided to splash out with a Cocktail Charlie. The cocktail is comprised of Dalmore whiskey mixed with Merlet Sœurs Cerises cherry liqueur, chocolate bitters grapefruit juice and cherry syrup topped with champagne. Served in clear teapots on dry ice and poured into fancy long-stemmed glasses, the magical smoke started the afternoon tea off on the right foot.
We began with savory sandwiches, a quiche and Montgomery cheese scones served with bacon jam. If you’re wondering what the heck bacon jam is, I give you permission to stop reading right now and call One Aldwych to make a reservation. Because that bacon jam is life. I tried to play it cool as I piled the jam on top of my scone, but it was so delicious, there was no cool in sight.
Our server asked if we’d like any extras from the savory menu or if we wanted to move on to the sweets portion. As delicious as the savory dishes were, we were looking forward to Willy Wonka’s creations. And were were beginning to feel a bit like Oompa Loompas already!
The menu detailed an extensive selection of tea, and I had a hard time deciding between the Winter Spice, Winter Berry and Hibiscus and Mango Noir, but I decided to stick with the theme and chose the Chocolate Tea. It’s no chocolate river, but it’s the next best thing.
The scrumdiddlyuptious sweets came out on a tiered pedestal, and our server described them each in detail. The Cadbury Creme Egg is one of my favorite sweets, so I was especially intrigued by the Golden Egg, filled with vanilla cheesecake and mango. The homemade candy floss is a mystery flavor, reminiscent of an old-school British sweet shop. Can you guess the flavor?
If you’re celebrating something special, be sure to let your server know! There are even more treats in store for birthday girls or guys who visit.
The service, quality of food and atmosphere earns an A+ in my book. I’m not the only one… it earned the title of ‘Best Afternoon Tea in London’ from Bookatable in 2017! I’d go back for another Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed tea any day!
Sweet tooth not satisfied yet? Check out the best freakshakes in London or these other sweet-themed tours:
JuBEElee – St. Ermin’s Afternoon Tea
£30 per person, £37 per person with free-flowing Prosecco for 90 minutes
You’d better BEE-lieve that this is the best value tea in all of London. St. Ermin’s is home to the very first bee apartment in London with a hive of 350,000 honeybees For £30, St. Ermins offers a Honey JuBEElee tea, showcasing what the bees produce. I am a big fan of the ginger and honey macaron, white chocolate mousse with honey sponge and honey caramel presented in a ‘cup of dirt’ and the honey bee gin and tonic jelly with blackberry pannacotta.
And this is one tea where it’s hard to choose whether the savory or the sweet was done better. The salt beef with honey-mustard slaw and goat’s cheese with apricot chutney sandwiches were divine! As if that’s all not amazing on its own, for just £7 more, you can add on free-flowing Prosecco. After all those bubbles, it was hard to tell whether we or the bees were more buzzed.
Each season, St. Ermin’s Hotel changes the theme of their afternoon tea. Autumn of 2018 celebrated the Ju-BEE-lee. St. Ermin’s Hotel recently released their Spring 2019 afternoon tea, where guests will be treated to sweets like coffee and hazelnut filled shortbread and a Matcha choux bun with yuzu cream in addition to other treats and savory snacks.
Be sure to check the hotel’s website to find the most up to date theme information.
The Potion Room Tea at Cutter & Squidge
£49.50 per person, £79.50 per person with two alcoholic drinks and a premium goodie bag
The Genie’s Cave tea at Cutter and Squidge is no more, and I was skeptical that anything could top that experience. Cue The Potion Room. As a Harry Potter fan, I love all the magic-themed experiences in London (like The Cauldron Pub). The Potion Room is no ordinary afternoon tea… this is a class for students of witchcraft and wizardry.
Upon descending the steps to The Potion Room, students receive a cloak before taking a seat at an old-school wooden desk. The afternoon is led by a Potions Master, who remained in character the entire time with more than a few surprises up her sleeves. We loved the interactive nature of the tea, where a bit of magic went a long way to enhance the experience. This tea is £49.50 per person, but it’s worth every penny. Get in soon, because just like the Genie’s Cave, you never know when it may disappear!
Looking for more Harry Potter fun? Check out these other Harry Potter tours in London!
Mary Poppins Afternoon Tea at Aqua Shard This tea is no longer offered.
£49 per person, £66 with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne, and £72 with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Rosé
Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down! There’s not a drop of medicine in sight, but there is plenty of sugar! The Mary Poppins-themed tea at The Aqua Shard does a great job of creating appropriately Poppins-esque treats… plus, it’s an afternoon tea with a view! London’s tallest skyscraper has created an afternoon tea where every aspect ties in to something from the book. The smokey flavor of Bert’s tea. And the nod to the Banks’ family’s home on Cherry Lane in the flavor of a mousse. Even the option of plum jam (Mary’s favorite) with scones. I appreciated that they stuck to the theme!
My favorite part of the tea was the truffled egg salad sandwich and the crab sandwich. The savory dishes outshone the sweet courses on this one for sure. At £49 + 12.5% service charge, this is one of the most expensive afternoon teas I visited. While the theme is practically perfect in every way and the view from the 32nd floor of The Shard is priceless, the price is a bit…supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Tale as Old as Time Tea at The Kensington This tea is no longer offered. Check out The London Landmarks Afternoon Tea at The Kensington instead!
£38.50 per person , £50 per person with a glass of champagne
If I could be any Disney Princess, I’d be Belle. Hands down, no competition. She loves to read, forges her own path in life, and pays no attention to the naysayers. I think she’s pretty rad.
As I was watching the new live action Beauty and the Beast (for the third time), I wished that I could have a Be Our Guest experience. I googled, just in case I’d missed a chance to dine with dancing dishes. Lo and behold, Town House at The Kensington offers a Tale as Old as Time tea… No dancing dishes, but they promise Cogsworth and Lumière’s attendance.
I appreciate their commitment to theme, even in subtle menu items. We began with mini venison pie, beef ragout & saffron arancini and cheese soufflé. The starters are a nod to the lyrics of “Be Our Guest”:
Beef ragout, cheese soufflé
Pie and pudding, on flambé
We’ll prepare and serve with flair
A culinary cabaret
A few other stand out dishes included the chocolate clock tart, adorned with Cogsworth’s face. I loved the spiced snowball macarons and of course, the grey stuff. It’s served in a tiny Chip teacup with a note that says “Try the grey stuff, it’s delicious.” We may have been the only ones in the restaurant that couldn’t help but follow up with a “Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes!”
When “you shout, ‘enough I’m done!'” take your speculoos Belle dress decorated with marzipan to enjoy later.
I love a good Disney themed afternoon tea. London hasn’t tired of them yet… so next, I visited the Genie!
Genie’s Cave Tea at Cutter & Squidge This tea is no longer offered. Check out The Potion Room instead!
£29.50 per person, £34.50 per person with one glass of bubbly, £55 per person endless bubbly including prosecco and bellinis
Disney’s Aladdin the musical is playing at The Prince Edward Theatre, and although I’ve probably seen more than 30 musicals in my life, this performance is in my top three. Aladdin has an incredible voice and boyish charm and the Genie steals the show with timely pop culture references.
Since we were already singing the songs from Aladdin on repeat, we kept the experience going with a trip to Cutter & Squidge for their Genie’s Cave tea. Descend into the cave, to discover a ‘whole new world’ adorned with golden stalactites and cozy seating. This tea is not for the claustrophobic, because the cave is a tight squeeze, but worth it!
A Genie’s Welcome dish is presented upon arrival. Break through the meringue to reveal raspberry, pomegranate and pashmak with Turkish candy floss ‘smoke’ to release the genie. Tea arrives in golden lamps… but these are genie-free (I tried).
Although Cutter & Squidge is known for its sweets, the savory scone swirls, Desert Rose tart and finger sandwiches were a nice start to the tea. My favorite part were the golden cheese clouds, which are exactly what they sound like. We each received three, but I could have eaten about 10 of them (and by 10, I mean 30).
We worked our way up to the sweet tier, and things went from good to great. The raspberry & rose tart sprinkles with pistachio ‘emeralds’ and Cutter & Squidge’s famous 24-carat gold decadent chocolate biskie were my favorite.
If you’ve got ‘a friend like me,’ treat them to this magical afternoon tea soon… it’s only granting wishes until the end of March 2018!
Which of these themed afternoon teas in London do you want to try first?
These afternoon tea experiences helped me to enjoy the most stereotypically London experience with a bit of magic. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to enjoy a typical afternoon tea after being spoiled with these fun experiences. Have you ever tried an afternoon tea with a modern spin?