Lifestyle

Top 5 Luxury Afternoon Tea

The Berkeley: If there is any afternoon tea perfect for fashion week it is Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkley. Set in the deliciously named Caramel room the menu changes every six months to mirror the trends on the catwalk. From the Paul Smith chinaware to the iconic sweet creations this is a fashionista’s wet dream. Biting into a Manolo Blahnik slingback chocolate biscuit heel or an Alexander McQueen honeycomb cream with the marzipan bee would be an experience all in itself but everything is so exquisite and delicious and fun that this is a quality afternoon tea not just a one off gimmick. Gluten and nut free can be catered for given 24 hour notice and the dress code is described as elegant casual which means there’s a lot of style candy to look at while you're licking leopard print chocolate off a hatbox. Waiters will help you choose a perfect blend of tea to go with your desserts and you get a booklet with all the designers that inspired the sweet creations as well as a colourful glossy cardboard “purse” to take leftovers home with. Set in Knightsbridge with Harrods and Harvey Nichols on it’s doorstep where better for a fashion week tea? pret-a-portea-fw-2012-3

Fortnum & Mason: I’ve often walked past Fortnum’s and Masons and seen people staring at the building in dumb wonder heedless of hysterical Londoners trying to get past. Their window displays are out of this world; a virtual Aladdin’s cave of stories of fantastical lands and winged beasts intertwined with lavish tins of tea. This place is a honey trap for tea enthusiasts and romantics. Fortnum and Masons has been selling tea since 1707 and has a wealth of history and experience behind it. Afternoon tea is held in The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon which has a lovely pallet of ocean blues and soothing whites. Not content to just exceed at romanticism and creativity the food and drink on offer here are the pictures of quality and excellence. Dietary requirements can be met before you order and the range of the menu is dizzying. Whether you’re in the mood for Welsh rarebit, lobster bisque or cucumber sandwiches there is something for everyone. Bring your best appetites because as soon as you finish your first round of sandwiches a waiter will suddenly appear and offer you more. Tearistas will parade malty, spiced, smoked and scented teas past your table and offer them for you to try. They will even press boxes of tea upon you as you get up to leave. An impeccable afternoon tea.

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Mad Hatter's at Sanderson: Those with a playful spirit and sense of adventure should visit Oxford Street where the Mad Hatter hosts his tea party at the Sanderson Hotel. The hotel oozes modernity and style (make sure to try out the giant lips sofa) and the tea is held in a cultivated leafy courtyard. If, like me, you knocked on the backs of wardrobes as a child or scoured nearby fields for a particular rabbit hole then this is a childhood fantasy come to life. The teapots are decorated with kings and queens, the napkins have riddles folded inside and your sugar cubes are served to you in a magical music box. The food is where the chefs throw all logic and restraint out the window and the result is pure gold. Rainbow coloured sandwiches and Victoria sponge clocks along with blueberry lollipops that turn your mouth from hot to cold. Be adventurous and take a swig from the antique looking glass bottle labelled “drink me” and you’ll be rewarded with a mouthful of Apple Pie, Lemon Curd and English Toffee. There is also the traditional scones and strawberry jam. The tea isn’t anything to write home about and the service isn’t spectacular but for those young at heart and full of gastronomic adventure this isn’t a tea party you’d want to miss.

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The Savoy: Need room to breathe while you drink your tea? Sometimes the crush of the city can get too much and The Thames Foyer at the Savoy is the perfect remedy for this. It is a lovely vast archaic room with high ceilings and an airy glass cupola that filters in loads of natural light. The hotel has been holding tea in this room since 1904 and has witnessed dinner-dances, savoy bands and tango teas. The food is a traditional selection but of very good quality the sandwiches and scones are refilled as many times as you like. The pastries are delicious and creative and there are many lovely options like mint and raspberry macaroons and rum baba with chantilly and mango. I was very impressed with the range of teas and it is difficult to choose one because they all sound delicious! There’s the Assam Gold with hints of raisin and malt or the light, velvety Silvery Needle or the Oriental Beauty, an oolong tea, famed for being the Queen’s favourite. The waiters pour the tea for you and you are encouraged to linger and enjoy the afternoon tea as leisurely as you like to the sounds of the resident pianist. Make sure to check out the British Pop paintings hanging in the room featuring legends like Frank Sinatra and Maria Callas!

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Claridges: Fancy an afternoon of old world glamour? Take a stroll up to Mayfair. Claridges fills your heart with luxury and elegance as soon as you walk through the doors to the black and white marble floors and majestic sweeping staircases. The grandeur and beauty of the art deco interior isn’t stuffy or overwhelming but filled with lively conversation and well dressed guests. Having tea here is like entering a pocket of old London. There are no windows and no distractions from the outside world so the rush and stress of day to day life is left behind. Tea is served on bold jade and white striped fine china and the food is luxurious. Over 40 kinds of tea is on offer with a three course version of an afternoon tea. Finger sandwiches, apple and raisin scones and decadent cakes and pastries. Make sure to try the Marco Polo jelly! Waiters rush over to refill your plates and you can change your tea in between each course. The food is traditional but first class melt in your mouth down to the last bite and the service is outstanding. There are even ladies to turn on the hot water in the “powder room.”  A truly lavish and wonderful afternoon tea that remains exquisitely timeless.

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Contributor: Aniqah Choudri