"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea."
Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady
We can't think of anything we enjoy more than whiling away an afternoon in a beautiful room, sipping fine tea from bone china, listening to music played on a grand piano and picking your way up a laden tea tray from the cucumber sandwiches on the bottom plate, past the essential scones with jam and clotted cream to finish with some of the lightest tarts and patisserie, and perhaps the odd chocolate truffle to completely cap the experience.
Afternoon tea in the grand style is not something to be lightly undertaken. In our extensive experience it is best to eat next to nothing beforehand and arrive ravenous – in the often vain hope of doing justice to the treats awaiting you.
A few “rules” first. To be rated as a grand afternoon tea one requires:
- Warm scones
- Leaf tea offered in several varieties
- Some form of live music
- Architectural beauty
By including music and a beautiful ambience afternoon tea becomes a delight to all the senses of any food loving hedonist with a vaguely sweet tooth and a taste for tea. Whilst we have a preference (as in many things) for grand excess we have also mentioned a few simple tea rooms where the scones are in a class of their own. I will travel a long way for an exceptional scone – but I often find the very best are made by myself and eaten fresh from the oven with good friends over a pot of leaf tea. Like any other foodie event, the real making of a fine afternoon tea is the company in which it is taken.
You can access our reviews from the list below or the Locations... menu to the left:
In Adelaide, Australia
- Just Tickled Pink (274 Unley Rd, Hyde Park). Hot pink decor and Audrey Hepburn memorabilia. Excellent sandwiches.
- Lenzerheide (146 Belair Road, Hawthorn). The best afternoon tea in Australia.
In Melbourne, Australia
- Windsor Hotel (111 Spring Street). No choice of tea but decent scones.
- Park Hyatt (1 Parliament Square, off Parliament Place). Some of the right ingredients.
Elsewhere in Australia
- The Tea Room (Level 3, QVB, Sydney). Great tea - pity about the rest.
In London, England
- The Savoy (The Strand). Simply the best.
- The Lanesborough (Hyde Park Corner). A tea sommelier - what's not to love!.
- Claridge's (49 Brook Street). Close to perfection.
In Hong Kong
- The Peninsula Hotel (Salisbury Rd, Kowloon). Great service and beautiful tea pots.
In Belfast, Northern Ireland
- The Merchant Hotel (35-39 Waring St). Cherubs and chandeliers.
- Café Vaudeville (25-39 Arthur St). Psychedelic baroque with a good line in scones.
Elsewhere in Northern Ireland
- Glenarm Tea Room (2 Castle Lane, Ballymena). The best scones in the world.
In Glasgow, Scotland
- The Butterfly and the Pig (153 Bath St). Mismatched china and wobbly cake stands. Cosy rather than grand.
- Mar Hall (Mar Hall Drive, Bishopton). The best pastries bar none.
Elsewhere in Scotland
- The Balmoral Hotel (1 Princes St, Edinburgh). Great doormen and lovely china.
- Ritz-Carlton Millenia (7 Raffles Avenue). The world's best chocolate cake.
In the USA
- Mandarin Oriental (222 Sansome Street, San Francisco). Tasty but not the real thing.
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