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The best places for afternoon tea in Britain

best afternoon tea britain
Our food experts have curated a list of Britain's best afternoon teas Credit:  David Cotsworth

It's Afternoon Tea Week; what better excuse to indulge in delicate finger sandwiches, scones and dainty cakes? 

The tradition, conceived to bridge the gap between lunch and supper, was introduced by Queen Victoria's lifelong friend, Anna Maria Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. She popularised the micro-meal among her high-society cohorts – Victoria included – and the rest was cream-covered history.

While we're no longer gathering in each other's drawing rooms to sip on Darjeeling and nibble sponge cakes, afternoon tea has found new life in the nation's best restaurants and tea rooms. 

But where exactly will you find the nation's best afternoon teas? Our experts have selected a terribly tasty top 30...

1. The Ritz, London W1

Indulge in delicious finger sandwiches, fresh raisin and apple scones and cakes Credit: The Ritz

Served with precision in the hotel’s ornate Palm Court, the tea includes the requisite finger sandwiches, alongside fresh raisin and apple scones and cakes on a tiered cake stand (from £58). Service is assured and seamless. The company, meanwhile, is polite: (gentle)men are expected to wear jacket and tie; jeans, sportswear and trainers are forbidden. That sense of formality seems an especially strong lure for foreigners eager to experience a sense of British pomp and ceremony, so book well in advance if you want to secure a spot.

The Ritz, 150 Piccadilly, W1J 9BR

020 7493 8181, theritzlondon.com

2. Fortnum & Mason, London W1

A luxe afternoon tea for two Credit: Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum’s has sold tea since 1707. Today, guests can toast their heritage during afternoon tea (£55 - £58) in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon – a sophisticated, feminine setting washed in pale mints, with a pianist regularly in situ. Knowledgeable staff guide visitors through the 82 teas on the menu and the sandwiches and scones are all happily replenished and served with F&M conserves alongside a pretty selection of patisseries and cake.

181 Piccadilly, W1A 1ER

020 7734 8040, fortnumandmason.com

Make an online reservation

3. Claridge's, London W1

Claridge's, serving afternoon tea for 150 years Credit: Claridge's

Afternoon tea (from £65) at Claridge’s is all about good taste: from the elegant yet informal setting to the delicacies upon which you feast: cucumber and organic chicken sandwiches, scones to sigh for and perfectly formed pastries. There’s a reason why Claridge’s has succeeded in serving afternoon teas for 150 years. Book well ahead – particularly for seasonal afternoon delights like the Chelsea Flower Show or Wimbledon Tea.

Claridge’s, Brook St, Mayfair, W1K 4HR

020 7629 8860, claridges.co.uk

4. Brown's Hotel, London W1

An afternoon 'tea tox' good enough for Queen Victoria Credit: Brown's

Queen Victoria used to take her tea here; today, Brown's serves a flawless traditional spread (£55), along with champagne extras and a lighter gluten-free ‘tea-tox’ (£55) with matcha, chia seeds and every health-hyped ingredient in between. Civilised, quiet and gracious, it pulls off a mixture of old and modern with wood paneling and Paul Smith lamps. 

Brown’s Hotel, Albemarle Street, W1S 4BP

020 7518 4155, roccofortehotels.com

5. Hotel Cafe Royal, London W1

Serving afternoon tea in the most decadent space imaginable Credit: Hotel Cafe Royal

Tea is served in the ornate grade-II listed, gold-lined Oscar Wilde Lounge (the very same room Mick Jagger, the Beatles and Elizabeth Taylor used to party in). It starts with sandwiches, scones and savouries but the main draw is the exquisite cakes and pastries by chef Sarah Barber. Flavours change seasonally, but the pink peppercorn-ed cucumber sandwich can't be missed.

68 Regent St, Soho, W1B 4DY

020 7406 3333, hotelcaferoyal.com

6. Dean Street Townhouse, London W1

Stop for a spot of tea between shops Credit: Dean Street Townhouse

Shopping on Oxford Street? This buzzy, elegant Soho spot (just off the main drag) offers a traditional spread; smoked salmon, Burford Brown egg and mayo finger sandwiches, scones and fancy cakes. For the very reasonably price of £21.

69 - 71 Dean St, Soho, W1D 3SE

020 7434 1775, deanstreettownhouse.com

7. The Sanderson, London W1

The Sanderson, serving afternoon tea and a show Credit: The Sanderson

The Mad Hatter’s tea served here – on china decorated with Alice in Wonderland images - is beautifully styled down to the Drink Me-labelled 'potions'. Coffee macarons are fashioned into the White Rabbit’s watch, red velvet cake comes in the form of ladybirds, and orange caterpillars are made from meringue and jelly. The savouries are good, too, but it’s definitely for the sweet-toothed.

50 Berners St, Fitzrovia, W1T 3NG

020 7300 5588, morganshotelgroup.com

8. The Wolseley, London W1

For unbeatable value, The Wolseley has afternoon tea covered Credit: The Wolseley

This is, for my money, the best value afternoon tea in London, at £29.75. It’s not served in the hushed tones of a hotel drawing room but the rather glitzier surroundings of a high ceilinged brasserie. The whole place screams luxury, the service makes you feel like a princess and the food is generous and delicious.

160 Piccadilly, St. James’s, W1J 9EB

020 7499 6996, thewolseley.com

9. Orange Pekoe, London SW13

An afternoon tea worth its trek Credit: Orange Pekoe

Small – you need to book – and French in feel (distressed shabby chic furniture and mismatched napkins) it’s worth making the trek to Barnes for this place. There’s a tea sommelier so your brew is as important as the cake (which you choose fresh from the counter) and sandwiches.

3 White Hart Ln, Barnes, SW13 0PX

020 8876 6070, orangepekoeteas.com

10. Lyaness (formerly Dandelyan), London SE1

For a little bit of 'what you fancy', Lyaness can't be beat Credit: Lyaness

Premium booze meets botany in the cocktails created by Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan. He and his London bars have won countless awards and, at Lyaness, it's easy to see why. In a transformed Sea Containers building overlooking the Thames, the restaurant's 'Fancy Tea' is a playful take on the high-end 80s dinner party; think devilled eggs, sausage rolls and fruit trifles with panache. The cocktail pairings (i.e. a 'Glasshouse Spritz' of Ultra Raspberry, cherry tomato, and bubbles) are a must.

Sea Containers London, 20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD

020 3747 1063, lyaness.com

11. Little Nan's, London SE8

Little Nan's do afternoon tea just as you'd expect - cosy, quirky and fun Credit: Heathcliff O'Malley/Little Nan's

Hidden under one of Deptford’s railway arches, Little Nan’s is an Eastenders-inspired haunt, complete with leopard-print furnishings, Charles and Diana memorabilia and a Pat Butcher-themed loo. Sit back in the retro living room and enjoy a kitsch afternoon tea on mismatched, vintage crockery. The menu features all the classics (look out for the 88 year-old-recipe jam to go with the scones) and eschews tea for inventive cocktails in teapots.

Arch 14 4 Market Yard, Deptford, SE8 4BX

littlenans.co.uk

12. The Royal Hotel, Isle of Wight

You can't beat afternoon tea in the sea air Credit: The Royal

Queen Victoria must have been rather partial to a spread of sandwiches and scones because, as well as at Brown’s in London, she regularly took tea at this clifftop hotel. It’s been known as The Royal ever since and now boosts its traditional tiers with freshly-baked macarons, mini tiramisu and bite-sized choux buns (tea from £23). On warm days the Geranium Terrace is the best spot for tucking in, granting you exposure to the restorative sea airs Queen Vic once enjoyed.

Belgrave Road, Ventnor, Isle of Wight PO38 1JJ

01983 852186, royalhoteliow.co.uk

13. The Salt Room, Brighton

Start off with whipped cod roe at The Salt Room  Credit: The Salt Room

The room offers spectacular views of the beach and the recently launched afternoon tea is themed appropriately: start with whipped cod roe, malt vinegar and chips before tucking into a cloud of fluffy candy floss, balanced in a bottle filled with chocolate pebbles. Enjoy with JING Tea or Roasted Bean Co. Coffee (£24.95) or splash out with Collet, Brut (£37.95)

106 King’s Rd, Brighton, BN1 2FU

saltroom-restaurant.co.uk

14. Rosemergy Farmhouse, Cornwall

Rosemergy Farmhouse serves fresh scones straight from the Aga Credit: Christopher Jones

Jane Holmes serves up fresh scones, still warm from the Aga, together with clotted cream and strawberry jam in her 300-year-old farmhouse perched on the Cornish coastline between St Ives and St Just. There are cakes on offer beyond the cream tea, plus tea, coffee or juice. It is an especially lovely pit stop for walkers, hikers and cyclists.

Rosemergy Farmhouse, Morvah, Pendeen, Penzance, Cornwall TR20 8YX

01736 796557; rosemergy.com

15. Polly Tea Rooms, Wiltshire

A kitsch high street stop for tea lovers Credit: Polly Tea Rooms

An institution, serving up traditional cream teas (from £6.95) and jolly cakes from a loaded table since 1912. Both poet John Betjeman and the Duchess of Cambridge have sat at its linen-covered tables, while school children at nearby Marlborough College congregate here. Their Luxury High Tea (£18.95) is also available gluten-free.

26-27 High Street. Marlborough. Wiltshire, SN8 1LW

01672 512146, pollytearooms.co.uk

16. Tea on the Green, Devon

For a big, bold afternoon tea in Devon, look no further Credit: Tea On The Green

This tiny tea room is one part retro American diner and one part Devonshire café. Somehow, it works.  Choose between The Hepburn, The Grant and The Taylor WHAT'S IN EACH? . If you enjoy scones the size of your head, you'll fit right in.

Golf Links Rd, Westward Ho!, Bideford EX39 1LH

01237 429406, teaonthegreen.net

17. Worth Matravers Tea and Supper Room, Dorset

For tea-lovers, this gardenside offering is a real treat Credit: Worth Matravers

This quirky, award-winning tearoom is set in glorious countryside. Mismatched crockery and other vintage bits and bobs create a traditionally cosy tearoom atmosphere inside, or you can enjoy your feast in the dreamy secluded garden. The Glorious Afternoon Tea (£14.50) stands out: muffins with smoked salmon and vodka cream, a homemade scone with local jam and clotted cream, homemade petit fours, biscotti and brownie to finish. Teas are all loose-leaf from a local fine tea purveyor, The Guilded Teapot.

Weston Rd, Swanage, BH19 3LQ

01929 439368, worthmatraverstearoom.co.uk

18. Heartfelt Vintage, Bristol

A truly 'heartfelt' tea that'll keep your smiling through the day Credit: Nicole Serrao

Heartfelt Vintage make everything in-house; breads, scones, cakes and even the clotted cream. The afternoon tea menus are seasonal and vegetarian, as standard, but vegan options (£18.50) are also available. Book 24 hours in advance to avoid missing out. 

32 Alma Vale Road, Bristol, BS8 2HY

0117 904 2898, heartfeltvintage.co.uk

19. Comins Tea House, Somerset

Book a day in advance; the afternoon tea is well worth it Credit: Katharine Davies

Forget floral and flouncy, this modern, minimalist tea house takes inspiration from Japan. It's a calming spot to munch on tartines topped with cheese and chutneys and hummus tabbouleh before caramel shortbreads and white-chocolate matcha cookies – all for a reasonable £18. A pot of mellow sencha tea to wash it down seems fitting. Just be sure to book a day in advance if you want the full experience. 

34 Monmouth St, Bath BA12AN

01258 475389, cominstea.com

20. The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny

Did someone say tea library... Credit: The Angel Hotel

As one of only nine non-London members of the prestigious UK Tea Guild, the hotel’s tea ‘library’ is packed with unusual leaves. No slouches on the food front either, each morning baker Sally Lane prepares the sandwiches, savouries, cakes and scones for High Tea (£31). The rooms are rather lovely too, should your food coma demand one.

5 Cross St, Abergavenny NP7 5EN

01873 857121 angelabergavenny.com

21. Peacocks Tea Room, Cambridgeshire

Wisteria hysteria with a delicious afternoon tea to match Credit: Peacocks

This little gem is unashamedly old-fashioned – mismatched crockery and dressers fill a set of rambling rooms in a wisteria-covered cottage – and family-owned and run. Luscious cakes (the lemon and lavender is spot on), home-made jams, crumpets, scones and toast are all on offer. There's even a 'Pink Perfection' tea for those who enjoy their salmon as much as their sparkling rosé.

65 Waterside, Ely CB7 4AU

01353 661100, peacockstearoom.co.uk

22. Kinloch Lodge, Skye

A mountainside afternoon tea unlike any other Credit: Kinloch

Afternoon tea can sometimes be taken with Lady Claire McDonald from the McDonald clan, which owns Kinloch Lodge. Raspberry mille feuille, chocolate opera cake, scones and an excellent buttery shortbread are regulars on the afternoon tea menu (£26), served in the two drawing rooms with roaring fires and a dramatic view of the Cuillin mountains. Might as well add a glass of fizz for £4, eh?

Kinloch Lodge, A851, Sleat, Isle of Skye IV43 8QY

01471 833333, kinloch-lodge.co.uk

23. Blythswood Square, Glasgow

Bring your sweet-toothed loved ones for a brilliant afternoon tea Credit: Blythswood Square

Nibble on mini roast beef and horseradish sandwiches or spicy, orange and creme fraiche-loaded carrot cake in the hotel’s salon. Afternoon tea is priced £35 per person but add a glass of Moët and Chandon for £11. The dark chocolate and peanut butter brownie is not to be missed, nor are the take-home chocolates.

11 Blythswood Square, Glasgow, G2 4AD

01412 488888, blythswoodsquare.com

24. Menagerie, Manchester

It doesn't get much better than a cupcake-filled carousel... Credit: Menagerie

Menagerie's afternoon tea is served on a ferris wheel, making it an eminently Instagrammable afternoon activity. At £23, the Traditional Afternoon Tea offers guests a selection of finger sandwiches (save the cold smoked salmon and lemon butter for last), 'strawberries and cream' scones, and a selection of cakes. Its Menagerie tea, at the same price, swaps traditional bits out for applewood smoked chicken, mac 'n' cheese, and sliders.

Ground Floor, One New Bailey, Salford, Manchester, M3 5JL

0161 832 3818, menagerierestaurant.co.uk

25. Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms, Yorkshire

The best afternoon tea in Yorkshire, 100 years in the making Credit: Lela London

When Frederick Belmont, a Swiss baker who came to England to ply his trade, opened these tea rooms in 1919, he can’t have imagined they would be serving cakes and chocolates almost 100 years later (nor that the origin of the name Bettys still remains a mystery). Try a Pink Champagne Afternoon Tea (£27.95) with Coronation Yorkshire chicken, thick sandwiched slices of smoked Scottish salmon, and a seemingly infinite run of mini cakes, unhurried, with a glass of Moutard Rosé Prestige.

1 Parliament Street, Harrogate HG1 2QU

01423 814070, bettys.co.uk

26. Biddy's, Norfolk

For those who take their savouries seriously, Biddy's made-to-order sandwiches go above and beyond Credit: Biddy's

This independent Norwich-based tea house specialises in traditional and high teas, while the in-house bakery and studio also doubles as an occasion cake company and workshop site. Of course, it is most famous for its build-your-own afternoon teas; three tiers consisting of made-to-order sandwiches, fresh scones (with clotted cream and jam) and a large portion of homemade cake (£27.90).

15 Lower Goat Ln, Norwich, NR2 1EL

01603 568019, biddystearoom.com

27. Malmaison, Newcastle

Boutique hotel Malmaison offers a savoury and a sweet option: the former (a Mal slider, Coronation chicken & turmeric wrap, oak smoked salmon, and cucumber & cream cheese on dark rye) is as good as the latter (dark chocolate mousse, strawberry shake, Battenberg slice, salted caramel banoffee tart, and lemon meringue cupcake. Add a cocktail pairing (like the Tea in the Rose Garden – Hendrick’s gin, rose liqueur, blackberry & elderflower tea, syrup, lemon juice, tonic) for the full experience. 

104 Quayside, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 3DX 

01913898627, malmaison.com

28. Holbeck Ghyll, Lake District

One of the many advantages of afternoon tea (£27.50) at Holbeck Ghyll is the stunning views of Windermere and the Lake District Fells. In chilly weather, the Arts and Crafts lounges by the inglenook fire are particularly popular, so book in advance.

Lake District National Park, Holbeck Ln, Windermere LA23 1LU

015394 32375, holbeckghyll.com

29. Coombe Abbey Hotel, Warwickshire

A traditional ‘Abbots Tea’ (£26.95) is served in the airy conservatory, set in the Abbey grounds. If you fancy something meatier, try the Knight’s Afternoon Tea (£29.95): which includes savoury delights such as mini fish & chips, a merguez sausage roll, curry-flavoured scones (with coriander butter), plus an unbelievably crowd-pleasing Nutella-filled madeleine. 

Brinklow Rd, Coventry, CV3 2AB

024  76 450 450, coombeabbey.com

30. Carriage's, Cambridge

Travel back to the golden age of luxury rail for an unusual afternoon tea. Visitors can indulge in high teas packed with  fresh and locally-grown ingredients (many in the site's own Victorian garden, including beef reared in nearby Rosegate Farm, all of which is served in a Pullman-style train carriage. 

Capability Barns, Huntingdon Road, Fen Drayton, Cambridgeshire, CB24 4SD

01954 233 279, carriagesofcambridge.co.uk

With thanks to: Lela London, Sue Quinn, Susy Atkins, Felicity Spector, Amy Bryant, John O’Ceallaigh, Soo Kim, Adrian Bridge, Lucy Rahim and Boudicca Fox-Leonard.