Both innovation and tradition inspire high teas in Dubai, where cake stands vary from timeless tiered porcelain plates to miniature bookshelves. The origins of this light repast are hotly disputed. Commonly credited are the mid-afternoon hunger pangs of the seventh Duchess of Bedford. Known to partake in tea, cake and sandwiches every day at 5pm, Lady Anna Russell surely helped the trend catch on in the 1800s, but historians have uncovered references to taking tea that date back as far 1600s France. From thé de cinq heures to a time-honoured English institution, the ceremony has been adopted all around the world and today Dubai offers some of the finest spreads around.
Skyview Afternoon Tea, Skyview Lounge, Burj Al Arab
You need an excuse to visit Burj Al Arab and Skyview Lounge’s afternoon tea is a delicious one. Armed with a booking reference number, you can cross the entry bridge to the sail-shaped landmark. Stop to marvel at the hotel’s world-famous multi-coloured atrium before going all the way to the top for your afternoon lift. Scones with homemade jam and Rodda’s Cornish clotted cream are a highlight of the traditional spread aimed at serious tea aficionados with brews ranging from lapsang souchong to lonjing green. Unobstructed views of Palm Jumeirah and The World islands are worth the additional AED100 (£23) fee levied for the window seats.
Traditional, Britannia and Children’s Afternoon Teas, The Chart Room, The QE2
Permanently docked in Port Rashid as a floating hotel, this luxury liner offers boat-loads of British nostalgia and afternoon tea in The Chart Room. The Traditional Tea package features finger sandwiches, scones, cakes, tea and a mocktail, while the Britannia Tea has the added bonus of hot savoury pastries and a glass of fizz. Little ones can join in with a bespoke Children’s Tea of nutella sandwiches, popping candy cookies and smarties.
Prices: Traditional, AED195 (£44), Britannia AED250 (£57) and Children’s AED95 (£22) per person
Times: Thurs-Sat, 3pm-5pm
Versace High Tea, Mosaico, Palazzo Versace
Presented on gilded Versace homeware and a miniature shelf, afternoon tea at Mosaico at Palazzo Versace is a reflection of the late Gianni’s tastes. More elaborate than mere darjeeling and scones, eye-catchers include ornately layered finger sandwiches topped with gem-like clusters of salmon roe, raspberry-dusted red velvet choux buns and shiny globs of hazelnut chocolate panna cotta. Spare a glance for the floor, a vast black, red and gold mosaic that inspired this neo-classical lobby lounge’s name. Every Friday from 4pm a violinist performs.
Prices: AED300 (£68) for two, AED400 (£91) including champagne
Times: Daily, 10.30am-7pm
Abra Afternoon Tea, Jumeirah Al Qasr
Abra boats are to Dubai’s waterways what camels are to its dunes. Modernised with motors, these simple wooden vessels are still in common use today, ferrying passengers across Dubai Creek and around the canals of Madinat Jumeirah – you can even have afternoon tea on one. The experience is offered by the resort’s Jumeirah Al Qasr hotel. Picnics blankets are laid with sweet and savoury Arabian treats. Hummus sandwiches, labneh rolls and kunafa fruit tarts are joined by classic English scones and sandwiches. As well as tea, adults get a glass of champagne.
Prices: AED766 (£173) for two, boats can accommodate two adults and one child
Times: Daily, 4pm-6pm
Traditional, Bridal and Mother-to-be High Teas, Mashrabiya Lounge, Fairmont The Palm
From unlimited prosecco packages to bridal and baby shower high teas with tea-infused mocktails and half-price spa treatments, the options are many at modern Arabesque Mashrabiya lobby lounge at Fairmont The Palm. Stiff drinks must be taken on the terrace. Tea accompanies scones, cakes and sandwiches made with array of artisan breads, including chicken on beetroot bread and pastrami on spice bread.
Prices: Ranges from AED155 (£35) per person with unlimited tea and coffee to AED495 (£112) for two with a bottle of Zonin Prosecco
Times: Daily, 12pm-6pm
T-Time, W Lounge, W Dubai – The Palm
Trust W to be different. Freshly baked flavoured scones are spiked with turmeric, activated charcoal and habanero chilli while macaroons are made with balsamic and goose paté. Add some Spanish tapas, such as pan con tomate, tomato bread, and pan con fresas (strawberry bread pudding), unlimited tea and coffee, and ice cream for afters, and you have a very modern interpretation of the afternoon tea tradition. The metallic geometric edges of the W Lounge setting suit the food.
Prices: AED165 (£37) per person, AED250 (£57) with ice cream
Times: Daily, 3pm-5.30pm
Classic and Oriental Afternoon Tea, Noor Lounge, Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai
At the Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, light-filled Noor lounge has huge floor-to-ceiling windows framing Arabian Sea views and a canopy of electrical trees, which inspired the design of its striking cake stands. Classic afternoon tea sandwiches include smoked salmon with dill butter; roast beef; egg and chive; and cucumber in white truffle bread. Plane or raisin scones are served with Cornish clotted cream and homemade jam and dainty deserts include date profiteroles. Asian teas are also available with dim sum and sandwich fillings such as lobster and wasabi mayo.
Prices: Classic Afternoon Tea, AED255 (£58) for two; Oriental Afternoon Tea, AED285 (£65) for two
Times: Daily, 2pm-6pm
High Tea, Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa
High tea at this hotel is served at Hajar Terrace Bar surrounded by overwhelming natural splendour of Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Don’t be surprised to see the odd gazelle or oryx ambling by while you enjoy the Arabian-influenced spread. Savoury pastries, cheese and salmon cones, and sandwiches made with egg and beef, are followed by sweet treats including date scones, date cakes and camel milkshakes. It’s around a 45-minute drive from Dubai’s main tourist drag, but definitely worth the detour when booking other Al Maha activities, such as camel treks, falconry or nature walks.
Prices: AED182 (£41)
Times: Daily, 3pm-5pm
Taj Indian Afternoon Tea, Byzantium Lounge, Taj Dubai
Afternoon tea at the Taj Dubai is a culinary education amid the sort of inspirational interiors that make you want to go home and redecorate. The Byzantium Lounge is named after a rich purple favoured by maharajas, which features in the décor, complemented by the cocktail bar’s Art Deco black lacquer panels inlaid with gold peacocks. The views are courtesy of Burj Khalifa. In addition to classic English finger sandwiches and scones, the repast features Indian and Arabian additions, such as crisp potato rösti topped with coronation chicken and saffron-and-cardamom-infused desserts of Indian phirni rice pudding and Middle Eastern luqaimat dough balls.
Prices: Traditional Afternoon Tea from AED200 (£45), Taj Indian Afternoon Tea from AED215 (£49) per person
Times: Daily, 2pm-6pm
Forever Rose Afternoon Tea Collection, Raffles Salon, Raffles Dubai
Experience a floral-themed afternoon tea among the hieroglyph-covered columns of Raffles Salon or in a private hotel suite. Raffles Dubai can accommodate large groups, and the teas are designed for celebrations – birthdays, bridal and baby showers. Flower essence and petals are incorporated into complex bites, such as cured salmon with hibiscus extract on herb sponge and rose-shaped brie mousse with fig compote and pine nuts on pumpernickel bread, garnished with an edible flower. Tables are decorated with glass cloches containing the preserved roses that give the soirée its name.
Prices: AED160 (£36) per person including unlimited tea and coffee, AED225 (£51) per person including a flute of Italian bubbly; group packages available upon request
Times: Daily, 2pm-7pm
Afternoon Tea, The Lotus Lounge, Anantara The Palm
Dilmah and Coffee Planet provide the hot drinks for high tea in the Thai pavilion-inspired Lotus Lounge at Anantara The Palm. Fizz comes in the form of Zonin prosecco. Sandwiches include barbecue pulled chicken on sun-dried tomato rolls and grilled zucchini and mushroom mascarpone on focaccia. There’s a vegetarian afternoon tea available on request. In addition to delicate pastries and macaroons, the Lotus Lounge’s cakes counter presents some tough decisions: blueberry eclair, chocolate mousse cake and praline profiterole among them.
Prices: AED195 (£44) per person, AED295 (£67) with unlimited prosecco
Times: Sat-Thurs, 2pm-5pm
A Tea, Armani/Lounge, Armani Hotel Dubai
Sample the likes of Atlantic royal smoked salmon with lime dill cream fraiche, slow-cooked turkey with honey mustard and quintessentially British cucumber and cream cheese finger sandwiches at Armani/Lounge’s A Tea in the Armani Hotel Dubai. Taken in the subdued sable lobby, the predominantly traditional ceremony incurs European influence and a sartorial bent. Fashion-forward pastries and cakes include a hat-shaped white chocolate cheesecake and a cream-filled hazelnut chocolate shoe. If your sweet tooth isn’t satisfied after that, you can stop at Armani/Dolci, the lobby’s confectionary gift store, for a box of Armani chocolates to take home.
Prices: AED185 (£42) per person, AED320 (£72) per couple
Times: Daily, 2pm-6pm
The Traditional Treat and The Royal Treat, The Lobby Lounge, Ritz-Carlton Dubai
For what seems like afternoon tea in a bygone era of the British Empire, visit Ritz-Carlton Dubai’s colonial-style lobby lounge with terraces overlooking the landscaped gardens; beyond them the Arabian Sea. Tea is loose leaf and bubbly is an option. Sandwiches are stuffed with curried egg and capers, roast beef with Pommery mustard and cucumber with chives and sour cream. Scones are served with Devonshire cream and rose petal jam. Sweet endings include Battenberg cake and Eton Mess followed by petit four.
Prices: Traditional Treat, AED195(£44); Royal Treat, AED305 (£69)
Times: Daily, 12.30pm-5pm
Baby Gender Reveal Afternoon Tea, Peacock Alley, Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah
Baby shower afternoon teas are trending in Dubai and the one at the Waldorf Astoria has added denouement. A surprise cake reveals the gender of the baby to guests. A party of 10 is the minimum requirement, then mums-to-be get their high tea for free, along with a Neom treatment at the otherworldly Waldorf Astoria Spa. It is served in sunny Peacock Alley, and specialities include beef and mushroom on puff pastry; smoked salmon and dill cream on a charcoal bun; truffle egg salad on a turmeric roll; crab salad in a cone; salted chocolate caramel tart; red velvet cheesecake and, of course, scones, with lashings of clotted cream.
Prices: AED178 (£40) per person
Times: Daily, 2pm-6pm