The afternoon tea experiences in vogue in London
Couture cakes inspired by trailblazing fashion designers. Playful chocolate pâtisserie that would give Willy Wonka a run for his money. 2019 sees afternoon tea taking an imaginative turn, with scones and English breakfast blends making way for sugar work and 'tipsy' teas. Here are five of our favourite afternoon tea experiences in London.
1. FOR FASHIONISTAS... THE FRANKLIN
Christian Dior caught the eyes of the fashion world when he debuted his 'New Look' in 1947. Over 70 years later, he once more captured attentions when the V&A launched its instantly iconic (and rapidly sold out) Designer of Dreams exhibition. To celebrate, the Museum's boutique hotel neighbour, The Franklin, has launched a Dior-inspired afternoon tea experience.
Designed by Michelin-starred chef Alfredo Russo, each element of the menu is inspired by one of Dior's statement scents, shades or silhouettes. J'adore is reimagined as a peanut and chocolate cream sponge – spritzed with Calvados from an atomiser. A lemony macaron is in the exact shade of Dior's pastel pink Normandy home, set on a miniature chair. And a selection of delicate petits fours are presented in a mirrored cosmetic case – a homage to the House of Dior's 1950s make-up line. Exquisitely presented on a petal-scattered table, this afternoon tea is almost too good to eat. Almost.
2. FOR GOLDEN OLDIES ... CAHOOTS
Less highfalutin and more high spirits, swing music and scoundrels, Cahoots transports you back to the 1940s... quite literally. You can even take tea in a vintage train carriage.
Saturday hosts Cahoots' own brand of afternoon tea: the Squiffy Picnic. Tucked into your table's wicker basket will be traditional British food and fancies – including sandwiches, mini pies and sponge cakes. Served with 'black market' cocktails – like Mornin' Mr Milkman– and live music, you could call it sex, drugs and sausage rolls.
3. FOR BUDDING BOFFINS... THE AMPERSAND
While there's a fine art to creating The Ampersand's afternoon tea, there's also a science to enjoying it. This boutique hotel turns kitchen into chemistry lab with imaginative cakes and fancies inspired by its neighbour, the Science Museum.
Forget your forks. Use a delicate brush to dig up chocolate dinosaur fossils from a bed of chocolate 'soil'. Top your scones with jam, cream... and space-age freeze-dried raspberry. And eat fruit jellies from petite petri dishes. This is intergalactic gastronomy that's award-winning. There's even a dedicated Sci-Fri tea for children, presented on a rocket ship-shaped cake stand.
4. FOR ROMANTICS... THE GLOBE
To tea, or not to tea? That's the real question at The Swan at Shakespeare's Globe, where guests can enjoy a bard-inspired A Midsummer Night's Dream afternoon tea.
Rosewater jelly, hedgerow berries and mulberry (from the 'lovers' tree') scones with midsummer jam infuse the sweet layer with a quintessentially English flavour. It's all beautifully presented on bespoke crockery illustrated with scenes from the enchanted forest. And alongside a choice of tea, Love Potion Cocktails are served – or tankards of ale, if you prefer. Bottoms up.
5. FOR CLASSICALISTS... THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL
If you like a traditional afternoon tea, the Royal Albert Hall's version is pitch-perfect. This spectacular venue has been hosting teas for over a century and counts the Queen amongst its former guests.
Timeless classics include finger sandwiches (including cucumber and coronation chicken) and oven-warm scones – for a jam session of a different kind. The dazzling cake tier changes regularly, but is always musically-inspired. Operatic cocktail and champagne add extra fizz to the experience, though the selection of fine Higgins teas is the real star of this show.