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Best London tea experiences
Nothing wrong with a mug of builder's brew and a biscuit. But when you need a little extra, this city has you covered
Loading up on scones, cholesterol-heavy clotted cream and liters of tea is an English tradition that dates back to the days of Dickensian urchins and Queen Victoria.
But your average London tea experience can be a stuffy event, all ancient china and tedious rituals.
Thankfully, a string of new venues (plus a couple of old favorites) across the city, have turned London tea into a far more inviting, gluttonous treat.
Dean St Townhouse
This is one of London’s hottest new hotels, run by the Soho House group.
Forget weak tea and piddly sandwiches. This London tea bargain served in the hotel’s classy dining room is all about hefty slices of Victoria sponge, colorful Battenberg and proper finger sandwiches that won’t leave you searching out the nearest Pret when you leave.
What makes it really stand out for us are the buttered crumpets. An English delight sorely lacking from the more mainstream teas out there, these should be obligatory eating for all London visitors.
Dean St. Townhouse, 69-71 Dean St.; £16.75 ($25.50) per person
The Orangerie at Kensington Palace
Afternoon tea in a proper English country garden, in London.
The tea might cost less than a tenner, but you get indulgent cakes, a huge selection of teas from around the world and the chance to sit on the terrace.
Pay an extra £6 ($9) and you’ll get a glass of champagne, too.
It’s far better value than the expensive, dressy London teas you’ll find in some of Mayfair’s fancier establishments and comes without waiters fawning over you.
If the weather’s bad (pretty likely), then the high white walls and stunning arches of the 18th-century building are just as good for spending a few hours in gluttonous glee.
The Orangerie at Kensington Palace, Kensington Palace Gardens; £9.95 ($15) per person
The Modern Pantry
A perfect example of the unfussy, but lovingly prepared food that’s becoming increasingly available across London, The Modern Pantry’s afternoon tea is one of the finest you’ll find in the center of town.
The booze selection alone makes it worth a visit. There's a passionfruit Bellini and some worryingly easy-to-drink Prosecco to get you in the mood before a hefty serving of fruit scones and cakes made fresh every day.
Unlike its rivals, The Modern Pantry also offers savory treats on top of traditional sandwiches, such as cheese scones.
Coffee roasted at nearby Caravan, one of London’s growing breed of New York-style coffee joints, makes this an ideal option for those who don’t want the same old offerings that dominate most afternoon teas.
The Modern Pantry, 48 St. John’s Square, Clerkenwell; £20 ($30) with champagne, £15 without, per person
You’ll need to schlep out to East Dulwich in deepest south London to get the full Le Chandelier experience. But the train ride, followed by a short hop on the bus, is worthwhile.
Le Chandelier’s afternoon tea offers buttery soft scones with the sweetest organic jam.
Instead of petit fours you get a pastry selection that'll leave you wishing you lived nearby so you could buy croissants daily. There’s a champagne option that will set you back £22.
Le Chandelier, 161 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich; £16 ($24.50) per person