Traditional tearooms in Nostalgic London
1) Palm Court at The Ritz
There aren’t many things more traditionally English than afternoon tea – the meal, typically served on tiered plates, is said to have been dreamt up in the mid 19th century by a duchess, who was fed up of the long wait between lunch and dinner – and there aren’t many places more spectacular to ‘take tea’ than at The Ritz. There’s a smart dress code and a live pianist to accompany your visit. Feasting on delicious delicacies surrounded by mirrored walls and elaborate floral displays is old-school glamour at its best.
2) The Garden Café
If you need a pick-me-up after exploring the V&A’s many exhibitions and gallery spaces, there’s nowhere better than the Garden Café. When it opened in 1856, it was the world’s first museum restaurant, serving tea, buns and hot meals to weary visitors. It’s still a great place to refuel today. Pick up a generous wedge of sponge and a pot of Earl Grey to enjoy in the bright and highly decorated Gamble Room, whose dazzling tiles, bold arches and ceramic ceiling were unveiled in 1868. Another of the original refreshment rooms was designed by a young William Morris. To sit surrounded by one of his earliest patterns, pre-book a historically accurate Victorian-style afternoon tea, currently served every Friday.
3) The Foyer and Reading Room
With its gilded columns, grand proportions and original art deco mirrors, the 1930s Foyer and Reading Room in Claridge’s has been charming visitors for more than 150 years. After you’ve devoured a pile of tiny sandwiches, warm fruit scones with Cornish clotted cream and handmade sweets, and sipped a cup of the hotel’s bespoke tea blend in elegant striped china, you’ll be surprised to step onto a 21st-century street when you leave.
4) Palm Court at The Langham
Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are known to have been fans of this hotel, which claims to be the first hotel ever to serve afternoon tea. Whether or not that’s true, it can’t be denied that The Langham knows what it’s doing. It’s been serving tea, dainty sandwiches and pretty pastries in the elegant Palm Court since 1865.
5) Diamond Jubilee Salon
Climb to the top floor of Fortnum & Mason’s delightful Piccadilly store and you’re in for a treat. The Tea Salon has been making a good brew since the 1920s, but was done up in elegant, vintage style to mark the Queen’s – you guessed it – diamond jubilee. Visit to sample Fortnum’s famous teas (there are more than 50 blends on the menu) on their historic premises. You can order your afternoon tea sweet or savoury – or pimped with one of F&M’s classic Scotch eggs.
6) Oscar Wilde Lounge
If you take afternoon tea at the Hotel Café Royal, you’ll be served in an ornate mirrored room, which dates back to 1865. Named after one famous former patron, the room is said to have been visited by David Bowie, Mick Jagger, The Beatles and Elizabeth Taylor, as well as Wilde himself. While the practice of afternoon tea is traditional, here you can expect clever twists on old classics.
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