The 50 Best tea rooms
From steaming teapots to scrumptious scones, Sophie Morris presents the experts’ guide to finding Britain’s finest brews
Thursday 28 March 2013
Laura Griffiths and Caroline Greenwood write The Afternoon Tea Club (theafternoonteaclub.com)
Keith Newton is founder and managing director of Afternoontea.co.uk
Henrietta Lovell is the founder of Rare Tea Company, which sources high-quality tea direct from farmers
“Request a table in the Park Lounge for a luxurious countryhouse atmosphere in the heart of the city and a view across Kensington Gardens,” says Keith. “Afternoon tea is £31.50, and there is a Little Prince and Princess afternoon tea for children under 12 at £12.50.”
1 Kensington Court, London, W8 5DL; milestonehotel.com
“People queue for hours outside Bettys – which has six tea rooms across Yorkshire (but no apostrophe) and it’s definitely worth the wait,” says Caroline. “Served on a traditional silver cake stand, by waitresses in period costume, Bettys takes you back to an era of sophistication. Its selection of teas is staggering and has something to cater for every taste.” From £25.95.
6-8 St Helen’s Square, York, YO1 8QP; bettys.co.uk
Booking Office & Restaurant at St Pancras Renaissance Hotel
“When you get off the Eurostar and you’ve been missing really good tea, you don’t have to go far,” says Henrietta. “In the glorious Victorian hotel, you can find loose-leaf tea of the quality we were once truly proud of. It infuses the tea perfectly – getting the right leaf-to-water ratio rather than letting it stew.” £35/£45 with cocktail or champagne.
Euston Road, NW1 2AR; bookingofficerestaurant.com
“With its stylish Art Deco design, this is a great place to unwind,” says Caroline. “The Most Unusual Afternoon offers a glass of Hendrick’s & Tonic to accompany your tea.” From £9.95 to £23.95.
1 York Street, Manchester, M2 2AW; browns-restaurants.co.uk/locations/manchester
“If it’s good enough for the Queen herself to visit, it’s good enough for us” says Laura. “Freshly prepared from its Victorian kitchen, this afternoon tea is all about elegance and perfection. So perfect, in fact, tea comes accompanied by a sand timer to ensure just the right brewing time.”
Weston Road, Crewe, CW1 6UZ; qhotels.co.uk/hotels/crewe-hallcrewe-cheshire.aspx
Carters of Moseley
“A young British restaurant bringing fierce pride and enthusiasm to everything it does,” says Henrietta. “The flavour matching of its afternoon tea is well thought out and beautifully executed.” £20/£27 with champagne.
2c Wake Green Road, Moseley, Birmingham, B13 9EZ; cartersofmoseley.co.uk
“Annies is one of Manchester’s true hidden gems,” says Laura. “Co-owned by Coronation Street’s Jennie McAlpine, it fuses traditional home comforts and theatrical flourish. The great value afternoon tea boasts chocolate tartlets and traditional fruit scones, accompanied by clotted cream and strawberry jam in mini rustic jars.” From £14.95.
5 Old Bank Street, M2 7PE; anniesmanchester.co.uk
The Caledonian Hotel
“A £24m restoration has breathed new life into the grande dame of Edinburgh hotels and created a light-filled atrium, Peacock Alley, where the Caley afternoon tea (£22) is served, surrounded by sandstone walls and an original station clock,” says Keith.
Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2AB; thecaledonianedinburgh.com
You might need a little light relief after a spin round this awesome building, built on the slips where the ill-fated ship was constructed. Afternoon tea in the Titanic ballroom suite, where the Grand Staircase takes centre stage, is even loyal to the marque of champagne served on the voyage. £23/£29.
1 Olympic Way, Queen’s Road, Titanic Quarter, BT3 9EP; titanicbelfast.com
National Dining Rooms
Splurge on mini sandwiches and tasty Peyton and Byrne scones, cakes and tarts in The National Gallery, which looks over Trafalgar Square. The tea is £17.50, and the £4 supplement for champagne is the best value we’ve found.
The National Gallery, WC2N 5DN; nationalgallery.org.uk
Kingsway Hall Hotel
“This popular modern hotel in Covent Garden keeps it simple, but does it well, serving all the classic afternoon-tea elements with a good selection of Twinings leaf teas, including Jasmine Pearls and a Flush Darjeeling – a bargain at £16.95,” says Keith.
66 Great Queen Street, London, WC2B 5BX; kingswayhall.co.uk
The Bertinet Bakery
“Richard Bertinet, famed for his Bath cooking school, has a small café above his bakery serving excellent tea and exquisite patisserie,” says Henrietta.
6 New Bond Street Place, Bath, BA1 1BH; bertinet.com
Bea’s of Bloomsbury
A wonderful café/patisserie where the quality matches top hotels – Bea used to be Nobu’s pastry chef. Full afternoon tea on weekends includes cakes, meringues, brownies and blondies – a nod to the owner and chef – for £19. During the week, make a pit stop for the Sweet Afternoon Tea.
44 Theobald’s Road, WC1X 8NW/83 Watling Street, EC4M 9BX; beasofbloomsbury.com
The Orangery at The Fan Museum
Take afternoon tea after a spin around the Fan Museum, home to around 3,500 fans dating from the 11th century. A stunningly good value tea is served on Tuesdays and Sundays with homemade cakes and scones for just £6 (+£4 museum admission) – booking essential!
12 Croom’s Hill, London, SE10 8ER; thefanmuseum.org.uk
“Cuthbert’s is one of the most generous tea shops out there,” says Laura. “With mini sandwiches and bagels, a secret garden and takeout boxes, this indie vintage haven is a unique afternoon-tea experience.” £12.
103 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, L3 5TB; cuthbertsbakehouse.co.uk
The Tiptree jam firm operates four tea rooms including this one, housed in a 16th-century building. Drop by for the great value Afternoon Tea Special – a sandwich, scone with clotted cream and jam and tea or coffee, all for £8.50.
High St, Dedham, Colchester, Essex CO7 6DE trooms.com
“With a terrace looking over the Tower of London and across to Tower Bridge, the view is captivating and the afternoon tea – from £2.50 for a slice of cake – is just as good,” says Henrietta. “This restaurant is setting the standard for re-invigorating English afternoon tea with fresh ideas and without pomposity.”
The Wharf at The Tower of London, EC3N 4AB; perkinreveller.co.uk
And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon
“Bringing the seaside to Manchester, this has a real retro feel to it with cornflowerblue hues and chalkboard menus,” says Laura. “Afternoon tea (£10.95) includes traditional favourites, chocolate-dipped strawberries and three cakes.”
230 Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester, M20 2LW; dishandspoonfood.co.uk
Urban Tea Rooms
“Just off Regent’s Street and beyond the bustle and throng,” says Henrietta. “The Urban Tea Rooms offer a large range of teas and local British produce; putting a modern twist on the traditional English country tea room for busy Londoners.”
19 Kingly Street, London, W1B 5PY; urbantearooms.com
“One of the most purse-friendly champagne teas out there,” says Laura. “Leaf prides itself on being a space for Liverpool’s creative folk and offers a large selection of loose-leaf teas with unlimited refills as part of its pretty weekend afternoon tea. Plus, it offers a gluten-free alternative.” £13.95 with Iced Champagne Cassis.
65-67 Bold Street, Liverpool, L1 4EZ; thisisleaf.co.uk
“As old as the hills (Queen Victoria was a regular), but still serving one of the best afternoon teas in London (£39.50), The English Tea Room at Brown’s combines period features with a 21st-century twist – impeccable service and the sound of a baby grand piano,” says Keith. “Try the seasonal tea library selection of limited-release teas served in stemless ‘wine’ glasses.”
Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4BP; brownshotel.com
“Situated by the River Irwell, the Lowry is modern, elegant and offers an unforgettable experience,” says Caroline. “Afternoon tea (£22.50) is beautifully presented with a selection of traditional classics with modern twists, such as apple and cinnamon scones.”
50 Dearmans Place, Chapel Wharf, Manchester, M3 5LH thelowryhotel.com
The Cadogan Hotel
“Small but perfectly formed, this boutique hotel on Sloane Street is the only place you will find a Chelsea bun on the afternoon tea menu (£26.50), served in the cosy and intimate wood panelled lounge, decorated with contemporary paintings,” says Keith. “Try the new China tea blend with marigold flowers, flavoured with mango and apple – fresh and floral but without any sweetness.”
5 Sloane Street, London, SW1X 9SG; cadogan.com
Intercontinental Park Lane
“Chef Paul Bates sources the best British ingredients for his sensational selection of afternoon-tea sandwiches,” says Keith. “Sirloin of Gloucestershire beef, free-range guinea fowl and smoked eel all feature alongside Scottish lobster and shrimp with Sevruga caviar and the hotel’s own refreshing ‘Wellington Blend’ of Assam, Chinese black teas, Earl Grey blue flowers, English cornflowers and mallow blossom.” From £28.
One Hamilton Place, W1J 7QY; ihg.com/intercontinental/hotels/gb/en/london/
“The unassuming sibling to Claridge’s and The Berkeley, The Connaught has the same five-star luxury but it’s easier to get a table!” says Keith. “It offers cakes and pastries from patissier Kirk Whittle and a choice of 16 homemade Christine Ferber jams, such as quince and vanilla.” £38.
Carlos Place, Mayfair, W1K 2AL; the-connaught.co.uk
“If high tea is what you’re after, it doesn’t get much higher than this bar at the top of Manchester’s towering Hilton,” says Laura. “Enjoy a traditional afternoon tea (£19.95) with the Gods in the contemporary Cloud 23 Bar. Look out for its speciality teas which feature seasonal cocktails and cakes.”
Beetham Tower, 303 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 4LQ; cloud23bar.com
The Kensington Hotel
“Discreetly tucked away within four townhouses in South Kensington, this is an oasis of sophisticated calm where you immediately feel at home,” says Keith. “Friendly, efficient staff serve afternoon tea (£25) including a gin and tonic sorbet and a strawberry, lavender and lemon mille feuille.”
109-113 Queen’s Gate, London, SW7 5LR; doylecollection.com
“Within Sketch’s 18th-century townhouse exterior is an eccentric and eclectic interior,” says Keith, “and it extends to the afternoon tea, which is a work of art in itself – caviar and quail egg, macaroons decorated with rose petals, sandwiches tied with ribbon, tapioca with pomegranate coulis, pistachio and champagne jelly and salted chocolate caramels with gold leaf.” £34.
9 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XG; sketch.uk.com
Fortnum & Mason
The Queen along with the Duchess of Cambridge opened the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon last year. We’re not sure if they sampled all of the 80 teas on offer though. Try and collar one of the excellent ‘tea-ristas’ for a complimentary tea-tasting session before you order.
181 Piccadilly, London, W1A 1ER; fortnumandmason.com
Too refined for Creme Eggs? The Landmark’s cavernous palm-lined atrium is one of the most special places in London to take afternoon tea, and its Chocolate Afternoon Tea (£42) is the perfect Easter treat for grown-up bunnies – think chocolate and orange Madeleines, white chocolate and mint macaroons – and the rest...
222 Marylebone Road, NW1 6JQ; landmarklondon.co.uk
With a twist:
“If you’ve never had Russian afternoon tea, this is the best place to start,” says Henrietta. “The food is rich and delicious and utterly unlike the usual, and often rather tired standards we have become used to. The tea, £4.75, is served in glass and can be sweetened with jam instead of sugar.”
Wellington Court, 116 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7PJ; marivanna.ru/london
Drink, Shop and Do
A quirky café tucked behind King’s Cross packed with vintage furniture. The full afternoon tea ‘with a twist’ (£27) comes with a bellini; there’s a man’s tea with ale and pork scratchings and ‘Night Flight’ served with liqueurs (£38). Book a tea and a ‘do’ – craft sessions – for a party.
9 Caledonian Road, N1 9DX; drinkshopdo.com
“An elegant and eccentric Georgian drawing room where you might want to take your lover for tea rather than your Aunty Mabel,” says Henrietta. “Enjoy a good cup of tea with a slice of cake and rather than get sleepy and full with too much cream and sugar you can indulge in a tea-cocktail. The bar is run by Tony Conigliaro of 69 Colebrook Row fame – and possibly the best cocktail maker in Britain.”
49-50 St John’s Square, EC1V 4JJ; thezettertownhouse.com
“For a rather curious afternoon, Richmond Tea Rooms offers fabulous, over the top surroundings for the perfect Mad Hatter’s tea party,” says Laura. “We recommend Queen’s Tea (£18) served in the wonderfully quirky indoor greenhouse.”
Richmond Street, Manchester, M1 3HZ; richmondtearooms.com
“There is nothing traditional about this contemporary hotel overlooking Leicester Square,” says Keith. “The Rock ’n’ roll themed afternoon tea (£25) is presented on a stand created from old vinyl records with a highlight of cherry bomb – chocolate, mascarpone and cherry,” says Keith. “Celebrity spotting and afternoon tea – a perfect combination.”
10 Wardour Street, London, W1D 6QF; wlondon.co.uk
Great John Street
“Everything is presented to perfection here and the Ladies Afternoon Tea (£19.50) in particular is one of the prettiest we’ve seen,” says Caroline. “For the man about town, there is also a Gentleman Jack Tea, with a selection of canapé-style mini bites and chocolate fudge cake with Jack Daniels ice cream.”
Manchester M3 4FD; eclectichotels.co.uk/great-john-street
Julien Plumart Boutique Salon du Thé
“Brighton’s, perhaps Britain’s, finest French patissier, Julian Plumart creates delicate and beautiful macaroons, often using tea as an ingredient,” says Henrietta. “It’s definitely worth stopping for a cup of tea and a perfectly matched macaroon.”
27 Duke Street, Brighton, BN1 1AG; julienplumart.com
Lord’s Cricket Ground
“Once a month (when there isn’t any cricket on) the historic Long Room at Lord’s Cricket Ground becomes a grand tea room,” says Keith. “You don’t have to be a cricket fan to appreciate afternoon tea to the sounds of a string quartet, watched over by portraits of the great and the good of the cricket world. The tea is followed by a tour of the pavilion and a visit to the museum.” £38 for tea, tour and museum.
St John’s Wood Road, London, NW8 8QN; lords.org/lords-afternoon-tea
“Hey Little Cupcake is every girl’s dream – decorated in candy pink and packed to the rafters with sweet treats,” says Caroline. “Its ‘Cupcake Afternoon Tea’ is great fun with a quirky selection of cupcake shaped finger sandwiches, scones, chocolate-dipped strawberries and of course an all important array of cupcakes. At just £12 per person, it’s also a great one to take the kids to.”
Little Quay Street, Spinning Fields, Manchester, M1 3HF; heylittlecupcake.co.uk
G & Teatime
Indulge in an alcofrolic afternoon tea at one of G & Teatime’s gin tasting teas, held at venues in 12 cities across the country. You’ll receive instructions on making the perfect G&T and martini along with a traditional afternoon tea with sandwiches, scones and cakes – £79 for a 90-minute session with six gin tastings.
Off the beaten track:
“The emphasis at Combe House is on elegance and hospitality, with crisp linen, fresh flowers and log fires,” says Keith. “The privately owned Elizabethan country house is set in beautiful gardens. Ingredients are sourced locally or from Combe’s own kitchen gardens. Highlights are homemade buttery shortbread.”
Gittisham, Honiton, Exeter, Devon, EX14 3AD; combehousedevon.com
The Delimann of Devon
Forget dressing up and making polite chit chat over a formal afternoon tea – Delimann will deliver one right to your door. The afternoon tea for two (£27.50) includes Devon scones, jam and clotted cream, chocolates, Dartmoor tea bread and tea. Delimann is the online arm of Manns, which has been in Bovey Tracey on the edge of Dartmoor since 1837.
43 Fore Street, Bovey Tracey, Newton Abbot, TQ13 9AD; delimann.co.uk
Cote How Guest House
“Tucked away in a little hollow just around the corner from Rydal Water, Cote How uses only local and organic ingredients and boasts wonderful scones with jam and cream for £3,” says Caroline. “The pretty setting and comfortable outside seating make it a must if you’re ever in the Lakes – call ahead for the full vintage afternoon tea.”
Rydal, Ambleside, LA22 9LW; cotehow.co.uk
Croft House Farm Café
Whether you have walked or driven up to beautiful Buttermere in the north-west Lake District, treat yourself to a pit stop at the cosy Croft House Farm Café, revamped in 2012. If cream teas aren’t your thing, have one of the other freshly made cakes instead, or a locally made ice cream, to gather strength for the next leg.
Buttermere, CA13 9XA; crofthousebuttermere.lanthwaiteweb.co.uk
Rocke Cottage Tea Rooms
The timbered 17th century Rocke Cottage sits in Shropshire’s Clun Valley, known as one of the most peaceful spots in the UK. Your wallet will be at ease here too, with scones from £1.40, cream tea £5.90, and full afternoon tea – with crumpets – for £14.50.
Clungunford, SY7 0PX; rockecottagetearooms.co.uk
The Angel Hotel
Abergavenny’s Angel Hotel regularly wins awards for its afternoon tea and the price – £17.80; champagne £7 – is impressively modest for such a top tier tea. Freshly baked scones, cakes and pastries from local specialist baker Sally Lane are served in the charming Wedgwood room.
15 Cross Street, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, NP7 5EN; angelabergavenny.com
If you’ve made the trip to the impressive Chatsworth House, ancestral home of the Devonshires, why not take tea in the Cavendish rooms after exploring the grounds and house – traditional tea (£16.50) includes sandwiches, brownies, scones and meringues.
Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1PP; chatsworth.org
The Small & Cosy Teahouse
Skye has built up quite a foodie reputation, and this teahouse in picturesque Staffin takes tea and its heritage seriously – choose the best quality Assam or Earl Grey, or explore rare White, Oolong and Pu-her teas over a view of Staffin Bay.
Digg, Staffin, Skye; smallandcosyteahouse.co.uk
The custom of filling the gap between lunch and dinner with tea and cake is said to have come from the 7th Duke of Bedford’s wife, Duchess Anna Maria, in the late 1830s, who ordered the sweet treats to keep her friends entertained. Follow her lead with tea in Woburn Abbey’s Duchess’Tea Room (£12.50).
Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire, MK17 9WA; woburn.co.uk
Pump Street Bakery
“Setting high standards in everything, Pump Street Bakery was last year’s winner of the BBC Best Food Producer Awards,” says Henrietta. “With an emphasis on seasonal breads made with local wheat, this café combines ethical sourcing with fine baking, service and really good tea.”
1 Pump Street, Orford, Suffolk, IP12 2LZ; pumpstreetbakery.com
The Orchard Tea Garden
On a fine day, you’ll find few more relaxed spots than under a tree in Grantchester’s pretty orchards, an expansive open air tea room with scones from £2.25 and tea from £1.65. Go early, before the throngs of tourists and students take over.
45-47 Mill Way, Grantchester, Cambridgeshire, CB3 9ND; orchard-grantchester.com
Best for... A touch of class
Milestone Hotel: This London hotel’s Park Lounge does afternoon tea as it should be; with a generous glass of champagne and free refills on the tea
Best for... Getting away
Combe House: A roaring log fire will welcome you on cold days at Combe House. A hot brew and shortbread later, you’ll be ready to head outside and explore
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