After having a true English afternoon tea, I have discovered that it is the greatest meal invention created to shove as much food in your mouth as possible, while still seeming high class.
My first experience with Afternoon Tea was actually not in England, but in Quebec City in Canada. My grandparents had reserved an afternoon tea at the famous Chateau Frontenac. My mother had warned that we not eat lunch because it would surely be enough for a full meal. As me and my dad’s stomachs grumbled, we were quickly filled by a tiered tray of finger sandwiches, a scone, tea and a buffet of various French desserts. There were macarons, cupcakes, various complex flavour cakes, and mousse.
I was left with a wonderful experience and a desire to try the true English tea in my time here in London. I have compiled a list of affordable teas here in London, including places that do it classically, The Orangery at Kensington Palace, The Tea Terrace, Bond and Brook, among others.
One of the most fabulous tea rooms in London however is the café at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Their tea room is filled with stained glass windows, hanging chandelier orbs and great marble pillars. To boot, you can get large scone with the traditional clotted cream and jam, and a full pot of tea that delivers about 3 cups of tea, for around 6 pounds. And their scones are the most scrumptious and fluffy scones I’ve ever tasted. In combination with the jam and cream, I was in heaven.
And that was not even the full afternoon tea experience. The full truly English afternoon tea I partook in was actually in Bath, England, at the Jane Austen Centre. Along with a lovely little museum where you can play Regency era dress up and figure out which Austen protagonist you are (apparently I’m Emma Woodhouse though I really don’t see it), they have a fantastically affordable Regency Tea Room. You can get an absolutely delectable tea for 15 pounds (16.90 if you haven’t toured the exhibition room). If that’s too much, you can skip the cakes but keep the finger sandwiches and the scone for 9.60.
I didn’t know where to start, I wanted to shove everything into my stomach. I ended up grabbing a scone, a piece of carrot cake, and a cucumber sandwich at the same time, crowding my plate. As I figured it out, I slowly went through my savoury sandwiches: salmon with cream cheese, chicken with some Indian chutney, and a sundried tomato quiche. Then I ate my delicious fluffy scone though less fruity than the ones in London. I also found the clotted cream hard to spread. Then it was onto the cakes: the classic Victoria Sponge, carrot cake, some chocolate cake, jam tart, and regency biscuits. My group could not finish all the cakes we were so full, so we got them wrapped up to finish at our flat.
Basically, Afternoon Tea is the perfect excuse to stuff a bunch of sandwiches and cakes in your face without being judged. It is also the perfect way to get stuffed for a meal without thinking about it as you’re eating such tiny baby cakes and sandwiches.
Now here’s a list of more afternoon teas in London, under or around 20 pounds (because as much as the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea looks fun and classic, 50 pounds is a bit out of the price range for an average college student):
Afternoon Tea at the House at the National Theatre - £26.50 – Includes a fizz cocktail, ice cream, and a selection of classic theatre themed sandwiches and desserts
Glam Rock Afternoon Tea at the K West Hotel and Spa – £24.50 - A rock and roll themed tea with unique cakes/desserts
Afternoon Tea at the Delaunay – £19.75 for full, £9.50 for a lighter Cream Tea – A Viennese/Austrian take
Afternoon Tea at The Ivy Kensington Brasserie – £19.75 for full, 8.75 for lighter Cream Tea – Classic with some cheesecake and mousse to boot
Afternoon Tea at The Wallace Restaurant – £18.50 – The restaurant at the beautiful Wallace collection, the tea room has a beautiful large skylight and a charming atmosphere, traditional tea with all the cakes and sandwiches you could ask for
Afternoon Tea at the German Gynasium - £18.50 – The same price for either a German or Austrian style tea
Le Chandelier Afternoon Tea - £18 – Classic tea with classic good cakes
Gallery Mess at the Saatchi Gallery - £17.50 for regular, £7.50 for Origamitea, made for children but looks awesome – make your own cupcake, sandwiches and an origami kit
Afternoon Tea at Muriel’s Kitchen in Soho - £15.75 – Probably the most bang for your buck, an affordable price for a bunch of sandwiches and desserts that look absolutely delicious
Now go about and stuff your face with this delicious middle of the day meal.