London: Three Favorite Festive Teas This Winter

Holiday Tea at Shangri-la at The Shard

High tea in a luxury hotel is an obligatory part of any London itinerary—and for those very lucky to be visiting the city for a few days, perhaps taking tea daily (as does the Queen) is a possibility? Thankfully, London’s top luxury hotels have introduced special holiday versions of high tea, lest people get bored of the same sandwiches, scones clotted cream and pastries. Here are our three favorites coming out this season.

Fashion as Food: Pret-a-Portea at The Berkeley

Whether you're a true fashionista or simply a foodie, we're sure you will enjoy the gorgeous creations of The Berkeley's talented head pastry chef Mourad Khiat in the pretty Collins Room, a setting so sumptuous we’d like to lounge here all day. This holiday season’s tribute to the runway features pastries in animal print, polka dots and neon colors. On the clever “cakewalk” (get it?) there’s a tribute to British fashion queen Victoria Beckham, celebrating her 10th anniversary with her signature shopping bag, legs akimbo, covering—what else—a Victoria sponge.  Other highlights: Royal wedding dress designer Peter Pilotto’s ubiquitous pink satin blazer biscuit from Beyoncé’s "On the Run" tour, Tom Ford’s leopard-print sequined two-piece suit as a mint cake with chocolate bavarois, and a Parada canvas tote masquerading a walnut brownie. Do the flavors live up to the fashions? Yes! And the sandwiches—six varieties from pastrami to beetroot—are plated for each person (no need for polite sharing, yay!); plus, servings come with three savory bites. Also worth trying: Red Dragon tea (a £15 supplement), a rare speciality Black Tea using a plant normally found in Oolong Tea; the result is a rich, syrupy, textured tea with flavors of ginger, berries and chocolate. It's like nothing we’d ever tasted before. 

Tea-themed gift idea for British Bake-Off wannabes: The Prêt-à-Portea Masterclasses, which includes two hours in the pastry kitchen, where guests will learn how to recreate fashion pastries from past collections, including Jason Wu’s cherry mousse, Manolo Blahnik’s stiletto biscuits and Moschino’s iconic ‘M’ sponge handbags. The masterclass is for up to four guests, available every Wednesday and the first Sunday of each month. The cost is £225 per person with each receiving a ‘Shoe Chef’ embroidered apron, a Prêt-à-Portea experience in the Collins Room and a copy of the recipe book to take home. Prêt-à-Portea is served at The Berkeley from 1 p.m. - 5.30 p.m. every day starting at £58 per person. To make a reservation for Prêt-à-Portea call +44 (0)20 7107 8866 or visit www.the-berkeley.co.uk.

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Thanksgiving + Tea = Brilliant Combination From CUT at 45 Park Lane

Taking an American twist at CUT, the London outpost of L.A. culinary legend Wolfgang Puck, high tea has been kicked up to a whole new level. Starting with the sandwiches: Forget cucumber and smoked salmon; at CUT, you’ll find mini buttermilk biscuits with fried turkey and cranberry chutney, wild mushroom tarts with black truffle, a savory maple and bacon macaron—all incredible combinations of flavors. This is rounded out with a tuna tartar bite and mini wagyu beef slider, making this definitely one of the most impressive savory spreads we’ve ever sampled at high tea. Smartly, they’ve left the scones, clotted cream and jam in the traditional English style, and gotten creative again with an American-themed pastry course. Items include a clementine milkshake (think: posh, liquid creamsicle), peanut butter and jelly Twinkie, sticky toffee cinnamon bun, cola cake with caramel corn and, our personal favorite, a graham cracker s’more; plus, a selection of apple, pumpkin and pecan cake pops. CUTcakes and Tea starts at £55 per person and is available November 12 - January 6.

Twinkling Tea: Incomparable Skyline Views Shangri-La at The Shard

Shangri-La at The Shard offers breathtaking views of the sparkling London skyline from 35 stories up, including unparalleled perspectives of the Tower of London and Tower Bridge—a setting only made that much more spectacular by the inspired holiday fare. Sandwiches are tinged with festive flavors: Ham and mustard, turkey and cranberry, salmon with spiced butter, cucumber cream cheese with champagne vinegar. We loved how the holiday hints tickled our tongues. In the pastries, the themes are bolder: Chestnut mousse with orange, spiced financier with apple and calvados, and, boom, Christmas cake! Between the London views and the festive food, the Shangri-La brings the holidays to new heights; not to mention, The Shard is within walking distance to the Tate Modern, currently running The Clock 2010, by Christian Marclay, a fascinating installation of a 24-hour-long montage of thousands of film and television images of clocks, edited together so they show the actual time. It is a thrilling journey through cinematic history as well and a fun way to mark the end of the year. Festive Afternoon Tea starts at £58 per person and runs from November 19 - January 6.

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