Since moving to London in 2010, I've enjoyed many afternoon teas, as it tops the list of activities for visiting family and friends. And it should. Few things are more quintessentially British than traditional afternoon tea, a delicious mid-afternoon meal of dainty sandwiches followed by a selection of patisserie and warm, lighter-than-air scones accompanied by fruit jam, lemon curd and clotted cream.
Beyond the food, the setting is crucial. Afternoon tea is best in a fancy, light-filled room, with beautifully set tables of crystal and fine china, with live piano, and solicitous waiters that eagerly push in your chair or fold your napkin the second you rise, and, most importantly, ask if you want more of anything. Yes, you do. Tea is where one can, and should, overindulge and feel like royalty doing it.
Afternoon tea at the lavishly renovated Lanesborough on Hyde Park Corner ticks all the boxes and more. A princely sum (reportedly 80 million pounds) has just been spent on the hotel (and it shows). Tea is held in Céleste, a stunning restaurant with white columns and moldings contrasting eggshell blue walls, set beneath crystal chandeliers and a glass domed ceiling …. a piano plays softly.
The food and service live up to the dramatic setting: A tea sommelier is on hand to advise on blends to suit your palate and explain "the art of tea," as well as signature and rare blends, including a yellow Darjeeling considered the champagne of tea. I might get deported for saying this, but it takes a team French chefs to make a magnificent English tea.
Executive Chef Florian Favario, protégé of Michelin three-starred chef Eric Frechon of Le Bristol’s restaurants in Paris, and head pastry Chef Nicolas Rouzaud, also from Le Bristol, have crafted a lovely selection of sandwiches—salmon, cucumber, ham and cheese, a particularly delicious Coronation chicken—but the pastries and scones are the star of the show. There were 10 different exquisite pastries; favorites were the red currant with pistachio and a rich chocolate with hazelnut cream. It will be difficult, but you MUST save room for the scones -- fluffy and warm, the clotted cream just melts on top. This is the best afternoon tea in London. Don’t let your clients miss it.
Top tips: Gluten-free and vegetarian menus are also available. Booking is essential and can still be done on short notice, as the hotel just reopened in July. Bonus: The Lanesborough is perfectly positioned for a respite after a day enjoying Hyde Park or shopping in Chelsea or Knightsbridge, as it is less than a 10-minute walk from those attractions.