Picture the scene. It’s early December on Oxford Street. The pavements and stores are teeming with Christmas shoppers (despite the inevitable drizzle), faces lit by the festive lights overhead and complexions rosy thanks to scarves and hats that have been donned despite the fact it has yet to dip below 10 degrees. You’re tired. Your feet ache. You’re desperate for a break from all the retail ‘therapy’ but somehow it’s not yet 3pm.
And then, suddenly, there it is: a five-star hotel enticing you in with a twinkling Christmas tree and the irresistible smell of freshly-baked scones. In the distance, you can hear the sound of champagne bottles popping and the delicate tinkle of cups, saucers and piano keys. It is, of course, time for a festive afternoon tea.
While London is home to the world’s finest afternoon teas all year round, at Christmas the capital’s hotels and restaurants really pull out all the stops to ramp up the festive cheer. Expect pastries in the shape of baubles, delicate finger sandwiches with seasonal fillings and whole menus of cocktails blended with nutmeg and cinnamon. These are London’s best festive afternoon teas for Christmas 2023.
Palm Court at The Langham, Fitzrovia
This Christmas, The Langham is partnering with luxury retailer, Liberty London, to create a festive wonderland that reflects the spirit of togetherness, feasting and celebration. And, where better to enjoy a festive afternoon tea than where the magic of afternoon tea first began? The Langham has been serving afternoon tea since the hotel first opened in 1865, and this Christmas has created a special menu in collaboration with Liberty with a selection of show-stopping treats.
Until 31 December, enjoy festive delights overseen by Michel Roux Jr and created by executive pastry chef Andrew Gravett, perfectly paired with a selection of Jing teas and Gusbourne English sparkling wine. Savouries include the Liberty Jewelled Egg Bauble with turkey, potato, bacon and cranberries, followed by sweet treats such as Shine Like a Bauble with vanilla cream, blackcurrant compote and almond sable, and Golden Slice with caramelised puff pastry, caramel and cinnamon cream. All guests enjoying The Langham’s festive afternoon tea will also receive a 15 per cent discount card to redeem at Liberty – happy shopping!
From £95 per person, visit palm-court.co.uk
Fortnum and Mason, Piccadilly
Christmas in the capital isn’t complete without a trip to Fortnum and Mason, and this year its festive afternoon tea is back and better than ever. From 4 November, guests can indulge in the most wonderful time of the year by sipping fizz, savouring scones and tucking into delectable patisserie by head pastry chef, Roger Pizey, served in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. The classic Christmas menu begins with delicate finger sandwiches of Coronation chicken, Cotswold Legbar egg mayonnaise and Kames Bay smoked trout blini with chive cream cheese. Freshly baked scones follow, served with Fortnum’s strawberry and champagne preserve, lemon curd, and Somerset clotted cream.
Moving onto the sweet treats, each patisserie pays tribute to yuletide flavours and traditions, offering a true taste of Fortnum’s at teatime. At Christmas during the First World War, Fortnum’s sent a taste of home to thousands of men and women serving in France and beyond, like boiled sweets, tinned fruit cake, and chocolates. This history is reflected in the cake trolley today, with a chocolate tart, mixed spice orange cake and Battenberg. Pair with Fortnum’s famous teas, such as the green and black Christmas concoctions, or seasonal serves such as The French Hen, with peach, cognac and Fortnum’s own rosé sparkling tea, or the Amelia: a fruity bellini with Fortnum’s apricot preserve.
From £78 per person, visit fortnumandmason.com
The Churchill, Marylebone
From 18 November, make sure you book in a mid-shopping spree stop at The Churchill’s Montagu Kitchen to enjoy a festive afternoon tea just a stone’s throw from Oxford Street. Lovingly prepared by the hotel’s expert pastry chefs, start with mini lobster rolls with Marie Rose, chive and avocado, as well as a spiced pumpkin pithivier with pecan and an array of sandwiches, including turkey breast with cranberry chutney and spiced chestnuts, cucumber with sour cream and beef brisket with gherkin and coleslaw.
In true British style, the afternoon tea will also feature a choice of scones – cranberry and cinnamon, and plain – served with orange curd, strawberry jam and clotted cream. Conclude with treats such as Santa’s Belt, combining Christmas pudding and coconut marshmallow, a rice profiterole reindeer made with rice pudding, cranberry compote and choux, and a Christmas Present brandy chocolate cake.
From £55 per person, visit hyattrestaurants.co.uk
Wellington Lounge at InterContinental London Park Lane, Mayfair
Standing proudly on the site of 145 Piccadilly – Queen Elizabeth II’s former childhood home – the Wellington Lounge pays respect to its heritage by offering traditional afternoon tea with a modern twist for an experience fit for royalty. The festive offering is a feast for the senses, blending the best of tradition with contemporary twists. Dainty sandwiches come filled with bronze turkey, spiced pear chutney and organic sage on turmeric bread while sweet treats include Christmas pudding scones and a Ho Ho Ho gift box with white chocolate, cranberry and coconut dacquoise.
From £69 per person, visit parklane.intercontinental.com
St Pancras by Searcys, King’s Cross
Fancy a speedy afternoon tea before you take off for the holidays? There’s no better setting than the St Pancras by Searcys champagne bar, situated at the heart of one of London’s most iconic travel hubs: King’s Cross St Pancras. For the festive season, Searcys will be serving its travel-themed afternoon tea in its own bespoke suitcase and featuring finger sandwiches – think baked ham and mustard, egg and cress in a brioche bun, and Scottish smoked salmon croque-monsieur – alongside freshly baked scones and indulgent pastries of cherry financier, coffee gâteau opéra and lemon meringue pie.
From £65 per person, visit stpancrasbysearcys.co.uk
The Orchid Lounge at Pan Pacific, Liverpool Street
Inspired by light and reflection, The Orchid Lounge’s festive afternoon tea is the first curation from its new award-winning executive pastry chef Francesco Mannino, who joined the five-star hotel this summer. Choose from the hotel’s signature Kopi Tiam tea, featuring Southeast Asian savouries, or traditional dainty finger sandwiches before moving onto festive stollen scones and patisserie beautifully presented in bird cages on mirrored plates. Highlights include Festive Forest featuring Biscoff, pecan and apple, the Snow Globe flavoured with chestnut and blackcurrant and, of course, the Kaleidoscope with matcha, raspberry and pistachio.
From £78 per person, visit panpacificlondon.com
Rotunda Lounge at Four Seasons at Ten Trinity, Tower Hill
Enjoy the magic of the holiday season at Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, a fine choice for a cosy winter escape, decadent dining experience or the ultimate festive afternoon tea. You’ll find the latter served in the Rotunda Bar and Lounge from 23 November, featuring classic teatime treats brought to life in pastry form, such as Ode to Terry – a delicate orange delight with chocolate cookie, chocolate mousse and orange confit and glaze – or The Gingerbread Man, a soft gingerbread biscuit with pear confit and spiced mousse. The Sweetmas Afternoon Tea is complete with delicate savoury finger sandwiches and warm scones accompanied by seasonal jams, lemon curd and Devonshire clotted cream.
From £75 per person, visit fourseasons.com
Grosvenor House, Mayfair
Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman will be walking in the air at Grosvenor House via a festive afternoon tea for all generations to enjoy from 17 November. Inspired by the much-loved British classic, the menu takes guests on an enchanting journey of nostalgia and adventure set in the twinkling surroundings of the Park Room, accompanied by the iconic film soundtrack played by a resident pianist.
Head pastry chef Anthony Hurst has created five limited-edition pastries and an amuse bouche for the tea, including One December Morning, a frosty and refreshing English Sparkling Wine granita, and A Friendly Face celebrating The Snowman’s tangerine nose and made from a woodruff mousse with tangerine marmalade on a fluffy meringue base. Savouries include delicate finger sandwiches of Norfolk turkey, cucumber and mint as well as Foreman’s smoked salmon, and Burford Brown egg open brioche buns, alongside freshly-baked scones.
The magic continues with bespoke menu illustrations designed exclusively for Grosvenor House by illustrator Robin Shaw who was part of the directing team on the sequel, The Snowman and The Snowdog, which will be offered to guests as a keepsake to ensure the memory of The Snowman Afternoon Tea never truly melts away.
From £65 per person, visit marriott.com
Shangri-La at The Shard, London Bridge
From 14 November, Tīng Lounge will serve a festive version of its Skyline afternoon tea over the winter season, inspired by the signature scents from the Jo Loves Christmas Collection and featuring a miniature Shard pastry decorated with Warner House’s Knotted Sash design. Delight in seasonal finger sandwiches, such as roast turkey with cranberry and beef with horseradish, before tucking into sweet treats including a Red Bauble filled with green shiso mousse and grapefruit, a pistachio and sour cherry Christmas Tree, and a blackcurrant and chestnut Shang Mont Blanc. To finish, the Warner House-inspired Festive Shard will be filled with white chocolate, apple compote and cinnamon sponge and served over enchanting clouds of dry ice.
From £89 per person, visit ting-shangri-la.com
The Carlton Tower Jumeirah, Belgravia
This Christmas, The Carlton Tower Jumeirah will be transformed into The Season of Dreams: a spellbinding winter utopia inspired by the snowy villages of fairytale books and days gone by. Echoed throughout the hotel (and, therefore, in the kitchen), the festive afternoon tea will feature an enticing new range of wintery sweet and savoury delights. Start with savoury morsels of chestnut, truffle and cranberry tart, a smoked salmon brioche with crème fraiche and caviar, and a selection of mini turkey and berry jam sandwiches and cheese crème brûlée to finish. These savoury bites will sit alongside a delightful selection of sweet treats, with standout dishes including an orange and cinnamon butter powder tart and an apple, clove and cajou tart, both of which promise a truly delectable ending to a Christmas afternoon tea.
From £75 per person, visit jumeirah.com
The Parlour at Great Scotland Yard Hotel, Westminster
Taking place in The Parlour, a relaxed lounge at the Great Scotland Yard hotel, this new multi-sensory festive afternoon tea combines the aromas of Floris London’s iconic fragrance, Santal, with exquisite pastries and teas. Launching on 27 November and masterminded by senior sous pastry chef Alexandra Ellis, highlights include bronze turkey with cranberry remoulade, chestnut stuffing and Montgomery cheddar Yorkshire pudding and bergamot and spiced milk chocolate Christmas pudding.
From £59 per person, visit hyatt.com
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