Afternoon tea: Eight takes on a classic from the Ritz to Harry Potter

13 August 2018 by
Afternoon tea: Eight takes on a classic from the Ritz to Harry Potter

Afternoon tea has been on a transformative path since it was first introduced to England by Anna, the Seventh Duchess of Bedford in 1840.

The Duchess started the trend as we know it today after scheduling dinner at the "fashionably late" hour of 8pm at her home in Woburn Abbey, leaving her in need of a bite in the mid-afternoon. While the tradition has remained, the delivery has changed since the Ritz offered its first round of finger sandwiches in the early 1900s.

And with Afternoon Tea Week beginning today, many establishments are offering their own take on the classic treat.

The contemporary

Art Afternoon Tea at Rosewood, London

Dishes play on works by Pablo Picasso and Roy Lichtenstein as well as Andy Warhol's famous soup cans, and have won the venue the award for Best Contemporary Afternoon Tea in the UK two years running.

Price: From £58 per personMenu: Modern high-end -Classic sandwiches with upmarket twists (eg Kentish egg mayonnaise and truffle on caramelised onion bread), freshly baked scones, award-winning desserts

The Cake Trolley at the Beaumont

The Beaumont pays tribute to its American heart, so traditionalists should be ready to drop their monocles in their tea at their take on the British tradition.

Pastrami Reubens? "Jimmy's" chocolate cake? Not a single scone? The menu is pure Americana from its cucumber bagels start to its sweets, cookies and candies finale.

Price: £26.50 per person

Menu: USA. USA. USA - - Lobster rolls, coffee and pecan cake

The whimsical

Alice in Wonderland at Kew Gardens, London

Lewis Carroll's 19th-century homage to nonsense is as much about food as it is about anything else - so it makes sense for Kew Gardens to take its inspiration from the Mad Hatter's tea party.

Its themed offering includes Queen of Hearts cherry scones, playing card cheesecake and the Cheshire Cat's finger sandwiches.

Price: £32.50 per person

Menu: Traditional (plus whimsy) -Cakes, scones and sandwiches, each with a magical twist


Royal Afternoon Tea at Madame Tussauds, London

Having tea with the Queen is on the bucket list of many a tourist, so Madame Tussauds is opening the opportunity up to all.

Her Majesty may not be able to offer her decades of wisdom and wit to go along with the traditional afternoon tea fare, but a waxwork of Elizabeth II will be available for photo opportunities while visitors dine in the ‘Royal Gardens'.

Ahead of the opening of the "immersive dining experience", royal butler Grant Harrold offered several tips to would-be attendees, including "Do not proffer a handshake until the Royal has extended their hand first". One imagines that may be somewhat unlikely.

Price: £15 per person (plus the price of museum entry)

Menu: Classic -Finger sandwiches, cake and scones (to be pronounced s-cons in front of her highness)

The Potion Room at Cutter and Squidge, London

North west London's Cutter and Squidge make it very clear that the Potion Room is "an experience inspired by the magical world of wizards and alchemy, and is not based in any specific story or character", however it is almost universally billed as the Harry Potter afternoon tea experience the capital has been waiting for.

The afternoon tea, which includes the bakery's staple sweet treats and ‘biskies' (part cake, part biscuit, part whoopie pie), is accompanied by an edible and drinkable potion making class, with a wide range of alcoholic potions available.

Price: £49.50 per person (child's tickets £39.50)Menu: British -Pie, Yorkshire puddings and rock cakes will be available, plus a "surprise ending" which is "not endorsed or affiliated in any way to Harry Potter or JK Rowling's Wizarding World".

The classics

The Ritz London

The Ritz is not advertising any special offerings for Afternoon Tea week, because it doesn't have to. It's the Ritz.

The menu is a range of classics served as they always have been (and arguably should be) in an establishment possibly more synonymous with Britishness than any other.

Price: £57 per person

Menu: Correct - - Finger sandwiches, including ham with wholegrain mustard mayonnaise on brioche bread and cheddar with chutney along with pastries and cakes.


SeasonaliTea at the Langham

The Langham is an afternoon tea pioneer - serving its first in 1865 - but executive pastry chef Andrew Gravett is attempting to challenge the norm with a modern, season-focused menu design.

Beyond a commitment to what's fresh and available, SeasonaliTea offers an upbeat take on the traditional fare - pastries are inventive classics, as are the fillings of finger sandwiches.

Price: £55 per person

Menu: A very modern sort of traditional -Confit chicken 'coronation' sandwiches and Japanese sponges from the pastry section


Turnberry Tea at Trump Turnberry

You may not have heard of this fringe hotelier, but the Trump brand - which is based in the US, according to our research ­- has operated in Scotland, a country which borders the UK, for quite some years.

For its contribution to Afternoon Tea Week, staff served afternoon 'tee' at the ninth hole of the hotel's golf course - at least to two models for a photoshoot. So there's that.

Price: £30 per person

Menu: So traditional - - The most classic, people say "where is the most classic afternoon tea? Where has it gone?" Well I'm saying, and I am saying it folks, believe me, that this tea, great American tea, this tea, is the most traditional. So true.

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