Themed afternoon tea: The best quirky afternoon teas in London

themed afternoon tea
A Bridgerton-themed afternoon tea at The Lanesborough. Credit: David Cotsworth

Forget traditional – the best afternoon tea in London always comes with a quirky theme. Here are the best themed afternoon teas to try now, sampled by the BRITAIN magazine team

For many, partaking in the wonderfully decadent tradition of afternoon tea is a must when in London. Such is the demand that hotels and restaurants have upped their game in recent years, coming up with ever more outlandish themes to evolve their offering from a teatime treat to an experience to remember. In the name of research we’ve sipped tea and sampled scones at top tea venues across the capital. Here is our selection of the best themed afternoon teas in London.

Great Northern Hotel

themed afternoon tea
Harry Potter-themed afternoon tea at the Great Northern Hotel. Credit: Claude Okamoto

Many a Muggle has made a pilgrimage to see Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross station, where Harry Potter and friends board the Hogwarts Express. Now the Great Northern Hotel has launched a new themed offering, ‘The Afternoon Tea That Must Not Be Named’, within a scone’s throw of the now-famous platform.

The afternoon tea is served at RAILS brasserie, a stylish space with curved leather banquettes and opulent flower arrangements. We excitedly perused the menu, which has a winsome magical theme, and awaited the arrival of our tiered afternoon tea stand, which came laden with delicious savouries, sweet treats and scones. The finger sandwiches include the likes of “Dragon-Smoked” Salmon & Crème Fraiche and “Herbologist’s” Red Pepper & Cream Cheese, but it’s the bite-sized cakes and pastries that steal the show.

The Butterscotch Beer panna cotta comes in a mini glass: a charming recreation of butterbeer, the Wizarding World’s favourite drink. There’s also a chocolate mousse frog – which as Potter fans will know, played a key role in the first book – and even a passionfruit Snitch, complete with wings. It’s all wonderfully whimsical, and perfect for Harry Potter fans young and old.

The Lanesborough

themed afternoon tea
Bridgerton-themed afternoon tea at The Lanesborough. Credit: David Cotsworth

A new themed afternoon tea at The Lanesborough hotel is always worth making time for, and the new Bridgerton-themed offering from the Grande Dame is no exception.

The setting is straight out of Bridgerton: the hotel’s opulent dining room is illuminated by a glass dome and glittering chandeliers, with Wedgwood china mounted on the walls evoking a sense of Regency grandeur. After dainty sandwiches and scones we tucked into four signature cakes, each with a sweet nod towards the show, including The Social Butterfly, a sharing cake inspired by Miss Penelope Featherington, and the Lady Whistledown, which like its namesake is bitter and sweet in taste.

Champagne would be a fitting accompaniment, but we recommend the Friends to Lovers cocktail inspired by Penelope Featherington, the white feather representing the iconic quill she weilds as Lady Whistledown.

The Kensington

themed afternoon tea
Art of Afternoon Tea at The Kensington Hotel. Credit: Milo Brown

Just a few minutes’ walk from the V&A Museum, The Kensington hotel has launched a new Art of Afternoon Tea menu, impeccably served by attentive waiters in the elegant drawing room. Elegant finger sandwiches, from delicate and refreshing cucumber with mint cream to a satisfyingly peppery pastrami with gherkin and horseradish, are followed by warm scones with homemade strawberry jam and Cornish clotted cream.

Then it’s onto the final tier of sweet treats, each representing works of art. Among the mini masterpieces we enjoyed a chocolate mousse tart topped with passion fruit parfait, with sugar splashes representing Jackson Pollock’s splatter paintings; two spheres of white chocolate in ethereal blue and soft glowing orange filled with a light vanilla mousse and raspberry compote, inspired by the stone planet forms of Alicja Kwade; and a tiny mango and coconut pumpkin, in homage to the sculptures of Yayoi Kusama, complete with chocolate stalk and delicately piped polka dots.

One Aldwych

themed afternoon tea
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-themed afternoon tea at One Aldwych

Stepping out of the hurly-burly of Covent Garden into the Charlie and The Chocolate Factory-themed tearooms at One Aldwych, excitement builds with a colourful display of bottles and a neon sign with the legend ‘Tremendous things are in store for you’.

The themed afternoon tea menu starts with the ‘Splendid Savouries’, including beautifully presented, delicate sandwiches and a warm salmon and dill tart with melt-in-the-mouth, buttery pastry. To the sound of smooth jazz and bubbling concoctions we moved onto the next course of warm scones served with ‘snozzberry jam’. The ‘Scrumptious Sweets’ selection was a highlight, with a giant orange pill – a cream and spiced plum centre wrapped in mandarin orange gel – as well as an ‘all the beans’ chocolate treat and a stick of pink, bubblegum-flavour candyfloss to finish. Scrumdiddlyumptious!

Dalloway Terrace

Dalloway Terrace at The Bloomsbury Hotel. Credit: Milo Brown

Just a stone’s throw from the British Museum, Dalloway Terrace at the Bloomsbury Hotel makes a lively setting for afternoon tea. The alfresco terrace changes with the seasons: you can be surrounded by garlands of leaves and flowers in spring or by festive greenery at Christmas. On our winter visit, the terrace was lit by soft table lamps and hanging lanterns, and our chairs warmed with faux-fur rugs, giving the space a snug and cosy atmosphere.

The menu changes with the seasons too. Our winter-themed tea featured truffled egg mayonnaise and roasted turkey with sage mayo and onion bread sandwiches, along with warm scones with mulled pear jam and clotted cream. We finished with a stunning selection of cakes including an egg nog tart with tiny redcurrants, pistachio cake and salted caramel choux pastries.

Rubens at the Palace

High tea in the Palace Lounge at The Rubens. Credit: The Red Carnation Hotel Collection

You can’t get much closer to royalty than this: the Palace Lounge at the Rubens at the Palace hotel overlooks the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace. Pastry chef Sarah Houghting (who recently featured on Bake Off: The Professionals, no less) has created a themed afternoon tea inspired by royal events and dining trends through the centuries. The menu includes finger sandwiches dainty enough to grace any royal banquet, as well as classic scones and an array of pastries, with plenty of traditional, nostalgic flavours. You can add sparkle with a list of royal-themed cocktails. We enjoyed ‘The King’s Swan’, a blend of gin, maraschino liqueur, violette, citrus, cucumber and Champagne. With large windows giving us a view of the comings and goings at Buckingham Palace, an opulent interior and five-star service, we felt like royalty ourselves.

Cutter & Squidge

themed afternoon tea
Harry Potter-themed afternoon tea at Cutter & Squidge

Hidden away underneath Cutter and Squidge’s stylish bakery in the alleyways of Soho, the wizarding-themed afternoon tea at The Common Room will delight Harry Potter fans of all ages. We were led down a rickety staircase into the Potions Room, a cosy Hogwarts-style common room, with squishy armchairs and mysterious floating candles. Guests, or ‘students’, can help themselves to ‘potions’ to drink, including a fruity ‘love potion’, and enjoy unlimited teas, bottomless fizz, or cocktails such as Unicorn Sours. Food was served inside old-fashioned schoolbooks, each containing a riddle. Once we’d cracked it we tucked into delicious sandwiches and scones, and filled ourselves to the brim at the top table, laden Hogwarts feast-style with cakes, savoury tarts and sweet treats. If only there was a real magical spell we could conjure to do it all over again.

Anya Café

Afternoon tea at The Anya Cafe

Anya Hindmarch is known for her playful handbags, so it’s no surprise that the themed afternoon tea on offer at the chic Anya Café is a fun-filled affair. On the corner of Pont Street in Kensington, this gorgeous vintage-style café has opened as part of five neighbouring Anya Hindmarch stores. The brand is known for its cheeky, fun touches and this trademark humour shines through in the decor and menu. We tucked into an array of quirky cakes and pastries, including bright-yellow Mini Smile Cakes with lemon mascarpone cream, Chubby Hearts (creamy chocolate mousse cakes), and frosted raspberry Caterpillar Tart. It’s the sort of food you remember devouring at kids’ parties – but in very grown-up flavours (and washed down not with orange squash but Champagne).

The Swan

The Swan, the restaurant at Shakespeare’s Globe on Bankside, adds a theatrical twist to its afternoon teas, which are often themed to tie in with the current production. Past teas have been dedicated to Romeo & Juliet (a passion fruit and caramel macaron with citrus notes inspired by Juliet’s balcony musings); Macbeth (a Scottish-accented tea featuring Isle of Mull cheddar scones with Blue Murder cheese butter); and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with dainty wild mushrooms and floral flavours to conjure up an enchanted woodland.

Aqua Shard

Peter Pan-themed afternoon tea at Aqua Shard. Credit: Tim Winter

Afternoon tea at Aqua Shard is an occasion in itself – the views from Britain’s tallest building are eye-popping. But the team at Aqua Shard have upped the ante with a Peter Pan-themed tea, transporting guests to an enchanted Neverland inhabited by fairies and pirates. Cakes are served on a Jolly Roger-style pirate ship, and the menu has lots of clever references, from Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys to the tick-tock crocodile that terrorized Captain Hook. We enjoyed the visual drama, from the dry ice around the cake stand setting the enchanted mood to scones hidden inside a treasure chest. There’s a sweet finale too: a proportion of the proceeds from every tea goes to Great Ormond Street Hospital. In 1929 J.M Barrie gifted his Peter Pan copyright to the children’s hospital, and the relationship between the hospital and Peter Pan has continued ever since.

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