We can thank Queen Victoria’s friend Anna Russell, the Duchess of Bedford, for the thoroughly English institution of afternoon tea, more an occasion than just a hot drink. She couldn’t make it through the day without a snack, and who could blame her? Finding herself peckish between lunch and supper, she began asking the servants to sneak her slices of bread along with hot cups of tea. Realizing that her daily snack was rather a good idea, the duchess started inviting friends to join her for sandwiches and cake, and it wasn’t long before the meal became a fashionable ritual among the upper echelons of society.
Tea rooms were all the rage in the late 19th century; they were places where, believe it or not, women were able to meet each other unchaperoned. When music made its way into the mix, youngsters began gathering over afternoon tea for a dance.
These days, afternoon tea is a genuine staple of the English diet, though you probably won’t find your average Brit slathering cream on a scone at 4 p.m. every day of the week. But on special occasions (or high days and holidays, as Londoners would say), a proper pot of tea paired with sweet treats is as common in England as an aperitivo in Italy.
If you’re looking to take afternoon tea in the capital, there are always the five-star classics like Claridge’s, the Savoy, and the Ritz. These places tend to feature the most traditional of menus: three-tiered stands layered with light sandwiches (rectangles, never triangles, filled with cucumber, egg mayonnaise, or smoked salmon, no crusts); scones with jam and clotted cream; and, to top it off, a selection of cakes and pastries. Then there are a handful of quirkier options, like Dandelyan and Mr Fogg’s, which substitute a glass of champagne for not one, but several cocktails, and Ham Yard, which swaps sandwiches for spiced sausage rolls.
Without further ado, and in geographical order, Eater’s guide to afternoon tea in London:Read More