Afternoon Tea at The Ritz in London is known worldwide and is something everyone traveling to the UK should experience. Tea at The Ritz is an institution in itself and is served in the spectacular Palm Court, which epitomizes the elegantly frivolous comfort of Edwardian high life. With an assortment of 18 types of tea to choose from, this delicious ritual truly does offer something for everyone. It has been awarded the prestigious Tea Guild Awards (Award of Excellence, Top London Afternoon Tea, Top London Afternoon Tea) for many years in a row.
A fun fact is that the Ritz is London's first organic hotel. In 2002, The Ritz was licensed by the Soil Association, the UK's largest organic certification body.
For more afternoon tea reviews see our roundup of the best afternoon tea in London.
What to Know If You Go
Dress Code: Formal. Jeans and sportswear are not permitted and gentlemen are required to wear a jacket and tie.
Reservations: Reservations are always required. It is advisable to book up to 12 weeks in advance.
Photography: Photography and filming are not permitted in The Palm Court.
Music: Resident pianist, Ian Gomes, performs his own renditions of classical favorites. He was resident pianist at The Savoy before joining The Ritz in 1995. He is noted for his popular renditions of 'Puttin' on The Ritz' and 'A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square' which have become traditional favorites. Depending on the time and day, there is plenty of musical entertainment such as a string quartet, soprano soloist, and a harpist.
Celebration Afternoon Teas
If you are celebrating a special occasion, The Ritz has a selection of celebration options which can include Champagne, fine sandwiches and scones and a birthday cake (note: the standard is chocolate but you may contact the hotel for more choices).
From the hotel lobby, the doors are opened for you to enter The Long Gallery which runs the length of the building. At first glimpse, it will immediately hit you just how grand and luxurious this place really is.
The Palm Court is to your left, in front of the old Piccadilly entrance. At the entrance to the room, there is a mirrored backdrop and marble columns. The glazed roof floods the room with light and the wrought iron chandeliers are more like works of art with their painted metal flowers.
You are escorted to your reserved table by a waiter wearing tuxedo tails. Even tables for two are large enough so the cake stand does not block the view of your dining companion, and there is a helpful handbag shelf tucked under each table, which makes for a nice touch for maintaining the formality of the occasion. The chinaware is exclusive to the Palm Court with a design of gold with pale green and rose which complements the room.
The guest clientele tends to skew more mature, but this event would appeal to all age groups (with the exception of very young children).
Menu and Where to Start
The Ritz offers a choice of 18 types of loose leaf tea, including the Ritz Royal English tea. This blend goes well with the first course, the finger cut sandwiches. The sandwiches have classic fillings such as smoked salmon, roast ham, and cucumber, and most are on brown or white bread. The exceptions were the mini egg mayonnaise roll and the Cheddar cheese with chutney sandwich made with sun-dried tomato bread -- a superb combination.
The staff are exceptionally well-trained and can give advice on choosing a tea or special dietary requirements, or even explain about English etiquette.
The scones do not arrive with your cake stand as they are brought to the table still warm. There are raisin scones and plain scones, both served with strawberry preserve and clotted Cornish cream.
How Long to Stay
If you are concerned that the timing of each sitting in two-hour increments may feel rushed, don't be -- there will be more than enough time to sample everything. The Ritz staff has the schedule down pat and running extremely smoothly. It is incredibly impressive the way the staff is completely aware of the stage every table is at any given moment, without ever making you feel as if you are being overlooked.
Tables are prepared for the next sitting while you are there but it is skillfully done with hardly a sound and is not intrusive.