Is there anything more quintessentially British than afternoon tea? Since Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, came up with the idea in 1840, England has become renowned the world over for this elegantly rich three-course meal.
Featuring crustless finger sandwiches, scones topped with clotted cream and jam, cakes, pastries, and a whole lot of tea, there are an incredible array of afternoon teas in London to savor.
If the Savoy and the Ritz are out of your price range, though, we've come up with a list dedicated to the city's best budget-friendly options. From a posh palace in Kensington to an under-the-radar art gallery in Marylebone, these central London spots all offer excellent value for money.
So relax and have a cuppa.
The best value for afternoon tea in town is served at the Fan Museum in Greenwich. For just nine pounds, you can indulge in scones topped with cream and jam, a selection of cakes, and tea or coffee—all served in the beautiful Orangery. The light-flooded building is decorated with detailed murals and overlooks a secret Japanese-style garden.
The Wallace Restaurant sits at the heart of The Wallace Collection, an unsung art gallery on Manchester Square that houses works by Rembrandt and Diego Velázquez. Tea is served in a covered courtyard so you can expect plenty of natural light. Dining here feels very indulgent because of the beautiful setting—it's hard to believe that the afternoon tea is available for less than 20 pounds.
For a traditional afternoon tea in regal surroundings, you'll be hard pushed to beat the Orangery at Kensington Palace. The English Afternoon Tea features classic dishes, including scones with clotted cream and jam, as well as sandwiches filled with Coronation chicken and egg mayonnaise. Even if you add a glass of champagne to this 34-pound affair, you'll still pay less than at London's more obvious afternoon tea spots. It's truly a meal fit for a royal.
The Tea Terrace is on the top floor of House of Fraser, an Oxford Street department store. With vintage-style crockery and powder blue and pink décor, it feels like a delightfully quirky English tea room. In a city that adores coffee these days, it's lovely to find an eclectic spot that serves a great choice of the nation's favorite beverage: English Breakfast, Egyptian Mint, Citrus Camomile, Pai Mu Tan, and more. Even if you opt for the Celebration Afternoon Tea—which comes with a lovely glass of Prosecco—you won't spend more than 30 pounds.
Located in Convent Garden's piazza, the Crusting Pipe is best known as a wine bar with outdoor seating—from which you can enjoy opera singers and classical musicians performing in the courtyard. There's more to the Crusting Pipe than wine and live music, though. The venue serves a traditional afternoon tea and offers options that include a British cheese selection and vintage Port.
Inside Fenwick of Bond Street, one of London's department stores, is Bond Street Kitchen. Nestled within the ladies' designer clothes department on the second floor, this glamorous restaurant and bar serves afternoon tea for 16 pounds. It comes with a selection of cakes and scones, but you can add a glass of champagne for an additional charge.
With three different locations, Bea's of Bloomsbury is a café loved by sweet-toothed Londoners and is an absolute must if you're looking for an afternoon sugar rush. At 30 pounds a person, the tea is exceptionally well-priced and beautifully presented; it comes with a selection of sandwiches, a mini brioche, a scone, and five sweet treats. Bea's also offers gluten-free and vegetarian afternoon teas for those with dietary restrictions. Haven't had your fill of sugar?The cakes are a crowd-pleaser, so be sure to pick up a red velvet cupcake while you're there.
Just opposite the Savoy Hotel, the Strand Palace Hotel serves an afternoon tea for roughly half the price of its glitzy neighbor. For 25 pounds, you get to enjoy 13 different types of loose leaf teas—including white peony with rosebuds and organic Chinese sencha—in addition to the usual fare of scones, finger sandwiches, and cakes. Add on bottomless Prosecco or champagne for an additional price.