Savini at Criterion Afternoon Tea Review

An Impressive Afternoon Tea in Piccadilly

Interior of the Criterion restaurant, London
© Tim Macpherson / Getty Images

Sit and lose yourself in the opulent surroundings of the Savini at Criterion Restaurant, one of London's most historically distinguished restaurants and landmarks.

Originally opened in 1874 this lavish venue has been serving afternoon tea to the cream of London society for over a hundred years.

Savini at Criterion Afternoon Tea Review

I visited on a rainy Saturday afternoon and the interior of this place is stunning. There's a real 'wow factor' as you come through the revolving doors off Piccadilly Circus and it feels like a palace ballroom with its super-high gold-mosaic ceilings, and marble walls with enormous mirrors. I was told the sumptuous neo-Byzantine decor never fails to impress and really, it's worth visiting just to see inside. (You could stop for a quick drink at the Long Bar if you're short on time.)

The lighting here is great as it cleverly reflects off the gold mosaics and keeps the place feeling warm.

I had a 2.30pm reservation so there were many diners still enjoying lunch and the large restaurant was able to accommodate this mixed dining.

Tea Selection

Teas are by 'Twinings of London' and there were ten options including fruit infusions. I was impressed by the way the staff was able to help us make a decision by bringing a presentation box of loose teas to our table so we could see and smell them. The way the tea was served was also extremely good as the teapots allowed for the loose tea to be in an infuser which could be lowered and removed once brewed according to an egg timer left on our table. For tea connoisseurs this will be a real welcome touch as it's always disappointing to have a wonderful first cup and further cups to be stewed.

Cake Stand

The finger sandwiches (egg, salmon, and cream cheese and cucumber) were served on a three-tier cake stand. Two wonderfully warm scones were served with clotted cream and a choice of three preserves, including rhubarb and ginger which was divine. I wish I could have tried more of each but there were the delicious cakes to move on to which included an amuse-bouche, a slice of pecan pie, carrot cake, tiramisu, a strawberry tartlet, and a creme brulee. All were petite and delicious.

Long Wait

We tried to order a second pot of tea before starting the cakes and gave our order and waited. We waited and asked again. We waited and asked again. After 20+ minutes, and having asked three times, I got up and went to see if we could have our tea.

It arrived soon after and we followed our egg timer for brewing time but it was much too strong as, I presume, the tea had not been measured correctly. We were also given coffee cups which did not have a hole for the handle so were hard to use. We asked for tea cups, as we had used before, but the waiter came back with the same coffee cups and told us that was all they had. Hmm. This really took the shine off the afternoon as it had been going so well.

When we were leaving we saw our original serving staff and he commented that he thought we would have already left and he told us he had been busy preparing for the evening. We explained about our wait for tea and thanked him for his excellent service but suggested other staff need to learn from him.

Conclusion

It was a real treat to dine here as it's such a wonderful venue. It was an oasis of calm on a busy Saturday afternoon in the West End and I'd love to return again soon. I hope the staff receive more training as the senior staff, whom you can recognize by their uniforms, are doing a wonderful job.

Afternoon Tea Information

Venue: Criterion Restaurant, 224 Piccadilly, London W1J 9HP

Days and Times: Thursday to Sunday, 2-30pm-5.30pm

Cost: From £16.25 per person 

Dress Code: Smart but not formal.

Photography: Permitted.

Children: Welcome.

Music: Lounge/jazz background music.

  • Criterion Afternoon Tea Menu
  • Selection of finger sandwiches
  • Homemade Criterion scones, preserves and clotted cream
  • A selection of homemade traditional cakes, tarts, and sweets
  • Served with tea

As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary afternoon tea for the purpose of reviewing those services. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.