When 'tis the season to indulge, where better to get into the festive feasting spirit than at one of London's finest afternoon tea venues? Tuck into scones, sandwiches and seasonal treats surrounded by decadent decorations and choirs singing traditional Christmas carols. Here's our pick of the best Christmas-themed afternoon teas to enjoy at this most wonderful time of the year.
The Chesterfield Mayfair
After a wintery walk in nearby Hyde Park or Green Park, take refuge at the Chesterfield Mayfair, an elegant retreat set in adjoining Georgian townhouses. From the top-hatted doormen to the marble interiors dotted with antiques, it's a traditional English escape and a great choice for a spot of afternoon tea, especially at Christmas when the property is strung with festive lights and decorations. The Winter Wonderland Afternoon Tea is served in the conservatory where you'll enjoy a shot of mulled wine before tucking into seasonal treats like chestnut macarons and chocolate yule logs. There's also a special Chesterfield Christmas blend of tea on offer and sandwiches with fillings like turkey with cranberry and mayonnaise.
Tucked away in a discreet corner of Mayfair, Dukes is a charming hotel with bags of character. It really dazzles at Christmas when elegant decorations fill the lounges and bars and festive lights illuminate the cobblestone courtyard on which it sits. The Christmas Afternoon Tea is served at GBR, the hotel's 'Great British Restaurant', and features smoked turkey sandwiches served with cranberry mayonnaise, scones topped with clotted cream and plum jam and a range of festive cakes, treats, and tray bakes. Finish off with a martini at the intimate bar, which is said to have inspired former patron Ian Flaming to write the classic James Bond line 'shaken, not stirred'.
The Rubens at The Palace
Make like a monarch with a spot of afternoon tea at Rubens at the Palace, officially the closest hotel to Buckingham Palace. This regal retreat first opened as a luxury hotel in 1912 and has played host to prime ministers and presidents attending royal functions ever since. The hotel's popular Royal Afternoon Tea is given a festive twist in the run-up to Christmas with the addition of mulled wine macarons, roast turkey sandwiches and a bespoke Rubens' Jubilee blend of tea from Twinings. Children 12 and under will love the Prince and Princess Afternoon Tea for its Nutella sandwiches and chocolate chip scones. Tea is served in the Palace Lounge, a decadent room overlooking the Royal Mews which houses the royal family's state coaches and carriages.
InterContinental London: The O2
Many of London's top afternoon tea spots are located in and around Mayfair so for a different perspective consider heading east to the Greenwich Peninsula where you can enjoy a festive afternoon tea with views of Canary Wharf. Served in the Meridian Lounge, the tea features spiced fruit scones served with clotted cream, a range of Christmassy cakes like clementine bonbon tarts and Meridian mince pies as well as a selection of teas from the East India Company.
With a prime position between Hyde Park and Green Park, The Lanesborough is a luxurious London landmark with a grand Regency-era facade. Tea is served in the hotel's Michelin-starred restaurant Céleste, an elegant dining room with a striking glass domed roof and intricate chandeliers. The Lanesborough's festive afternoon tea includes a selection of finger sandwiches, Christmas-themed sweet treats and pastries and a choice of 30+ tea blends. A live pianist will play festive classics and on specific dates, in December you can enjoy afternoon tea accompanied by a live choir singing traditional Christmas carols. Little ones can join in the festive fun too with a special children's menu that features waffles with Nutella and a mini mug of hot chocolate topped with marshmallows.
Sample the great British tradition of afternoon tea at a restaurant owned by a great British chef. Jamie Oliver's Barbecoa Piccadilly is a 1920s-style brasserie decked out with jade green tiling, art deco-style chandeliers and red velvet seats and offers a different take on afternoon tea with a range of meaty sandwiches and savory treats. The seasonal tea is a steal at £25 and includes sandwiches like pastrami with mustard and hot smoked salmon and horseradish alongside festive specials such as gingerbread and scones with seasonal jam. For an extra £3, you can swap the sandwiches out for some of Barbecoa's signature dishes like wagyu beef sliders and croquettes.