When I first came to London, I was determined to do the one thing I had read about in books, seen in films and on TV, and dreamed about for years: take afternoon tea. Yes, I am sure there are many others things first on your list to do here, but it is just so quintessentially London, and so wonderfully indulgent that I had to partake.
At the pinnacle of fame and elegance is Afternoon Tea at the Ritz Hotel so that is where I went. Mind you, I had to book weeks in advance; I was not the only one wanting to indulge in this cultural must. I wasn’t disappointed. Tea is served in the madly gold Palm Court, which is an Edwardian fantasy of a Roman garden with a vaulted ceiling, a fountain, plants and sculptures. There is a choice of 17 tea varieties and delicate sandwiches, cakes and scones on the perfect silver three-tiered tray. Since then, I have discovered the wonders of many other perfect afternoon teas. Just along Piccadilly from The Ritz is The Wolsely, a great tea and excellent for celebrity spotting. The famous Claridge’s Hotel also serves an excellent afternoon tea in its very elegant surroundings. If it’s the cup of tea in particular that you’re interested in, head for The Lanesborough where they take sourcing their tea very seriously and employ Britain’s first ever tea sommelier. A newish player is Brumus at the Haymarket Hotel. Still high end, but if you don’t have time to book weeks ahead and don’t want to be thrown off the table after two hours to enable the next booking in, this is the place to linger. If you’re a fashionista, head for The Berkeley where their cakes are made in the image of high fashion items; this summer the range includes Victoria Beckham, Miu Miu and Tom Ford: Pret a Portea! For all the style without the assault on the bank balance, head for The Orangery at Kensington Palace.