Skip Britain’s Stuffy Hotel Teas For The Real Thing
By Elizabeth Valerio
Every London guidebook has a section devoted to afternoon tea. The authors gush about the pastries at Harrods, the finely-cut sandwiches at the Brown Hotel, and the delicate scones served with clotted cream at Kensington Gardens. Is this what Londoners do in the afternoons? Sit, decked out in Chanel, prim and proper, on satin cushioned chairs, shelling out fifty bucks for a tier of patisseries? Unfortunately, the hotel scene is an overstuffed way of enjoying London’s oldest ritual. In short, it’s a tourist trap.
The good news is that you can soak up the deliciousness of teatime sans confining attire and inflated prices. The English tea tradition is carried on in quite a few restaurants and cafes. So, hang up those heels and take a look at these alternatives:
The Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee, located just south of London Bridge, looks as if a home for grandmothers exploded, and the remains were collected in this room. With tea pots from every decade, pink and white lace linens, and cookbooks on display, it’s hard not to be reminded of old ladies playing cards.
Full tea is a mere £9 (about $17) and includes a choice of sandwiches (the cucumber and cream cheese are yummy), plain scones with clotted cream and berry preserves or fresh crumpets, and a large piece of cake. The staff will recommend a tea to complement what you choose.
In the heart of Fleet Street is The Old Bank of England, converted from bank to bar in 1995. High tea is served for about £16 ($30) and can be shared by two people. A typical tray includes tea sandwiches with turkey and pesto mayonnaise paired with garlic hummus and roasted sweet peppers; warm raisin scones with clotted cream and raspberry preserves; and small chocolate pastries surrounded by fresh fruit, dusted with powdered sugar.
Just west of Kensington Gardens, The Kandy Tea Room offers a Sri Lankan twist on tea, specializing in Ceylon teas and delicious quiche. Cream tea is served with scones and a personal pot of piping hot tea for £7 ($13) a person.
Patisserie Valerie is almost too cute, with vintage movie posters plastered on the walls and tiny white tables in clusters around the main floor. With six locations around greater London, customers become loyal, and gladly shell out £15 ($28) for tea and pastries. You’ll nonetheless see starving artists and hungry students.