From truly gluttonous to gluten-free, we've rounded up the finest afternoon teas in London...
Afternoon Tea at Oblix
Level 32, The Shard, SE1 9RY
If you're an afternoon-tea connoisseur, we imagine you'll be looking for something of the HIGHEST splendour. And this, dear friends, is exactly what you'll get (quite literally) at Oblix. Whizz up to the 32nd floor of the Shard and feast your eyes on the shiniest of silver trays piled high with various treats inspired by London's boroughs. It's all about local produce - honeycomb from Harrow bees, chai spice from Brick Lane Market and cured Angus beef straight from a butcher in Lambeth. Our top picks? The duck-egg and truffle-mayonnaise sandwiches and Crunchie-chocolate pecan bar. Yep, the food is as good as the views!
Summer Afternoon Tea
Mandarin Oriental, 66 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7LA
Sadly, summer may nearly be over. But fear not - you can catch the last bit of it perfectly in London's glitziest tea salon. High ceilings, endless floral bouquets and views overlooking buzzy Knightsbridge. If the weather holds up, you'll want to order one of the iced teas or a chilled glass of champagne, before they arrive with platters laden with the most tempting ice-cream pastries and dainty sandwiches. Yes, please.
Salon Couture High Tea with Suzie Turner
The Savoy, Strand, WC2R 0EU
Cake and couture. Two of life's greatest things. So thank goodness the Savoy have only gone and given you a taste of both with their Fifties-inspired Salon Couture High Tea. Sit back in the magnificent Thames Foyer, gorge on cakes, eclairs and champagne till you can no longer move a limb and then spent the rest of the afternoon gazing at the glitziest, swishiest crystal- and feather-covered gowns.
The Salon Couture High Tea takes place on the first Wednesday of every month
Swinging Sixties Afternoon Tea
Jumeirah Carlton Tower, 1 Cadogan Place, SW1X 9PY
Ah, the swinging Sixties. Wasn't it so much fun? And afternoon tea? A strange combination, we agree, but those clever people at the Jumeirah Carlton have clearly shown it works. In collaboration with the V&A's latest exhibition, it will leave you feeling full of peace and love. Strawberry and buttercream cakes and yuzu curd-topped pastries follow sandwiches and tea, plus there's the option of a glass of Laurent-Perrier to help it all go down. You might want to slip on your miniskirt and go-go boots for this one.
The Swinging Sixties tea runs from 10 September to 20 November
8 Fulham Broadway, SW6 1AA
If you've got a tooth sweeter than Willy Wonka's, you might want to make a trip to Amorino's new Fulham Broadway branch and order the GelaTea. Who'd have thought that Italian ice cream could come in so many ways? Gelato rose beds, gelato-filled macarons, edible flowers - it's all far too pretty to eat (but you'll find a way). And just when you're feeling full, they present a sorbetto drink or one of their 10 types of devilishly rich hot chocolates (yes, you heard that right, 10 types) topped with whipped cream. Expect to roll home…
The Luggage Room
Grosvenor Square W1K 6JP (020 7514 1507)
You'll be transported straight back to the roaring Twenties once you enter this intimate drinking den, tucked away behind a hidden door on the corner of the Marriott's Grosvenor Square hotel. Offering London's first 'low tea', this is one for the savoury lovers - expect wild boar sausage rolls, devilled Balmoral venison and tea-cured salmon and caviar, followed by salted caramel meringues and scone trifle. All served with lashings of tea (we recommend white apricot or Japanese sencha). You won't want dinner.
53 Park Lane, W1K 1QA (020 7629 8888)
On the roof of the Dorchester, high above Park Lane, they are cultivating tea from the Dalreoch Estate in Scotland (it's kind of a secret). Meanwhile, in the hotel's gilded Promenade, you can enjoy this exclusive brew - there are three varieties, White, Garrocher Grey and Rose Smoked - every afternoon, along with glorious sandwiches, featherlight scones and scrumptious cakes. And let's not forget the razzmatazz Dorch service - can there be a better spot in London to while away the tiresome hours between lunch and cocktails?
50 Berners Street, W1T 3NG (020 7300 1400)
Alice (in Wonderland) recently turned 150, so where better to celebrate her birthday than at Sanderson's Mad Hatter's Tea, served every afternoon in the hotel's white and slightly etheral conservatory? It's a crazy, eccentric kind of a tea, just as you'd expect - or would you? - with hidden menus to discover, and red-velvet ladybird cake and exploding lollipops to eat. Goodness me! Isn't that the White Rabbit's pocket watch posing as a macaroon? Mustn't be late. Time to get over to the Sanderson, methinks.
The London Edition
10 Berners Street, W1T 3NP (020 7908 7949)
'Scandal water' was 19th-century slang for a cuppa, infused, as the best often are, with a good slug of gossip. That's why tea (the drink) takes centre stage at the Scandal Water afternoon tea service, set up in the hotel's rather louche Punch Room. Five premium varieties are drunk in a parallel tasting, and taken with muffins and savoury snacks. The teas are also the basis for five boozy punches, of which the potent Teddy Hook will sort the men from the boys.
Albemarle Street, W1S 4BP (020 7493 6020)
Mayo-free chicken and guacamole sandwiches, smoked fish with quail's egg and flourless chocolate cake are among the treats on offer at Tea-Tox at Brown's. If it's not exactly the Pritikin Diet, it's a nod in the right direction. All the chocolate is sugar-free and the tea itself - including oolong white and homegrown Cornish with Assam - is well made. If tea-toxing is not your thing, throw cautionto the wind and have a trad afternoon tea with a glass of Ruinart.
108 Pantry at the Marylebone Hotel
108 Marylebone Lane, W1U 2QE (020 7969 3900)
If you love buttermilk scones and pastries but they don't love you, check out afternoon tea at 108 Pantry, in the Marylebone Hotel's Edwardian townhouse. It does a gluten-free tea, either the whole shebang - scones, sandwiches, cakes pastries, and a glass (or two) of small-bubbled Perrier-Jouët Rosé - or you can choose items individually, which is not always possible in some of the grander hotels. There's a dairy-free option too, and everything is served on pretty, Regency-inspired china.
The Parlour at Sketch
9 Conduit Street, W1S 2XG (020 7659 4500)
Open all day, the Parlour comes into its own at teatime, when the heavenliest sandwiches (try the smoked salmon with Jacob's cream or the quail-egg mayonnaise with caviar) are precursors to some of London's best scones and pastries, as beautiful to look at as they are to pop. Although the Parlour doesn't take bookings, you can also have tea in the Gallery, which does.
3 White Hart Lane, SW13 0PX (020 8876 6070)
This Barnes Village teashop is so vaut le détour. Small it may be in size but it roars like a lion. And what delights there are here: homemade finger sandwiches, just-baked cakes, the crumbliest biscuits and hot-buttered crumpets (now an endangered species), all served on the prettiest china resting on lace tablecloths. And then there's the tea itself - the highest grade, large-leaf varieties, including the eponymous orange pekoe, which is not orange at all but probably named for the royal house of Orange, whose family members were said to be a bit partial.
Source: Tatler.com Photos: Tatler.com; Giles Christopher