Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > U.K./Ireland >
Mar 1, 2011 03:57 PM

High Tea - London

Looking for suggestions for high tea in London in March - surprise for my mother.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You can't go wrong with Brown's Hotel (very swanky) or a more 'laid-back' atmosphere at The Mandeville Hotel. Both have very nice high teas. There are so many choices... everyone has their favorite. Fortnum & Mason do one... Les Deux Salons near Trafalgar Square also has one, too.

    Fortnum & Mason
    181 Piccadilly, London, Greater London W1A 1ER, United Kingdom

    1. This topic has been discussed a number of times over the past year or two. I suggest going up to the right hand corner of this page and doing a search for "high tea". You should be able to access many of the prior threads and find a number of helpful suggestions.

      1. Also - "high tea" is different to "afternoon tea" ...

        11 Replies
        1. re: Theresa

          well... if yr being super traditional they are but i would say theyre used interchangeably in london?

          1. re: t_g

            No, they are not. There is a distinct class division between the two meals.

            High Tea = Fish and chips, shepherd's/cottage pie, kebab, etc. Eaten by working classes around 5-7pm before dinner or going to the pub. Middle class children often have "tea" around this time as well but it's typically something a bit lighter.

            Afternoon Tea = Tea, cakes, cucumber/watercress sandwiches etc. Eaten by the upper/middle classes 2-5pm in either a back garden or front room or tea shop.

            1. re: Pedr0

              Pedro - not certain I agree with your definition. High Tea is a meal with heavier dishes including meats etc and was a substantial meal that was eaten at an earlier time than dinner or supper but it wasn't just a working class term (and I suspect they just said Tea as they would never have afternoon tea). Many middle class families would eat it with the children before they went to bed, and in upper class houses the high tea was served by the nanny to the children without the parents present. That said it has really passed into history with no-one in the UK really using the term outside tea rooms and hotels. If it included F&C it would be called a "fish supper" and Kebabs are far too modern to be part of a high tea.

              However, these days the hotels in London pitch their teas at the tourist market so they use the terms interchangeably. If High Tea is what the tourists are used to asking for then that is what the hotel will call their afternoon tea.

              1. re: PhilD

                It's interesting - I was brought up in London in a large, Irish, middle class family. We used to have evening meals in two shifts - the younger ones (up to about 10 years old I think) would have "high tea" at about 6pm, which was a light meal - something like beans on toast or herring roe on toast. Then we went to bed at about 7pm ish. After that, my older brothers and sisters had a larger evening meal with my parents, at about 7.30 after my Dad got in from work. I never saw high tea as being anything as substantial as fish and chips or shepherds pie - that was what the older people had after we had gone to bed - and that is/was called dinner, supper or tea, depending on what part of the country you are from.

                1. re: Theresa

                  Go back some years (my particular interest is Edwardian Britain) and you'll find that, at least in the north, folk had their main meal in the middle of the day and called it "dinner". In the early evening, there'd be a lighter meal - sandwiches and cake - which they called "tea". And just before going to bed there'd be a snack which was "supper".

                  I reckon that as working life changed "tea" became a more substantial meal - pie and chips, for example - and to distinguish iit from the fashionable "afternoon tea", which was always a middle and upper class thing, it started to be called "high tea", although, as Phil suggests, I suspect families really carried on calling it "tea" (something I still tend to do if we're having a pie and chips type meal at home).

                  I don't believe I've seen "high tea" being advertised by cafes or restaurants for some considerable time, except in Yorkshire where the tradition still seems to be alive and well.

                  I presume the "high tea" that London hotels offer is marketing it towards certain nationalities of foreign tourists. Perhaps another example of our food culture - there being London and there being the rest of the UK.

                  1. re: Harters

                    And let's not forget the 'cream tea.' I had never heard of that one till moving here.

                    1. re: zuriga1

                      Very much your Cornwall & Devon affair - scones, jam, cream.

                      I have it mind that there's a county difference - in one, jam goes on first and is topped with cream; in the other the order is reversed. Or am I imagining that?

                      1. re: Harters

                        DH says he's always put the jam on first, but of course he's not from Devon or Cornwall and is mostly an Oxfordshire lad. I do the same and think it tastes great either way.

                      2. re: zuriga1

                        British Air used to serve tea, scones, clotted cream and jam on flights heading back to the states years ago. Certainly one of the better things I've had to eat in an aircraft.

                        1. re: Pedr0

                          BA food (and Virgin's too) is always much better going to the States than in the opposite direction. One can only imagine why.

                    2. re: Theresa

                      Theresa - I agree that the food at high teas was never very substantial. I recall cold meats and pork pies, but also trifles and other kids stuff. We always had it when we stayed with my dads brother in Birmingham, he was much older than my dad having been born in the 1800's so a bit more old fashioned. The adults then had their dinner later on.

            2. For a one-time experience, I think I there's a lot to be said for the grander settings for afternoon tea at the posh hotels or the Orangery at Kensington Palace. However, I recently had tea at Cocomaya, and it was quite a decadent spread, so it is worth mentioning.

              It's a small tea/chocolate shop near Marble Arch, and what it lacks in grand atmosphere of the traditional tea rooms, it makes up for with pretty antique place settings with mis-matched china and a dizzying array of sweets, all baked on the premises. There were easily eight different pastries and cakes provided (I lost count), in addition to the standard scones and sandwiches. I thought the sandwiches were just OK (interesting combination of fillings and breads, but a little bland and dry), but the other cakes and sweets were lovely, and it was visually over-the-top gorgeous in a kind of boho way. The room is very intimate and cottage-like, and has a bit of the feeling of being in an Alice-in-Wonderland setting, especially with the endless array of sweets. Depending on what kind of experience you and your mother are after, this might be an interesting option.

              Again, I do like the white tablecloth and silver service of the big hotels, and might prefer that if it was my one and only English tea experience, but this is something a little different and a little more intimate.

              35 Connaught St, Paddington, Greater London W2 2, GB

              5 Replies
              1. re: gemuse

                Beautiful pics. How much do they charge for their tea?

                1. re: zuriga1

                  Zuriga1, if I recall, it was £25 per person. We were a group of 5 and could only finish 2/3 of what they served, so they boxed everything else up for us to take home.

                  1. re: gemuse

                    Thanks. The portions did look sumptuous!! My niece works not far from there, so I'll have to take her along one afternoon.

                2. re: gemuse

                  Looks delicious. Do you need reservations or can you just drop in?

                  1. re: richmond3005

                    We made reservations. I'm not sure they are required, but I think I remember someone telling me that they prefer it because the baked goods are made on the premises each day, and they more or less bake to order. The place is small, and I wouldn't think they have a huge amount of turnover every day. My guess is that you are assured of a good spread if you book, and you might have fewer options if you don't, because you'd be competing with other walk-ins to the bakery.

                3. I'd recommend The Lanesborough Hotel for high tea. Certainly on the pricier side but it is well worth it. Wonderful food and tea, great atmosphere and service, and in a beautiful location.

                  You can view the menu here -

                  The website is -

                  Whenever I'm in London I try to stop by here for a relaxing afternoon escape. You won't regret it. Also, it's my mother's favourite.