A British ritual hailing from the 19th century, afternoon tea is a mid-afternoon snack and sophisticated affair where tea is served with bite-sized sandwiches and cakes. These days there’s slightly more fun to be had, be it the obligatory rim-filled glass of bubbly or the international culinare’s twist on the British tradition.
The Afternoon Tea here is stuff of middle-class dreams, especially the champagne version. Order and you’ll soon be presented with a rim-filled glass of bubbling Gaston Chiquet Champagne and a tiered tower of beautifully crafted miniature bites. The lower savoury level includes crust-free sandwiches stuffed with traditional options like cucumber and cream cheese, to more unusual combinations of smoked chicken and apricot. The second tier holds an array of brightly coloured sweets, such as a lemon, raspberry and rose water macaroon. Atop this impressive spread is a selection of freshly baked plain and raisin scones. Crusty with soft and fluffy centres, ideal for spooning on clotted cream and strawberry jam. The winner, by miles.
Cinnamon Soho’s High Chai is an Indian twist on the classic English Afternoon Tea, serving up clever spiced snacks on a traditional silver tiered serving tray. On arrival accept the rather festive cinnamon Bellini, delicately spiked with the fragrant spice. The Afternoon Tea consists of Bombay potato Bonda with green chutney, Bangla Scotch egg and spicy Kasundi relish, tandoori chicken and chutney sandwiches and a Bhangra lamb slider. The sweets play less of a part in the High Chai, but are no less tasty. Think ginger and garam masala cake, and spiced scones served with apple and fennel chutney. Wash it down with a jug of milky, warming, spiced masala chai. You’ll feel like you’re sitting on a train to Jaipur.
Quaint and quintessentially British, The Tea Rooms in Stoke Newington serves up Afternoon Tea as traditionally as it comes. There’s no straying from classics, with the spread including finger sandwiches such as salmon and cream cheese, and egg and cress; cakes including Victoria sponge, lemon, carrot, and coffee and walnut; and freshly baked scones accompanied with lashings of clotted cream and homemade raspberry jam. The tea is fresh and loose-leaved, but there is the option to sip a glass of Prosecco. Only for a special occasion, mind.