There's nothing more refined than a spot of afternoon tea, and following the runaway success of our guide to throwing your own, we decided to head out to the streets to discover the best places to go if you want to book yourself into somewhere special. Our ever-evolving list will give you ideas for places to book for Mother's Day, hen dos, special family occasions or just those times when you fancy partaking in an afternoon of decadent scone-sampling. We're always looking for ideas for inclusions we might have missed, so please leave your suggestions in the comments below.
Where to go for afternoon tea...
Cliveden House (Berkshire)
At a glance...
Price: from £45 per person
Best for: traditional afternoon tea with a view
Contact details: Cliveden House, Taplow, Berkshire, England, SL6 OJF
For a traditional afternoon tea served with a beautiful view, you can’t beat Cliveden. Served in the grand dining room (complete with chandeliers, floor-length drapes and comfy plush armchairs), the south-facing room looks out over the National Trust gardens and beyond to the Thames. In winter, afternoon tea can coincide with beautiful golden hour sunsets – bag a window table to make the most of the stunning view.
Cliveden currently offers a Platinum Jubilee afternoon tea menu, in honour of the Queen's celebrations this year. To kick off the tea, finger sandwiches are classic as you’d expect: cucumber and cream cheese, smoked salmon topped with decadent caviar, and a tangy roast beef and horseradish. Alongside these, the generous tea includes four savoury items which are each created in honour of the different countries of the United Kingdom, including a potato scone with truffle for Ireland and a soft coronation chicken roll for England. Our favourite was the Wales offering: a welsh rarebit cheese puff that took the form of a light, airy choux bun filled with a strong cheese cream and scattered with chives.
The savouries and cakes are presented at the same time, so we weren’t sure whether to plough on after savoury or pause for scones – but we continued cake-first! Each are incredibly intricately designed, with great pastry chef skill. There’s something to please every sweet tooth, from a rich chocolate mousse to a modern take on a victoria sponge. The unexpected highlight was the ‘red rose’ – it not only looked beautiful, but the tangy lemon mousse melted in the mouth on top of crisp, buttery shortbread. Finally, the scones are delivered when you’re ready for them, served warm from a cloth bag and coming with generous quantities of homemade jam and clotted cream. Service is friendly and knowledgeable throughout. Head for a walk around the gardens after tea. For all the luxury of the surroundings, the value for money feels incredibly worth it and a treat you’ll remember for a long time.
Moonfleet Manor (Weymouth)
At a glance…
Price: From £27 per adult, £15 per child
Best for: Families and Wind in the Willows fans
Contact details: Moonfleet Manor, Fleet Road, Weymouth, Dorset, DT3 4ED
Indulge your inner child or take your kids for a magical treat with this beautifully designed Wind in the Willows themed afternoon tea, which plays true homage to the book. In the adults version you’ll find truffled cheddar and ham scotch eggs with pickles, smoked trout and watercress finger sandwiches and ginger beer cupcakes amongst a whole range of other treats. The children’s menu is just as fun with Mole’s boiled egg and soldiers (mascarpone mousse and mango gel with pastry dippers) and a perfectly formed Mr Toad's biscuit which is almost too beautiful to eat. Arrive hungry as it’s a generous affair which may take you a while to work through, and once you are finished, head down the winding walkway to Fleet lagoon to look for fossils and admire the boats and you’ll have experienced a quintessential day in the English countryside.
Storrs Hall (Lake District)
At a glance…
Price: From £23.95 per adult and £10 per child
Best for: A special family occasion
Contact details: Storrs Hall Hotel, Windermere, Lake District.
This Beatrix Potter themed afternoon tea is the perfect way to spend a nostalgic few hours, and the views looking straight onto Lake Windermere add to the majestic experience. Both adults and children will be charmed by the menu, little guests can feast on rabbit shaped sandwiches, sausage rolls, chocolate dipped strawberries and marshmallows and fluffy eclairs and pastries. Whilst adults can work their way through the extensive tea list and indulge in locally-sourced smoked salmon sandwiches, ham hock terrine, miniature homemade fish cakes and two tiers of freshly baked scones and delicate pastries, you may well find yourself leaving with a box of treats to take home too.
Metro Deco (Brighton)
At a glance...
Price: From £22 per person
Best for: Art Deco cool
Contact details: Metro Deco, 38 Upper St James Street, Brighton BN2 1JN
Head to this quirky 1930s-style converted Art Deco furniture showroom in bohemian Kemptown for an afternoon tea to remember. Relax into an ornate, gold-trimmed vintage armchair and choose from two dozen different tea blends (the delicate Silver Needle white tea is particularly good), served in mismatched bone china to accompany dainty open sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries. Don’t miss the tea-infused cocktails, including a ‘Sweet Sunburst’ made with rum, rhubarb and vanilla-flavoured rooibos.
Orestone Manor (Devon)
At a glance...
Price: From £17.95 per person
Best for: Eating traditional Devon clotted cream scones while looking out to sea
Contact details: Orestone Manor, Rock House Lane, Maidencombe, Devon TQ1 4SX
If ever there was a place to wolf down some scones with cream, Devon (famed for Devonshire clotted cream) is without a doubt your best bet. The quaint afternoon tea at Orestone Manor can be enjoyed outdoors on the terrace or inside the dining room, both of which overlook the sea. With hefty portion sizes, you may begin to feel stuffed after the nine finger sandwiches which kick-start the event – but save space for their tasty cakes which include berry cake, a soft brownie and some white chocolate panna cotta, all followed by a helping of warm scones, jam and cream. Everything is slightly on the classic side, but if you're not a fan of anything OTT and enjoy a stunning backdrop, you really can't go wrong.
Peacocks Tearoom (Cambridgeshire)
At a glance...
Price: £19 per person
Best for: Tea traditionalists
Contact details: Peacocks Tearoom, 65 Waterside, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB7 4AU
Peacocks prides itself on offering teas from every continent, so you can explore what the world has to offer from this cosy converted kitchen that’s super popular with locals. After our traditional sandwiches and scones with rhubarb compote, owner George found the time to have a quick natter, and we loved the family feel of the place. Peacocks doesn’t take bookings, and while there’s normally a small queue on weekends it moves quickly.
The Edgbaston (Birmingham)
At a glance...
Price: From £25 per person
Best for: Fans of the theatrical
Contact details: The Edgbaston, 18 Highfield Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 3DU
Walking into The Edgbaston feels like stepping onto the set of a fabulously chic Great Gatsby remake. We chose a classic Earl Grey and a light lemon verbena tea, plus champagne, before being treated to a particularly spectacular amuse bouche served on a platter of dry ice. With its blend of tart mojito sorbet, smooth passion fruit curd and puffed rice to add a sprinkling of texture, this was a standout course. Our sandwiches and sweets were served together on an art deco stand and we appreciated the range of breads used, from mini baguettes to tomato and basil ciabatta. The mini dessert tier of our tea was just enough to finish our meal, the mix of raspberry financier and heavier chocolate tarts balancing out nicely. Another unforgettable treat was the hazelnut praline macaron – crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside and with a subtle nutty caramel flavour we found irresistible. This exceptional experience is not to be missed.
At a glance...
Price: £16.95 per person, or £21.95 with a chai walla cocktail
Best for: Informal meetings with groups of friends
Contact details: Zindiya, 21 Woodbridge Road, Moseley, Birmingham, B13 8EHView the menu
High Chai at Zindiya brings classic Indian flavours to your traditional afternoon tea. Sit back in your rickshaw booth and peruse the colourful street art and food vendors. Choose your pot of freshly brewed Masala chai or a floral Earl Grey and prepare for filling courses of spiced sweets and savoury skewers. The Namkeen course is a selection of savoury bites including a crisp samosa, crunchy bhel puri and a choice of chicken tikka or chunky paneer. The Meetha course is a definite highlight, with Zindiya’s Indian spiced carrot cake and soft homemade cardamom scones with lashings of cream. If you’re after something a little different and you can handle the heat, this Asian-inspired afternoon 'chai' is for you.
At a glance...
Price: From £19.95 per person
Best for: Experiencing a true northern institution and slice of local history
Contact details: Bettys, various locations in Yorkshire (Harrogate, York, Northallerton and Ilkley)
Tea at Bettys is an institution that’s become synonymous with the spa town of Harrogate. Steeped in tradition, the family-run business now spans six sites in North and West Yorkshire, a cookery school, an extensive food range and an online shop. Our tip is to skip the inevitable queues and go for the bookable and more luxurious Lady Betty Afternoon Tea. At the branch in the centre of York, it's served upstairs in the elegant Imperial Room while a pianist plays, and the beautiful historic setting is certain to make any Mother’s Day or birthday feel special. Everything is present and correct, nothing overly grand or contemporary – this is all about being comforted by classics done as well as possible with a dusting of nostalgia.
The gooseberry macarons may just be the most beautiful of the six miniature cakes on offer, dainty and hand-decorated with a sugar daisy. We loved the rich pistachio and chocolate dacquoise slice with its gooey layers and crunchy praline base. The buttery scones with a hint of lemon zest were the perfect partner to a generous helping of jam and clotted cream. And the savoury selection was every bit as good as the sweet, why is why we went for seconds of their ham & tomato pâté sandwiches. Ask for a window seat if there are two or three of you, and watch the world go by while you sip.
The Bingham (Richmond-on-Thames)
At a glance...
Price: From £25 per person, £36 with champagne
Best for: Traditionalists, elegant indulgence, arguably the best view in London
Contact details: The Bingham, 61-63 Petersham Road, Richmond-on-Thames TW10 6UTView the menu
If you manage to visit the Bingham Hotel on a sunny day, we recommend choosing the riverside balcony over the lounge bar – the view of the Thames is second to none. Classic Darjeeling and organic rosebud tea arrived swiftly, delicately infused in a clear teapot that was replenished at any sign of dwindling heat or supply. When our three tiers of treats arrived, the first floor presented classic crust-less slices with traditional fillings of salmon, ham, cheese and cucumber. Stepping up to tier two, the fruit scones were among the best we’ve ever tasted and were so light they could be gently persuaded apart with our hands. The pièce de résistance was the top layer, a veritable array of colour and perfection, from an accomplished coffee mousse tart to the moreish millefeuille and skilful passion fruit cone. We devoured everything, and were given extra to take home – we can’t wait to visit again!
The Chester Grosvenor (Cheshire)
Conveniently situated in the bustling heart of Chester city, the Grosvenor hotel asserts a timeless and stately presence which extends to the elegantly furnished Arkle Bar and Lounge, where afternoon tea is served. We elected for the ‘indulgent champagne afternoon tea’ option, and it certainly lived up to its name. From the minute we walked in, we were treated to a truly special silver-service experience. Champagne is served straight away, accompanied with a bowl of delightfully sweet strawberries and clotted cream which added a touch of luxury. Next came a presentation of loose leaf teas, which were then served in ornate silver teapots. After opting for the Red Fruit blend, the traditional three-tiered afternoon tea stand arrived. From a gold leaf-embellished chocolate praline opera cake to a strawberry and elderflower shortcake tart, each comes imaginatively designed – and, most importantly, utterly delicious. The staff were polite, knowledgeable and attentive, ensuring our tea was topped up and offering a second helping of sandwiches (unfortunately we had no room). Several hours later, we left feeling stuffed, satiated and truly spoilt.
Celtic Manor (Newport, Wales)
At a glance...
Price: £21.50 on weekdays, £29.50 weekends. Teas can be halved for children
Best for: Families
Contact details: The Celtic Manor Resort, Coldra Woods, The Usk Valley, Caerleon, Newport, WalesView the menu
Afternoon tea can be a formal affair that makes little people fidgety but with the promise of 18-hole crazy golf, ‘forest jump’ high and low ropes, two swimming pools and tutored archery within view of the dining room, The Celtic Manor Resort has to be one of the most child-friendly locations in the UK. What they lack in variety of teas they make up for in value. The menu features sweet, modern patisserie made miniature – think dainty bakes, including textures of strawberry and mascarpone, and flavours like Japanese yuzu lime. The savoury offering is a little more traditional with the obligatory finger sandwiches and then a selection of seasonal bites which included the use of fresh peas (crushed with sliced turkey), crab tartlet and pesto bruschetta when we visited in spring, although menus change each season. Scones are warm and come studded with raisins or lightly spiced with cinnamon and the friendly staff keenly offered to top up all items as and when they were finished.
The Angel Hotel (Monmouthshire)
The Angel Hotel has a cosy dining room, made even cosier by a roaring fire on cold days, and a prizewinning selection of teas that's longer than a posh restaurant’s wine list. The expert staff will help you navigate it, pairing more unusual and exotic infusions to your everyday preference. Savouries are classic high tea – think coronation chicken and smoked trout pâté, but with an attention to detail that raises the bar. Sausage rolls are served warm. On the sweet side, the chef has a light touch with choux pastry, which appears in a few guises, and there are dinky miniatures of nostalgic British bakery favourites like wobbly custard slices and cream horns. On your way out, make sure you visit the Angel Bakery for more contemporary bakes and some of the best sourdough we’ve ever tasted.
More reviews coming soon...
Our afternoon tea guide is an ever-evolving list. While our team is out and about taste-testing, please leave your suggestions in the comments below or email them to email@example.com. Our team attended these establishments as guests.
Make sure you also check out our guide to the best afternoon teas in London.
Travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice for the country they are travelling to.