Affordable and Popular Afternoon Tea in London: Six Honest Reviews

affordable afternoon tea london

Entering Wonderland at the Sanderson Hotel.

Afternoon tea in London probably rates quite high on the to-do list of anyone visiting England’s capital. Yet, it can be really pricey, with most teas starting at around 50 quid a head. So, should you opt for affordable afternoon tea in London, or are places like The Ritz and The Savoy worth shelling the pounds out for?

Every time I’m in London, I take it upon myself to sample a popular afternoon tea and compare venue’s various offerings of this delicious treat. You can thank me later.

So here you have it – a review of afternoon tea in three of London’s ritziest (literally) hotels and a playhouse, as experienced by a colonial commoner. And if you’re looking for somewhere to stay whilst gorging yourself silly on tiny desserts and cucumber sandwiches, check out this list of some of the best hostels in London.

First up…

“Mad Hatter’s” Afternoon Tea at The Sanderson Hotel

I decided to start my quest with an afternoon tea that was a little less conventional. The Sanderson Hotel have Alice-fied both their kooky cutlery and desserts (such as The White Rabbit’s Pocket Watch Macaroon and Alice’s Drink Me Potion), which are a pleasure to look at and all the more fun to photograph.

affordable afternoon tea london

Edible cups!

affordable afternoon tea london

If you say so.

The biggest selling point is rightly, the tea. Along with traditional teas, they’ve included five delightful smelling “Alice-inspired” options, such as Strawberries and Cream and Mint Choc-Chip. Unfortunately, we decided to simply dip our toes in the water on our first intake. These delightful teas were whisked away, not to be seen again for the duration of our meal. Speaking of which… the following exchange occurred:

“Can I please have the Jasmine tea?”

“I’m sorry. We’re run out.”

“You’ve run out of tea? During afternoon tea?” The waiter shrugged apologetically. He turned to my boyfriend, who ordered Earl Gray. When the teas came, I was presented with the peppermint I’d not wanted and my boyfriend with the breakfast tea he never ordered. Both teas came in teabags as well, something I find endlessly irritating, no matter where I am drinking tea at the time… but particularly if I’m paying out the nose for it.

Yet, the waiters were somewhat attentive, feeding us a second lot of sandwiches. The desserts mostly looked better than they tasted. I suppose in the end, you pay for the novelty factor above all else.

The Verdict: Keeping in mind that everything in London is over-priced and expensive… for £48 a person (not including service charge) it was one of the the “cheaper” options of all I tried. It was kitschy and cute, but that’s about where the fun ended.

The Ritz Hotel

I was quite excited about having afternoon tea at The Ritz – it is considered world famous, as their website points out. It’s the kind of thing one would probably only ever do once – and judging by their reception once was more than enough.

The tea was loose leafed (with green available – hooray!) and tasty. The sandwiches were… sandwich-y. The service?

affordable afternoon tea london

The sweets were nice, but pretty basic.

In all honesty, it left much to be desired. We arrived at 11:30 (not the most traditional morning tea time, but it was all I could get) and technically, you’d expect to have a table for two hours. In reality, by one o’clock they were rushing everyone out the door.

We were asked if we had finished with our cake stand and we said yes. Rather than bring around the cake trolley (I doubt we could have fit anymore in, but I like getting my money’s worth, damn it) we were instead just handed the check. WITHOUT ASKING FOR IT, which my boyfriend tells me is unforgivably rude.

On the upside, I used the toilet on the way out. It was even more ridiculously fancy than the tea room. People were getting their photos taken in it. I got a good belly laugh in.

The Verdict: You’re paying £55 a head to eat at the hotel and don’t you dare ever forget that.

The Savoy Hotel

After our experience at the Ritz, my expectations for afternoon tea at swanky hotels had fallen pretty low.

Fortunately, The Savoy swooped in to save the day.

It was the little things, really. Having the tea that I had actually asked for in stock. Being overly attentive when it came to our needs (such as having three members of staff each ask if we wanted a refill of sandwiches and scones) and providing a decent amount of clotted cream, to my boyfriend’s utter delight.

Best of all, you had the choice of choosing between an “Afternoon Tea” menu, which was mostly sweet and a “Hight Tea” menu, which was savoury. Neither of us are sweet freaks, so we opted for the later. We were presented with a brioche bun, laden with salmon and a perfectly poached egg – and consequently were able to finish off the meal without a horrible sugar hangover.

affordable afternoon tea london

Afternoon tea… or breakfast?!

I found the room in which they served tea (the Thames Foyer) a whole lot nicer to knock about in. The wait staff were far more courteous too – and most of them were women! The uniforms were designed by Alexander Macqueen too, which was neat. Although we were particularly entertained by the male member of staff who was attending our table – he was clearly overrun and almost had a panic attack when he came back to check on us, thinking we’d taken it upon ourselves to pour our own tea! (Someone else had – but is there really anything wrong with doing that?)

The Verdict: Old meets new – afternoon tea in a contemporary setting – fancy but with none of the stuffiness of the Ritz.

The National Theatre

affordable afternoon tea london

The nicest of all the sandwiches.

After visiting two of the more “traditional” and to be honest, stuffier hot spots for afternoon tea in London, I decided to go with something a little less conventional – and easier on the wallet.

Enter The National Theatre… not just a place to catch the new hottest play in town. For £26.5 (plus 12.5% gratuity, because this is London) you can sit down to an afternoon tea with three acts and an “interval” ice cream.

Although the tea was served with teabags (pah! pah!) the food was quite tasty. I particularly enjoyed the ice cream – of the three choices (including strawberry and honeycomb) I selected vanilla (how boring, yes). It came out with crackling candy, which I sucked on with utter delight as it popped in my mouth.

As we were leaving, we made the mistake of popping into the theatre gift shop. So in the end, I walked out having spent as much in the theatre as I would have on afternoon tea at any one of London’s hotel venues.

The Verdict: Tasty and affordable.

Ichi Sushi & Sashimi Bar

affordable afternoon tea london

When two cultures collide.

Here’s an interesting modern twist on an old British tradition.

Ichi Sushi & Sashimi Bar offer an afternoon tea where the sandwiches are replaced with sushi – a novel idea which I fully support.

Along with a choice of tea, you’re brought out a bento box style arrangement featuring sushi and a range of Japanese desserts… as well as scones!

I went to this afternoon tea with a friend who has a severe nut allergy. After leaving a note in the booking, we were surprised and touched to see that the kitchen staff had prepared a separate plate for her, full of mousses and cream desserts that she could eat. Service was stellar, with the staff being helpful and attentive.

Best of all, as the restaurant is located in a more modern hotel, the price is only £25 – even with a view of Westminster Bridge!

The Verdict: Perfect if you’re wanting to have an afternoon tea that deviates away from the norm, whilst still being affordable.

affordable afternoon tea london

Willy Wonka would be proud.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at One Aldwych

I have been a bit wary of themed afternoon teas since the honestly quite mediocre experience at The Sanderson. Yet, upon seeing that One Aldwych in Covent Garden were offering a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed experience – I figured, why not give it a go?

This ladies and possibly any gentlemen reading, is how modern afternoon tea is supposed to be done. Exquisite tasting sandwiches, with the offer of a refill (which obviously, we happily accepted). A range of desserts, from the expected (scones) to the extraordinary (homemade fairy floss of the hotel’s own recipe, where you have to guess the flavour).

Standout service with friendly staff, who actually seem pleased that you’ve chosen to visit their establishment. And the most delicious tea you could ever ask for (try the Lychee Rose – TRUST ME ON THIS), with the promise that you can sample as many as you wish!

This afternoon tea is on the exy side of the spectrum – £42 for just the tea and £52 with bubbles. Yet, it’s worth every penny in my opinion.

The Verdict: Delicious food, attentive staff and bang for your buck. Perfect for those wanting to shell out a bit more for a special treat.

That’s it for now, but this list will be forever expanding. I used to live in London – I don’t anymore, but afternoon tea is high on my list for each subsequent visit.

What’s your favourite place to have afternoon tea in London?

Pin this post for the next time you’re feeling peckish in London.

Affordable afternoon tea in London isn't too hard to find... yet is it worth shelling out more for hotels like The Savoy and The Ritz? Click here to find out more.

Affordable afternoon tea in London isn't too hard to find... yet is it worth shelling out more for hotels like The Savoy and The Ritz? Click here to find out more.
Affordable afternoon tea in London isn't too hard to find... yet is it worth shelling out more for hotels like The Savoy and The Ritz? Click here to find out more.
Posted by LC
December 21, 2015
LC

LC can often be found nursing a cup of green tea, with her head in a book. She is a writer, video editor and professional cheese eater. Her life's aspiration is to one day live on a farm in Tasmania with 11 dogs, a Shetland pony and several pygmy goats.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Daphne Hankins - December 21, 2015

oh, wow, a tea tour! What a fantastic idea. And the cakes look scrumptious. Also… thank you for the “expose” on the Ritz. I can’t abide poor manners from businesses that market themselves as luxury. I’ll definitely skip it on my trip.

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    LC - December 21, 2015

    They were shocking! National Theatre gets my vote – they provided good food and good service for half the price.

    Reply
Jenny @ Till the Money Runs Out - December 21, 2015

I have to agree; a tea tour is such an adorable idea! I have actually only ever been to a “high tea” once. It was on Easter in Sydney about 4 years ago and it was so, so lovely. National Theatre will definitely be on our list when we make it to London one day!

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    LC - December 21, 2015

    When in Britain after all! Maybe if the timing is right you could catch a show after.

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Found it! - December 22, 2015

Yup, I think the Ritz is for people with more money than sense! The decor is a bit tired when you get up close too. I suppose when you’re that famous, what’s the point of putting in the effort to actually be good?!

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    LC - December 22, 2015

    They’ll feed off that fame forever more.

    Reply
Punita Malhotra - February 6, 2017

Very chic, very British. I’m pining for those sandwiches and the scrumptious desserts right now. Great selection you have here.

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Marlies - Crazy Dutch Abroad - February 7, 2017

What a wonderful experience to compare chic high teas in London! I like the Japanese fusion high tea, what a great idea. Running out of tea for a high tea, that is something new. 🙂

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    LC - February 7, 2017

    The Japanese one was probably my favourite. I know, I was disappointed that they’d run out! Get it together guys, haha.

    Reply
Global Girl Travels - February 7, 2017

The Mad Hatter afternoon tea at Sanderson Hotel looks so fun! It’s always fun when restaurant/tea shops have themes because it makes the experience stand out. I love how they make that effort, especially in the small details. Also, I need to check out Ichi Sushi and Sashimi Bar. Anywhere there is sushi, I’m in!

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    LC - February 7, 2017

    It was fun, at least it was something different too. Wasn’t the worst place we tea’d at, for sure!

    Reply
The Travel Ninjas - February 7, 2017

This is a really great guide and indeed is very honest. What a breath of fresh air. We’ll definitely avoid the stuffy, overpriced and rude places. The National Theatre sounds like a winner.

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Gina - February 7, 2017

Thanks so much for you honesty but 48 pounds for afternoon high tea seems Alice in Wonderland style is super expensive to me and that’s the cheapest option. I don’t like how they didn’t pay attention to your order. When I first saw the photo I thought the cake looks delicious, but alas, not all things taste as good as they look.

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    LC - February 9, 2017

    There’s actually a couple of cheaper options down the list at around 25 quid each. I’d go for either of them over the stuffier, famous hotels.

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Sonia - February 7, 2017

Loved the cake that looks like the clock … I don’t feel like eating something so cute. And the kettle looks like it will start talking!
Lovely spread … but I will have to work out a lot in the gym ?

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    LC - February 9, 2017

    They were pretty tasty, I’ll give them that much! Yeah, I didn’t gym much in England… paying for it now, haha.

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Abhinav Singh - February 7, 2017

Whoa , look at those edible cups! I would love to try those. The kettle looks interesting. I am not much of a tea person despite a rich tea heritage of my country India. This blog however makes to want to sip a nice cuppa.

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    LC - February 9, 2017

    Nothing beats a good cup of char, I reckon!

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kathy (from walkaboutwanderer.com) - February 7, 2017

I’m British and I am ashamed to say I have only had afternoon tea once. I love the look of the themed places and the cute edible cup you got. I think I need to have more afternoon tea outings with my friends.

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    LC - February 9, 2017

    Haha, don’t worry – there’s plenty of Australian traditions that I don’t get involved with either.

    Reply
FS Page - February 7, 2017

That might be a good project of sorts to go every afternoon and try tea at all these places. What you experienced in the first 2 luxury hotels is quite common. They charge for the brand and most of us fall for it. But i am glad you had some good experiences to make up for it.

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    LC - February 9, 2017

    Yes and at the cheaper places, funnily enough!

    Reply
AlicevstheWorld - February 12, 2017

Despite being a Brit I’ve never actually gone out for afternoon tea, and the prices here explain why! I’m pretty jealous that you ate at The Mad Hatter’s Tearoom though. I’ve passed it so many times and would love to try it out one day.

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    LC - February 16, 2017

    The cakes were cute, but I didn’t think it was worth the price. Although I kinda want the teapot…

    Reply
Sara @allaboardtheskylark - February 25, 2017

I really enjoyed reading your honest review of afternoon tea in London! I was surprised to hear that about The Ritz, which you would always imagine would be the pinnacle of afternoon tea experiences. The Savoy sounded much better. Talking of traditional, I recently had afternoon tea at The Dorchester. It was really lovely and the staff were so attentive. I’m now glad I chose to go there rather than The Ritz!

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    LC - February 26, 2017

    Thanks for commenting, Sara! Yeah, I think The Ritz knows it can get by on its name alone and to be fair – those visiting would mostly be tourists, who probably wouldn’t ever plan to go there again. Ah I’ll have to try The Dorchester out later this year. There’s a couple of others on my list that I’m yet to go to. It was a fun little project!

    Reply
48 Hours in London - Things to Do, Where to Stay & What to Eat! - July 16, 2017

[…] person you will talk to will have ever experienced (why? It’s so delicious!). My advice is to be discerning about which place you ultimately end up picking, as some rely on their reputation alone to get by, whilst putting […]

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The Jetset Boyz - October 23, 2017

One Aldwych’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory afternoon tea is ab fab! Best enjoyed with bubbles!!

For a while we’d said we must give the B Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour a go but never got around to it. So, when we won Afternoon Tea for two at a social media meetup in January we were absolutely delighted! Getting to ride London’s iconic vintage Routemaster is a treat, to do it whilst eating tasty cake… awesome!! 😊 😋 😎

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    LC - October 23, 2017

    I agree! And will admit I went with the bubbles option and wasn’t disappointed.

    I have heard good things about the bus tour bakery… will have to get on it next time I’m in town.

    Reply
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