Traditional Afternoon Tea in London Without Breaking the Bank

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Bea's of Bloomsbury afternoon tea
Afternoon tea at Bea's of Bloomsbury. Photo: Yukino Miyazawa

By Lara Kavanagh in London—

A proper afternoon tea in London can be an expensive affair, with the classic set-up usually costing a hefty £40 or £50 per person. Delightful as it is to indulge at renowned institutions such as Fortnum and Mason or Claridges, you can save a bundle of cash by booking an alternative high tea prepared by students of the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu patisserie school.

Afternoon tea with Le Cordon Bleu

Tea party with Le Cordon Bleu

Tea party with Le Cordon Bleu

108 Marylebone Lane
UK W1U 2 (tel. 020 7969 3900)
Web site

This monthly event, at which you can feast on the elaborate creations of pastry chefs in training, is held at 108 Marylebone Lane Restaurant & Bar, at the Marylebone Hotel. The menu includes an enticing array of cakes, pastries and classic scones with jam and clotted cream, plus other treats such as sugar sculptures, macaroons and strawberry and champagne mousse.

The next event takes place on December 1, 2010 from 3:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. The price per head will be a very reasonable £9.95. The first two events of 2011 will be held on February 8 and March 9 at the same time, and places are priced at £13.95. Bookings, plus information on further dates, are available via email or phone.

Other options for tea and cake

If your visit to London doesn’t coincide with one of Le Cordon Bleu’s events, here are some alternative budget-friendly options for a great afternoon pitstop.

Bea’s of Bloombsury
44 Theobald’s Road
WC1X 8NW
Web site

Afternoon tea: £9.90
Served: Monday through Friday 2:30 p.m.-5:30; Saturday and Sunday noon-5:30 p.m.

Candid gallery café
3 Torrens St
EC1V 1NQ
Web site

Open: Monday through Saturday noon-10: p.m.; Sunday noon-5 p.m.

Betty Blythe’s Fine Food Pantry
73 Blythe Road
W14 0HP
Web site

Open: Daily 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

The Bridge Coffeehouse
15 Kingsland Road
E2 8DA

About the author

Lara Kavanagh

About the author: Lara Kavanagh is a travel editor and freelance writer based in London, and has also had the great pleasure of living in and writing about Paris. Top vintage shopping, great food and quirky nightlife are her favourite things about London.

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2 thoughts on “Traditional Afternoon Tea in London Without Breaking the Bank”

  1. Thanks for your comment, tea ladies. The article doesn’t state that all English people eat a blow-out meal of tea, cake and cucumber sandwiches every day at 4. Your office cup of tea is what I, as an English person, drink all day and is different from this traditional ritual, which is a nice London activity to do once in a while. The article merely seeks to point out that you don’t need to go to Claridges and spend a lot of money to have one of these meals if you so desire.

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  2. We find quite extraordinary the idea that a classic British afternoon tea allegedly “usually costs a hefty forty to fifty pounds per head.” Did we really read that correctly?

    It is perhaps a mark of how unscrupulous many London hotels are – and how gullible their overseas guests are – that some establishments now embellish afternoon tea to create a tourist experience that costs vastly over the odds. Just as average Venetians does not spend their days being serenaded along the Grand Canal in a gondola, so your regular Londoner does not take his or her 4 pm cuppa accompanied by dainty cucumber sandwiches.

    We are great fans of afternoon tea and the entire office grinds to half at 3.43pm as we sip tea and share a biscuit. True, we sometimes splash out and have scones or cake – perhaps once a month. But the sorts of afternoon tea menus that pop up in London hotels are parodies of the real thing. The very essence of afternoon tea is its simplicity and its accessibility. Everyone can afford it. Tea, hot water, a dash of milk, bread, butter, jam, a small piece of cake or shortbread. This is not a forty quid blow-out.

    We find it rather sad that overseas visitors to London have ‘invented’ a meal that is unknown in England. And even sadder that avaricious hotel and restaurant owners pander to the demands of visitors by providing these sumptuous parodies of afternoon tea that are unknown among the English. But of course it gets bums on seats between lunch and dinner and contributes to the expanding profits and waistlines of sellers and buyers respectively.

    Nice that the article included some more modestly priced options, but even these places are geared towards the tourist dollar.

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