Pounding the freezing pavements of London in search of the perfect Christmas gift can be thirsty work, we find. So, why not take advantage of the multitude of festively themed afternoon teas on offer throughout December and treat yourself to a post-shopping treat. Whether you're hitting Oxford Street, the upmarket Chelsea stores of SW3 or are staying local, there's sure to be a teatime treat for you - mince pies as standard.
Royal Garden Hotel
Should you find yourselves in Kensington, nip into the five star Royal Garden Hotel overlooking Kensington Gardens for a mini-retreat from the Christmas crowds. Their Festive Royal Tea is a feast for the eyes with an array of seasonal treats; think cookie and milk pannacotta, red velvet and peppermint opera cake and our personal favourite, the Baileys and chocolate choux bun, to name but a few. All of this is served up with festive finger sandwiches and a glass of Theophile Roederer Champagne for £41 per person.
The upmarket Malmaison hotel chain has a nice little number in Farringdon, and here you'll find their Festive Afternoon Tea running from 1st-31st December with a well deserved break for Christmas Day. It involves Christmas cake, mince pies, gingerbread, yule log, sherry trifle (yesssss), a turkey, cranberry and stuffing wrap, pig-in-blanket brioche roll and more and is just £25. We know.
For an afternoon steeped in tradition and ceremony, stop off at Westminster Abbey, where its Cellarium Cafe & Terrace is putting on a special Christmas themed afternoon tea. Take Christmas spiced tea, brussel sprout and Stilton tarts, gingerbread stars and cranberry bellinis in breathtaking and historic surroundings of the ancient cellars. Served daily for £25 including bellini and booking is recommended.
Chelsea's much-loved Bluebird is getting in on the action with a decadent three-tiered Festive Afternoon Tea. Take the weight off after hitting the Kings Road for your Christmas shopping and settle back to enjoy seasonal sandwiches like turkey, stuffing and cranberry, smoked salmon and cream cheese and a delicious spiced pumpkin brioche. Of course there are mince pies, Christmas pudding and a chocolate yule log, all served alongside champagne and wintry warming cocktails.
The Petersham Hotel
Richmond-dwellers will be happy to hear that the swish Petersham Hotel is putting on a Festive Afternoon Tea for the season. Not to be confused with its famous Nursery neighbour, this tea takes place in the Hotel's restaurant and involves Christmas-inspired finger sandwiches like turkey and cranberry, and smoked cheese with cider chutney. There's also an tempting selection of Christmassy cupcakes, Christmas cake, gingerbread and the best bit is that it's all enjoyed with stunning floor to ceiling views of the Thames and the meadows. Lovely. £27.50 a head or £12.75 extra for champagne.
Lanes of London
Where better to stop off after a hard morning's Christmas shopping, than the glamorous Lanes of London? During December their Festive Afternoon Tea makes it an absolute must. Handily situated near the Marble Arch end of Oxford Street, step away from the hustle and bustle and tuck into inventive nibbles like duck bacon with wholegrain mustard mayo and maple syrup. There's also prawn and creme fraiche topped with caviar and a divine selection of sweet treats like mulled apple and gingerbread Noel. The tea is £22.50 or £39.95 if you opt for free flowing rose Champagne, and quite frankly, why wouldn't you?
InterContinental London - The O2
Out on the Greenwich peninsular, the InterContinental London - The O2 has a lovely Festive Afternoon Tea on offer this Christmas. The Meridian Lounge plays host to a serving of 34 artisanal teas from The East India Company with seasonally themed pastries aplenty. We like the sound of the truffle egg mayo on brioche and the clementine bonbon tart. Top yourself up with a glass of Ruinart Brut NV or Ruinart Rose NV Champagne for £44, or stick to tea for £31.
Little Nan's Bar
If you fancy something a bit less formal and a bit more, er, kitsch then Deptford Market Yard's Little Nan's is the one for you. Channelling all manner of Pat Butcher with leopard print and chintz galore, their Festive Afternoon Tea is everything you'd hope for. There's a 'Merry Tristmas, you filthy Animal' cocktail of Baileys, Licor43, peanut butter, Nutella, milk and cream and hot mulled spiced apple juice that you are free to spike with whatever you like. Of course there's seasonal treats too - and some for any canine pals if you let them know in advance.
The Flour Station
The Flour Station, Camden Market's lovely on-site bakery, is bringing a festive afternoon tea to the Stables from 2nd December. £28 will get you tea for two with a traditional tower of goodies comprising fresh baked sourdough rolls with artisanal cheeses, proper fresh scones with jam and cream and a top tier of cakey delights. There's a chocolate glazed bundt with redcurrants, a mince pie, chocolate shortbread Christmas tree with raspberry and pistachio, a shortbread snowflake and choc orange crinkle. If you've still room you could attempt their mince pie/croissant hybrid - they're calling it a 'Mincessant'. Oh and you can amp the tea up with mulled wine for a bit extra, if you like.