Not content with the plain finger sandwiches and scones of old, London has seen a glut of themed afternoon teas recently. While the dainty snacks and sweet treats are still very much in place, many experiences have been given a creative overhaul to transport diners to the worlds of their favourite books and characters. While some are short-term menus, only available for a few weeks, these stalwarts have been around for a while.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory afternoon tea at One Aldwych
Candy floss, chocolate milkshakes and character-themed menus all feature in this Charlie and the Chocolate factory afternoon tea, based on Roald Dahl's imaginative children's book. The chefs behind it have been pretty creative too — think a tomato soup and roast beef 'marshmallow meal', bacon toffee jam to top your savoury scones, and snozzberry jam on the sweet ones. There's even the option of a chocolate tea to wash it all down.
Mad Hatters afternoon tea at The Sanderson Hotel, Fitzrovia
You're invited to a Mad Hatter's Tea Party at the Sanderson Hotel. The Alice in Wonderland afternoon tea takes you beyond the rabbit hole, with savoury and sweet treats served on charming crockery, all themed on Lewis Carroll's ultra-imaginative books.
Menus and hidden inside vintage books and teapots, and include a Queen of Hearts Jammy Dodger, a pocket watch macaroon and a 'drink me' potion to wash it all down.
Note: Fancy dress is not allowed — although you may well end up leaving with a Cheshire Cat grin on your face.
London Landmarks afternoon tea at The Town House, Kensington
Tea is served on a miniature London Eye at the London Landmarks afternoon tea, with landmarks represented in cake form. Big Ben takes the form of a lemon custard tart, The Gherkin is a chocolate ganache, The Shard is made from carrot cake and a red telephone box is created in rhubarb mousse. The capital never looked so tasty.
Peter Rabbit afternoon tea at Le Meridien Piccadilly
Edible flower pots, chocolate mud, and veggies you'll actually want to eat — that's the size of things at this charming Peter Rabbit afternoon tea, themed on Beatrix Potter's endearing characters.
Served on a wood and slate plant pot stand, the whole thing has a gardening theme, and it's a refreshing feeling to walk away from an afternoon tea feeling like you've stocked up on vegetables, rather than sickly sweet E-numbers.
Cinderella carriage afternoon tea at The Tea Terrace
Dine like a prince(ss) at The Tea Terrace inside House of Fraser on Oxford Street and in Victoria. The eclectically-decorated tearooms each have golden vintage carriages in, available for private hire to eat your afternoon tea in.
While the food itself isn't themed, it is a good value menu. Unlike most afternoon teas, you can choose your own sandwich fillings — useful for fussier eaters. There is a hire charge and a minimum spend if you want to hire the carriage — and you can even hire Cinderella for an extra cost.
The Potion Room afternoon tea at Cutter & Squidge
Fans of a certain fictional wizarding school will love the Potion Room at Cutter & Squidge. Don your cloak, grab your wand and descend into the Soho basement for a potions class afternoon tea. Under the guidance of a knowledgable but eccentric witch, whip up all manner of potions before tucking into your magical meal.
Mary Poppins afternoon tea at Aqua Shard
Step in time, step in time... all the way up to Aqua Shard, on the 31st floor of The Shard. If the views weren't enough to tempt you up there, the Mary Poppins afternoon tea should do the trick. Surround yourself with carpet bags as your meal appears, overseen by an umbrella as if it's floated right to your table. Candy floss, Mary's chocolate and cherry hat and a 'back to front zoo' tart feature, with nods given to various characters from the film and book throughout the meal.
Van Gogh art afternoon tea at The Rosewood, Holborn
Vincent Van Gogh is the inspiration behind The Rosewood's Art afternoon tea. Tuck into finger sandwiches and scones, followed by a trio of pastries inspired by three of the artist's works; Sunflowers, Starry Night and Almond Blossoms.
Themed afternoon tea at Kona at St James Court
Tucked away in a colourful but private courtyard, Kona has a regularly changing rota of themed afternoon teas, normally offering at least two of them at once. Past incarnations have included Sherlock Holmes, complete with pipe and deerstalker.
At time of writing, pick from a Candy Striped Carousel (Mary Poppins) theme, with food served on a mechanical carousel, a Jasmine Indian afternoon tea, and an Alice in Wonderland tea party. Always worth checking what's currently on, but rest assured we've never been disappointed on a trip to Kona.
Afternoon tea at The Pelham, The Gore and The Franklin hotels, South Kensington
This trio of west London hotels, all belonging to the Starhotels Collezione group, usually have a themed afternoon tea going on. Usually, they're based on current exhibitions at the nearby V&A Museum — past menus have covered Winnie the Pooh, Frida Kahlo and Christian Dior.
At time of writing, an afternoon tea is dedicated to fashion designer Mary Quant at The Pelham, while The Gore celebrates all things rock 'n' roll. Check The Pelham, The Gore and The Franklin websites to see which afternoon tea is currently being offered at each venue — the presentation is always playful and creative, and the food always top-notch.