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Afternoon tea may have been born in England, but that doesn't mean it has to stay here. Venues all over the capital are serving international themed afternoon tea menus — a doughnut here, a splash of mint tea there. Here's how to eat your way around the world in afternoon tea in London.
French afternoon tea in London
French patisserie/bakery chain Paul has two more formal restaurants in London — one in Covent Garden, and the other at Tower 42 in the City. Both serve 'afternoon tea a la Francaise', a French twist on the British tradition. The usual scones are swapped out for brioche with whipped cream and jam, and macarons and French patisserie cakes are on the menu. Ooh la la.
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Elsewhere, French cheese specialist Champagne & Fromage offers afternoon tea at three of its London branches; Covent Garden, Greenwich and Brixton Village. It comes in at under £50 for two people, and includes a glass of champagne each, tea, a selection of four cheeses served with bread and jam, macarons, biscuits roses de riem (traditional pink French biscuits), and a salted caramel canelé.
Spanish afternoon tea in London
Ametsa, the Basque tapas restaurant inside Belgravia's Como The Halkin hotel, offers its own Spanish twist on afternoon tea. Savoury tapas takes the place of the usual sandwiches, including a tomato and raspberry soup shot, garlic pintxo and Iberico ham croquettes. We're sold, and that's before we even move onto the sweet section of the menu. Desserts here lean towards the fruity, with smoked pineapple, and mango torrija (a Spanish take on French toast) on offer.
Italian afternoon tea in London
Mamma Mia! Have you seen the afternoon tea menu at Baglioni Hotel in Kensington? Inspired by the venue's Italian roots, items pertain to different Italian regions — the menu even features a map explaining the origins of each dish.
Puglia is represented with brioche with caciocavallo cheese, Piemonte serves up a traditional brutti ma buoni (almond or hazelnut) biscuit, and traditional cannoli with candied orange fly the flag for Sicily. As you'd expect, a variety of cheese and meats feature, including gorgonzola and mortadella.
Go all in, or use the a la carte afternoon tea menu, and pick and choose which elements you want to tuck into. For us, priority goes to the cranberry scones served with Nutella.
Viennese afternoon tea in London
The usual English scones with jam and cream are available, but we'd recommend trying the alternative, poppy seed gugelhupf — it's a traditional Austrian loaf cake cooked in a bundt tin, and here it's served with apricot jam and whipped cream. If that alone intrigues you, or you have a smaller appetite, a less filling cream tea is available where you can sample just the gugelhupf.
Otherwise, go for the full afternoon tea and follow it up with a selection of pastries including a lemon and berry gugelhupf, apple and cinnamon strudel, black forest gâteau and vanilla kipferl (crescent-shaped doughy biscuits). A choice of teas is available to wash it all down with, or upgrade with a glass of Champagne Pommery Brut Royal NV.
American afternoon tea in London
French-American brasserie Balthazar nods to its stateside roots with its NY-Tea. The Covent Garden restaurant takes inspiration from the Big Apple, with sandwiches including a pastrami and egg bun, and cucumber, mint and hummus.
The desserts too have a decidedly American slant. Key lime pie sits alongside pecan pie, while the NYC theme is played up to with a New York-style cheesecake, and a peanut butter and 'jelly' eclair is topped with an image of the Statue of Liberty.
Restaurant CUT at 45 Park Lane, offers its own extremely indulgent take on an American afternoon tea. Begin with a smorgasboard of savouries including wagyu beef sliders, mini mac and cheese and southern fried chicken wings. Cleanse your palette with a strawberry milkshake before beginning on the desserts — key lime pie, New York cheesecake and red velvet cake are just some of the options. We imagine it's a meal you waddle, rather than walk, home from.
Chinese dim sum afternoon tea in London
Le Chinois, a Cantonese restaurant inside the Millennium London Hotel in Knightsbridge, extends its Chinese offerings to its afternoon tea.
The dim sum afternoon tea is split into savoury and sweet sections — begin with crispy shredded duck spring rolls, minced chicken wrapped in lettuce, and chai siu boa (barbecue pork bun). Follow up with the likes of red bean and pandan mochi cake, and fresh sliced mango.
Indian afternoon tea in London
We're huge fans of the afternoon tea offerings at Kona, inside Taj 51 Buckingham Gate hotel — previously home to a Sherlock Holmes menu, and currently serving up a charming candy stripe carousel offering.
Moving away from literary characters, Kona also offers a Jasmine Indian afternoon tea, inspired by traditional spices from across the country, and a love of tea. Sandwiches on the menu include spiced creamed cheese, and kachumbar pinwheel in beetroot bread, and gulab jamun (a traditional Indian dessert of deep fried and sugar poached milk dumplings) headlines the dessert section. Here's an idea of what to expect:
North African afternoon tea in London
Moroccan-inspired Momo extends its North African influences to afternoon tea, which is served on the Palm Terrace, among Moorish lanterns and rattan chairs.
Sandwiches include halloumi croque with tomato and basil, Tunisian fricassee with egg, tuna and olives, and cucumber with labneh and mint. Sweet options include Muhalabiya, a Middle Eastern milk pudding delicacy with strawberry rosewater, and an exotic twist on a lemon tartlette. Scones are date flavoured, served with quince and prickly pear jam. Sip on traditional Moroccan mint tea, or upgrade to champagne.
Middle Eastern afternoon tea in London
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Mamounia Lounge adds a Middle Eastern flair to afternoon tea at its Knightsbridge venue. Served on the traditional tiered stand, familiar items are given an exotic twist — think basil and halloumi wraps, date scones with prickly pear and strawberry jam, and gooey baklawa. Sweet Moroccan mint tea is provided as standard, or you can upgrade to champagne or gin.
Know any international afternoon teas in London that we're not aware of? Let us know in the comments.