Afternoon Tea in London: My Attempt at Being Posh

I’ve been to London several times and have done most of the tourist things; except for one…. I had never had Afternoon Tea in London.

I had heard it was quite the production, but that it was also quite expensive.  Were sandwiches with their crusts cut off really worth the £30?  I didn’t like sandwiches that much, besides I am a celiac, meaning that I’m allergic to gluten – in other words sandwiches. A Google search of “gluten-free afternoon tea in London” almost immediately lead Jennifer from JDombs Travels and I to The Lanesborough.  Located directly across from Hyde Park and offering the self-proclaimed “finest afternoon tea in London.”  Curious as to what all the fuss was about, we decided to check it out.afternoon tea in London

Photo courtesy of The Lanesborough.

Our afternoon tea was served in a formal and stuffy room where the Queen of England would fit right in.  I, on the other hand with my jeans….But in my defense they were nice jeans and I was wearing a dressier (ish) shirt.   And I did not meet the Queen, or Kate, or William or any of the royals that day.  But I digress.

The first order of the day was to choose a tea.  I know the English like their tea, but I have never seen such a huge menu, all for tea.  They all sounded good, but I ended up choosing some kind of energizing fruit tea.  The name escapes me at the moment, but it was one of those cutesy names that caught my attention. And it was quite possibly the most fragrant and flavorful tea I have had – EVER!
afternoon tea in London
Next up, came the first round.  And yes that tray is just for one person:

afternoon tea in London

Photo courtesy of The Lanesborough.

Followed by two more courses.  I lost track, but there must have been more than 20 of the little sandwiches with no crusts/dessert thingies.  And of course there were also biscuits!

Jennifer and I snapped photos like crazy, believing we were being subtle about it since we were only using our iPhones.  We were in a very posh place after all! The amused looks we got from the other tables indicated otherwise.  Aggh commoners!

I didn’t eat everything (I’m a picky eater) but I did sample everything.  If you don’t think that finger food can fill you up, you’re just not eating enough.  I left stuffed and skipped dinner that evening.

In summary, afternoon tea is an entertaining way to spend an afternoon in London.  After seeing all the food that was served I think the £30 was reasonable (although definitely not cheap) despite my initial doubts.  I won’t be doing afternoon tea every time I come to London but then again, most Brits that I know don’t make a regular habit out of high tea either.

Is the Lanesborough the best afternoon tea in London as it self-proclaims?  It was nice, but as it was my first afternoon tea in London I have nothing to compare it to so can’t say either way.

What I do know is that I failed royally at being posh.  But then again I’ve only slept one night in a castle hotel.  Clearly I need more practice and shinier hair – just like Kate!

Afternoon Tea in London:  Know Before You Go

  • Make a reservation in advance.
  • If you have special dietary requirements (like gluten-free or vegetarian) indicate this at the time you make your reservation.
  • I was surprised to learn that Afternoon Tea is served in late afternoon.  The earliest sitting was at 4:00.
  • Dress up a little bit.
  • Think of intelligent conversation…..just in case you do happen to meet the Queen or any other member of the royal family.

Note:  Photos are not of the gluten-free afternoon tea.  My photos mysteriously disappeared.

Edit:  This post was originally called “High Tea” in London.  My friends from London who are obviously much posher than I am informed me that I had “Afternoon Tea” which is different from “High Tea”. Trying to be posh, I have changed all previous references from “High Tea” to “Afternoon Tea.”



  1. says

    Quite posh! I had High Tea once in London — it was wonderful, but not as elegant as your experience. I’ll put the Lanesborough (and the Ritz) on the list for future teas.

  2. says

    Looks lovely! I’m eying the cakes right now… yummy! I love bite sizes so that you can taste a bit of everything and you don’t get stuffed.

  3. says

    The whole experience sounds fabulous. It’s great to know that there are beautiful and delicious GF tea cakes and and sandwiches. You get used to looking at the gorgeous food and then getting a dry rice cake. Thanks for sharing this.

    • says

      @Mary – It really was and I was impressed by the quality of the gluten-free cakes and sandwiches. Had I not known it was gluten free, I would have never known.

  4. Katherina says

    Sounds like a good plan for a rainy sunday! Despite having been living in London for a year… I haven’t yet made it to a proper tea afternoon – I always thought that I was a bit too expensive. But based on what you say, it seems fair for the amount of bites you get. I’ll add it to my to-do list!

    • says

      @Katherina – It’s perfect for a rainy day and definitely worth doing – just not on a regular basis, for me at least. Hope you’re enjoying London!

  5. says

    I’m definitely not posh enough for this! I’m not a fan of tea or all the froofy food that goes with it. But it does sound like an interesting experience, and I’m glad you were able to find one that does gluten-free food!

    • says

      @Ali – I was surprised at how good the tea was and enjoyed the “froofy food” as you put it more than expected and it was actually good gluten-free food which can be hard to come by, especially for breads and pastries.

  6. says

    Sounds like the price is worth it. I’ve often wondered if it would be worth it to go to High Tea. Next time we’re in London, I think we’ll have to go. I’m glad that you can walk away feeling satisfied.

  7. says

    I can well imagine the looks you got from some people when you snapped photos. I’ve never had tea and have always wanted to try it at the Empress Hotel in Victoria. One day and I will remember to plan on not having any dinner. It is a lot of food.
    Now what would the Queen like to discuss do you think? I’ll have to ponder that.

    • says

      @Leigh – I’ve heard it’s good at the Banff Springs as well, but haven’t tried it. I’ll have to ponder a little more too about what to say to the Queen, or any royalty that I meet. Somehow I think Prince Harry’s naked photos would not make the top of the list of her preferred topics :)

  8. says

    I honestly can’t remember if I ever had afternoon tea in London, being English I guess I’ve had quite a few over the years (though, as you say, it isn’t something one does every day!). However, Laurel, you definitely need to “come up North” to experience the “real” thing!!! We should arrange to meet up in the Lake District or Yorkshire somewhere one day to have a more relaxed and friendly version :=) Date?

  9. says

    Wonderful! Thank you for the yummy-looking photos. I love this kind of thing, and will try it when I get to London in the future. In the meantime, thanks for letting me live vicariously through you.

  10. says

    You can get high tea from Harrods as well, just ask them for the gluten-free option and they will do it for you. When I was a tour director I often had guests who needed gluten-free and Harrod’s happily accommodated them.

    • says

      @Roni – That’s great to know, thanks so much and I would love to try it at Harrods. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find a gluten-free tea, so great to know that there are a couple of options.

  11. Andrea says

    I’ve always wanted to do this but the timing is never good to me – mid afternoons I’m always out doing something and I’d be too full from lunch or too worried about spoiling my dinner appetite to enjoy this. We actually did one in Jordan (it was called an Arabesque tea, a twist on traditional high tea) at the Four Seasons and, while very good, I could not move after (or eat my dinner that night)!

    • says

      @Andrea – I know what you mean, I think that’s why it took me so long to do it. An Arabesque tea sounds very interesting and sounds like the quantity of food is similar to that of an English tea :)

    • says

      @Christy – That put me off too which is why I hadn’t done it until recently. Fortunately the price is accompanied by a lot of food, so it’s not just tea and a few biscuits.

    • says

      @A Montrealer Abroad – Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll have to check it out. I was surprised at how late it was in the afternoon as well, agree that earlier would make sense. I guess it saves from having to eat dinner.

  12. says

    As a self-proclaimed tea fanatic, it sure is troubling that I never considered having High Tea – but seriously, I didn’t even know that it was an activity you would book and everything!! …Anyway, put it on my list now. Will shop around for a knee-length flowery dress in pastell colours and white gloves (oh wait! I have white gloves!) to prepare myself. And maybe watch “My Fair Lady”. Although I’ll ruin any good impression I might be able to make by stuffing my face silly with cakes – there’s no “I didn’t eat everything” in my world, unfortunately…

    • says

      @Vera – I didn’t realize you had to book in advance either. You’ll have to send me the photos of you all dressed up – I can just picture it!

  13. says

    Looks like such fun and gluten-free too – wonderful! I wish we’d done this on our last jaunt to London.

    Laurel, I know you’re in Munich – we’re currently visiting Oberammergau. Do you know of any good gluten-free spots in Munich, or any directories to search establishments in Germany? Danke!

  14. says

    I’m always up for high tea. Thankfully there are many places in the states that do it, too. But I have yet to go to one in London (or in England for that matter). I’m sure that will be my highlight of my trip there again, someday soon.

  15. says

    I’ve crossed the ocean several times on Cunard ships. They name their ships after queens and it shows in the the decidedly british presentation of things including high tea at sea. It really is an interesting thing.
    I found that I like scones with jam a lot better than cucumber sandwiches. Cool that someone has done a gluten-free tea.

  16. says

    This high tea is gorgeous & a great read! That’s so cool that tray of food was just for you, what a deal!
    We will definitely be sharing this for our #GwOFoodie month, such a lovely piece!
    We totally agree that giant tea menus can be quite intimidating!

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