So many friends, so many scones!
I love cream tea, and every time a friend comes to visit provides a perfect excuse to explore yet another tea spot, for yet another spot of tea :)
Cream tea consists of a pot of tea and two scones with clotted cream and jam. You can get it for as little as £4.95 at the Tate Modern Cafe (2nd floor), or for a heftier £18 at the Fortnum & Mason Parlour, where it comes with a selection of ice cream cakes. Mid-range for cream tea is around £7-8, and about double that for afternoon tea. Afternoon tea usually comes with an assortment of scones, cake and those quintessentially British crust-free cucumber, salmon, egg salad sandwiches cut in quarters.
Fortnum & Mason: £18
Fortnum & Mason was my first high tea experience. We went to the Parlour because the St. James’ restaurant, which is most famous for high tea, was under renovation at the time. The Parlour has a whimsical fifties feel and specializes in ice cream creations. They give you two adorable complimentary mini ice cream cones when you’re seated. The afternoon tea menu here includes all you see above (though this was a double portion for both me and S): a large pot of tea, several delectable mini ice cream cakes, two scones, clotted cream and jam. Perhaps because it was my first experience, I really do think I may have enjoyed the tea here the most. In addition to which of course, it really may be as good as its reputation. About a week ago, in fact, the Queen, the Duchesses of York and Cambridge and the mayor all stepped over to Fortnum and Mason for a “royal tea party“!
*Tip: It’s worth making reservations in advance here. Because we’d made a reservation, S and I got seated right away, but we passed by some very impatient-looking customers waiting on a very long line.
Bea’s of Bloomsbury: £7.50
A review described the scones here as “too-crumbly,” and I was inclined to agree. I haven’t been paying extra attention so as to compare the various places I’ve been, and I haven’t even been particularly careful about taking pictures either because so much of the tea experience for me is just about the company I’m with. I went to the Bloomsbury location, which didn’t have the best ambience, though I hear the St. Paul’s location is better. But I still loved it; it was a nice getaway and the staff were lovely. The clotted cream and jam here have been my favorite so far, I think.
Camellia’s Tea House: £6.50
(Photo at the top of this post.)
Tucked away in a quiet plaza in Soho, Camellia’s Tea House is surprisingly spacious and wins for most creative interior design. So much attention to detail. When A and I were here, we talked to the owner and we could tell from talking to her and just from looking around at how much thought and care went into the place. The scones were a little on the dry side, I thought, but the selection of teas was impressive and it was a treat to have found such a surprisingly spacious yet cozily arranged space.
Soho’s Secret Tea Room: £7.50
The speakeasy of tea rooms, Soho’s Secret Tea Room is upstairs behind the bar of the Coach and Horses pub on Greek Street. There’s a sign outside, so it’s not quite so secret, but I invited out-of-town friends who had just flown in that morning, and I was quite relieved that they managed to find it without too much trouble! I call it the speakeasy of tea rooms because it’s hidden away, the music is swing and foxtrot and it seems you’re expected to book in advance. They still let us in with a large group, and we went upstairs to find a place that really feels like sitting in someone’s parlor for tea! A beautiful fireplace, lace tablecloths and eclectically floral china gave it a very homey feel. The jam was quite tart and tasty, but I think I do prefer my jam sweet—I ended up adding sugar to it! The scones here, I thought, were on the smaller and dryer side. Yes, scones are almost always on the dry side, but that means when I say they’re on the dryer side, they’re pretty dry. Haha.
(The sandwiches pictured are not included with cream tea, but they are very good!)
Victoria & Albert Cafe: ~£6.00
This is a self-service cafe, but you get a beautiful ambience for an affordable price! It’s a nice break after perusing the museum’s incredibly vast collection for a few hours to sit in an elegant tea room with crystal chandeliers, stained glass windows and a grand piano, and have a refreshing pot of tea. I remember liking the scones here especially. So much that when J couldn’t finish hers, I gladly finished it off for her :)
Tate Modern Cafe: £4.95
Unsurprisingly, the tea here was served in the most modern crockery. Here, you get one largeish scone and a pot of tea, but for a modest £4.95, making it the best deal I’ve found so far. We went rather late in the day, so they didn’t have enough scones for everyone, but I was too stuffed to fit in another scone anyway, so I settled for a pot of surprisingly delicious English Breakfast. I suppose it was an unfair assumption, but I guess I made a mental association with tea as traditional, therefore modern art museum might have a subpar tea experience. Instead, I got a great floor-to-ceiling window view across the Thames to St. Paul’s along with an excellently brewed pot of tea! Not bad indeed.
Not satisfied with my list? I’ve been working my way through this list, as well as keeping an ear to the ground for reviews and recommendations from friends. I’ve had afternoon tea for the past four days in a row, and I wouldn’t mind keeping this streak going. Suggestions most welcome!