Afternoon tea at The Wolseley
Best for: a taste of classic Mayfair
There is something deliciously opulent about going to The Wolseley in the middle of the day. This Mayfair stalwart, swathed in gold with imposing chandeliers and arching pillars and black-and-cream tiles, is best-known for its lavish breakfasts, topping our edit of the best brunch in London. Head through the velvet curtain at the door on an afternoon, though, to find groups of smartly dressed people being served tea from silver pots by suited waiters in the grande-dame dining room.
On the afternoon-tea menu, classic finger sandwiches include smoked salmon and smoked chicken. The vegetarian selection is just as varied and delicious: no endless egg-and-cress here. Instead, there¡¯s avocado, cucumber with mint, and celery with cream cheese, served on a variety of breads (sundried tomato, seeded and, our favourite, traditional, pillowy white). Second helpings are encouraged. Scones are of the fruity variety, kept warm under a cloche, to be topped with lashings of clotted cream and jam.
Pastries are surprisingly up-to-the-minute for a restaurant that trades so heavily (and so well) on old-school charm, and include a pistachio friand, baked cheesecake and a salted-caramel ¨¦clair. Be sure to share so you can try them all ¨C there¡¯s not a dud among them.
The Wolseley¡¯s afternoon tea is delicious, and you will, undoubtedly, leave feeling uncomfortably full, as with all of the teas on this list. But something about being in the humming, clinking, tinkling dining room with its high ceilings and attentive ¨C never over-bearing ¨C staff makes it extra special. Sarah James
Address: The Wolseley, 160 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1J 9EB
Price: Afternoon tea, ¡ê29.75; Champagne afternoon tea, ¡ê40