Recipes: London’s Best Afternoon Teas & Cocktails

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Tea in the Garden Room at The Draycott Hotel, Chelsea, London

Brexit or no, the British capital is a magnet for arts and culture seekers – and the best afternoon teas and cocktails, too. And, in a year where there’s so much to celebrate, London is hotter than ever. April 21 marked Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday – but the celebrations ran well into June.

And, her majesty isn’t the only one celebrating a big day in 2016. Anniversaries in Great Britain included her grandson William and his bride Kate marking their 5th year of marriage; the 300th anniversary of the birth of landscape gardener extraordinaire Capability Brown (Churchill ran through his gardens at Blenheim Palace as a boy, just one of more than 170 designed by Brown); scribes Charlotte Bronte, Beatrix Potter and Roald Dahl clock in at 200, 150 and 100 respectively since their births and, the Bard himself, Shakespeare, took his final bow 400 years ago.


Punk, complete with safety pins, Vivienne Westwood insouciance and the menacing sneer of Johnny Rotten, made its stage debut 40 years ago, and anti-punk girl band, The Spice Girls, introduced us to Girl Power and their Spice World 20 years ago. God save the Queen. But, for the rest of us, when in London, do as the civilized do, and head to a hotel for a spot of afternoon tea. But take a tip from us: choose a spot that takes afternoon tea to a different level. Speaking of punk, check out the punk rock-inspired Anarch-Tea at the W hotel (above).

If literary and cocktail pursuits are more your thing, Wonderland makes its way onto the menu at the Sanderson, and gin-inspired afternoon tea ideas from St Martins Lane for you to try. And we couldn’t resist asking for a secret recipe or two, along with a few tips so you can have your own afternoon tea celebrations.

And for a most civilized tea, here, top five tips for taking afternoon tea, courtesy of The Draycott hotel:

Dress to impress– Smart casual clothing is always appropriate as afternoon tea is deemed a formal occasion

Know your teas – Most people believe these are all the same thing, but this is not true. Cream Tea is simply scones with tea; Afternoon Tea is tea with scones, sandwiches and cakes; Royal Tea consists of Champagne, tea, scones, savouries and sweets; High Tea is deemed as an early evening snack which is made up of savouries and tea.

Which first, cream or jam? – Afternoon tea critics are yet to agree on which goes first. The Devonshire tradition is cream then jam; the Cornish, however, believe in jam then cream. The conclusion? Either taste just as good to us!

No pinkie – Many believed this was first done to offset the balance of the cup and make it easier to drink. However, try this for yourself and its obvious this is not the case.

Pour the milk last – One should first add sugar (if required). This should then be followed by tea in order to check the strength meets your preference. After this you, or your maid, should then add milk (again if required).

Click here for more on the history and etiquette of afternoon tea from The Draycott Hotel.

Click through for  more of our picks of Afternoon Tea and cocktails, and recipes, of course, in London to try now.

The Garden Room Tea at the Draycott Hotel, Chelsea

Taking tea in the sitting room at this cosy five-star hotel in the tony and historic neighbourhood of Chelsea, is almost akin to taking tea in your own home. If, mind you, your home was a historic townhouse resplendent with antiques, plush sofas, a friendly, down-to-earth butler and a well-stocked bar. The view is of the private courtyard, where cherry blossoms carpet the grass in the spring, and where a picnic lunch, packed by the hotel’s chef, of course, can satiate the mid-day munchies. The guestrooms are as lovely, spacious with old-world touches without the old-world stuffiness. And fireplaces in some of the suites make for the perfect, order-room-service, romantic night in.


The Chef at The Draycott tells us that, for the following recipe, he ties in the rose water to represent the Chelsea flower show and the strawberries for Wimbledon.

NEXT: Recipe for Strawberry and Rosewater cream panna cotta


Strawberry and Rosewater cream panna cotta

First, make the purée. Weigh out 200g of hulled, washed strawberries and blitz in a blender. Pass the pulp through a fine sieve to remove any seeds and lumps and set aside in the fridge

  • 200g of strawberries

Start the panna cotta by soaking the gelatine leaves in rose water for 5 minutes

  • 2 gelatine leaves

Combine the milk, cream, sugar, vanilla pod a pinch of salt and a dash of rosewater in a pan and bring to the boil. Squeeze out any excess water from the gelatine leaves and add them to the cream mix. Whisk to dissolve then remove from the heat

  • 100ml of milk
  • 300ml of cream
  • 33g of sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • 1 pinch of salt

Thinly slice the remaining strawberries, sprinkle with sugar and arrange in the bottom of each glass (make sure you save a few for garnish)

  • 100g of strawberries
  • Set the pan of warm cream over a bowl of iced water to cool. Once it begins to set, whisk until smooth and drizzle some strawberry purée into the cream, without mixing
  • Twist the purée through the cream once, then pour into the serving glasses, so you have a ripple-effect with the strawberry and cream
  • Push a couple of sliced strawberries into the top of the mix, then place the glasses into the fridge to set for 2 hours before serving

NEXT: The Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea, Sanderson Hotel, Fitzrovia


The Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea, Sanderson Hotel, Fitzrovia

Don’t worry about being late for an important date – just book an Alice in Wonderland tea experience at this Philippe Starck designed Morgans Hotel outpost in the eclectic Fitzrovia neighbourhood, just above SoHo. Celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel, with such sweet, “Eat Me” items as Curious Carrot Meringue, Red Velvet ladybird and The Queen of Hearts Oreo Cookie Soldier, and you’ll be wearing a Cheshire Cat’s grin by tea’s end.

Of course, there are classic scones and Cornish clotted cream, and finger sandwiches filled with Cornish crab or Scottish Smoked Salmon, quail egg and caviar scotch egg (recipe, below), as well as cucumber and cream cheese, naturally. The five Sanderson-exclusive varieties of teas have names like Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat and Alice – a China black tea infused with hints of blackcurrant, vanilla, caramel, citrus, bergamot, blue cornflowers and blue mallow flowers. As pretty as the courtyard garden room and the vintage crockery that tea is served in.


Scottish smoked salmon, quail egg and caviar scotch egg dish

PORTION: 6 whole eggs; 12 portions

Ingredients                                              Amount

Smoked salmon no brown or skin 120
Dill chopped 3
Crème fraiche 20
Pepper 2
Eggs whole and milk 50/50 mix 3 each
Flour 300g
Gluten free bread crumbs 300g
Milk 150g
Quail eggs 6 each
Crème fraiche To garnish
Caviar To garnish



Chop the smoked salmon place in a mixing bowl add the chopped dill, crème fraiche and pepper cover and chill

Bring water to the boil in a sauce pan when boiling add the quail eggs cook for 2 and a half minutes and them refresh in ice water. When cool you can peel.

Role the peeled eggs in some of the flour so they are dry and wrap a thin layer of the salmon mix and chill for 10 minutes

Wisk the 150g milk with the 3 whole eggs place the milk and egg mix the flour and the gluten free bread crumbs in 3 separate bowls

Role the salmon wrapped eggs in the flour and then the milk and egg mix and then the gluten free bread crumbs and chill

To cook deep fry at 190oC for 2 minutes until golden drain and allow to cool for 1 minute before you cut in half

Garnish with crème fraiche and caviar.

NEXT: The new Afternoon Tea at The Den, St Martins Lane Hotel, Covent Garden


The new Afternoon Tea at The Den, St Martins Lane Hotel, Covent Garden

If you think you’ve accidentally stumbled into a gentleman’s lounge, you’re not too far wrong. The room – rather, “The Den,” as they call it here at St. Martins Lane Hotel – is a plush, dark wood and leather boîte just off the hotel lobby. Known for having a way with Gin cocktails, the bar and the hotel’s chefs are now experimenting with Afternoon Tea and, boy, are they having fun.

There’s nothing girly about this tea; savoury sandwiches are substantial artisanal-bun delights, eclairs and tarts are big enough to share. We were lucky enough to have a quick chat with Ludovic Mesplé, the head pastry chef who, well, has a way with pastries (don’t pass up the éclair!), and making a dainty sandwich a more, well, substantial affair. A Gentlemen’s tea, indeed. Our sweet tooth thanks you, Mr. Mesplé. But with that in mind, we still want our tea with a Gin Cocktail!


Cocktail: Pudding and Pye

Ingredients                                              Amount

Bombay Sapphire 50ml
Fever-Tree Tonic 200ml
Strawberry 1
Lime Slice 2
Mint Sprig 1

Glass: Gin glass with cubed ice

Method: Build the drink up over the cubed ice. Pour 50ml of Bombay Sapphire into the glass followed by 200ml of Fever-Tree tonic. Stir with a mixer. To decorate add the strawberry, lime slice and mint.

NEXT: Cocktails for two at the Polo Bar, The Westbury Hotel, Mayfair

Cocktails for two at the Polo Bar, The Westbury Hotel, Mayfair

The mixologists at the Polo Bar in the Westbury Hotel have definitely got many things right, but this one tops my list: it’s easy to get cocktail envy once you see the magical concoctions that arrive at table. But no reason to doubt your choice of drink. If you’re not sure which libation to have, they’ll provide you with a mini version of your companion’s drink to try. Brilliant. And pleasing to the eye, too, served up in mini coupes and martini glasses, you won’t be seeing double, just a mini-me version.

The Westbury is also a big fan of the theatre, and are offering a unique pre-theatre menu at Tsukiji, its jewel-box sized Japanese restaurant – we love the red wood interior offset by big windows showcasing the hip Mayfair ‘hood – yes, we said Japanese pre-theatre menu. And why not? The fare here is light and fresh, and the menu changes by the season.

Optics aside, if you’ve got time to take in a pre-theatre drink or post-theatre nightcap, classic cocktails with a historic twist top the menu at Polo Bar, and a renaissance of Pre-Prohibition recipes are whetting the appetites of the barmen and the patrons, alike. And you can’t help but want to linger and just sip. From the glittering Swarovski crystal and luxurious Fendi details to the sparkle of the bar’s habitués, the room is as much a part of the experience at this award-winning hotspot.

Here, two historic recipes that we think you’ll like to try:

Prince of Wales

Composed by Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later to be King Edward VII. Use a champagne flute for this cocktail.

Bulleit Rye whiskey, shaken with maraschino, pineapple juice, angostura and sugar syrup. Crown with Champagne.

Tuxedo Cocktail

Adapted from Harry Johnson’s Bartender Manual, 1882. Use a martini glass.

Hayman’s Old Tom gin mixed with dry vermouth, maraschino, orange bitters and Absinthe, served straight up.

NEXT: Dukes Bar, Ian Fleming, James Bond and a killer martini

Dukes Bar, Ian Fleming, James Bond and a killer martini

When Alessandro Palazzi joined the team at Dukes Bar at Dukes Hotel London (a Small Luxury Hotels of the World member) as head barman 10 years ago, he was already well-versed in the history of this upscale watering hole. “Ian Fleming’s writing inspired me to create the menu,” he tells me, as he prepares, at table from the legendary Dukes trolley, one of his now world-famous martinis. “It’s here, that Fleming was also inspired, to write the line “shaken, not stirred” for the Vesper martini. Palazzi, of course, mixes up the Classic Vesper (with Gin and Vodka), and his twists on classic Vodka martinis, including Odd Job (with Galliano) and Le Chiffre (a hint of orange liqueur), and cocktails such as Miss MoneyPenny (Ivan the Terrible Vodka, triple sec, fresh lime and, naturally, passion fruit juice), among many others, inspired by the 007 books. A friend and fellow tippler had warned me, the Martinis are spectacular at Dukes, but they are potent. Even a second helping may have me spinning, just a bit.

I, however, couldn’t resist something else from his menu, Strangways, after the ill-fated character James Strangways, an MI6 agent stationed in Jamaica and fellow spy of James Bond. For the Strangways, Palazzi combines:

Hendrick’s Gin

fresh cucumber

elderflower cordial

fresh lemon juice

Palazzi serves it in a chilled vintage coupe. Stunning and delicious.

As you can see from his minimalist recipes, Palazzi likes to freestyle it with his measurements, no “exact” anything. “There are already too many rules to remember in life,” he says, “so your Martini shouldn’t come with a set of instructions.” He suggests mixing it up a bit, and personalize your Martini. Want to stir it, rather than shake it? “Go right ahead!” he says, “if you love a Martini a certain way, that’s what makes it the most memorable, and perfect drink of all.

Here, another of his recipes you can try at home, inspired by this past spring’s Chelsea Flower Show. “A martini a day,” says Palazzi, “keeps the doctor away.” We’ll drink to that.;


Wildflower Martini

(Mediterranean aromas for a British Martini)

Tip: With an artisan London dry gin distilled with home-grown Tuscan botanicals, this Martini is evocative of the region. The herbal elements of olive leaves, thyme and lemon verbena come though, while the wild fennel is discrete but deliciously placed for added depth.


Sabatini Gin

Sacred DUKES Vermouth

Wild fennel flower infusion

Organic lemons from the Amalfi coast