There aren’t many pastimes quite as British as sitting down to afternoon tea. The exquisite, finely cut sandwiches, the warm, fresh scones served with clotted cream and homemade jam and, of course, the loose-leaf tea poured into delicate china teacups. But what you may not know is that you don’t need to stick to traditional tea rooms to enjoy this oh-so-British ritual. Check out these unique locations to take your tea.
1. On a train
Hop aboard the Belmond Northern Belle – sister to the Venice Simplon Orient Express – and you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time, to an era when rail travel was the height of sophistication. Here, musicians roam the carriages and sustenance can be found in just-baked scones, perfect finger sandwiches, tea and champagne.
Belmond Northern Belle also hosts a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (an Alice in Wonderland-themed event) and a Laurent Perrier afternoon tea, where passengers are treated to four types of vintage champagne. Journeys depart from various British cities including Glasgow, York and Manchester.
2. At the theatre
The National Theatre is renowned for an afternoon tea that is as theatrical and captivating as its productions. Roll up and you can enjoy classic afternoon tea with a twist, inspired by some of the National Theatre’s most celebrated shows. There is the limited-edition Pinocchio Afternoon Tea, available after matinees and before evening performances of Pinocchio, as well as afternoon teas themed around One Man, Two Guvnors, Sweeney Todd, and Anything Goes. Settle in for the gastronomic show, which begins with ‘Curtain Up!’ (a delicious Bellini), followed by two tasty ‘Acts’. During interval you can pick up your ‘Ice cream according to Ivanov’ and teas can be bumped up with a glass or bottle of Champagne, or an espresso martini.
3. In a prison
Unusual, but entirely doable. And more than that, you’ll be helping out a very good cause by having afternoon tea in The Clink – a fantastic charity that aims to reduce the reoffending rates of ex-offenders by offering top-class training in hospitality and catering. The lucky recipient of all this wonderful training is, of course, you! There are branches of The Clink in London, Surrey, Cheshire (north-west England) and Wales. Head to the Cardiff restaurant to enjoy a lovely afternoon tea, featuring warm scones and perfectly made sandwiches.
4. On a bus
Tick two must-do London activities off with the one fell swoop with the BB Afternoon Tea Bus Tour on one of London’s iconic red double decker buses. The ride on the Routemaster – as it is officially known – is decked (sorry) out with tasty treats over and above what you would ever expect at a traditional afternoon tea. Delight in sampling the macarons, mini cupcakes, pastries, scones, quiche and, of course, tea, as you and your friends are taken to London’s most iconic sights: the London Eye, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Piccadilly Circus and more.
5. On the Titanic (well, almost!)
Perhaps the best way to experience the grandeur of the original Titanic is to take Sunday afternoon tea in the Titanic Suite at Titanic Belfast – the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience and major attraction in Northern Ireland. Against a backdrop of live jazz and the stunning replica staircase from the film starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, you’ll be able to enjoy the wonderful five-star service, tempting cakes, finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, as well as a fine array of teas. Step back in time and experience the mood of a bygone era, right down to the exquisite afternoon tea.
In the classic style
Love the afternoon tea idea but prefer to enjoy your dainty sandwiches and Earl Grey in a slightly more traditional way? Make sure you check out London’s 10 Best Places For High Tea as well as A Very Proper High Tea With Wedgewood.