London’s Creative Twists on Afternoon Tea

From “Prêt-à-Portea” repasts offering catwalk-worthy cakes to, well, cakes with cats, London is reinventing this traditional culinary indulgence. Here’s a taste of what’s brewing around the city.

Courtesy Dukes London.

Courtesy Dukes London

Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium

This residential-style dining room is a “fur”st for London. Lady Dinah’s kit-tea serves up a side of cats with your scones. No, tabbies and tomcats are not on the menu–but they are on the sofas, the chairs and, if you’re not careful, the tables, too.

Courtesy Lady Dinah's.

Courtesy Lady Dinah’s.

Resident “mewses” offer cuddles, perhaps in exchange for a taste of your clotted cream. You can check out their antics on the cat cafe’s Twitch channel or on their “purr”sonal Twitter account,@LadyDinahsCats.

You might think such a surfeit of feline celebrate-teas would give some diners “paws,” but the fur has been flying as kitty lovers try to claw their way in for a seating. Book well in advance, however, and you might just end up smiling like the cat that swallowed the canary.

The Berkeley

Drawing inspiration from the latest runway collections of designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Armani, Jean Paul Gaultier and the uber-British Burberry, The Berkeley’s “Prêt-à-Portea” provides truly fashionable fare, with cakes and cookies molded into the shape of clothes and accessories.

Courtesy The Berkeley

Just as couture houses change their collections quarterly, so, too, does the selection here change with the seasons. In the Autumn, for instance, fashionistas might find comfort in a bite-sized Prada camel coat-cum-chocolate biscuit, while in Summer, they may nibble on a Christian Louboutin turquoise-iced chocolate cookie stiletto (complete with red sole, naturellement) or a Victoria Beckham-inspired geometric print cherry and white chocolate mousse shirt. Talk about posh (ahem).

Courtesy The Berkeley.

Courtesy The Berkeley.

Dukes London

If you prefer a more spirited afternoon delight, you can indulge a taste for discrete decadence at Dukes London. Ian Fleming, creator of super-spy James Bond, was once a fixture at this legendary hotel’s bar, where he is said to have insisted that he preferred his martinis “shaken, not stirred.”

Courtesy Dukes London

Over the decades, Dukes’ famously strong martinis have lured a legion of gin lovers. Thus, it’s only fitting that the Mayfair hotel has introduced loyal devo-teas to their mar-tea-ni offering, combining a traditional afternoon tea with a trio of precisely-paired mini gin martinis. 

Colonel Saab

This modern Indian restaurant is housed in the former Holborn Town Hall in central London, but stepping through the door of Colonel Saab, you’re transported to a faraway land of OTT luxury—a sort of Mumbai-meets-Versailles aesthetic where more is more.

Why have one or two crystal chandeliers from Firozabad when you can have twenty? Why limit yourself to china place settings on the tables when you can display hundreds, perhaps thousands, of colourfully patterned plates on the walls, too? Why not hang those alongside 17th Century Tanjore paintings and historic photos of Indian figures and rituals, and maybe a pure silver door from a Gujarat temple, while you’re at it.

Colonel Saab’s salute to afternoon tea features de rigueur delectations such as raisin scones with clotted cream and jam, fruit cake slices, and coconut and Earl Gray cookies, alongside Indian-inspired elements like dhokla sandwiches (a spongy delicacy from Gujarat) with coriander and mint chutney, and macaroons flavoured with saffron and rose shrikhand (a traditional creamy dessert in Marathi and Gujarati cuisine). Hot beverages range from the usual suspects, such as English Breakfast and Lemon Verbena, to more exotic drinks, like Turmeric Latte, Persian Pomegranate, and Spiced Chai.

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