London Walking Tours    with Joanna Moncrieff

A nice cup of tea

Our exam walk has two subjects that crop up throughout the whole walk – one is Americans as there is a strong American connection in Mayfair – and the other is afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea is of course a very British institution and it seems to have become a meal in its own right at a price to match. Prices range from £37 at the Ritz to an amazing £6.25 (granted a much smaller tea) at Sothebys. If you want to have tea at the Ritz you need to book at least 12 weeks in advance and if you want afternoon tea on Christmas Day you will have to wait until Christmas 2010 as it’s already fully booked this year.

Browns in Albemarle Street won the Tea Guild’s annual award for Top London Afternoon Tea earlier this year. They have a choice of 17 different teas with 2 dedicated tea sommeliers to help you make your choice. Their tea is £35.

Claridge’s tea includes a choice of 30 teas and they have also won a prestigious tea award this year. During Wimbledon fortnight their website indicates (although I may have misunderstood this) that guests taking afternoon tea (for £33) will be treated to strawberries, macaroons and a glass of champagne, served in a “garden party atmosphere”. If that is right that is a bargain.

At the other end of the scale the auction house Sothebys in New Bond Street do a “Small Tea” for the real bargain price of £6.25 which is perfect for people with small appetites like me. This comprises a toasted teacake, a portion of scones with clotted cream and jam and tea or coffee. Whilst you’re there you can preview any items coming up for auction or pop upstairs to the gallery to view one of the sales in progress which I did today. I watched a contemporary art sale and prices started at £20,000. There were plenty of people buying.

If you’re shopping for perfumes in Miller Harris in Bruton Street they have their own minature cafe at the back of the shop where you can partake in one of 3 fragrant teas. A pot of tea here isn’t cheap at £4 but it’s not exactly PG Tips. All teas are from Postcard Teas in Dering Street.

The last place I’ll mention isn’t strictly only for afternoon tea but if you can get past the intimidating shop assistants (and security guards) in Dover Street Market (not a market in the normal sense of the word with very expensive clothes for sale and bizarre animal skulls for just under £2000) and make your way up to the 4th floor you will find an unexpected light and airy unpretentious cafe. It’s set up rather like a slightly posher version of Food for Thought in Covent Garden with increased prices to match. The Rose Bakery was started by Rose Carrarini who co-founded Villandry in Marylebone and Rose and her French husband set up the original Rose Bakery in Paris in 2002. I haven’t yet eaten there but the reviews look good.

Of course there are many more I haven’t mentioned – not just Fortnum & Mason and The Connnaught Hotel – but other fashion stores and shops and I’m sure there are many more that I am still to discover.

This could be an idea for a themed walk. Watch this space …