Afternoon delights

Tickle your tastebuds with London's trendiest afternoon teasA few years ago, London’s afternoon teas were the preserve of grannies and tourists. Bored chefs banged out tired cakes and stodgy scones to undiscerning clientele. Then came the biggest tea revolution since that famous party in Boston back in 1773.Five years ago, the glamorous Berkeley Hotel launched its fashionable Pret-a-portea, setting a trend for stylish afternoon tête-à-têtes over a cuppa. Models, designers and editors flocked to it, reclaiming the classic British tradition for a more modern purpose – as a place to schmooze (and often booze) with friends and colleagues in a chic setting. Savile Row suits rub shoulders with rock stars and art-school graduates.Of course you can still get a limp cucumber sandwich and stodgy scone at plenty of tired establishments, but savvy Londoners know where to go for an afternoon to remember. From The Berkeley’s glam Caramel Room to Momo’s hip café and Sanctum Soho’s rock-n-roll restaurant, you’re more likely to see a Shoreditch hipster or a Hollywood A-lister here than an OAP from the provinces.The only caveat? Getting a seat at the coolest venues is more difficult than gaining access to the city’s most exclusive nightclubs. After all, if Madonna, Kylie and Kate Moss can’t even sweet-talk their way to a coveted table without reservations, you can be pretty sure your £5 handshake to the maître d' isn’t going to have the desired effect. Book well in advance if you want a chance of enjoying the city’s trendiest afternoon teas.Pret-a-portea, The Berkeley HotelStylistas get a taste of the latest catwalk collection at Pret-a-portea, where haute couture becomes hip cuisine in The Berkeley’s intimate Caramel Room. Nibble a Roland Mouret gateau dress, crunch on a Christian Louboutin red-soled biscuit shoe or have a bite of a Philip Treacy chocolate hat cake. Better still, these gastronomic recreations taste as gorgeous as they look. Pret-a-portea changes twice a year with the major fashion shows, so regular visitors are always nibbling the world’s most of-the-moment styles. A menu showcases the clothes, shoes and accessories that inspired the design of the pastries, and the resemblance is often astonishing. Fashionistas pack in here, especially during London Fashion Weeks (usually February and September), so booking is essential. Daily 1-6pm; £35; Wilton Place, Knightsbridge; +44 (0)20 7201 1619, Royale, The Langham HotelRaise a glass to the happy couple with a regal afternoon at The Langham, winner of the British Tea Guild’s Best London Afternoon Tea 2010. While Buckingham Palace prepares for Prince William and Kate Middleton to tie the knot on 29 April, you can engage in Royal Wedding-inspired delicacies at the first hotel to start the afternoon tea tradition. Seated in The Langham’s jewel-box Palm Court, you’re served sandwiches suitable for a prince – lobster and cucumber with fennel pollen, Scottish salmon poached in pink Champagne. After the traditional scones, the ceremony continues with miniature Westminster Abbey chocolate cake and Apricot and Raspberry Royal Crown, rounding off a right royal treat. Daily in April 2011, 2-6pm; £51.50 including glass of Champagne; 1c Portland Place, Regent Street; +44 (0)20 7636 1000, Hatter’s Afternoon Tea, The SandersonCreated to coincide with Johnny Depp’s fanciful performance as the Mad Hatter in last year’s Alice in Wonderland blockbuster, the tea has been such a hit that this sleek design hotel has extended its run. Enter Wonderland via an ‘Eat Me’ layer cake and a ‘Drink Me’ banana, peanut and sea salt smoothie. Grin like a Cheshire cat as you scoff rainbow-coloured finger sandwiches, a Queen of Hearts tea cake and passion fruit tart, topped with the White Rabbit's pocket watch. Continue the whimsy by sidling over to the hotel’s fantastical Purple Bar for a post-tea Rhubarb and Raspberry cocktail – assuming, of course, you’re not already late for a very important date. Daily from 2:30-5:30pm; £25; 50 Berners Street, Soho; +44 (0) 20 7300 1400, www.sandersonlondon.comAfternoon De-light, The Metropolitan HotelThe problem with the trend for frequent afternoon teas is that the calories add up. Cucumber and egg mayo sandwiches aside, most elements have so much sugar and butter, you’ll be paying for your afternoon’s pleasure for weeks at the gym. It’s enough to put you off even the most tantalising of teas. Calorie-counters need fear the cake no more. The Met’s Afternoon De-light is the saintly solution for svelte city-slickers. Get your fill with airy olive-oil muffins, light potato-flour scones served with crème fraiche, no-bread sandwich pots, stewed fruit cups and oversized fruit-filled macaroons. In February, The Met is adding a wicked twist to its angelic afternoon treat, with tantalising ginger, chilli-chocolate and Champagne variations for naughty Valentines. Monday to Saturday, 2pm-6pm; £25; Old Park Lane, Mayfair; +44 (0)20 7447 1000, at MomoBored with finger sandwiches? Had enough of Earl Grey? Escape the trad tea with a trip to Marrakech – in Mayfair. Perennially chic eatery Momo has given a modish Moroccan twist to the English classic. Seated on cushion-strewn banquettes, with Arabic lanterns casting an atmospheric glow, you’ll be served Maghrebine pastries, apple and saffron tarts, spiced vegetable quiche and pistachio macaroons alongside classic scones and fruity cheesecakes. Accompanying the meal are Moroccan-style mint tea, exotic Fakir or Hammam tea, and an optional hookah pipe for the full Middle Eastern experience. Daily 2.30-5.30pm; £22; 25 Heddon Street, Mayfair; + 44 (0)20 7434 4040, www.momoresto.comGentleman’s Afternoon Tea, Sanctum SohoForget feminine frippery. Rock-star favourite Sanctum Soho hotel has devised an undeniably macho menu. Oysters with Bloody Mary relish, seared steak, lamb hotpot and mini beef burger create a menu manly enough to put hairs on Gok Wan’s chest. Sure, it’s served with tea, but with a side tankard of Jack Daniels and a cigar. Famous vegans Woody Harrelson, Morrisey and Joaquin Phoenix might not feel the need for such a fleshy affirmation of manliness, but if you want an afternoon tea with a dose of testosterone, this is the one for you. Daily 2-6pm; £50; 20 Warwick Street, Soho, +44 (0)20 7292 6100, www.sanctumsoho.comTLSee Afternoon Tea, The HowardTaking the quintessential London Afternoon Tea experience to the extreme, The Howard builds onto the typical sarnies, scones and cakes combo with the addition of landmark petit fours. Chow down on a chocolate Big Ben. Scoff a shortbread Tower Bridge. Sink your teeth into a marzipan St Paul’s. Hail a ride on a hazelnut Routemaster bus. Sure, it’s a bit touristy, but it’s also oh-so-London that any true Cockney will find it hard to resist. And it’s the only way to tick off all the city’s major sites without having to queue. Daily 11am-7.30pm; £32; Temple Place, Aldwych; +44 (0) 20 7836 3555,