Afternoon tea in London? DONE. Checked off my bucket list.
The issue I have with afternoon tea is that the vast majority of hotels and restaurants offer a variation of it; one really doesn’t have to go above and beyond to find one. However, the sad reality is that a very lucky few are something to write home about – tasteless scones, lukewarm tea, and unnecessarily heavy clotted cream are unfortunately a common fixture in a city where most tourists won’t even notice the difference between day-old and fresh-out-of-the-oven pâtisseries.
But not at sketch. You truly haven’t had a proper afternoon tea in London until you’ve sat down in sketch’s legendary monochromatic blush-coloured Gallery.
Afternoon Tea at sketch
The historic building in which sketch is housed was built in 1779 as the Royal Institute of British Architects; it later on became the London Atelier of famed haute-couture brand Christian Dior. With that in mind, it only seems fitting that sketch would not only celebrate but pursue the experimental, artsy heritage with its incredibly forward-thinking restaurants.
Well before my taste buds got excited by the sweet smorgasbord ahead of me, my camera and my hands got a life of their own and snapped every corner of this spectacular David Shrigley-designed room, which is complemented by the adjoining toilet pods (yes, I swear you read that right) and the exotic Glade room.
The attention to details – where the devil truly hides as far as interior design is concerned – is astounding. Everything, from the muted pink hue to the antiquey-looking champagne glasses, and from the cheeky works of art adorning the walls to Shrigley’s witty tableware, is impeccably assorted.
Was I impressed? Absolutely. It’s been just over a month since my visit and I am *still* talking about those finger sandwiches. I speak from experience when I say this: when cucumber sandwiches – one of the blandest possible dish ever imagined – are memorably fresh, crispy, and savoury, you know it’s bound to be a legendary afternoon tea.
What followed the enthusiastic photoshoot displayed above was an explosion of flavours, complemented by my and my friend Julie‘s entire lexical field of the word “yummy”. Hands up if you’ve got a sweet tooth that can handle more than the top button of your jeans ever will allow. I know I do!
Now, the menu:
- Assorted finger sandwiches: corn-fed coronation chicken, smoked salmon and Jacob’s tarragon cream, green asparagus and cucumber ricotta, mozzarella and pesto panini, as well as mayonnaise, egg, quail egg and caviar
- Sultana scones with fig & strawberry jam
- The sketch two-bites pastries: guariguette strawberry tartlet, Battenberg cake, opera, rhubarb cheesecake, Malabar marshmallow, Kalamansi meringue, as well as violet and raspberry choux
- And, to conclude, a full-sized sketch pastry: salted caramel chocolate fondant or caramelised scented cardamom pears and Tahiti vanilla dome
Yeah. I wasn’t lying. YUM.
Afternoon Tea at sketch – Is It Worth The Price?
The Glade room
At £45 per head, this afternoon of festivities doesn’t come cheap. Indeed, sketch is one of the priciest afternoon teas in London, especially if you #treatyoself to champagne (£57). But if you couldn’t already tell by my dithyrambic review of the menu and space, I think the experience is entirely worth it – because that’s exactly what it is: an experience.
This afternoon tea isn’t just about scones and herbal beverages. It’s about being immersed in a completely cohesive ensemble, from the über-feminine decor to the quirky tableware, from the out-of-this-world pastries to the impossibly photogenic displays. Even the washrooms are worth the detour, for heaven’s sake.
Although I’m certain afternoon tea at Claridge’s or the Lanesborough’s is really quite enjoyable in a quintessentially English sort of way, I would wholeheartedly recommend going at sketch for a truly unforgettable, distinguished, one-of-a-kind experience for all senses.
Afternoon Tea at sketch – Know Before You Go
- There is no official dress code for afternoon tea but you definitely want to put your most fashionable dress on. Although the staff was oh so kind to me, I was impossibly underdressed with my street-London-friendly-but-not-afternoon-tea-ready denim on denim outfit.
- sketch has four other rooms, each with a distinctive menu, dress code, atmosphere, and decor.
- If you want to get the best possible photos of the Gallery, book your afternoon tea right at the opening and there a tad early while the room is virtually empty. It gets quite full by 1pm.
- Afternoon tea is available every day of the week 12:30pm – 4:30pm.
I was a guest of sketch. All opinions are my own.
Things To Do In London: Get The Book
Like what you just read? Some of it are excerpts from my London city guide eBook, which I just published. You’ll find 200 more suggestions of things to see, do, eat, and drink in London in there, as well as photography pointers and loads of helpful tips.