Afternoon tea

High tea, cream tea, afternoon tea, milk first, tea first… Don’t tell me we/you/they do it wrong. You should eat this or that. Or at this time. 

Really, who the fuck cares!!! I just want nice tea, gorgeous morsels, lovely setting, attentive service. 

Right! Got that out of my system. 

I’ve had a few high teas (as we call them in Australia). Friends phone me, mistakenly I might add, for advice on which ones to visit in Sydney. Sometimes/often my high teas morph into cocktails. Making them even better occasions. 

I’ve also been an occasional viewer of the Great British Bakeoff.  Cakes and tasty-looking things. And some quite different to what we have here. (Watching the episode on the Battenburg was quite handy as I’ve never seen one here and none of my friends knew what it was.)

So, I was really looking forward to a few high teas in London. (That sounds a bit ominous, doesn’t it?)

Our first one doesn’t count. It was late Sunday afternoon. After much walking and sightseeing, we suddenly realised we were hungry. We dismissed eating at Horrids, sorry Harrods, due to cost and bustle. Walking down the street, I spied a cake shop. Looked scrummy, so we went in. Was a bustling cafe. Yes, they had a table for two. In just a minute. We ordered the afternoon tea. It was OK. Yeah, just OK.

I was umming and ahhing about where to go. I didn’t want to book while still in Australia. I mean, what if I booked on our only gorgeous day! Who wants to stay indoors when the sun is out? I wanted to try the Palm Court at the Ritz but men have to wear a jacket and tie. The capitalist yoke of oppression is not Mr S’s thing when he doesn’t have to for work. Anyway, it was booked out. And I looked into The Shard. But that was the reverse. Who wants to pay for a view if the view is obscured by clouds? Again, when I thought I’d managed weather forecasts and our agenda, The Shard was booked out. 

So looked like I was going to settle for one: at Fortnum and Masons. But as luck would have it, a confluence of events involving cocktails resulted in a booking at the Savoy. Yay! One in a flash hotel.

For setting and service and experience they both win. Hands down. Both had live music. I am sure F&M played the theme to All Creatures Great and Small. A nod to tourists of a certain age? The Savoy’s duo of double bass and piano player some jazz and easy listening classics mixed in with some modern songs. 

Oh, the white and blue of F&M. With silver touches. Our waiter was so sweet. 

Table next to ours

Love this blue.

The floral display and unusual uniforms of the Savoy staff gave much to look at. The staff were forever topping up tea cup and tea pot in quite a little ceremonial style.  And offering more food. Attentive staff at a low customer to staff ratio! Ah! A novel experience for an Australian!

Massive floral display.


We each got our own silver plate tea set with hot water pot.


The sandwiches at both were delicious. You can have as many replacements as you like. Mr S asked for replacements at both. (In Australia, an extra plate will cost you extra. That said, in keeping with eating out in London, both high teas were very expensive and ordering an extra plate of sandwiches in Sydney still wouldn’t meet the cost of the London ones.)

My advice: go the savoury. We had the savoury at F&M but with plain scones. We got this little egg thing. My response: interesting. (Thank heavens for 3G and Google. I looked it up immediately.) Mr S thought it was very good. And the other little savoury bites were good too. But I don’t get why the English like horseradish! Jamie Oliver uses it a lot too. 



But there’s another reason for going savoury. Cakes! We do them better. Seriously. Wish we’d gone savoury at the Savoy. The little sweet things were colourful and obviously involved much fiddly work. But they weren’t that nice to eat. In fact, I didn’t eat mine. 

Both places allowed you unlimited slices of cake from the cake tray as the last course. At F&M, Mr S had the chocolate cake and I had to try the Battenberg. I know the Battenberg involves much preparation. Seems to be a trend. Preparation and appearance over taste. 

Dry! Stick in the mouth dry. Boring. (Both of them!)


Don’t forget the service charge!



And the Savoy?

“Would madam like our signature cake?”


Really!? That’s their signature cake? A dry carrot number. Carrot cake! Most suburban cafes in Sydney serve a better carrot cake. I didn’t eat it. In its defence I was quite full from the tea, sandwiches and scones.  

Mr S has the chocolate again and said my packet cakes are better than the chocolate ones he had. Love him!

One of my neighbours said she had lovely cakes when she was in England. Well maybe she did. Whoop-di-do. Maybe she has less refined taste. Maybe she just always has to object to everything I say because she doesn’t like me.  I can only judge on the six places at which I ate cake.

And scones? Who’d have thought flour, milk and butter could result in a different product! Our scones are lighter. Heavy things the English ones I had were. 

But the cream! Oh, the cream. If there’s one thing that’s better for being thicker and heavier, it’s cream. Holds a spoon up, it does. God, it was good. 

Mr S has never accompanied me on a high tea excursion, so I appreciate his willingness to do several in London. He did say after the last one that it was the last one. Ever! For the astronomical cost, he could have drunk a lot of beer and eaten a meal. (Over $100 each for the last one!) But it’s the experience. And it was great. 

So I  have to find someone to do afternoon tea at the Ritz and Claridges with me. 

We’ll do the savouries. And you can have my share of things with horseradish. And we’ll pile the cream on the dry cakes. 


13 thoughts on “Afternoon tea

  1. I’ve only had High Teas in Australia and am usually impressed with them. The tastiest one I had was Peppers at Bowral. I also love the one at Gunners Barracks in Mosman. And to think we’re getting them for half the price!

  2. Rom and I did the tea at Selfridge’s. The environment was too busy and the food was OK but we liked the “experience.” Our better one was at a neighbourhood garden centre in Sussex, which was only perfect scones with perfect jam and cream and tea! We look forward to trying more places. But not in jacket and tie.

  3. It sounds incredibly refined and splendid. And something I would do in London (if I drank tea!)

    The only High Tea I know of in Melbourne is at the Windsor Hotel. Maybe something to add to the list when (not ‘if’!) you do your Melbourne Ned Kelly Tour. It’s supposed to be marvellous.

    Given that Melbourne is all about the coffee, I haven’t ever done a High Tea. I’m more your Devonshire Tea girl – gimme those scones and jam and cream in front of an open fire, tucked up somewhere in winter!

    • I’ll join you for scones and tea but have to pass on the coffee. It is so noisy. All that banging and hissing and calling out. And coffee places always mistreat the tea, allowing it to absorb the flavour of the coffee and they think it is ok to use the hot water from the coffee machine instead of boiling a fresh kettle of water. You need fresh water for oxygen in the water, not steam and not something that has come in contact with coffee. So you go hunting your favourite coffee places and check out how they treat tea drinkers, in advance of my eventual visit to Melbourne. You have two years.

      I should edited my post to make the compliment clear that these aces served heavenly tea.

  4. I’m shocked by those prices! Tea isn’t as big in the US (Boston Tea Party, British oppression and all that) so I have never heard of anyone attending high tea or any of the rules you mentioned. And I personally don’t drink tea so I haven’t sought it out either. But I can relate to the dry cakes! I’m super picky about cakes and cookies, but thankfully Mr. G is usually willing to eat any I don’t care for.

    • Tea at the Empress in Victoria,BC. Was lovely when we had it there. My hips are thankful there is no Devon creme here…it is wonderful.

    • Eating out is generally expensive in London but these high teas were pricey. It’s not just the food and service, it’s the setting you’re paying for and all the space. (Wait for tomorrow’s post.) Two young males, obviously Australian, walked into the Savoy for a look and clearly didn’t fit in. How’d I know they were Australians? Freezing cold outside and one had board shorts. The other a hoodie. (And they walked like Aussie youth.) You’re also paying to be away from bogans!

  5. Afternoon Tea over here is what you ate – Sandwiches, Scones and cake and is served mid afternoon. However, a true High Tea over here is served a little later at about 6pm and has Northern and Scottish origins. It was mainly the meal you ate after work if you were working class, consisting of dishes such as Welsh Rarebit, savoury pies or omelette. Middle and upper class had an evening meal at about 8pm so Afternoon Tea was served to bridge the gap.
    Some of the ‘posh’ London hotels advertise our Afternoon Tea as High tea because for many other countries our Afternoon Tea is the equivalent of their High Tea.
    Only a few places now serve ‘proper’ High tea. In the North here we still refer to our evening meal as tea-time. So we have breakfast, dinner and tea – whereas in the south they have breakfast, lunch and dinner – cos they are ‘posher’ than us Northerners!

    • I’m not posh but like to pretend I am.

      Some Aussies used to call dinner tea as well. It was very confusing if you were asked around for tea. A cuppa or the evening meal? Imagine the confusion and embarrassment of my poor mother, non-English speaking, in the early 60s? Even worse when she married into a family of English immigrants. And then she had to share the awfulness of the cooking at that time.)

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