The Christmas season is in full swing: it’s a time where we remember the things we have received, and take the opportunity to express our gratitude by giving back to our loved ones, friends, families and neighbours. Despite all its happy feelings and warm, fuzzy connotations, Christmas can very well be an overwhelming and sometimes draining experience. On our countdown to Christmas day, many of us will be juggling frantic shopping trips to snap up those perfect Christmas gifts, whilst simultaneously making precious time to catch up with as many friends as we can before we wrap up the year. With the rush of people racing around to meet individual deadlines, mixed with flashing lights and Christmas adverts (and those repetitive Christmas songs on the radio), at the end of the day all you want to do is to get all that needs to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible, so that you can get finally breathe and actually enjoy yourself with what the festive season has to offer.
Nothing beats taking an escape from the masses than catching up with nearest and dearest over a classic afternoon tea. It is a very British tradition which makes the tourist in us squeal: it is said to have been introduced by Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford, in the 1840s to fill the long gap between lunch and fashionably late dinnertime, and soon enough afternoon tea became a very popular daily event amongst the upper class. Today it still remains a luxurious treat. It’s a feast for the eyes: everything about afternoon tea so daintily pretty, be it the food, the interiors, as well as the furnishing and even the tableware!
Afternoon tea is said to have been introduced by Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford, in the 1840s to fill the long gap between lunch and fashionably late dinnertime, and soon enough afternoon tea became a very popular daily event amongst the upper class.
To fit into our busy schedules over this winter, why not hit the best things in life in one stone by going for an indulging afternoon tea at one of your favourite museums when you have so many options? Take a peek at some of our favourites.
The Romantic choice: The Victoria and Albert Café
Let’s start with a classic. Amongst the three rooms that make up the Victoria and Albert museum’s beautiful refreshment rooms, the Morris room is where their Victorian afternoon tea is served, with a selection of traditional delicacies that Queen Victoria herself would have enjoyed in her time. Put together by food historian Natasha Marks, the menu indicates the years between the years 1859-1901 when these foods would have been served from, and resented with antique cutlery and on British Burleigh crockery, the V&A’s Victorian afternoon tea transports us back in time. With opulent details on its emerald green walls and panels by William Morris and stained glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones and Philip Webb, this venue sweeps you up on a romantic affair with the Pre-Raphaelites. This season, do not miss the V&A’s new promotional offer ‘The Belgravia Experience’: purchase a copy of new novel Belgravia, by Downton Abbey’s creator Julian Fellowes, and you can book the Victorian Afternoon tea at a reduced price.
Victorian Afternoon Tea costs £30 per person, or £35 per person with a glass of prosecco. By reservation only.
Tea-Lover’s haven: Wedgwood Tea Room at the Wedgwood Museum
For all the tea-lovers out there: the Wedgwood Museum at Stoke-on-Trent is one that cannot be missed! Through the museum’s hands-on activities and events, such as pottery making sessions and visits to its factory, the Wedgwood Museum aims to engage visitors of all ages with the fundamental steps of designing and producing its trademark crockery. Visitors should then head to the Wedgwood tearoom, where they spoil you with a choice of 50 different teas, served of course on Wedgwood’s exquisite trademark china. The interiors have been designed with beautiful motifs on its wallpapers and with a colour scheme that echoes the sophisticated style of the Wedgwood brand. We would recommend the ‘afternoon tea experience for two’ offer, which gives you the complete experience including admission to the Wedgwood Museum and also gives you a tour of the Wedgwood Factory.
Wedgwood Afternoon Tea Experience for two for £49.
French twist: The Wallace Restaurant at the Wallace Collection
Another gem in the pile. After exploring the treasures in store at the Wallace Collection, where you will find works of art from the 18th and 19th century collected by the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, make sure not to miss a visit to the Wallace Restaurant. It is one of the most popular places for a peaceful afternoon tea at the centre of one of London’s busiest shopping areas, making it a perfect break after a Christmas shopping spree.To go with their French-style brasserie, their interior has also nailed a French chic look. The dusty pink walls are gorgeous together with their potted indoor trees, wild flowers and glass roof over head which lets in lots of natural light. It feels al fresco and yet is conveniently sheltered from the winter cold. This December they are serving their Festive Afternoon Tea as well as the classic version; we are spoilt for choice!
Festive Afternoon Tea £18.50 per person, or with a glass of champagne or a Pomegranate Bellini, £26 per person.
Breath of fresh air: Rooftop restaurant at the Ashmolean Museum
The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford holds the title of the oldest public museum in Britain and the first purposely built public museum in the world. After taking a journey through the history of time via the arts and archaeological artefacts on exhibition, head to the top floor to their airy Rooftop Restaurant where they serve British and European foods, as well as their version of classic British cream tea. This is the first of only a few roof top venues in Oxford, perfect for overlooking some of the city’s famous sites, such as the dreaming spires of Oxford University and the Randolph Hotel.
Ashmolean Afternoon tea for one or for two £16.95/£26. Add a glass of prosecco for £19.95 per person or £30 for two.
Wow factor: Great Court Restaurant at the British Museum
Another venue high above ground level; the stunning Great Court Restaurant at the British Museum is a little haven away from the outside world. The architectural structure of the glass roof of the Great Court, designed by Foster and Partners, is always an incredible sight to behold let alone dine under; it makes any food experience just that more special. Their afternoon tea is no exception, and we love the beautiful tableware that it is served on.
Afternoon Tea for one £19.50 or Prosecco Afternoon Tea for one £25.
Best Value: The Orangery at the Fan Museum
The Fan Museum, founded in 1991 in Greenwich, explores the history of fan making from all cultures from the 11th Century up to the present day. Within the collections of fans you will find beautiful fans made of feathers, ivory, mother of pearl and other precious materials, and even hand painted fans by artists Walter Sickert, Paul Gauguin and Salvador Dali. The Orangery's painted walls seems to extend the delicate art of hand painted fan making straight into their café. Outside a Japanese style garden can be seen, and at £8 for afternoon tea or £14 for the Christmas Afternoon tea (please make sure to book in advance) we would say that this is a bargain. The price for the tea sets also includes admission to the museum.
Afternoon Tea £8, Christmas Afternoon Tea £14 per person.
For those who want to impress: Tower Restaurant at the National Museums of Scotland
Last but definitely not least, why not try afternoon tea at the Tower Restaurant, situated above the National Museum of Scotland. You will always find something of interest here; there is an exciting range of exhibitions within the Museum which highlights the history of Scotland and the rest of the world within the fields of art, science, technology and fashion and much more. At the Tower restaurant, the opulent afternoon tea tastes just as good as it looks, and if that isn’t enough, this venue also has a terrace with an incredible view of the city, including the Edinburgh castle. A spot at this restaurant, which also serves traditional Scottish cuisine and seafood, is said to be one of the hottest tables to book in Edinburgh, so be quick! It’s the perfect place to spoil your loved ones this Christmas.
Tower Afternoon Tea £22.50; Tower Champagne Afternoon Tea with a glass of Billecart-Salmon Champagne £30.