A quintessential British tradition, afternoon tea is underscored by three-tiered trays, petite bites, and a spread of flavourful teas. This midday pastime is steeped in history and makes for a fun way to catch up with friends. We round up a list of restaurants in India that serve up luxurious afternoon tea, mirroring the likes of popular spots in London. By Eshita Srinivas
Featuring on top of most lists of must-have experiences in the UK, afternoon tea is often confused with high tea. The former is a light meal that is had at midday over tea and three courses. The first features tea sandwiches, followed by scones with clotted cream and sweet pastries. High tea, meanwhile, has hearty dishes with beans, potatoes, and meat, meant to nourish working-class families.
Afternoon tea was reserved for royalty and the creme-de-la-creme of British society. It came about in 1840 when one Duchess of Bedford began feeling peckish a few hours prior to dinner. Her staff brought her a few snacks with tea, and she’d indulge in them in her private quarters until she decided to rope in her friends who’d confessed to low blood sugar in the afternoons.
As word got around, aristocratic women began partaking in this midday pastime, each inventing their own set of conventions. Some insisted on stirring the tea in a back and forth motion. Others ensured the saucer stayed on the table. Soon, the ritual came to be known as afternoon tea and became a mainstay in British culture. Some restaurants in London continue to uphold the near rigid customs that surround this practice, but others have innovated to feature more unique nibbles and libations. The practise itself continues to hold a certain charm for the Brits as well as literature aficionados. To get a taste of it, head on over to these restaurants in India.
These restaurants serve up the best afternoon tea in India
Serving up scrumptious British and Indian fare with a side of sea views, Sea Lounge in Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is perhaps the most famed spot for an afternoon tea in India. The space has a colonial air to it that complements the midday soiree, and on offer are classic English delicacies like scones, finger sandwiches, tarts, macarons, and a large selection of teas, including blends from Darjeeling and Assam.
Address: The Taj Mahal Palace, Apollo Bunder, Colaba, Mumbai
Contact: +91 22666 53366
Image: Sea Lounge
St Regis’ contemporary lounge is a popular place to kick back and relax, especially over their elaborate afternoon tea spread. On offer are three different menus of afternoon tea. The first is the Caroline Astor, which comes with plain and raisin scones, lobster and caviar finger sandwiches, exotic fruit tarts, sea salt eclairs, and more. The Indian Heritage comes with caraway citrus scones, dahi bhalla, Mumbai scotch egg, kathi roll, jalebi, and saffron eclairs. And the St. Regis afternoon tea features caviar vada pav, Gujarati khandvi, cardamom chocolate brownie, and ginger and garam masala cake. You’re bound to be spoilt for choice here.
Address: The St. Regis, 462, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai
Contact: +91 86575 22953
Image: St. Regis
Having established itself as a dessert bar with the most decadent, Instagrammable fare in town, Moner ups the ante on its delicious offerings with an elaborate afternoon tea menu. Fusing Parisian desserts with British sensibilities, on offer here are gruyere and mushroom gougeres, savoury cheese choux buns, truffle and egg sandwiches, scones, butter sable cookies, and mini tea cakes. There are also a host of local Indian teas to sip on as you sample the spread.
Address: Shop 4, Darvesh Royale, Perry Road, Near Hill Road, Bandra West, Mumbai
Contact: +91 77700 14123
Laidback and picturesque settings, complete with high ceilings and a fountain, meet dainty culinary offerings and delicate crockery at The Atrium. Its popular afternoon tea menu features a rotation of cookies, tarts, cupcakes, macarons, sandwiches, and canapes, accompanied by the most elaborate tea menu in town, from mellow green tea to fermented oolong.
Address: The Imperial, Janpath, New Delhi
Contact: +91 11411 16606
Image: The Imperial New Delhi
Known for freshly baked breads, croissants, and bacon loaves, this beloved, quaint bakery and tea room in New Delhi offers a scrumptious afternoon tea spread. On the menu are an assortment of finger sandwiches, homemade cakes, scones with the in-house special preserve, and a host of teas. Vegetarians can let the staff know in advance about plant-based alternatives. The spread is served on a classic three-tiered tray and, combined with the charming interiors and presentation of the place, is sure to delight you.
Address: 31, 2nd Floor, Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi
Contact: +91 97111 17516
Image: Elma’s Bakery and Kitchen
Manicured lawns meet regal decor at this alfresco cafe housed in the former home of the king of Jaipur. The afternoon tea promises a palatial experience, having been served to the likes of dignitaries, royals, and celebrities alike. The Victorian Splendour offers freshly-baked scones with preserves and cream, traditional sandwiches like truffle-oil scented brie and ham and grain mustard as well as handmade pastries and champagne. The Maharaja Sojourn, meanwhile, offers traditional Indian savouries like khaman, aloo papdi chaat, khandvi, methi matti, assorted fritters, kathi rolls, and eclectic desserts like imarti with mascarpone cheese and gulab jamun tart.
Address: Bhawani Singh Road, Rambagh Palace, C Scheme, Jaipur
Contact: +91 14123 85098
Image: Rambagh Palace
Luxurious, elegant decor meets serene views of the pool at this space in Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru. The afternoon tea is an elaborate yet leisurely affair, perfect for a long chat with a friend or a colleague. The English afternoon treat features open-faced sandwiches, scones with cream and berry preserves and a host of pastries and macarons. There’s a dedicated menu for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians, and it is recommended that you call ahead of time to reserve a table.
Address: Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru, At Embassy ONE, 8 Bellary Road, Bengaluru
Contact: +91 76191 46004
Image: Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru
Feature and hero image: Sebastian Coman/Unsplash