Teatime treats with an international twist
The best places in the UK to enjoy an alternative take on an English classic
Ting, The Shard
Set on level 35 of the Shard, 128 metres above ground level, Ting serves one of the highest afternoon teas in the capital. It's also one of the most unusual. Much like its main menu, it offers well-executed European classics with an Asian twist. It kicks off with an array of small, light bites, from duck spring rolls to five-spice blackened tuna served with water chestnuts and yuzu tapioca. Scones are given a slight update with the addition of passion fruit curd, while classic French patisserie is given a Chinese makeover. Delicate choux pastry is pumped full of green-tea cream, pretty macarons are sandwiched with fragrant jasmine ganache and tarts swap classic lemon in favour of the citrusy flavour of pomelo.
Chinese Afternoon Tea (with champagne), £56; ting-shangri-la.com
Indian cuisine, with its tradition of small plates and street food, provides the perfect platform for afternoon tea. Executive chef Vivek Singh has chosen a casual dining outpost of his acclaimed Cinnamon chain to host his creative take on the tradition. Unsurprisingly, the tea itself plays a large role – in addition to a pot of your choice, it is also served with a warming Indian Masala Chai, brewed in-house using ginger and cardamom. The savouries are the main event, with spicy spins including a tandoori chicken and chutney sandwich and authentic snacks such as caramelised onion and mint samosas. If there's more room left, the Malabar plum cake and bitter chocolate tartlets, enhanced with dates and ginger, are a rich and indulgent finish.
High Chai – Twisted Afternoon Tea, £15; cinnamonsoho.com
Ametsa with Arzak Instruction
Spanish cuisine, with its tradition of tapas, lends itself particularly well to the pick-and-mix nature of afternoon tea. For a Basque-inspired version, head to the Michelin-starred Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, which has ditched the staid scones for a vibrant and varied menu that's bursting with flavours of the Mediterranean. Cold plates such as strawberry and tomato gazpacho-style soup are served alongside other tempting savouries including spider crab tempura and pork croquettes. The customary churros with a rich chocolate sauce is just one of the sweet options, accompanied by lighter, palate cleansing treats such as elderflower trifle and lime custard and banana tartlet.
Afternoon tea, £32 per person (£36 with a glass of cava or a cocktail); comohotels.com/thehalkin
Since launching in late 2016, Aquavit has already made its mark on London's dining scene, thanks to executive chef Emma Bengtsson's modern take on Nordic cuisine. For this Scandi spin, diners are served an assortment of Nordic open sandwiches, made from homemade rye bread and topped with gravlax, shrimp skagen and venison tartare. It then takes a slight hop over to Sweden, serving the country's classic pastry semla – a fragrant cardamom bun filled with almond paste and topped with whipped cream – as well as a selection of seven different types of cookie, which – according to Swedish tradition – is the number that should always be offered to guests.
Fika afternoon tea, £27.50 (£39 with champagne), available from 27 March; aquavitrestaurants.com
Japan is home to some of the finest teas in the world, so it's no surprise that the drinks take pride of place on the menu at Jason Atherton's izakaya-style restaurant Sosharu. As well as choosing from an extensive selection of green tea blends, guests can also opt to have tea served in an alcoholic format with the sabi cocktail – a blend of matcha tea with shochu, pernod and prosecco. Sandwiches are replaced with creative takes on Japanese dishes such as monaka – a sweet wafer-based item that is here topped with fresh tuna sashimi. Desserts deftly incorporate Asian flavours into classic French patisserie and include matcha iced fingers and chocolate sesame praline petit gateau with miso caramel. Playful additions include taiyaki, a fish-shaped cake made with batter and filled with rhubarb and white chocolate creme patissiere.
Japanese afternoon tea, £28, (£35 with a cocktail or sparkling wine); sosharulondon.com