Your guide to the best vegan afternoon tea in London
Is there anything more quintessentially British than going for afternoon tea? For people the world over it conjures up images of perfectly cut little sandwiches, tea served from the finest china and scones with lashings of whipped cream and strawberry jam. It’s quite the experience, especially for travellers visiting the UK (and the capital!) for the first time. But where is the best place to go for vegan afternoon tea in London?
The challenge for those who are vegan is a) finding tea rooms that offer vegan options b) finding tea rooms that offer GOOD vegan options.
Well vegan travellers, look no further than Fortnum and Mason. In my experience, the best vegan afternoon tea in London! Here is the low down on the setting, the food, the price – the whole shebang!
Since 1707, Fortnum and Mason have described themselves as, “the home to extraordinary food, joy-giving things and unforgettable experiences.” And they have certainly lived up to this description for the last 300 years!
Their flagship store has been 181 Piccadilly since their humble beginnings. But despite its long history and popularity, their department store has a wonderful homely time capsule feel to it. Inside, it has kept its Georgian roots with plush red carpet, carved wooden statues and elegant light fixtures.
Where department stores today are usually shiny tiled, cookie cutter, cold open spaces, Fortnum and Mason have stuck to their guns and retained their original features.
The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon
To get to their Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, you step into a beautiful brass-fixed, mirror-laden lift which takes you to the fourth floor where you’re greeted by a pianist playing at a grand piano is full dinner wear.
This unique touch makes going for afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason that more special. I’ve yet to experience live music in any other tea room and it makes a real difference. The gentle sound of the piano playing creates a relaxing atmosphere and gives the tea rooms a wonderful olde worlde feel.
Studies have shown that listening to piano music can improve your mood and reduce stress. So having that be the sound track to your afternoon tea experience makes even more sense!
The tea rooms themselves are everything you would expect from high tea: crisp white table cloths, perfectly polished cutlery and ‘tea towers’ filled with cakes, sandwiches and scones.
What I love about the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon is that despite always being booked up, it is never crowded. It has a lively atmosphere, but is never so noisy that you are distracted by loud neighbours and the clearing of plates. They have got it just right.
You’ll see what I mean about the lovely atmosphere here in my video. Skip to 2.37 for the afternoon tea bit (arguably the best part of our Gran’s 80th trip – she fell asleep during The Lion King – the less said about that debacle the better 😂).
Another big reason why Fortnum and Mason boasts the best vegan afternoon tea in London is their wide selection of exquisite teas.
They’ve been purveyors of tea for centuries, so know their stuff! They even have in-house ‘Tea Specialists’ whose job it is to research and experiment with different blends to bring out the best flavour profiles in every leaf.
Tea is pivotal to the Fortnum and Mason story. In 1902, their brews came to boast a royal pedigree thanks to a bespoke blend specially created for King Edward VII after he set them the challenge to bring him, “the finest tea in all of the world”. They combined the finest tea leaves from India and Sri Lanka to make a unique honey tasting blend that to this day has remained unchanged.
As well as the ‘Royal Blend’, there is a whole range of tea to choose from including: Earl Grey, Wedding Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, Queen Anne Blend and Chai (just to name a few!).
My preference is a classic English Breakfast tea as it’s rich and full-bodied without drawing attention away from the flavours of your cakes and sandwiches.
If this is your first afternoon tea rodeo, I’d suggest going the breakfast tea route to keep it simple.
Tea is served in a traditional way with a teapot, cup and saucer, strainer for your tea leaves and a dairy-free milk of your choice.
As fantastic as it is that more and more places are offering vegan afternoon tea, many provide lacklustre vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options just so they can tick a box.
There’s often little creativity and hardly any choice compared to usual afternoon tea selections due to a lower demand.
This is where Fortnum and Mason break the mould.
I have had afternoon tea there on three separate occasions and have had a brand new menu each time.
Sandwich fillings are both creative and tasty AF! Kohlrabi and carrot slaw? Pickled fennel and whipped feta? The thought that has gone into the sandwich selection makes the dining experience that more special. On the last two occasions I went, both my auntie and best friend even opted for the vegan afternoon tea instead as they preferred the look of the menu!
On one visit I particularly enjoyed their chargrilled peppers and humous and avocado and sundried tomato sandwiches. Which just goes to show you how much the chefs mix it up each season.
The best part though is that sandwiches are bottomless so you can taste test the selection and ask for a replenishment of your favourite sandwiches!
Fortnum and Mason’s scones are (as to be expected for a famous tea connoisseur!) exemplary. Vegan scones can be a little on the dry side but Fortnum and Mason have clearly perfected the formula. I was reliably informed that there is little taste difference between the vegan and ordinary dairy scones from my fellow lunch guests.
The scones taste lovely and buttery with a tender, flaky and light texture. Each comes with a whipped vegan butter pot and Fortnum’s own strawberry jam.
What’s more, scones are bottomless too. But be careful. Don’t fill up too much as you’ve still got a whole cake selection to go!
Cakes and sweets
Now we’re talking! If you think the sandwich selection was creative, wait until you try the wide range of cakes and sweets!
From the simpler apple and raisin loaf and raspberry panacotta to the more decadent blueberry marbled meringue and millionaire shortbread with rooibos caramel – each dessert offers it’s own unique sweet experience.
I couldn’t even wait until I’d taken the photo to eat the millionaire’s shortbread – it was that delicious!
Each option offers something different with imaginative and distinct flavours and textures.
Full disclosure – the desserts are also bottomless and extremely moreish so take it easy if you go for a second round!
Unfortunately, I didn’t take note of what these cakes below were on my last trip. But as you can see from the selection during a separate trip the incredible chefs at Fortnum and Mason are able to innovate a whole new afternoon menu from scratch.
As to be expected at such a reputable tea room, the service at Fortnum and Mason is excellent. And has been, every single visit for me.
Wait staff are so friendly and attentive whilst equally being patient and relaxed. With the prestigious nature of Fortnum and Mason, you’d expect staff to be a little stressed and rushed. However, they are a big part of why the afternoon tea there has such a welcoming and enjoyable atmosphere.
They also go above and beyond if you have a special request. On one visit it was my Grandma’s 80th birthday and after speaking to our waitress she kindly stuck the ‘8’ and ‘0’ candles we’d brought with us into a mini artisan chocolate cake and came over singing happy birthday. My Gran was mortified at the fuss we made of her but we thoroughly enjoyed it. Check out my video above for her reaction!
Also – if you ask your server at the end of your afternoon tea slot to take the last of your vegan afternoon cake and scones with you, they will box everything up and send you away with even more food…with zero judgement!
Now that’s what I call service.
The price of the afternoon tea is £62.50 per person (price as of 2021). This includes bottomless sandwiches, scones and cakes for two hours, plus a takeaway bag if you request it. For afternoon tea as prestige as this, giving such value for money I think the price point is spot on.
Believe me, two hours is more than enough time to fill your boots with sandwiches, cake and tea and you won’t need to eat for the rest of the day. Which will actually save you more money in the long-run on your trip to London!
I have had vegan afternoon tea in London at Fortnum and Mason several times and had a fantastic experience each time. The opulent setting, the friendly service and the quality and variety of the food cannot be beaten.
There are so many fabulous places that offer an incredible afternoon tea experience but then fall short on offering anything remotely creative or tasty for vegans. And there is nothing worse then paying a lot of money for a food experience that makes you feel like an afterthought.
Fortnum and Mason could not be more different.
Even on price, you get a lot of bang for your buck. Afternoon tea elsewhere could set you back as much as £80-£100 per person.
So friends, arrive thirsty and famished and get ready to have the best vegan afternoon tea in London. You’ll have an absolutely fabulous time darlings!
Have you ever experienced high end afternoon tea? Where are your favourite places to go?