Afternoon tea provides a great chance to lounge in sumptuous surroundings that at any other time would be beyond all but a king’s budget. Note that you’ll often need to book in advance, especially for weekends, and that many hotels have a strict dress code.

II Brown’s, Albemarle St. ( 7493 6020). Tube: Green Park. Opened by Byron’s butler in 1837, London’s first luxury hotel still oozes old-fashioned charm. Set tea £25. No jeans or sneakers. M-F sittings 2, 3:45, and 5:30pm (book 1 week ahead for Th-F); Sa-Su tea 3-4:45pm (no reservations). AmExMCV.

ES The Lanesborough, Hyde Park Corner ( 7259 5599). Tube: Hyde Park Corner. For sheer opulence, the Oriental-fantasy interior of The Lanesborough out-ritzes The Ritz. Set tea £25. Champagne tea £27. Dress code: Smart casual. £9.50 per person min.

Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly ( 7734 8040). This locally popular patio restaurant overlooks the food hall of the Royals’ official grocery store. Relatively affordable special tea (£12) served M-Sa 3-5:45pm. AmExMCV.

St. Martin’s Lane Hotel, 45 St. Martin’s Ln. (7300 5588). Tube: Leicester Sq. This post-modern hotel goes for avant-garde. Bewilder your taste buds with Asian (bento) or Eurasian tea (£14.50). Casual dress. Tea served daily 3-5pm. AmExMCV.

The Orangery, Kensington Palace (-zsr 7938 1406). Tube: High St. Kensington. This airy Neoclassical building behind Kensington Palace is popular for afternoon teas (from £8) served to a tourist-heavy clientele. Open daily noon-3pm for lunch, 3-6pm for tea. MCV.

The Ritz, on Piccadilly ( 7493 8181). Tube: Green Park. The world’s most famous tea (£31). Reserve 6 weeks ahead for M-F, 3 months for Sa-Su. Daily sittings at noon, 3:30, and 5pm. No jeans or sneakers; jacket and tie preferred for men. AmExMCV.


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