It might be lovely for most people to treat themselves to afternoon tea but for those who are sensitive to gluten, there is nothing worse than sitting down to a three-tiered plate of enticing goodies, none of which you can eat without a range of unpleasant reactions. Afternoon tea, with its sandwiches and scones, is ritual that can be creatively tweaked to exclude gluten while preserving the fun and fancy delight of an array of delicious morsel to be consumed over time with countless cups of tea. A number of Britain’s top hotels and tea rooms offer gluten free afternoon teas with some notice, most require one or two days, and it is not weird to ask about the options or note your various sensitivities. More and more venues offer specialised menus with a bit of pre-planning required. Many of the best afternoon teas in England (Claridges, The Ritz and other top spots) are also available in gluten free form. These are our top picks for sumptuous afternoon teas that are completely gluten free, so you can be sure of an entirely fearless, and utterly delightful afternoon tea.
The Goring (Belgravia, London)
It doesn’t hurt that the Goring was where Kate Middleton stayed with her family before her wedding, but this grand old hotel in Belgravia is also the current holder of The British Tea Guild Council’s Top London Afternoon Tea Award and The Award of Excellence. Their delicious pastries, fruity home-made jams and beautifully presented, colourful cakes, incredible scones and traditional British sandwich favourites are also available in a gluten free tea that those in the know say is the best in the UK. The décor at the Goring is wonderfully and richly old fashioned, with lacquered wood, padded leather seating and rich shades of yellow, gold and red in abundance. What makes the Goring different from their grand London peers is the efficient service you get from unpretentious, friendly staff and the warm, relaxed atmosphere. Whether you choose the Bollinger, or the Traditional tea menu, you won’t be disappointed by the never-ending temptations that both the glutinous and gluten free menus offer. If the weather is good you can get a table on the veranda, overlooking the manicured gardens, and if you’re feeling like a post-tea G&T, make sure you get a table in the luxurious lounge.
The Landmark (London)
The Landmark was originally built in 1899 as a Gothic revival railway hotel for the well-heeled travellers from steam age and it retains an air of dreamy, exotic elegance. The interior is an old world mix of creamy marbles, glowing chandeliers, enormous flower arrangements and neoclassical oil paintings. Afternoon tea is served in the fabulous Winter Garden at the base of an eight-storey atrium in the centre of the hotel. Those who have experienced the delights of afternoon tea at the Landmark Hotel have labelled it a “gluten Free Utopia”. Bathed in light from the glass ceiling, amidst the towering palm trees and Juliet balconies, and you can enjoy a gluten free tea which is always available alongside a traditional and a “full-on Chocolate” versions. The gluten free scones are a delight and the tasty finger sandwiches are replenished as needed, while the gluten free cake selection is as good, if not better, than the traditional ones.
Bake-a-Boo (North London)
The quintessential tea party can be had at this popular North London venue dedicated to cupcakes and associated delights. During the week the vintage chic West Hampstead “party parlour” is available for specially booked events but is open for breakfast and afternoon tea all weekend with good coffee and various bubbles on offer alongside the tea. There is a permanent gluten free menu as well as one that is egg free and suitable for vegetarians. There are also a number of sugar free treats available, so if your friends are fussy, this is the ideal place for an indulgent afternoon tea. The setting is magical and very charming, think Chinese lanterns, disco balls, quirky chandeliers and understated cupcake prettiness where everything looks like icing on the cake. The gluten free menu is served on embellished bone china and includes finger sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, chocolate dipped strawberries, cup cakes and seasonal cakes, so you don’t have to miss any of the traditional tea time treats.
Tea 42 (Manchester)
Tea 42 is a Manchester-based gluten-free restaurant that, as the name suggests, does afternoon as a signature service. This chic Northern Quarter establishment is decorated with white marble tabletops and white leather chairs. A Rob Ryan-style frieze of the Manchester skyline wraps around half of the room with street signs pointing the way to Darjeeling and Assam. Over 25 different loose leaf tea blends are offered to accompany the three tiered afternoon tea. On the bottom are sandwiches and savoury canapés. The middle tier holds huge currant-studded scones and the top floor is reserved for a range of intensely-sweet gluten-free temptations like macaroons, profiteroles and brownies. There is a gentleman’s version for those who don’t have a sweet tooth, that includes charcuterie, quail scotch eggs, game chips, pickles and pork scratchings- finished with a whisky chaser. Tea-infused cocktails, champagne, wine, beer and cider are also on offer; and you can expect swift professional service.