Perhaps the most famous fictional tea party is the one in Alice in Wonderland, when the heroine sits down with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare for a teatime that doesn’t go exactly as planned (Alice wasn't exactly invited, no one can figure out the Mad Hatter’s riddle, and Alice storms off into the forest).
But the fairy tale aspect of tearooms goes beyond the upside-down sensations in Lewis Carroll's classic work – it also plays into to our fascination with the English upper classes. Children invite imaginary friends and stuffed animals to tea parties in their bedrooms. Parents sit down at tiny tables with their toddlers, pretending to be royalty and extending their pinkies as they sip. Tea sets printed with fairy tale characters are offered for sale. The romantic aspect of tea and the whimsical telling of fairy tales often seem to go hand in hand.
Classic afternoon tea in England means scones, finger sandwiches, and petite fours. From Manchester to Rye, here are nine English tearooms straight out of a fairy tale, in which you can enjoy a very special afternoon tea in the country where afternoon tea was born.
And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon, Manchester
Served Thursday through Sunday starting at noon, afternoon tea at this vintage-inspired venue is nothing less than enchanting. Menu items like a “feta, rocket, and sunblushed tomato puff-pastry pinwheel” complement the chalkboard menus, jars full of flowers, blue-and-white china, bright blue walls, and elegantly iced cakes with hearts on top that make this tearoom a delight.
Claridge’s, one of the capital's classic hotels, is serious about afternoon tea – probably because they’ve been perfecting the art of it for about 150 years. In a 1930s-inspired foyer with a soft color palette, you can nibble smoked salmon scones, a strawberry, peach, and ginger éclair, and a variety of finger sandwiches.