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msafiri habariinspiration FOOD & DRINK 40 I f I had two hours to kill in London, I would most definitely choose to spend it taking afternoon tea. When you walk through the front door of a tea room, you encounter peace and tranquillity; you hear the chink of delicate china cups and saucers and the gentle hum of civilised conversation; and you know that you're in for a treat. It's nourishment for the soul. Taking afternoon tea is perhaps one of those things you do for special occasions or when your elderly relatives are in town. Yet it's extremely conducive to a wider range of purposes. You could negotiate a deal over tea – as long as you don't get too vociferous. Formality and politeness are the order of the day. You could end a relationship, knowing that your partner would be partially compensated by a delicious cake. Or why not replace a traditional girl's night out with afternoon tea ( and champagne of course). I may be hung by the afternoon tea aficionados, but I can honestly say that the standard offering at afternoon tea does not vary that significantly. Sandwiches – invariably egg, smoked salmon, cucumber, chicken or ham, followed by scones, jam and clotted cream. By the time the pastries arrive, you practically have to force them in, so they never get the credit they deserve. It's not exactly tea and a light snack, as envisaged by the Duchess of Bedford back in the 19th century. I tend to leave, feeling as though I've consumed an entire week's calories and having drunk enough tea to last a week. Now everyone's heard of the Ritz, the Dorchester and the Savoy, but there are often long waiting lists ( six to seven weeks in some cases), a dress code and the perception of intimidating waiters who sneer at your use of the sugar tongs. So I'd like to recommend some slightly more accessible afternoon tea options. They have something different to offer than the standard grand London hotel experience. Susan Harris discovers that the British tradition of afternoon tea is alive and well in London. Here are her tips for the best tiffin in town CAPitALTEA The Wolseley The Wolseley opened in November 2003, and is the restored Wolseley car show-room dating back to the 1920s. It's a beautiful restaurant, full of history, and an ideal spot for people watching. The food is always of a very high standard, afternoon tea being no exception. Q The Wolseley, 160 Piccadilly W1J 9EB Q Tel:+ 020 7499 6996 Q www. thewolseley. com Q From £ 19.75 ( 3.30– 5.30pm ( 6.30pm, Sun) Inn the Park Inn the Park nestles beautifully in St James' Park, with views over the lake, and is so close to Buckingham Palace and Downing St that you almost expect their residents to pop in for a cuppa. Though afternoon tea is not the most delicate I've encountered, the food is good and fresh. Go on a sunny day, sit outside on the terrace, and soak up London all around you. Q Inn the Park, St James Park SW1A 2BJ Q Tel:+ 020 7451 9999 Q www. innthepark. com. The Orangery The Orangery at Kensington Palace was built in 1704- 5 under the direction of Queen Anne, so if it's history you're after, look no further. The building was supposed to be a greenhouse for exotic plant and citrus trees that ornamented the gardens in summer. You can expect good service, and they have a wide variety of afternoon tea options, including tea from the UK's first tea plantation – that's got to be worth a try. Q The Orangery Restaurant, Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens W8 4PX Q Tel: + 0844 482 7777 Q www. hrp. org. uk/ KensingtonPalace Claridge's If you're looking for a traditional location, then head to the oasis of calm that is Claridge's. Wander in at three o'clock with a large appetite, and roll out several hours later in a giddy haze of sugary happiness. Everything here is perfect, from the friendly staff who even coped admirably with my children, to the delightful music, and the gorgeous decor, the centrepiece being a magnificent silver- white light sculpture by Dale Chihuly. Q Claridge's, Brook St, Mayfair W1K 4HR Q Tel: + 020 7409 6307 Q www. claridges. co. uk Q Bookings available at 3.00pm, 3.30pm, 5.00pm, and 5.30pm, from £ 31.50 per person.