Afternoon tea in my very English hometown of Victoria, British Columbia is a slightly pretentious outing. You are expected to dress-up, be posh and spend an exorbitant amount of money on a bit of food decoratively displayed on an expensive tiered stand.
When I moved to London I assumed afternoon tea was the same, if not more posh. Tea at Harrods, Fortnum and Masons, and Brown's will set you back by £30-50. When I found Bea's of Bloomsbury I realized that afternoon tea could be pretty, sophisticated but more relaxed – and definitely more affordable.
Bea's offers high tea at the £20 and under mark with an added glass of champagne merely an extra £7.50. The freshly baked goods are displayed on lovely, burlesque-style tiers by UndergrowthDesign. And, why offer cucumber and tuna-mayo sandwiches. Isn't this the 21st century? Bea's modernizes the Victorian afternoon tea experience of the 19th Century by serving baguette sandwiches with brie, goat's cheese, hummus, ham and pesto (not all on one!).
Cupcakes and brownies have replaced macaroons and fruit tarts but the quintessential scone cannot be replaced – even by Bea. An authentic scone with clotted cream and jam completes the new-age experience. I think Queen Victoria would even approve. If you hate tea then don't be afraid of the high tea experience. Victoria may not agree but you can have coffee, juice or lemonade, or dare I suggest a glass of wine?
The staff serve the tea eloquently, but they're relaxed and often witty. Customers can dress up or down because this is their experience. There are no requirements (but you should probably come fully-clothed). Bea's also caters to larger functions like hens-dos, baby showers, birthdays and office parties. The staff are not opposed to taking many pictures of your group as they can.
Warning: They don't have fancy tablecloths or cloth napkins; although for bigger functions you can dress the table with anything but confetti! Book a reservation, especially if you plan to grace Bea's with your presence on a weekend. Afternoon Tea is offered at all three of Bea's locations on the weekend but the St. Paul's location accommodates the bigger groups.