My mom and I are both lovers of tea, so when we made plans to visit England together, we knew we’d have to have afternoon tea in London. There are hundreds of options to choose from, so when I was researching I quickly decided that we’d have a lot more fun at one of the unique themed ones than a traditional tea set-up. Not that there’s anything wrong with a regular tea, but we’re both a little nerdy so we wanted something a little on that end of the spectrum. While searching for quirky afternoon teas in London, I found perhaps the nerdiest of them all – the science afternoon tea at the Ampersand Hotel and knew it was the perfect one.
What is the science afternoon tea?
This unique afternoon tea set-up is a little bit science-y. It still features all of the usual aspects – tea, scones, sandwiches, etc. – but it also has a little twist. We’re both adults (calendar-wise), but it would be a perfect afternoon tea for kids too. The tea starts off with some stirring and mixing and has some super cool space-themed sweets that are practically made for Instagram. It’s held in The Drawing Rooms, a cozy little restaurant in the Ampersand Hotel in the Kensington area.
Science afternoon tea at the Ampersand Hotel
The tea room at the Ampersand Hotel is absolutely gorgeous. The whole lobby is, really, so I felt extra awkward showing up in a Gryffindor t-short and shorts thanks to rush hour traffic that delayed our bus back from the Harry Potter Studio Tour. Luckily I had a dress in my purse, so I changed quickly in the bathroom and felt slightly more elegant. Especially when I added my solar system necklace and atom earrings.
Our tea started with a “science experiment” mixing our own flavored lemonade. We were given a couple beakers, pipettes of flavoring, a syringe of syrup, and a packet of powder to make it fizz. We stirred it into a beautiful blue and then poured it into our own cups to add the flavoring.
We had strawberry and mango to choose from and both went with the strawberry. No matter what my mom says, I only took half of the strawberry syrup and it was portioned out completely fairly.
Our actual tea was served around the same time and it was decent. I tend to prefer berry flavors or strongly spiced chai, so none of the options on the menu particularly jumped out at me, but the one I ended up with an earl grey that was smooth and tasty. We were honestly having so much fun with the lemonade and snacks that I forgot to drink the last half of it until it was cold though.
Our food tray arrived with a dramatic flourish. The top level was full of space-themed treats and a hidden container of dry ice. Our waiter poured some water into the dry ice and it looked like a volcano of smoke. It was definitely a cool effect.
Like the responsible adults we are, we started with the sandwiches. We each had one portion of the 3 different types listed on the menu. This was the part of the tea I was most skeptical about. Despite my hatred of mayo, I quite liked the one that featured chicken and lemon mayonnaise. The mini roast beef sandwich was also tasty. Both of us skipped the smoked salmon one so I can’t tell you if it’s any good.
The middle tier of our food presentation had scones. There was a tube of lemon curd and containers of freeze dried fruit “sprinkles” for a little quasi-science flourish, but they were so tasty they really didn’t need any extra flavor. The two scones I had ended up being my favorite parts of the whole afternoon tea – surprising considering that I have an incredible sweet tooth. The white chocolate cranberry one was definitely a hit in my book.
The desserts with our science afternoon tea were absolutely gorgeous, but unfortunately they didn’t taste quite as good as they looked. The Saturn-shaped planet cake looked amazing, and I loved its chocolate rings, but the dark chocolate passion fruit filling was weirdly sour in a way that surprised me so much that I almost spit it out.
The swirly red currant lychee macarons with pipette flavoring were my favorite out of the desserts. These too had it a little more of a sour flavor, but it worked much better with the brightly colored cookie than the chocolate-looking planet cake. The lime coconut half moon cake did nothing for me except get that annoying “put the lime in the coconut” song stuck in my head. There was also a fruity Jello petri dish that looked like a bacterial experiment. It was a little less sweet than the Jello I’m used to, but was tasty aside from looking a little gross.
The grand finale of our tea was a little box that we could “excavate” for dinosaur bones. The “dirt” was made of cookie crumble and it had a chocolate dinosaur and a skeleton shaped shortbread cookie buried in it. We were given some brushes to dig with like paleontologists in the field for a fun little finale.
Overall verdict on the science afternoon tea
Disappointing desserts aside, we had a great time at this quirky afternoon tea. We had enough food to fill us up and serve as dinner that night so it was actually a pretty good value. We had fun and left full, so I really can’t complain. If you’re intrigued, check out the menu here!
Tips for booking the science afternoon tea at the Ampersand Hotel
- Aside from its fun theme, one of the things that appealed to us about the science afternoon tea was the fact that it was available well into the evening (is it still afternoon tea if you’re being served at 7 pm?). We like to maximize our time when we’re on vacation, so being able to do this in the evening after most of the attractions were closed meant that we could use the afternoon to sightsee. Current hours for the science afternoon tea are Monday-Saturday 12:30-9:00pm and Sunday 12:30-7:00pm.
- You can add champagne to your booking for an extra ten pounds, but we opted to skip that. There is also a “tea pot-tails” menu you can choose from that allows you to choose from boozy teas.
- We ordered the regular menu, but they also offered vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.
- There is also a kids option for ten pounds less with most of the same sweets, but more kid-friendly food options like hot dogs.
- We visited slightly after the main tourist time in the last couple days of August, but we were able to have any time we wanted when we made our reservations. At peak times, I’d still recommend booking ahead if you know you want to visit at a certain time
- The Ampersand Hotel is located in the Kensington area, so as you’re planning out your time in London, try to reserve it on a day that you’ll be around there so you don’t have to travel all the way across town to get there. Nearby attractions include: the Natural History Museum (which would pair perfectly with the science afternoon tea!) and Victoria & Albert Museum, which are both just a block away. It’s also located just a kilometer from the south end of Hyde Park and around 2 kilometers from Kensington Palace.
- If you’re traveling from elsewhere in London, the Ampersand Hotel is located within sight of the South Kensington Underground station, which services the Circle, District, and Piccadilly lines.
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