The very English tradition of afternoon tea can sometimes be perceived as a stuffy and uptight one, ripe with dainty sandwiches and nibble-sized pastries that hardly do much to satiate one’s hunger. But who on Earth can argue with Anna Maria Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, who is credited for introducing the concept in the 19th century after complaining of a “sinking feeling” experienced during the late afternoon?
If you’re all too familiar with that feeling yourself and tired of the depressing 21st century take on the tradition – scoffing a handful of biscuits at your office desk – we hear you loud and clear. And we’re here to help. Savoir Flair has scoured the city in search of afternoon tea that goes well beyond the cucumber-sandwiches-and-scones-with-clotted-cream combination. From onion quiches enjoyed in the heart of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve to gianduja chocolate tarts served on a floating table at a height of 50 meters above the ground, it’s all here.
The Great Escape
A scrumptious, three-tier stand awaits you when you make an afternoon-tea reservation at The Farm restaurant in Al Barari. There’s an on-site bakery, which is evidenced by the delicious savory options that inlcude sourdough, ciabatta, and focaccia sandwiches with fillings such as grilled vegetables, beef pastrami, and smoked salmon. On the sweet side, you can expect walnut brownies, carrot cake, macarons, mixed fruit tarts, and – of course – scones with jam and double cream.
However, what you’ll remember long after is the idyllic ambience of The Farm; lush gardens, a lake, tropical plants, a bamboo roof above the outside deck, and a rock-fringed lily pond come together for an incredibly serene setting like none other in our always-hectic city.
Afternoon tea is served daily from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Price per person: AED 175/SAR 179
The Farm, Al Barari
(+971) 4 392 5660
Deep in the Dunes
Date scones, onion quiches, Earl Grey panna cotta, egg sandwiches, assorted Arabic sweets, and more – there’s plenty to choose from when it comes to the food offering at Al Maha Resort’s afternoon tea. But it’s the relaxed atmosphere at Hajar Terrace Bar – where the afternoon tea is served – and its breathtaking views of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve that make it irresistible – and the definitive afternoon-tea spot for a nature lover.
While the resort offers plenty of day packages that allow access to the infinity pool and Timeless Spa facilities, we recommend the ‘Wildlife Drive’ above all others. This hour-long journey in an air-conditioned 4×4 through the property’s spectacular dunes and dramatic desert terrain is the best way to view the free-roaming herds of wildlife, such as Arabian oryx and sand gazelles, as your field guide points out interesting flora and fauna – and the delicate footprints of gerbils and jirds – along the way.
Afternoon tea is served daily from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. except during the month of Ramadan.
Price per person: AED 175/SAR 179
Al Maha Resort
(+971) 4 832 9900
Up in the Air
Cranes and cakes unite at an afternoon tea that is certainly not intended for the faint of heart courtesy of Dinner in the Sky, Dubai’s hottest (and highest) new dining concept. Originating in Belgium, the “floating” dinner tables have made their way across the globe from Rome to Athens, Cape Town to Kuala Lumpur, and now to the UAE. As the name suggests, you are – quite literally – dining in the sky.
Chefs from The Ritz-Carlton hotel whip up treats such as herb-marinated eggplant and goat’s cheese sandwiches, chocolate truffle cake with lime marmalade, and raisin scones – all prepared in front of you, 50 meters above the ground. The table is raised and lowered using a huge crane, lifting you up into the sky to enjoy stunning views of Dubai Marina and the city’s skyline, with upbeat tunes accompanying you along the way.
Afternoon tea is served twice daily, with seatings at 4:05 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
Price per person: AED 499/SAR 511 on weekdays, AED 599/SAR 611 on weekends
Dubai International Marine Club
(+971) 50 925 6341
Sugar and Spice
Tea may have been invented thousands of years ago in Asia, but the tradition of high tea originated in England in the 1840s. Combine the two concepts and what do you get? Afternoon tea with a side of bite-sized, Asian-inspired dishes in a five-star lobby in the heart of Dubai.
At Shangri-La Dubai’s ‘Asian High Tea’, guests are treated to an array of sweet and savory dishes ranging from BBQ chicken buns, squid-ink rolls, Peking duck with foie gras truffles, and a tom yum lobster spring roll to green-tea éclairs and chocolate-and-raspberry spheres infused with ‘Shang Palace Signature Tea’. The beautiful presentation and dry-ice display are distracting enough that you won’t be bothered by the more conventional surroundings.
Afternoon tea is served daily from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Price per person: AED 135/SAR 138
(+971) 4 405 270
Lap of Luxury
There’s only one place you can trust to host the most luxurious afternoon tea in Dubai, and that’s Skyview Bar at Burj Al Arab. Take a seat at your table (which is a casual 200 meters above sea level) and relax as you take in the panoramic views of the sea and the city, enjoying the royal treatment that the hotel is so famed for.
This is no ordinary afternoon-tea offering of just sandwiches and sweets, as it entails five courses of pure edible bliss. The lavish affair starts with a creamy, white-chocolate petit pot before you’re served mini quiches followed by a stand stacked with sandwiches that we guarantee you’ll devour in minutes. After a quick palate cleanser in the form of a refreshing lychee-and-rose sorbet, it’s on to homemade scones with Devonshire clotted cream and jams and an array of mini pastries that are almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
Afternoon tea is served from Saturday to Thursday, with seatings at 12 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Price per person: AED 620/SAR 633
Burj Al Arab
(+971) 4 301 7600
A Fragrant Twist
The perfect pairing for foodies and fragrance lovers, the new Buglari afternoon tea at The Palace Downtown Dubai allows you to match your scent to your sandwiches. Seriously. Throughout the month of March, the stunning Lakeside Garden and Al Bayt Lounge & Terrace are being transformed into a Bulgari wonderland, where every bite brings the best of Bulgari’s scents to life in the form of a rather fancy afternoon-tea spread.
In celebration of the ‘Eaux Parfumées Collection’, a series of scents inspired by exotic teas, you can expect delectable dishes such as the ‘Thé Blue’ avocado-and-tuna roll with violet, ‘Thé Blanc’ strawberry tart with pepper crisp, and ‘Thé Rouge’ cheesecake with orange and fig, followed by green-tea scones. Add to that live food stations serving crêpes and pancakes, chocolate fountains, sorbet trolleys, as well as live music courtesy of harp and violin virtuosos and you have one of the finest and most fragrant afternoon teas in town.
Afternoon tea is served every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday at Lakeside Garden from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and at Al Bayt from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Price per person: From AED 160/SAR 163
The Palace Downtown Dubai
(+971) 4 428 7981
Sky's the Limit
Let’s just put it this way: there simply isn’t an afternoon tea higher up in the sky – anywhere in the world. At.mosphere’s British tea with a French twist takes place on level 122 of Burj Khalifa, and simply getting into the building and up to the restaurant is an experience on its own. With strict security around, the anticipation of something special on the horizon starts to build early on. Upon entering the venue, you’re greeted by the incredible view – Dubai looks spectacular from a bird’s eye view and you can take it all in, from Downtown Dubai to the Dubai Canal and all the way to Dubai Marina. You’ll be stunned even before any food or beverage has arrived.
For tea, you can choose one of two packages: ‘La Gourmandise’ offers a classic collection of mini sandwiches, pâtisseries, scones, and fresh berries served with a drink of your choice from an extensive menu of teas and coffees from around the world, while the ‘Luxurious Menu’ also includes a main course and an adult beverage.
Afternoon tea is served daily from 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Price per person: From AED 320/SAR 327
(+971) 4 888 3828
Under the Sea
Once you step into Ossiano, we guarantee you’ll instantly feel a little calmer; the mesmerizing Ambassador Lagoon with 65,000 marine animals somehow has this almost-tranquilizing effect. It’s nearly impossible to tear your eyes away from the amazing ecosystem in the aquarium in front of you, but luckily for diners, the dishes at this exquisite afternoon tea are just as exciting.
Order specialty tea or coffee while you’re offered caviar and accompaniments such as blinis and crème fraîche before moving on to seafood-filled finger sandwiches such as lobster éclairs. Sweet treats like ‘Lollipop Carrot Cake’, scones, petit fours, and macarons round off the opulent affair. Between the decadent meal and the soothing effect of your surroundings, you can thank Ossiano for the brilliant nap that will follow.
Afternoon tea is served every Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Price per person: From AED 295/SAR 301
Atlantis The Palm
(+971) 4 426 2626
And lastly, if you’re not one to fuss over novelty concepts and glamorous settings but are just looking to enjoy a quintessentially British afternoon tea, look no further than Rhodes W1. After all, who better to bring the best of Blighty to your table than Gary Rhodes? The celebrity chef is famed for his modern take on British dishes, so you’ll be treated to a classic English tea affair but with a twist (of course).
Savory starters include traditional finger sandwiches such as quail’s egg mayonnaise and tomato with sweet chilli but also warm delights like mini Shepherd’s Pie fritters and gooey, cheesy croque monsieurs. Be sure to save room for the scones and crumpets – not to mention the huge array of pastries and the mini pots of Eton mess. The setting, which features grass-covered walls, bright colors, and a butterfly chandelier, will transport you straight to the English countryside. It’s Insta-love at first sight.
Afternoon tea is served every Friday and Saturday from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Price per person: From AED 195/SAR 199
(+971) 4 317 6000