Afternoon tea is very popular in Joburg and I’ve tried quite a few different ones over the years. I’ve been meaning to do a Jozi Top Fives post on this topic forever.
Side note #1: Most of the fancy hotels in Joburg refer to their afternoon tea as “high tea”, I think because high tea sounds more grand. But I was recently schooled on this issue by the brilliant Katharine Love of Lindfield House (read more about Lindfield below), and learned that “afternoon tea” is the correct term for a fancy afternoon meal with tea and cake. High tea evolved as a lower class version of afternoon tea, which is the opposite of what these fancy hotel teas actually are. Read more on the distinction here.
Side note #2: I’m really picky about my afternoon teas, which is one of the reasons I’ve put off this post for so long. Sometimes even the most glamorous teas don’t meet my expectations. I want every afternoon tea to be exactly like my first one in 1994, at Fortnum & Mason in downtown London. That tea was served by a frowning elderly Englishwoman in a black maid’s costume and included the fluffiest scones, the richest clotted cream, and the daintiest cucumber sandwiches I’ve ever tasted or ever will taste. No afternoon tea will ever measure up to that one, but I’m on a never-ending quest.
Side note #3: In case you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned the the Four Seasons (formerly the Westcliff Hotel) in this post, it’s because the Four Seasons has recently, inexplicably, stopped offering afternoon tea. What a bummer, as the view is amazing and the Westcliff’s afternoon tea was legendary. Boo.
With that, here are my five choices.
My Favorite Jozi Afternoon Teas
1) 54 on Bath Hotel
I’ve had afternoon tea twice at 54 on Bath in Rosebank, and to me this is the best hotel tea in town. The setting is great (although they won’t seat you outside if there’s even a hint of rain), the service is great, the tea is great, and the food is authentic and delicious. The tiered tea platters are traditional, with large scones accompanied by jam and clotted cream, decadent cucumber and smoked salmon finger sandwiches, and well-crafted tiny desserts. If you really like one particular thing, the servers are happy to bring you more.
54 on Bath’s afternoon tea costs R245 ($18), or R295 ($21) with a glass of champagne. Read more about my first tea at 54 on Bath in this 2013 post.
2) Fairlawns Boutique Hotel
I blogged recently about the Fairlawns afternoon tea so I won’t repeat myself. But the Fairlawns tea is much along the lines of 54 on Bath’s tea — traditional, luxurious, and comparatively well priced. I love the setting at Fairlawns; it feels like you’re out in the country even though the hotel is just a few minutes from Sandton City.
The Fairlawns tea costs R235 ($17) per person.
3) De Hoek Country Hotel
The De Hoek afternoon tea is what motivated me to finally write this post — I was invited to De Hoek for tea this past weekend. De Hoek is in Magaliesburg, about an hour outside of Joburg, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend driving all the way out there just for tea. But this afternoon tea is a great add-on to a full day or weekend in Magaliesburg and/or the Cradle of Humankind, or to an overnight visit to the De Hoek hotel itself (read about my 2013 weekend at De Hoek).
The De Hoek tea is a little less traditional than 54 on Bath or Fairlawns, with fewer scones and finger sandwiches and more experimental stuff. In fact, my only complaint about the De Hoek tea is that there weren’t enough scones — our platter only had two very tiny half-scones with a small dollop of cream and jam already applied. But I especially liked the tea itself, which comes in traditional varieties as well as interesting fruity flavors.
The beautiful tea tray served to us at De Hoek. I particularly loved the bottom tier — tasty balsamic salad jars, rye bread heaped with smokes salmon, and spinach spanakopita. Next time I want more scones though — they did say we were welcome to order more but I was too full after eating everything else.
The De Hoek setting can’t be beat — the gardens are so pretty and relaxed. Going there was a nice excuse to get out of town, if only briefly.
Afternoon tea at De Hoek costs R325 ($23) per person. De Hoek also serves spectacular dinners — I wouldn’t recommend doing both in the same day because your stomach might explode.
4) The Saxon
The Saxon is the fanciest hotel in Joburg, and its afternoon tea needs to be on this list simply because visiting the Saxon is such an experience. Where else in Joburg will a chauffeur meet you at the parking garage in huge white BMW, to drive you 100 meters from the parking area to the hotel?
The Saxon is known for its gourmet food and the afternoon tea is no exception, with high-end leaf teas and delectable savouries and sweets. The cuisine and presentation veers a bit too far from traditional afternoon tea, in my opinion, but it’s hard to complain about food that tastes so good.
My favorite all-time photo from the Saxon. Read more about it in this post.
The Saxon tea is R325 ($23) per person Tuesday through Thursday and R395 ($28) on Saturdays, when you can listen to live piano music.
5) Lindfield House
I’ve saved Lindfield House for last because I think it’s the best. I’ve blogged about Lindfield twice before (read here and here) because it’s one of my favorite tourist attractions in Joburg. Katharine Love, the owner and curator at Lindfield, gives incredible tours of her Victorian house and she serves a fantastic, home-cooked afternoon tea at the end of the tour. (Note that the full afternoon tea must be booked in advance.)
Lindfield House is the best deal in Joburg for afternoon tea. A full tour plus a full tea costs R120 ($8.50). Just keep in mind that Lindfield House is a museum, not a hotel/restaurant, and the tea is an add-on rather than a main event. Nonetheless, I love it.
Got any other Jozi afternoon tea recommendations? Bring’em on below. In the meantime I’m going to make a cup of tea.
I’ve received complimentary afternoon tea at Fairlawns, the Saxon, and De Hoek. Opinions expressed are mine.