Review: Afternoon tea at The Portrait Gallery

Whenever tourists think of where to go for afternoon tea in London, they think of The Ritz. And it’s not surprising. Although I’ve never been, it certainly looks glamorous. But I’m more of a regular for afternoon tea at The Portrait Gallery.


Well aside from it being a fraction of the price, The Portrait Gallery restaurant has one of the most spectacular views over London. I think it’s a bit of a hidden gem. Not many tourists seem to know about it and many Londoners go there after a lazy Sunday afternoon strolling through The Portrait Gallery.

View from the Portrait Gallery afternoon tea Double-barrelled travel

The beautiful view from The Portrait Gallery allows you to spot many London landmarks

I often take any friends who are visiting London there. We recently took my mum and she loved it. It’s quite laid back and the large windows allow you to sit down and admire the view, no matter where you’re seated.

A champagne tea at The Ritz costs £57 per person, whereas for afternoon tea at The Portrait Gallery it’s only $29.95, so you can see the appeal.

a stand of cakes at the Portrait Gallery afternoon tea Double-barrelled travel

The cake stand can certainly be shared between two as there’s many cakes and sandwiches to choose from

You get a good-sized portion of cakes and sandwiches for afternoon tea at the Portrait Gallery too. One cake stand can be easily shared between two. It comes with two sandwiches, scones, carrot cake, raspberry pavlova, millionaire`s shortbread, coffee éclair and a chocolate brownie. In fact I’ve never managed to finish off one serving on my own.

Plus, there’s a large selection of teas to choose from, so if you fancy something different they’ll most likely have it.

The cakes and scones tasted very fresh when we visited and the bread making up the sandwiches was soft without being soggy.

Mimi and JJ drinking tea at the Portrait Gallery afternoon tea Double-barrelled travel

My host parents enjoying their tea. Or coffee in Jean-Jaques’ case – most French people prefer coffee to tea!

Unfortunately, the service wasn’t like it once was. When we entered, there were a number of empty seats next to the windows, yet we were seated at the back, besides booking weeks in advance. When we asked to be moved, it took them 10 minutes to shift us, before placing us in a window seat adjacent to where the chef was eating his lunch… whilst taking up a window seat.

Then it took them about 15 minutes to take our order, and the waitress even took another table’s order, that’d arrived later than us, before she took down ours. It was only when I whispered to my friends that the service wasn’t like it was previously that the chef went over to the waitress and told her to take our order.

So the afternoon tea at The Portrait Gallery is delicious and the view is certainly worth the price tag. But the service unfortunately is not what you’d get at The Ritz. I guess you get what you pay for.

Eating cakes at the Portrait Gallery afternoon tea Double-barrelled travel

Me about to tuck into my afternoon tea

What you need to know:

Cost: We paid about £40 between three. We got the afternoon tea without the champagne, which cost £19.95, plus two plates of extra sandwiches and a couple of coffees and a tea. The afternoon tea was just one stand and included one tea, but we found we could share it easily between three with the extra sandwiches.

When to go: It’s best to go when the sun is shining, to make the most of the view. However, I’d advise you book ahead because it gets busy, especially on the weekends.

How to get there: The Portrait Gallery is a short work from Charing Cross Underground station. Many buses service the area. The restaurant itself is on the top floor of the gallery.

What’s the best afternoon tea or high tea you’ve had in London?

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About the author

Carmen has been nomadic since May 2013 and the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel. She loves experiencing new cultures and learning new languages. She is having the most fun when skiing down a mountain, scuba diving in the Caribbean or curled up with a good book.

2 comments on “Review: Afternoon tea at The Portrait Gallery”

  1. Anthony Swaby Reply

    Dear reviewer,

    I was glad to hear so many positive comments about the afternoon tea at the Portrait Restaurant. Despite commenting that the service is not what it used to be you have still painted a very positive picture of an afternoon looking out over London. Your comments on how delicious the food is here was based over many visits and I am sure that on those visits you were happy with the service and would hate the think that your opinion is drawn on one negative bad experience (I am sure you have never seen the Chefs sitting at a table before). I do hope that you return to the Portrait Restaurant to try again. Being directly responsible for the service for the past 4 years here I can understand that there are occasions where we don’t quite hit the mark but I can proudly say that the service here is just as good and in many ways even better than what it used to be. I do hope that you return at some point so that I am able to express this further and leave you with a lasting impression of the Portrait Restaurant for all of the right reasons.

    Should you wish to ever dine with us please do get in touch with me and I would be happy to make your reservation and be on hand to welcome you personally.

    Kind regards,

    Anthony Swaby
    General Manager

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      Thank you for your response. That’s a very gracious offer and we appreciate it.
      It’s good to know that you’re willing to listen to feedback from your patrons.
      And you’re right, when we think of the Portrait Gallery we think of it very fondly and we won’t let this one negative experience ruin all our memories of the afternoon teas we’ve had there.

      Kind regards,

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