Victorian Afternoon Tea at the V&A Museum in London

by | Mar 8, 2019

Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, London

Treat yourself to an afternoon tea fit for a Queen. The Victorian afternoon tea at the V&A Museum in South Kensington is served in the opulent surroundings of the Museum’s ornate William Morris room.

The William Morris Room at the Victoria and Albert Museum London

Afternoon tea at the V&A is served in The William Morris Room Image: Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum London

Did you know that the Victoria and Albert Museum has the world’s oldest museum restaurant?

The beautifully designed period rooms are a feast for the eyes. One of them makes a wonderful setting for a unique afternoon tea experience if you’re visiting London.

The V&A’s Victorian afternoon tea is the jewel in the crown of the Museum’s tea and cake offering. It recreates Queen Victoria’s afternoon tea and is served in the ornate Morris room designed by William Morris.

With over 145 galleries across 7 floors and covering a total of 12.5 acres, a sit down for a refreshing pot of tea and slice of cake is an essential part of the V&A visitor experience.

Whether you’re viewing the latest exhibition or coming to see the V&A’s wonderful collections, why not make your visit to the Museum extra special?

The Victorian afternoon tea is big on flavour but relatively light compared to others we’ve tried, so you’ll still have room for dinner (we did).

The Foodie Travel Guide

The History of the Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum (or the V&A as it is affectionately known), is the most elaborately designed and decorated museum in Britain.

It’s also the world’s largest museum of arts and decorative design with over 60,000 items on display. 

The V&A began life as the Museum of Manufactures showcasing the best of British design following the huge success of Henry Cole’s Great Exhibition in 1851. It became the first museum in the world to be lit by gaslight to allow evening opening.

The World’s First Museum Restaurant

During the Great Exhibition, Henry Cole, the Museum’s founder, quickly learnt that visitors needed tea and a bun or a hot meal. Incorporating a museum restaurant at the V&A was a way of encouraging people to come and enjoy culture and draw them away from the Victorian gin palaces. It wasn’t until the 20th century that other museums started opening restaurants, too.

Victorian afternoon tea at the V&A Museum London

Enjoy a glass of champagne with your Victorian Afternoon Tea

Queen Victoria and Afternoon Tea

It was during the Victorian era that the idea for afternoon tea first gained popularity. 

Legend has it that Anna Maria Stanhope, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, a Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria, was too hungry to wait for dinner. She requested a selection of biscuits and cakes to be served in her dressing room in the afternoon. She soon began inviting friends to partake in her new ritual.

Queen Victoria, who was known to have a very sweet tooth, quickly fell in love with the idea. She kept the pastry chefs at Buckingham Palace busy as they worked hard to meet her requests for cakes and pastries. By the late 1840s the royal household was hosting daily tea parties.

Scones and Jam served on Burleigh china at the V&A Museum London

Little sconelets are served with jam and clotted cream and mini Victoria sponge cakes

A Victorian Afternoon Tea Menu 

In 2016, the V&A introduced a Victorian afternoon tea menu for its visitors. The Museum worked with food historian, Natasha Marks, to produce an authentic Victorian afternoon tea menu which includes both sweet and savoury delicacies typical of the era.

We tucked into dainty finger sandwiches with four different fillings. They’re very tasty. We particularly loved the Indian ham sandwich with its ham hock, chutney and chervil filling served on white bread and Mrs Beeton’s cucumber sandwich served with cream cheese. A mini asparagus and Parmesan tart completes the savoury selection.

traditional afternoon tea cakes on cake stand

Cakes include lemon & seed cake, gooseberry tart and iced orange cake

Scones are little fruit sconelets. They’re baked with sultanas infused with Earl Grey tea and are served with jam and Cornish clotted cream.

A slice of Victoria sandwich, a sponge cake named after Queen Victoria, is filled with blackcurrant jam and elderflower fresh cream.

A tangy gooseberry tart and citrusy lemon and seed cake are both a treat. Our favourite though, was the exquisite iced orange cake with its clementine puree decorated with orange zest, almonds and pistachios.

For refreshment there are 6 different teas to choose from including English breakfast, Earl Grey, Assam and Darjeeling.

It’s all served on traditional green and white British Burleigh crockery and paired with antique cutlery pieces that date back to the early 1900s.

And, just like all good afternoon teas, there’s the option to pay a little extra to have a glass of champagne or Prosecco.

Afternoon tea is served on green Burleigh china

Afternoon tea is served on traditional British Burleigh crockery

The Morris Room at The V&A

What really makes the Victorian afternoon tea unique though is the extraordinary room setting. Walking through the Museum’s busy café into the dark and atmospheric Morris Room takes you back to a different time.

When the room was first opened it was known as The Green Dining Room.  Along with the equally impressive adjoining Gamble and Poynter rooms, it formed the original V&A Refreshment rooms.

When William Morris was asked to design the room he was still a relative newcomer. At the age of 31 he designed a scheme influenced by the Gothic Revival.

The room features an ornate ceiling, a huge stained-glass window and Elizabethan-style panelling. Hints of the patterns that would later make William Morris famous can be seen in the olive boughs that wind through the room’s plasterwork.

It’s not surprising the room became a popular spot for artists and friends to meet including J.M. Whistler and Edward Poynter. 

Ornate ceiling in the William Morris Room at the V&A London

The ornate ceiling of the William Morris room

The Victoria and Albert Museum Cafe

If you’d prefer tea and cake rather than an afternoon tea set menu, make a beeline for the café and find a table in the equally impressive Gamble room. It’s like a grand European café. Look up for the inscription from Ecclesiastes which crowns the room:

‘There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and make his soul enjoy the good of his labour’.

If it’s a sunny day, the Museum’s courtyard is a relaxing spot for a chilled glass of wine.

The V&A cafe is in The Gamble room

The magnificent Gamble room at the V&A  Image: Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum London

What to See at The Victoria and Albert Museum  

London is abuzz this spring with rave reviews of the latest fashion exhibition at the V&A. 

The Christian Dior Exhibition: Designer of Dreams’ is due to run until mid July 2019. It is pulling in the crowds and tickets are in hot demand.

Other highlights of the Museum include the Cast Courts where you can see a copy of Michelangelo’s ‘David’.

Queen Victoria was said to be shocked by the nudity of a full-size plaster-cast. A suitably proportioned fig leaf was made, and hung on the figure using a pair of hooks when dignitaries visited. Today, the fig leaf is no longer used.

Other items of note worth seeking out (among many, many others) are:

 

  • ‘The Three Graces’ sculpture by Antonio Canova
  • Charles Dickens pen case and manuscript for ‘Oliver Twist’
  • The first commercially-produced Christmas card invented in 1843
  • The earliest photograph of London taken in 1839
The Cast Courts at the Victoria and Albert Museum London

The Cast Courts at the V&A with Michelangelo’s ‘David’ 

  • The Victorian afternoon tea is £30 per person
  • It is served on Friday afternoons and Sundays
  • Booking in advance is recommended
  • A glass of champagne or Prosecco is available for an additional charge
  • The afternoon tea menu is a fixed menu but an vegetarian selection is available on request
  • Entrance to the museum is free but special exhibitions require a ticket purchase
  • The nearest underground station is South Kensington

Dog Policy Mr Hendricks says, “Assistance dogs are very welcome at the V&A.”.

 

 


How to Find The Victoria and Albert Museum

Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL

The Victoria and Albert Museum

The V&A Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 


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The Foodie Travel Guide

The Foodie Travel Guide

Sally is the founder and editor of The Foodie Travel Guide. She travels around the UK and beyond in search of the best foodie days out, tasting experiences and delicious places to stay. She loves a glass of English sparkling wine, afternoon tea with friends and escaping London for gastronomic adventures. 

Afternoon Tea at the V&A

  • A Victorian afternoon tea menu
  • Enjoy finger sandwiches, scones and cakes
  • Celebrate with a glass of champagne
  • Served in the Morris Room


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