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What: A remnant ritual of India’s colonial British rule (1858-1947), a proper afternoon tea can still be found at a few select places around Delhi, complete with dainty cucumber sandwiches, delicate desserts, and strong India-grown tea.
Where: You’ll pay a hefty price, but you can’t beat the traditional afternoon tea in the heart of New Delhi at the regal Imperial Hotel (1, Janpath, map), where opulence and old-world charm are aplenty. Tea is served in the sunny indoor Atrium, designed to evoke the feel of tropical garden. While you’re there, you can wander the ground floor (where there’s a Chanel store, by the way) and peek at how the other half lives.
When: An afternoon tea with snacks is served every day from 3pm-6pm; on weekends, it’s a more varied (and costly) buffet.
Order: On weekends, the full tea costs a whopping 1,050 rupees (plus taxes, and there’s a lot of those) per person—no sharing is allowed, as it’s a buffet those days—so you’d better arrive hungry and plan on staying a while. Choose from five Indian teas (we liked the floral Darjeeling and bolder Assam Golden Tips), then hit the buffet. The savories were quite good during our visit, ranging from Western (gazpacho shots, prosciutto and artichoke on toast) to Eastern (curry puffs, chana dal, mango shots) and of course comprising English-style crustless sandwiches (cucumber and mint, carrot and cheese, mango chutney and Emmentaler cheese). Among the sweets on hand were mini scones with cream and jam, éclairs, fruit tarts, cookies, and a wonderful coffee crème brulee, served in a spoon. Everything tasted fresh and was replenished as needed.
The weekday tea is smaller (750 rupees, plus tax) and still lovely, incorporating a handful of savories (such as smoked salmon sandwich, tomato and bocconcini sandwich) and sweets (scones and jam, éclair, fruit tart, pralines).
Alternatively: We’ve heard favorable things about the tea and baked goods at Elma’s Bakery (011-26521020; 24/1, 1st floor, Hauz Khas Village, map) in Hauz Khas Village, that historic South Delhi hub of art, fashion, and food; call in advance to reserve a proper high tea.
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