Freshly brewed tea. Cake stands full of sweets and savory delights. Scones filled with large amounts of cream and jam. We are, of course, talking about afternoon tea, a tradition started by the 7th Duchess of Bedford in the early nineteenth century.
During a summer holiday in England a few years ago, we fell in love with this tradition. Since then, we have had afternoon tea in many variations both at home and abroad.
The task of determining Oslo’s best afternoon tea turned out to be delightful but difficult. Only minor details differentiated the top 3 on our list, all of which delivered a very good meal. The winner did, however, stand out in a few important aspects. At our favorite place, the food was tasty, the presentation top notch and the ambiance outstanding. Keep on reading to find out who serves the best afternoon tea in our hometown, Oslo!
Number 5: Palmen Restaurant at the Grand Hotel
Grand Hotel serves its afternoon tea in what must be one of Oslo’s most gorgeous-looking restaurants. Palmen Restaurant is beautifully decorated and gives a luxurious impression. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a friendly staff member and escorted to our table, which was set with beautiful porcelain that matched the rest of the room perfectly. The waiter recommended that we have black tea, and the steaming hot cups arrived shortly afterwards along with the accompanying spread.
The food looked very tempting, and everything was laid out with care and precision. Unfortunately, the flavors did not live up to the appearance. The taste of the unconventional sandwiches and canapes was simply too strong for our palates. Amongst the selection were smoked halibut sandwiches, flatbread with reindeer and two varieties of red beetroot. For our taste buds, this was not the best way to start the meal. As the scones and the cakes didn’t manage to impress us either, the meal was regrettably a disappointment.
Palmen Restaurant has fantastic potential with its highly inviting decor and friendly staff. In the future, we hope that they will focus more on taste and tradition, and a little less on innovation. If they do so, we will be happy to return.
+ fantastic venue, a beautifully set table with lovely porcelain
– unconventional flavors, dry scones, one of the highest prices in Oslo for afternoon tea
Price: 345 NOK
*We visited Palmen Restaurant at the Grand Hotel in January 2018.
Number 4: Christiania
Update as of December 2018: Christiania is no longer serving afternoon tea!
Christiania is centrally located in the middle of Oslo city center. Upon arrival, we were instantly seated and given the afternoon tea menu, featuring a large selection of teas. We decided to have the classic English Breakfast Tea. It arrived quickly in beautiful pots, though it took a while before the food was brought out.
The cake stand was filled with a surprisingly generous amount of sandwiches and scones, but on the top tier were only two small pieces of cake. The sandwiches were tasty, although a bit messy in appearance. The scones, on the other hand, truly impressed us, and we agreed that they were the best in Oslo! Given this, it was a real pity that the accompanying cream was split. We notified the staff and immediately received a new bowl of cream. Unfortunately, the new cream was also split. We decided to forgo the cream and instead topped the scones with jam and lemon curd. The latter tasted delicious, and the sourness matched well with the sweetness of the scones.
We finished our afternoon tea at Christiania with carrot cake and brownies. These were alright, but as cake lovers, we would have liked if the stand had a more even distribution between sandwiches, scones, and petits fours.
+ the city’s best scones, good sandwiches, reasonable price
– split cream, too few sweet treats, lackluster service
Price: 279 NOK
*We visited Cafe Christiania in June 2018.
Number 3: Lysebu
We headed for Lysebu in early November to enjoy their afternoon tea. November turned out to the perfect time to visit, as the Danish designer Jette Frölich had just decorated the hotel for Christmas. We felt the Christmas spirit from the moment we got out of the car and saw the beautiful decorations placed around the courtyard. Inside, ornaments in silver and gold sparkled in the light of numerous candles.
The young waiter warmly welcomed us and led us to a nicely set table. Pots with hot water were brought out, followed by a traditional cake stand. The scones were served on a separate stone plate.
Both the sandwiches and the petits fours were very good. However, we all agreed that the highlight of the afternoon tea was the scones. These came in orange and chocolate flavors and were accompanied by blueberry jam and classic clotted cream. Unfortunately, the portions of clotted cream were tiny, and we therefore asked for more. We were disappointed when we were told the kitchen, unfortunately, had run out of it. In this respect, we felt that Lysebu should have been more generous in their servings.
Our spirits quickly rose again when we finished the tea party with delicious macarons, crispy biscuits, and a divine passion fruit jelly.
Lysebu serves lovely afternoon tea, and we are already looking forward to another pre-Christmas visit.
+ clotted cream, delicious scones, amazing ambiance
– too little clotted cream, somewhat bland sandwiches, tea was served as hot water + tea bags
Price: 275 NOK
Update as of December 2018: We went back to Lysebu in November 2018 for yet another afternoon tea. This time the food was on par with last year, but the servings were still on the smaller side and the service has some room for improvement. Still, visiting Lysebu for afternoon tea before Christmas is highly recommended due to the wonderful ambiance at the hotel!
* We visited Lysebu in November 2017 and in November 2018.
Number 2: Winter Garden & Library Bar in Hotel Bristol
Hotel Bristol serves its afternoon tea in the Winter Garden & Library Bar. We were given a nice table and instantly felt comfortable. A moment of confusion arose when the waiter did not realize we had reserved a table for afternoon tea, but this was immediately clarified.
The teapot arrived shortly after. We were not given the opportunity to choose the tea type, but we quickly forgave this. The tea was brewed with loose leaves and tasted magnificent. It was no doubt the best tea we have had in all the places we visited for afternoon tea in Oslo.
The Winter Garden & Library Bar’s great atmosphere was regrettably not fully extended to our table setting. The teapot could have used an upgrade, and so could the napkins.
The food, however, compensated for what was lacking in the table presentation. The sandwiches had classic fillings with cucumber, smoked salmon, and ham. Each sandwich had a lovely balanced flavor. The scones were tasty, but we wished there was a little more of the delicious mascarpone cream.
We finished off the afternoon tea with the petits fours, and what a finale! The macarons had a perfect combination of lightness and chewiness, and an intense raspberry flavor. Lastly, the caramel truffles were so irresistible that we ended up ordering a few more.
There is no doubt that we will return to Hotel Bristol. The atmosphere, food, and attentive service make this one of our favorite places to enjoy afternoon tea in Oslo.
+ delicious loose leaf tea, tasty sandwiches with great flavors, outstanding service, mouthwatering caramel truffles
– too little mascarpone cream, underwhelming table presentation
Price: 395 NOK
* We visited The Winter Garden & Library Bar in Hotel Bristol in March 2018.
Number 1: Theatercaféen at Hotel Continental
The ambiance at the famous Theatercaféen is something special. The whole restaurant has a historic vibe which creates the perfect setting for afternoon tea.
The tea and food arrived quickly, carried by a surprisingly cheerful waitress. The waitress had some trouble recalling what was on the afternoon tea menu, which left us wondering what was being served.
The food, however, tasted excellent from the first to the last bite. The sandwiches were delicious, and our favorite was the one with cucumber and cream cheese filling. We also appreciated the attention to detail in the presentation. Here the competitors have a few things to learn.
The scones looked more like muffins than traditional scones but tasted impeccable. We were also very pleased that they were accompanied by authentic clotted cream.
The meringue tarts were sweet and sour as they should be, and the macarons were nothing short of perfect in both taste and texture. A playful addition to the petits fours were the lovely homemade marshmallows. Finally, the chocolate truffles made for an excellent ending to the meal.
Theatercaféen offers a fantastic overall experience, where food, presentation and ambiance get our top marks. We therefore consider Theatercaféen to be the best afternoon tea experience in Oslo!
+ delicious food, great presentation, traditional clotted cream, historical ambiance
– the teapot did not manage to keep the tea warm for very long, the service was a little too informal
Price: 410 NOK
Update as of February 2019: We revisited Theatercaféen on a snowy afternoon in late January. This time the food was even tastier than last time, and the service flawless. Theatercaféen undoubtedly still serves Oslo’s best Afternoon Tea!