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Dubai – Where to have afternoon tea with a Burj Khalifa view

May 14, 2017

With scores of palatial hotels in Dubai, there are luxurious eating opportunities aplenty but the perfect afternoon tea can be strangely elusive, so I’ve done my best to track down the best.

Endless steaming pots of loose leaf tea poured into bone china cups, jugs of cold milk, cucumber sandwiches, plain scones, homemade jam and clotted cream are top of my list of non-negotiable elements. It’s an occasion not to be rushed.  The company of good friends to while away several hours and slowly divest the cake stands of their bounty should be available on prescription for the ultimate stress relief.

There’s a tendency in Dubai for too much, which is both strength and a weakness. I shy away from afternoon teas which bring out so many diverse courses that it feels like a late lunch or early dinner. On the other hand, the soaring spire of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, never fails to impress both in gleaming audacity and exuberant ambition.

Here are three places to find a most excellent tea within the shadow of this vertiginous structure.

Tea with an extra bonus

Hushed tones, a polished look and supremely comfortable understated luxury is what you’d expect from The Four Seasons. The one in DIFC has just enough reflective surfaces to catch a glimpse of your own polished high heels (definitely a place to wear your Louboutins) or a glimpse of a glamorous couple strolling through the lobby.

The view from the Penrose Lounge over the business district and the Burj Khalifa adds a Sex in the City vibe. Light-filled, stylish, geometric and resembling one of those coordinated Instagram accounts of the perfect life, it’s a very grown up place for a girl’s afternoon tea get together, which is just what we did. Warm scones wrapped in white linen napkins each had the hint of a flavour – orange, Cheddar, and walnut. This is a luxurious tea so expect dainty bites like foie mousse and salmon caviar, mere sandwiches are too commonplace.  The cake stands are laden with sugary fripperies such as raspberry financiers and pineapple passion verrine, well deserving the phrase ‘naughty but nice’. Staff are ultra discreet and keep teapots brimming and your Champagne flute topped up.

The extra bonus is you have the chance to admire a second view of the Burj Khalifa. Once we’d said our farewells, jaws aching from all the nattering, The Hedonista and I took the lift up to the Luna Sky Bar (a regular haunt) for an excellent cocktail while the sky turned rosy and the sun slid behind the tallest building in the world. Do book ahead if you want to secure a table (or just plead pitifully like we did).

More info: Penrose Afternoon Tea, Four Seasons, DIFC, Dubai

Luna Sky Bar, Four Seasons

Middle Eastern promise

A first-rate supply of people-watching is to be had from the raised Al Bayt lounge next to reception at The Palace, Downtown Dubai.   Peer through the palm fronds to see guests relax instantly as they drift into the cool, scented lobby, greeted by white turbaned men bearing hand towels to refresh them by the rose petal-strewn fountain.

While the panoramic view of the stately grounds, towering palm trees, Burj Khalifa and fountains is best from the outside terrace at Al Bayt, I prefer to sink into the plush sofas under the parlour palms and whirring fans overhead, lulled by the violinist.

Envelop yourself further in the charms of Middle East by choosing an Arabian-themed tea, where the fare is laced with spices, studded with dates and accompanied by cooling sherbets, or stick to the more traditional version; both are good. If your idea of heaven is a never-ending supply of tea-time treats, book for the buffet where serried rows of dainty delights are constantly refilled on the large round table.

Keep an eye out for special events too; last time I visited was for a limited edition Bulgari tea outside on the lawns. Designer-clad ladies sipping Laurent Perrier Champagne, perched on white ladder-backed chairs weighted with smart handbags in pastel shades, gossiped under the shade of large umbrellas. At this designer-themed tea, there was a Hendrick’s tea trolley, a harpist and a range of Bulgari fragrances, notes of which inspired the flavours from citrus to bergamot. I hope they repeat it next year – but until then take refuge from the summer steamy temperatures indoors under the lazy whirr of the overhead fans.

More info and to book: The Palace Downtown, Dubai Buffet teas are served on Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays, with table service and cake stands on all other days.

Classic tea with a classic view

The idea of afternoon tea as we now know it is credited to Anna Maria, the 7th Duchess of Bedford of Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire, UK in the 1840s. Her solution to hunger pangs between lunch and dinner in the late afternoon was to ask her maid to brew tea in her rooms, to sip with a few slices of bread and butter. She started to invite friends and it soon became a focus for female socialising as well as sustenance. It quickly took off and Victorian society embraced afternoon tea with gusto.

Founded in 1707, Fortnum and Mason really made its name during the Victoria era, supplying fine food to royalty, winning a prize at London’s Great Exhibition of 1851 and even inventing the scotch egg (not Scottish at all).  At a famous horse-racing event, the Epsom Derby, Charles Dickens noted “Look where I will…. I see Fortnum & Mason. All the hampers fly wide open and the green downs burst into a blossom of lobster salad!”

Dubai is the only place where you can enjoy afternoon tea at Fortnums outside the UK. The modern three storey building is like a slice of cake wedged in between Dubai Mall and The Address Hotel, with the pointy end revealing an unrivalled view of the Burj Khalifa through picture windows (or out on the terrace). It’s blissfully quiet, sound muffled by soft, upholstered banquets and luxuriant carpet; an instant balm for a frazzled soul. The linen is starched, aqua bone china delicate and the tea itself classically well executed. Service is impeccable (a huge turn around from when it first opened).

Work your way through the smaller items on the cake stand then liberate a slice or two from larger classics such as Victoria Sandwich, lemon meringue and Battenberg, which nestle under huge glass cloches . If judging on the food alone, this is my favorite tea as it has more sandwiches (including divine Coronation chicken), savoury things and plain scones – blame my lack of a sweet tooth – although the mini chocolate eclairs did go down very well too.

At twilight, ask the waiter to pour another cup of Royal Blend tea, look over to the small bridge of jostling tourists straining to look upwards as the Burj Khalifa towers above them, and watch the sunset in utter contentment, without a single neck twinge.

More info: Fortnum & Mason Tea Salon, Dubai  (no afternoon tea menu listed online but it’s very similar to the London one) Unlike the other venues, this is unlicensed.

Best Afternoon tea in Dubai with a Burj Khalifa view

A cream tea and an afternoon tea are slightly different – read about my search for the perfect scone.

I was invited to all three of these teas but not under any obligation to write about them – I’ve tried other places in Dubai which definitely didn’t cut the mustard and would genuinely recommend all three. All views remain my own as always.

What do you like best about afternoon tea? Are you a traditionalist like me or do you like the more modern variations? What’s on your non-negotiable list? And if you could overlook anywhere in the world while sipping tea and eating cake, where would it be?




  1. May 14, 2017 5:26 pm

    Heavenly! Simply perfect.



  2. gingeybiteseats permalink
    May 14, 2017 6:14 pm

    Oh wow these all look incredible! Such a shame I don’t own a pair of louboutins to wear to one! 😋

    • May 14, 2017 8:27 pm

      You and me both – I wear Birkenstocks whenever I can get away with it!

  3. Barbara D permalink
    May 14, 2017 7:40 pm

    Fantastic recommendations and descriptions! Just down the road, though without a view, I would suggest the tea at St. Regis in Abu Dhabi. The tea sommelier mixes a custom blend after a short chat. The staff, the tea, the food (oh, those scones!!!) and the ambience was a perfect three-hour andidote to a long week of meetings!!

    • May 14, 2017 8:25 pm

      Maybe the next leg of my research should be in the Capital! Good scones and excellent tea are so important.

  4. May 14, 2017 7:44 pm

    I had afternoon tea at the Ritz Carlton in Abu Dhabi last time I was there, it was amazing, and beautiful, but as you say, there was so much of everything!!

    • May 14, 2017 8:27 pm

      There are some famous ones here but so expensive and just too too much. One serves a piece of beef… what’s that got to do with afternoon tea?! Tea at the Ritz is an institution though – I should try it here.

      • May 14, 2017 8:32 pm

        It was all sadly wasted on me as a lot of the sandwiches had meat or fish in, and I don’t eat sweets!
        Guess what I’ve just made???

  5. May 14, 2017 9:01 pm

    Confit chillies?!

  6. May 15, 2017 3:31 am

    What a post Sally – one to keep for my next stop over in Dubai!

  7. The Real Geordie Armani permalink
    May 15, 2017 8:39 am

    Its been ages since I have had an afternoon tea, but I have been eyeing up the chocolate one at the Kempinski in MOE, thanks for sharing.

  8. May 15, 2017 3:11 pm

    Wow! This was an amazing post! Talk about a different walk of life – thank you so much for sharing a small piece of it!

  9. May 16, 2017 7:29 pm

    Wow, Dubai just does everything with such opulence and panache. The food, the cocktaisl, the view. Looks amazing!

  10. juliemtms permalink
    May 17, 2017 4:24 am

    These all look so luxurious! And those views!! Dubai is definitely on my bucket list- pinned for later!

  11. May 24, 2017 2:41 pm

    This looks amazing! I didn’t even know Dubai did afternoon tea… but the palette of colours there work so well together… Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    If you have time, please check out my latest post about Brick &Liquor Cocktail bar – and let me know what you think!

    Happy blogging! x

  12. glamorous glutton permalink
    May 26, 2017 9:45 pm

    They all look so wonderful, I love afternoon tea but when it’s mediocre it’s really disappointing. These all have a stunning view along with a fabulous tea. GG

  13. June 1, 2017 1:50 pm

    Awesome view of Burj Khalifa in your post. Perhaps, it is black tea, not Indian Masala tea.

  14. June 20, 2017 6:27 pm

    Fabulous photos! I adore afternoon tea and high tea! Great ideas here and thank you for sharing.

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