My best friend Nathalie finally came to visit me in London for a 3 days long weekend.
It was her first visit to London and I wanted her to experience the tradition of afternoon tea.
The difficulty was that I wanted to find a special venue she would like and remember. As she’s not really into 5* hotels as I am, I thought that a place with a view would be a great option. I finally chose Aqua Shard because of a picture of a cake in the shape of the Shard that I found quite cool.
I tried to book online but it showed that it was fully booked for my dates. Therefore, I decided to send a message to the Reservation department to double check and it happened that a table for 2 was available on Friday 1st May at 15:00. There is no afternoon tea offered during weekends.
Before she arrived, I told Nathalie that I had booked a table for afternoon tea. I also told her to bring a nice pair of shoes. She knows that when she’s with me we walk a lot and that it’s better to wear sneakers but sneakers and afternoon tea don’t really match together.
On the day, I told her that we would only have breakfast before the afternoon tea. She was surprised and told me that she thought we would only have a cup of tea with a cake. Well, kind of…
After a lot of sightseeing, we started to head towards the Shard. We changed shoes. I had taken a pair of ballerinas but she didn’t take me seriously and only took a pair of slim Converse.
She didn’t realized that we have entered the Shard. In the lift, there was only one button with the number “32”. She started to be confused, but it could have been the name of the place.
We arrived to floor 32 and she understood where she was when she saw the view. The view is stunning and always has an effect on people. No matter if you see it for the first time or not.
Aqua Shard is actually located on floor 31 and we overlooked the whole place before taking the stairs to go down. This is when Nathalie understood why I asked her to bring a nice pair of shoes. She regretted her choice but she will know for the next time.
We were at the Reception desk at 14:55 and were told that we were too early and to come back at 15:00. I was a bit surprised but we decided to use this time to refresh ourselves.
The bathroom was weird, all covered in blue mirrors except a large window. At first, I didn’t even notice the toilet’s door.
We came back at 15:00 sharp. Some people had already been seated. I prayed that we would be given a window table. The afternoon tea section is quite small and all tables enjoy a panoramic view but I really wanted a window table.
Those tables can’t be requested at reservation, which is understandable. But from what I saw, the window tables are given to the people who arrive the first.
We were allocated a window table on the side with a view on St Paul’s Cathedral.
When we were given the menu, Nathalie asked me if we had to choose or if everything was included. I told her that she only had to choose her tea. The selection of tea is from the Rare Tea Company but is not extensive. Nathalie chose an English Breakfast Single Estate and I opted for a Silver Tip White Tea.
Shortly after the tea, we were brought the finger sandwiches. They were nicely displayed but I didn’t scent all the flavours that they were supposed to have:
-Staffordshire leg ham, grain mustard and Bermondsey hard cheese
-Earl Grey tea smoked Loch Duart salmon, cucumber, Oscietra caviar and dill scented cream
-Chicken perfumed with lavender mayonnaise
-Neapolitan: organic hen’s egg, soaked curry mayonnaise and mustard cress
I was finishing my last sandwich when the waitress came and asked if she could remove the plate and bring the rest.
This is why we were a bit surprised to have to wait more than 30 minutes to be served the scones and cakes. All the other tables, even the ones who arrived after us, were served before us. Not that we were in a rush but the sandwiches had stimulate our appetite and we felt a bit more frustrated every time a tiered stand was brought to a table.
Finally, our turn came.
There were 2 kinds of scones: golden raisins and vanilla, accompanied with clotted cream, strawberry jam (excellent) and raspberry jam. The scones were quite big and therefore filling.
In my second scone, I noticed a dark long hair stuck in it. I reported it to the waitress who came back with 2 more scones but I wasn’t able to finish the last one.
I really appreciated the fact that the cakes came by 2 and that we didn’t have to share. They were diversified and colourful:
-Passion fruit cheesecake with a vanilla cream, passion fruit jelly and crumble. We didn’t really like the passion fruit jelly.
-British Victoria sponge with a wild forest berry compote and a bubblegum macaroon
-Milk chocolate mousse with a hazelnut crunch and blackcurrant
-Red velvet and dark chocolate Shard cake
Nathalie really enjoyed the experience. I enjoyed it too but missed the 5* hotels service.
Once we had finished, we took some time to digest and enjoy the panorama. I also took a tour around to see at the different views.
Back to the ground floor, we changed shoes again and resume the sightseeing.
At 9:00pm, we were starving and had a burger at Five Guys before going home to rest and think about the programme for the next day.
31 Saint Thomas Street
London, SE1 9QU
Afternoon tea ￼￼￼￼￼￼served Monday-Friday (except on Bank Holidays), 3:00pm-5:00pm
Classic afternoon tea: £38.00 per person