A trip to London isn’t complete without a traditional afternoon tea ritual. Pat and I got the chance to enjoy Champagne afternoon tea at the top of the second tallest tower in Europe—The Shard.
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When in England, everything stops for tea. There’s only one experience better than an Afternoon Tea, and that’s a Champagne afternoon tea. A glass of Champagne adds that extra special sparkle – making it the perfect treat if you’re marking a memorable occasion, or just splurging like Pat and I! We decided to go all out and have Champagne high tea before our West End Theater show at Aqua Shard.
During our recent trip to London, I had my first official high tea experience at the luxurious Aqua Shard in the Shard Hotel, the second tallest building in Europe. Upon entering the spacious lobby, you are directed to an elevator that takes you 31 floors up. That’s nothing compared to the 118 floors in a New York building, but it’s considered very high for Europe. Step out of the elevator and windows offer head to toe 360 views of London.
Upon being seated, you are presented with a diverse and extensive menu of London teas. You can select from the regular Afternoon Tea option or from 3 High Tea, also known as Champagne afternoon tea, options. We went with the Classic Afternoon Tea with a Glass of Veuve Clicquot ‘Yellow Label’ Brut Champagne.
For those of you who are not familiar with the origins of Afternoon Tea, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell, started the ritual in the early 19th century after being tired of “having that sunken feeling” during the late afternoon. Thus the tradition of having a pot of tea with a light snack in her boudoir began. The Duchess proceeded to formally invite her friends over once in London to partake in her afternoon ritual. Eventually, this convivial past time spread to other middle and upper class households and became a longtime British tradition.
Aqua Shard has a long selection of teas. We opted for the Royal Air Forces Association Tea for Heroes. It’s a traditional British tea with a bespoke blend inspired by the Battle of Britain WW2 navigator. It’s more delicate than a more modern Breakfast tea with a soft floral balance and malty after taste.
Pat and I take in the views from the 31st floor. From here you can see the walkie-talkie building—Sky Garden, Tower of London, and much more. Our waiter pops open a bottle of Veuve Cliquot and the afternoon begins.
Our tea is brought out to us in beautiful white porcelain set along with a selection of finger sandwiches with savories, after all, all high teas begin with a selection of savories. At Aqua Shard, we indulged in (from right to left): Native and roasted lobster, Lambton & Jackson Maldon cured Smoked salmon with dill crème in a brioche bun, a mini quiche with spinach and goat cheese, and cannon black pudding and sausage role with Yorkshire chutney.
Next came the ever so popular TOWER of scones to accompany our champagne and tea service in one of the tallest TOWERS in Europe.
The first tier had 4 warm scones, evenly split between vanilla and white chocolate. A side of Cornish clotted cream, which to me tasted like delicious custard cream, accompanied the scones. Needless to say, Pat and I ate all the Cornish cream and let nothing go to waste. The scones also come with homemade raspberry jam and honey toffee. I personally was brought up eating scones with raspberry jam so slathered that onto my scones, but the honey was impeccable as well!
The second tier included a range of delightful homemade cakes and sweet treats that included hazelnut sponges with lemon curd meringues and a white chocolate mousse glazed in a blood orange on a plain almond macaroon.
The third and final tier was topped off with a marmite milk chocolate layered in with raspberry jelly, pistachios and raspberries. My favorite Instagrammable piece was the accompanying porcini ganache served in a chocolate cup with coffee sponge cake and a chocolate mushroom with edible flowers.
We were not able to finish every single tier, but got the opportunity to taste a bit of everything which is what Afternoon Tea is all about. The sun was setting as we towered over the amazing city of London. Before leaving for the Theater, we made a quick stop to the restroom. Now, I know what you are thinking…why are you bothering to throw in this small and useless detail? Well, I’m adding it in because if there is something you do not want to miss it’s the bathrooms at Aqua Shard. The below picture is a shot of the men’s room, courtesy of Patrick. Now if that’s not a luxurious bathroom..I don’t know what is!
Feeling full and like royalty, we thanked the waiter, picked up our jackets and headed to our Theater show in West End. For an elevated view, afternoon tea, and experience (no pun intended) the Aqua Shard is a must on everyone’s London bucket list. For more on what to do when in London, check out my three day London travel itinerary.
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