My husband bought me a voucher for Champagne Afternoon Tea for two at Aqua Shard as part of my Christmas present and I finally booked a table to redeem it, almost five months later. Given its popularity, it was fairly difficult to find an available table on a Saturday afternoon but I managed to secure one for 3pm one Saturday at the end of April. I don’t indulge in Afternoon Tea often but I do love it! I’ve had Afternoon Tea at both Fortnum & Mason and Claridges so I was curious to see how Aqua Shard would compare.
Getting in to The Shard to access their restaurants is a bit like going through airport security. Allow yourself at least ten minutes to get through the queue and into the lift. Aqua Shard is located on the 31st floor of London’s iconic skyscraper and the lift takes you up in seconds.
Upon entering we were impressed with the stunning views of London from the floor to ceiling windows (even though it was a rather grey day). Aqua Shard has three areas – a restaurant, a bar and an area exclusively for afternoon tea. Although we had a reservation for 3pm, we were made to wait for around 15 minutes to be seated, which wasn’t ideal given that we had skipped lunch and were starving!
Once seated it didn’t take too long to be served, however we requested to start with the savoury selection with our champagne and then move on to the sweet selection and tea after. If you would like to do the same you need to say in advance as their policy is to bring everything at once.
The savoury selection
I was impressed that the savoury selection didn’t just consist of the usual cucumber and mint, smoked salmon and egg mayonnaise sandwiches. There were certainly nods to those classic sandwiches – such as the smoked salmon and dill crème fraîche on a brioche roll – but there were surprises too, such as the goats cheese mini quiche and the black pudding and sausage roll with Yorkshire chutney.
We were offered another plate of savouries once the first had been consumed (read: inhaled as we were so hungry) which we gratefully accepted. We didn’t finish the second plate, I hasten to add! I was conscious of needing lots of space for the pastries and scones.
The sweet selection
As is customary in any fine-dining Afternoon Tea establishment, our sweet selection was served on a three-tiered cake stand. Again, I was impressed with the creativeness of the pastries and desserts.
On the top tier there was a Marmite milk chocolate with rose raspberry jelly and a pistachio crunch and a delightful porcini ganache in a chocolate cup with a coffee sponge and a chocolate mushroom. My husband’s favourite was the Marmite milk chocolate dessert and he enjoyed the fun element of squeezing raspberry from the little tube over it.
The second layer consisted of lemon curd with hazelnut sponge and meringue and a white chocolate mousse with blood orange gel and an almond macaroon. The lemon curd was my favourite – I just loved the tartness of it. Delicious!
No Afternoon Tea is complete without scones with jam and cream. Am I right? But these were no ordinary scones… as well as plain scones there were also white chocolate scones which came with an accompaniment of honey toffee in a tube. The jam also came in a tube. It was rather fun squeezing jam over my scones!
There was a wide range of tea to choose from but true to my South African roots I ordered the Rooibos. My husband ordered Earl Grey and both were loose-leaf. I loved the design of the tea-strainers – gorgeous!
Was it the best Afternoon Tea I’d ever had? No. That accolade goes to Claridges, however it was a beautiful setting and both the sweet and savoury items were innovative and delicious. The reason it doesn’t take my top spot is because of its popularity. It can feel a little bit chaotic with lots of people just ‘having a look’. There were several instances where people tried to sit down with drinks from the bar and had to be politely told that they couldn’t sit there. I think the restaurant could do with cordoning off the Afternoon Tea area to avoid this happening.
The Champagne Afternoon Tea costs £58 per person.
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