One of my favourite things to do in London at the moment is to travel up The Shard, currently the tallest building in the European Union, and the second-tallest free-standing structure in the United Kingdom. Standing at a whopping 306 metres (1,004 ft) high, and with eighty-seven stories, even heading up in the super fast express lift to the 31st restaurant floor is enormously exhilarating. (I am very much looking forward to the imminent opening of the Shangri La Hotel within The Shard too.)
I never tire of the view, even from only a third of the way up. Watching the sun fall over London in the late winter afternoon, as the city lights up for the evening is an unmissable experience.
Of course, you can pay to go right up to the View From The Shard viewing platform (£24.95 a head), but I am quite satisfied with the eating/drinking/view combo from the 31st. (It also helps that the Shard is part of the London Bridge Development, bang next to the Tube, so I can be door to door in twenty minutes.)
Aqua Shard, one of the building’s three flagship restaurants, serves afternoon tea, so my father, sister and I booked in to celebrate my birthday in December. (Now that my parents are divorced, family gatherings are slightly different). Tea takes place in the spectacular three-storey high atrium bar, and we bagged a table by the window so we could stare over the Thames.
The view towards St Paul’s Cathedral, over the river
My sister in her (Holly) berry red frock.
Afternoon tea here sticks to the restaurant’s British provenance principles, and is both delicious and pretty – although it was sadly lacking in traditional cucumber sandwiches, for which I have an immense fondness. (If you are vegetarian you may want to warn the kitchen in advance, as the sandwiches are fish, ham and egg-based.) There is a very thorough tea menu, (I drank a delicate white tea), and lots of assiduous tea pot re-filling. There is also an option for Champagne with tea, too – we aren’t big alcohol drinkers, so declined.
We had such a lovely afternoon: the setting made it feel like a proper occasion, which so often is not the case in London, and there was no sense of being rushed.
My sister, extracting the very last bit of jam from its pot, (bit like the manner in which she extracted all the green triangles and caramels from the Quality Street at Christmas.)
The view over the atrium, and through the windows at twilight.
www.aquashard.co.uk Huge thanks to Aqua Shard for hosting my birthday afternoon tea. (We left an ex gratia tip.)
Available seven days a week from 3pm to 5.30pm in the atrium, Afternoon Tea at Aqua Shard features finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and home-made jams, and patisseries. Teas are supplied by The Rare Tea Co. and Borough Market’s Tea2You. Priced at £29.50 per person or £40 with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Brut NV Champagne,