London afternoon tea: British at its best

The British are known for many things. We have a bunch of stereotypes and associations, good and bad. Tea, red buses and phoneboxes, bad teeth (I’ll bare my teeth at any of you who think this is true to prove you wrong!), reserved, prudish and awfully posh are just some.

Two of my favourites from that list that I could be the representative of are tea and London. I’m a staunch believer in a good cup of tea making everything better. We’ve even built a mini meal around it: afternoon tea. And that, high up in London’s Vertigo 42 (near Liverpool Street) is where I chose to take my mum for her birthday.

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The views across London on – you guessed it – the 42nd floor was the reason I chose this location, so I was worried we wouldn’t have a table by the window and thus become those annoying people taking pictures over some innocent visitor’s shoulder. I didn’t have to worry. Every seat has a spectacular view: organised like an observation deck, the circular room combined the use of a table and windowsill with each seat pointed towards the window’s lookout.

Each lookout was named after the focus of the view, and we were lucky enough to have St Paul’s Cathedral. I was glad the seats were directed towards the windows, as the middle of this circular room was taken up by a massive mirror pillar. I don’t do well when confronted with my own (I’ll admit, hungover) image when I’ve not prepared myself for the fright.

The champagne was brought to us pronto and placed on our table/windowsill and I realised how a glass of champagne with the haze of light of London behind it was a mesmerising sight. We arrived at 2:30pm so the sun was already making its way down but I didn’t even mind that it was in my eyes. It gave such an illusive glow to the London Eye and Big Ben, and depending on the rays streaming through the clouds (it was quite a clear day with just a few clouds – very lucky!), they were either illuminated or melted into the glow, allowing other icons like the Battersea Power Station have its moment.

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That’s the thing about London: there’s something everywhere. It never stops, and it struck me how much of a modern and historical mix there was in just about every direction. It’s a city of adaptation but immensely proud of its history. I loved watching the tiny silhouettes of people walking over the Milennium Bridge, imagining what their day was consisting of, and at that moment thinking how it couldn’t be anything negative, because they were in London and just look at that amazing construction they were walking on. And that view of St Paul’s so grand in front (or behind) them! Funny what a panoramic view of London and a glass of champagne can do to you, huh?

By this point I barely cared what the food would taste like, but I was starving and it didn’t disappoint. Being afternoon tea, obviously we were given the tiered plates of treats. Quiche, salmon toasted sandwiches, passionfruit tart (amazing) and scones with the usual and frankly essential clotted cream and jam. It was a fantastic arrangement, and with my pot of tea, I was extremely satisfied.

We sat back, full up and unhurried, watching the sunset over London and witnessing how the city changed in appearance and pace as it went down. There’s something about watching the lights come on and beam more vividly as the sun smoulders into an intense orange into darkness which is captivating and unique to city life.

London, I love you.

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