Birthdays are tricky in London. You don’t really want to give anything that can’t be packed into a suitcase and you want it to be special, something they would not buy for themselves. One of my best friends cracked the London birthday code and started the tradition of giving an afternoon tea. Rules are that the location is entirely secret, all the birthday girl knows is the nearest tube station. It all started with my birthday this year, where I was told to meet at the St Pauls tube station and we had afternoon tea at Beas of Bloomsbury. So for her birthday I told her to meet me at the Barbican tube station and we then walked round the corner to have afternoon tea at the Modern Pantry.
We went for the champagne afternoon tea, because who can really pass up a lychee bellini on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Then we had the hard decision of what teas to drink, the list wasn’t as long as I was expecting but the descriptions were so enticing (imagine the ‘fruity oak’ descriptions normally found on a wine list) that the length didn’t matter at all.
I was slightly underwhelmed by the amount of food on offer. Normally an afternoon tea has at least four sandwich flavour options, whereas the Modern Pantry only had two. But the funny thing is that for two people it was actually the exact right amount i.e. we were full but still able to move at the end of it. Maybe it is just a bit of psychology that they need to play with, cut the sandwiches in half and there will visually be more to entice the eater.
The huge source of entertainment throughout the afternoon was the family having tea at the next table over. The mother spent the entire time trying to reason with a two year old, giving her the option of a high chair and then trying to verbally convince her it was the best option. The mother went as far as to get down on her knees to show this two year old how much better life would be if she sat a little higher. As two childless expats we watched incredulous and decided that if we were ever crazy enough to bring a toddler to a posh afternoon tea, we would tell not ask.