Looking at the three-tier tray brimming with sweets in front of me I feel closer to royalty than I ever have. The floral patterned tea set is my guide to a more simple time. The New Yorker in me feels anxious to speed up the pace, but I can't. This is English afternoon tea meant to be savored and enjoyed.
Out the window, an army of red buses parade themselves through the street. Their color matches exactly the vintage phone booths that line the streets around central London.
I'm upstairs at The Terrace in Amba Hotel Charing Cross's fine dining restaurant having proper afternoon tea. I have a clear view of the National Gallery, where hours earlier I'd taken in the gorgeous display of Renaissance art. The gallery lies just beyond St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church on the corner of Trafalgar Square. Ironic, since I'm now overlooking the Strand, which was the main thoroughfare of London high society between the 12th and 17th centuries. I share a similar view that former residents of the Strand did so many years ago. Authors like Dickens, Emerson, and Woolfe.
The choices on the table in front of me seem endless. Smoked salmon & crème fraiche on brioche, English ham & tomato on brown bloomer bread, aged Keens farmhouse cheddar & onion chutney, an assortment of decadent cakes & pastries. Where should I start? An adult would start with the real food first and leave the dessert for last, I thought.
I'm biting lightly into a delicate chocolate cup holding fresh strawberries. It's quiet for the afternoon. I'm sipping organic Darjeeling Tea. I later learn this is known as the "champagne of teas." Fitting, since the afternoon somehow feels more celebratory than it should for a Monday.
I lean back and look at the empty table to my left almost expecting Oscar Wilde to sit down and give me a quick nod before ordering his own set of delicacies.