When I put together my ‘Fifty Before Fifty’ list recently, I tried to make sure that I put in some easily achievable items as well as the big expensive goals. So when my friend Katie asked if I fancied meeting up in Birmingham for some lunch and shopping, I seized the opportunity to tick an item off my list.
Katie and I go back a long way. We actually met in 1992, in the first week of our first term at Birmingham University. She was reading Politics and I was studying Economics, and we were both taking the Introduction to Politics module. I sat next to her in the very first lecture and we discovered a shared interest in American politics – that was the year when Bill Clinton was first elected President.
We lost touch for a few years but got back in touch through the magic of Facebook. Now we meet up every 2-3 months for a good chat over a glass or two of champagne, a spot of lunch and some shopping. It’s that wonderful kind of friendship which means that we can always pick up where we left off, however long it’s been.
I booked us a table at Selfridges’ Balcony Restaurant. I opted to eat at lunchtime because of course shops close early on Sundays and I didn’t want us to be rushed. When we were seated at our table, Katie told me that she was going to pay for the champagne as a late birthday present to me. Our waitress overheard and wished me a Happy Birthday. Now, I did tell her that my birthday was in April, but a few minutes she returned with a plate of sweet treats for us to share. As she said, why not carry on celebrating!
The Selfridges Afternoon Tea is available either with tea and coffee or with an additional glass of Selfridges champagne. Katie and I had already ordered ‘the usual’, otherwise known as a bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne, so we just asked for the Afternoon Tea to be served alongside our champagne, with the tea and coffee to follow.
A short while later, a waitress turned up with what looked like a hat box. She placed it on the table and opened it up to reveal our Afternoon Tea. It included finger sandwiches, plain and fruit scones with clotted cream and jam, and a selection of miniature cakes.
The sandwiches were a lovely start to our Afternoon Tea, filled with cream cheese and smoked salmon, cucumber, and ham with a mustard mayonnaise. Next we moved onto the macarons, which were both light and chewy, with caramel inside. Then it was onto the mini scones which were served with a sticky jam and a pot of clotted cream. Because of the small size of the scones, I was a little worried that they might be a bit dry. I needn’t have worried, they were wonderfully light and tender.
Finally we moved onto the layer which held the miniature cakes. A little choux bun filled with coffee flavoured cream, a tart filled with passionfruit cream, and a miniature opera cake. I’m not usually a fan of passionfruit as I often find it overly sweet and a bit sickly. But the passionfruit tart was absolutely delicious, and I could easily have managed another!
As our bottle of champagne was sadly now empty, we rounded off our Afternoon Tea with hot drinks – a pot of tea for Katie and an espresso for me. But there was one last surprise for us both. We had both expected that the £35 price for Afternoon Tea was the price per person, but it was actually the charge for tea for two! If we had opted for the champagne Afternoon Tea, the price would have been £56 for two people. I think that is a pretty good price considering the delicious food that we had eaten. It was a lovely way to pass a couple of hours, and set us up very nicely for a little more shopping.