Quite possibly the last place you’d expect to find an homage to Roald Dahl is in the fancy surroundings of the Aqua restaurant, perched half-way up the Shard building at London Bridge. Aqua, both here, and in its original UK configuration (on Regent Street), somehow gives the impression of having taken a wrong turn at Singapore airport and instead of heading back to Hong Kong or Shanghai has woken up and found itself in the dripping grey Croydon-esque environs of post-colonial Britain.
So now, presumably to make the most of that Britishness, Aqua, together with the Roald Dahl Trust has instigated the Roald Dahl Tea. That’s a tenuous link to say the least, since Dahl is of Norwegian descent, but as Manager John Wiltshire points out, the Shard now casts its lengthy shadow over the docks where Twinings once stored its tea, and which British child doesn’t love the adventures of James, the BFG and mighty Matilda…
And Aqua have seriously pushed the boat out in Dahl terms. They’ve commissioned crockery decorated with Quentin Blake’s wonderful drawings, stuck huge Perspex Dahl characters all over the windows, obscuring the breathtaking view, but charming all the same and, most of all, they’ve invented the Roald Dahl afternoon tea which encompasses everything from a breakfast sandwich, Mr Twit’s Bird Pie, and the Roly-Poly Bird choux bun to the Notsobig Crocodile chocolate egg and Grubber Sweetshop’s Giant Wangdoodles, all listed on a sugar-paper menu you can eat and served in a miniature replica of the chocolate factory’s glass elevator.
Strictly speaking, it’s Pip Sandrey, the head chef, who has invented this fantastical tea. She has spent most of the year re-reading the books, digging out obscure references to food and encouraging her team to come up with ever more surprising treats. I thought the Notsobig chewy green crocodile that sprang out of its egg, the star of the show, but my companion, a fervent Dahl reader in her time, loved the coloured sugar plumage of the Roly-Poly birds and the chocolate mice risking their all on real wooden mousetraps.
Roald Dahl’s tea is on at Aqua until 30 September. It’s not cheap (£45 per head; £58 if you want a glass of champagne. Children aged between five and nine squeeze in at £35 per head) and you need to be hungry – there’s a lot of food – but if you’re in possession of a holidaying child who is a Dahl fan and fancies tea 31 stories up over London, it’s a winner… By Carolyn Hart
Aqua Shard, Level 31, The Shard London SE1, tel: 02030111256 aquashard.co.uk
Food **** Ambience *** Service ****