Afternoon Tea at Amba Hotel, London & an Audrey Hepburn Exhibition


Have you ever been on a date that didn’t go quite as planned? My story unfolded on a chilly February day over five years ago. Swaddled in a crimson coat with a wonky, waistline bow that belligerently refused to hold its shape, I sat at Charing Cross station at 11am, apprehensively spiralling curls into the frayed tips of my lightened hair, whilst waiting for my blind date to arrive.

Fashionably late is acceptable I understand, though I am much more in my comfort zone when I am the one partaking in the tardiness but when twenty minutes passed by with not a soul walking my way, I experienced the unpalatable taste of being stood up. Never one to excel at biting my tongue, my furious fingers showed no hesitation in dialling the number of the mysterious man, who failed to show.

Amba Hotel Charing Cross Strand London

“Umm…where are you” I  softly howled, my wrath untamed by my feathery tone.

“I’m at home” he replied courteously, a well-spoken man whose articulate voice was making its cameo in my life. “Where are you” he continued – ” I thought we were meeting at 1?”

At this, my annoyance leaped like a frog on amphetamines but rather than question me any further, he rapidly vowed to dash out of the house, promising he could reach within 45 minutes. (And I silently vowed to waste only one more hour of my precious time on this inevitably doomed date before politely parting ways with a feeble, and as yet unconceived, excuse.)

But when I decided to double-check my texts, a gut-twirling moment of panic ensued. The text had said, “how about we meet at 1?” Not 11…

The mysterious man had been right to be surprised at my call and in her state of first-date butterflies, Little Miss Hasty here had gone and accused an innocent man when, in fact, she had only herself to blame for this embarrassing turn of events.

National Portrait Gallery London

Let’s just say I cowered away from saying sorry by phone but the first chapter of what turned into an eight-hour date was peppered with incessant apologies over a lovely (earlier than planned) lunch date at the National Portrait Gallery. I guess he was a keeper for seeing past it. He was then – and he is now.

And that was how my journey with Pumpkin began.

It’s safe to say it was not love at first sight but I have not been allowed to forget my feisty phone manner that morning and Pumpkin had no hesitation on our wedding day in spinning an exaggerated version of our story, telling our 300 + guests that I had arrived two hours early for our first date, so keen was I to meet him!

The Audrey Hepburn Exhibition at National Portrait Gallery

Audrey Hepburn exhibition museum London

It follows, therefore, that the National Portrait Gallery is more than a place of culture for me, more than just the home of that Duchess of Cambridge portrait that generated such mixed opinion. For Pumpkin and I, it is a trip down memory lane, filled with humorous and nostalgic sentiment and when I received an invitation to attend the recent Audrey Hepburn exhibition there, I simply couldn’t refuse.

Unfortunately, photography is not permitted inside meaning I am unable to share photos of the exhibition itself – but then again, you probably don’t need my Samsung snaps to know what Audrey Hepburn looks like. 😀

Audrey Hepburn Exhibition London calendar

What I found most fascinating about the exhibition was gaining a better insight into just how versatile an actress Audrey Hepburn was and her background and journey into the world of acting. Although entry into the gallery itself is free (as is the case with most London museums), there is a charge of £9 per standard adult ticket to enter this special exhibition, which is only open until 18th October so get your black gloves and skates on if you want to catch it!

Audrey Hepburn exhibition National Portrait Gallery

Afternoon Tea at Amba Hotel, Charing Cross

Our visit to the exhibition had been sandwiched with a warm welcome from the staff at the very well-located Amba Hotel, which is literally immediately adjacent to Charing Cross station and is surprisingly spacious considering its prime central location, ideal for tourism (and Pumpkin and I if we ever miss our South Eastern train home.)

Amba Hotel Charing Cross London

After a welcome drinks reception in a chandelier-lit room itself decorated with portraits, we were offered champagne and a few snacks to keep us going until our afternoon tea later on and were given an introduction to the hotel.

Amba Hotel London chandelierhistory of afternoon tea

The staff were quite happy to allow us to snoop around some of the other hotel areas and I was particularly drawn to both the grand ballroom and the airy, bright dining area overlooking The Strand.

ballroom Amba Hotel Charing Cross Londonballroom Amba Hotel Charing Cross London

I suspect that this is where afternoon tea is usually served with floral crockery and tea menus giving away more than a small hint so I would have loved for us to sample our tea there but for the purposes of this event, we all remained in the same room where the drinks reception was held.

Amba Hotel afternoon tea restaurant

This meant that we quickly learned the art of eating our afternoon tea standing up and as sociable as it was, I must admit that I generally prefer lounging around in comfy chairs but perhaps that’s just the lazy lady within me! Kudos to the staff at Amba Hotel for catering to a whole array of dietary requirements including gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan.

gluten dairy free afternoon tea Amba Hotel

Since there were a few spare gluten-free chocolate bites going, some of the gluten-eaters (guilty as charged) may have dabbled their interfering paws into the indulgent, rectangular gingery chocolate brownies, which was one of the highlights of the tea selection for me.

afternoon tea Amba hotel London

Attending the National Portrait Gallery with a large group of bloggers to learn about an iconic actress, followed by cake and scones was a thousand miles apart from the nervous blind date experience I had in this very part of London all those years ago but plainly and simply, it felt mighty fine to be back.

If you’re a fan of afternoon tea, why not try out a 24 Karat Gold Tea, afternoon tea on a red London bus or even afternoon tea combined with flower arranging?

Which places have prompted you to feel nostalgic?

Disclaimer: I was a guest of of Amba Hotel Charing Cross for this experience but I am an opinionated little lady and all views, good or bad, are entirely my own. 

25 thoughts on “Afternoon Tea at Amba Hotel, London & an Audrey Hepburn Exhibition

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 6, 2015 — 7:05 pm

      Awww thank you so much Emma! Such a lovely first comment to get on one of your posts ☺

  1. What a cute first date story! Bet you’re glad you stuck it out 😛

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 6, 2015 — 7:11 pm

      Hehe, thank you so much for reading it Upasna! I’m actually mostly really grateful that HE stuck it out because after my accusatory tone on the phone that morning, I reckon most men would have done a runner! :mrgreen:

  2. I love your story at the beginning especially after our chat yesterday about the early days of you and Pumpkin. It is rather odd how you had your afternoon tea standing up but at least you had some lovely company.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 6, 2015 — 7:22 pm

      Hehe, thank you Angie! Pumpkin often tells people that the first time he ever heard my voice, I was telling him off! :mrgreen: Yep it was certainly a new skill managing to juggle all the different elements standing up but it did mean that I didn’t gobble down quite as much cake as normal which is probably a good thing for me!!

  3. I didn’t know that about your first date! That is so typically you Shikha haha but clearly Gautam loved your eagerness (and silliness!). I’m not so sure about the fruit being included in afternoon tea though. Isn’t it all supposed to be a massive sugar overload? 😉

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 6, 2015 — 7:29 pm

      Hehe, yes I know what you mean about the fruity bit Ayla – I think that was either on the dairy or gluten free stands that had them and luckily, ours still had plenty of cakes! And I’m forever grateful he forgave and embraced the silliness :mrgreen:

  4. What a great story of how you first met, it was the British Museum for us and I think there’s a lot to be said for meeting somewhere like that in the daytime

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 6, 2015 — 7:30 pm

      Oh how lovely to hear that you both met in that kind of setting too Suze! Maybe we should be telling all those out there currently dating to head into galleries and museums around London as it seemed to work a treat both for you and I ☺

  5. What a great story, aw! This day sounds like so much fun, and very tasty too! I love raspberries more than anything, how lovely to have them to graze on along side the rest of the stuff! Super-impressed with all the dietary options too.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 6, 2015 — 7:34 pm

      It’s so funny that as I’m replying to your comment Rachel, I have my phone in one hand and a punnet of raspberries in the other! It was a really nice idea for a blogger event, combining something cultural with a tea and I have no idea how tricky it must be trying to put together a tea with everything from gluten free to dairy free to vegan in the room!

  6. Aww you’re too cute! Love your first date story – can’t believe I hadn’t heard that one before. If that was Jay he’d be whipping that story out at every occasion!

    No surprises here, but that brownie definitely caught my attention…

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 6, 2015 — 7:42 pm

      I’ve never tried a gingery flavoured brownie Char but it actually worked really well with the chocolate and gave it a good kick! Haha, trust me, Pumpkin has shared that story a thousand times over except he deliberately forgets to mention to people that my turning up 2 hours early was accidental!! :mrgreen:

  7. Aw, what a cute first date story! You must have known he was a keeper straight away 😉 I love the National Portrait Gallery and a visit there, followed by afternoon tea sounds perfect!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 7, 2015 — 9:00 pm

      Hehehe! It was the fact that he knew I was wrong with my timings Emily and I’d been so stern on the phone and rather than even remotely try and correct me or cancel, he still dashed out of the house so yes, I definitely rapidly gave him keeper status! ☺

  8. I LOVE this story Shikha!! Even though it was a mishap, it made it so that you couldn’t ever possibly forget him. He did good to rush to you. 🙂 And I love that he still chastises you to this day about it!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 13, 2015 — 9:03 pm

      Hehe, thanks Anna! It was definitely what I’d call an “unforgettable” first date but not for any of the fabulously romantic reasons you might expect when you hear a term like that!! Oh I think I’ll be teased for the rest of my life over it – mainly, I think he loves sharing his version of it by telling people that I was so keen to meet him that I arrived 2 hours early (and forgetting to tell them all that was totally NOT intentional!) 😀

  9. hehehe whoops! great story Shikka!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 13, 2015 — 9:21 pm

      Hehe, thanks Andy! Whoops indeed! I think I said the word, “sorry” more times in that one afternoon than I’ve ever said in my entire life, I was that embarrassed! 😀

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 13, 2015 — 9:36 pm

      Hehe, aww thank you Keri! It’s funny isn’t it how a story about me telling off my blind date before I’d ever even met him could turn out to be sweet but I guess it just goes to show – love enters our lives in all sorts of weird and laughable ways!! 😀

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