Pret-a-Portea at the Berkeley Hotel fuses tradition with fashion
Nestled in the glamorous borough of Knightsbridge, sits the rather magnificent Berkeley Hotel. Built in the early 19th-century, this five star establishment sets out to tempt those with a taste for the finer things in life and is thus, closely acquainted with the rich and famous. Yet it is their quirky afternoon tea menu that gives the Berkeley its cutting edge.
Yes, this swanky retreat is the place to indulge in a one-of-a-kind, catwalk-inspired afternoon tea which transforms the sweetest of treats into fashionable works of art.
The Berkeley’s award-winning Pret-a-Portea sends the age-old rituals associated with traditional English afternoon tea hurtling into the world of fashion. Since 2005 pastry chef, Mourad Khiat, has sculpted biscuits and pastries into the most elegant shoes, handbags and hat designs in order to emulate each season’s catwalk show. Inspired by cutting-edge designer labels, edible versions of designs by Burberry, Yves Saint Laurent and Marc Jacobs continue to flaunt their finery on the Berkeley’s tea stand.
And as someone who enjoys the finer things in life, I thought I’d try out this fashion-forward afternoon tea for myself. Served in the aptly named Caramel Room, afternoon tea at the Berkeley is every inch the classy rendezvous you would hope for. Dim lighting, soft music, dainty teapots and striped Paul Smith designed chinaware offers a contemporary touch to the otherwise traditional.
The festivities began with a glass of champagne and a bit of time to peruse their extensive menu. The best part was that I’d be trying absolutely everything, so the panic of choice was over. We were soon brought a plate of canapés and tea sandwiches. The savoury platter included a plethora of fillings such as smoked salmon, coronation chicken in saffron bread and egg brioche. All were fresh, tasty and everything you could want from a savoury afternoon tea – but nothing too out of the ordinary so far.
For all you tea connoisseurs out there, the Berkeley offers a range of herbal or loose leaf tea. From traditional Earl Grey or English Breakfast to Blossom, or for the more adventurous, Chocolate Mint Truffle. For the curious but not so brave amongst you, you have the opportunity to sample a flavour or two before committing to a bold tea choice. Personally, I’d recommend a pot of good old Earl Grey – can’t go wrong! Served in giant china teapots, there was roughly enough tea to keep a small to medium sized family watered for a month of Sundays. So I was certainly happy.
The arrival of the cake stand did not disappoint. Layers of miniature, very brightly coloured biscuits, fancies, meringues and mousses in the shapes of handbags, shoes and dresses were presented to us. I was most struck by the exquisite detail and vivid colours – I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I was particularly taken aback by a maple and ginger ankle boot biscuit, decorated with yellow and black icing, based on a design by Fendi. But, my absolute favourite sweet treat was the white chocolate crème de menthe. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff!
Once devouring the lot, the cake stand was entirely refilled and it was time to start again. Winner! I did find all of the goodies very sweet (particularly during the second round) and I was glad of the large pot of tea to refresh the palate. But never fear, if you are beaten by the sheer quantity, you will be given a lovely goody bag with a couple of choice pieces from the cake stand to take home with you.
Overall, I couldn’t rate the experience highly enough. Pret-a-Portea at the Berkeley offers a beautiful setting with wonderful service, for a deliciously memorable and stylish afternoon tea.
Cost per person: £39
With Laurent-Perrier per glass: £49
Includes: taster spoons, canapés and tea sandwiches
Tea: Herbal or Loose leaf including camomile citron, wild, or the old favourites, English Breakfast or Earl Grey
Image from: http://www.thehandbook.com/
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