Friday, July 27, 2007


There's afternoon tea and then there's the "Prêt-à-Portea" afternoon tea for fashionistas at the Berkeley.

D and I had planned a day of culture today but then we decided we needed to eat also. Obviously we couldn't possibly try and match the magnificence of last night's jaw-dropping food at L'Atelier but we're not going to just throw in the towel either. D has the brilliant idea of partaking in an afternoon tea and when I recalled the afternoon tea with the designer fashion theme with the dinky handbag shaped cakes, a spot of googling revealed that we should book ourselves a table in the Caramel room at the Berkeley.

And with the Berkeley Hotel being in Knightsbridge and us with some crucial shopping to be done in that neck of the woods we postpone the culture until tomorrow and head for bright lights of Harvey Nichols and the local environs. There are many sparkly things to ponder over but I tear myself away from all the fabulousness and we make our way over to stately elegance of the Berkeley Hotel. They stow away our shiny carrier bags and we down at our little round table in the window.

There are several menu options available but it just has to be Prêt-à-Portea for us. Just perfect!

We are delivered a pretty Paul Smith tiered cake stand stacked with the infamous designer pastries and cakes, gorgeous little canapés and a tray of sandwiches. We start on the sandwiches carefully splitting everything in two, well as long as it was the smoked salmon, cheese and ham or other goodies and there’s no mayonnaise or tomato for me. The waiter seems amused by our careful division and delivered another tray of the tiny sandwiches.

The mini canapés on the bottom tier are stunning, especially the smoked salmon rolls, the roast beef and creamy horseradish filling, sesame seeded tuna slice and the asparagus wrapped in a herbed pancake. Again we dissect each canapé precisely so as we can both try all the delicious flavours. But again the waiter whisked by and delivered another plate of the delectable titbits. They seemed delighted that we were enjoying the savouries so much, and how could we not as they were really yummy. And such a refreshing change from an ordinary afternoon tea. Not that I object to some crust-less cucumber sandwiches and a scone with a dollop of home-made strawberry jam but the seemingly never-ending savoury canapés were an extra delight on this occasion. My favourite was the roast beef with the gooey cream cheesey horseradish filling and our waiter brought another plate of these to share.

In fact when we were ready to attack the little Anya Hindmarch blue Carker lemon handbag, Alexander McQueen lavender floral crème cone, Emmanuel Ungaro blackberry mousse accompanied by a Manolo Blahnik high heeled shoe we are struggling a little. Note the fabulous little Manolo Blahnik stilettoed bisuity leg sticking out of the intensely blackberry mousse.

We we finally admitted that we'd eaten enough canapés we were given new Paul Smith plates and cutlery to embark on the patiserrie part of our afternoon tea. The little designer cakes were just so inventive and clever, the most vibrant being the Giambattista Valli strawberry crème hat with a dusting of red velvet white chocolate and the stripy chocolate tower based on the heel of a shoe.

We leave the inspired by designer Melissa Odabash bikini biscuits to the last and our waiter kindly wraps them up in a little pistachio green cardboard handbag so we can transport them home. The cakes are so gorgeous to look at, some I guess are not very flavoursome with really the artistry being the point but then again we have rather hit the sandwiches and savoury canapés so I don’t really need too much of the sweet delights.

We have such a fabulous afternoon in the Berkeley’s Caramel Room, we consume the delectables over three hours and several Paul Smith designed teapots of various flowery teas, I tried the chocolate mint, clearly buoyed by the chocolate and temporary forgetting that I am not crazy about mint tea! It wasn’t bad but I preferred the flowery non-mint teas.

As you can imagine most of our dining companions are the ladies who lunch, we spot a couple of possibly très elegante hen parties and/or baby showers but strangely enough very few men. The ones that were there seemed to be tucking into impressive looking manly hot meaty sandwiches and weren’t partaking of a handbag shaped cake. But I guess that makes sense.

This was such an unusual and delightful experience for afternoon tea, three cake forks for the Berkeley Hotel for their wonderful Prêt-à-Portea. It occurs to us that the Berkeley would be the perfect place to stay for a gourmet weekend. The two Michelin starred Petrus presided over by the wonderful Marcus Wareing where we enjoyed such a fabulous meal at last year is on one side of us and another one from the Ramsay stable, the Boxwood Café with Stuart Gillies on the other side. I guess if you tire of all that amazing eating you could always do a spot of shopping! And as it was late night opening, that's exactly what we did!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love it, love it, love it. What a delightful afternoon tea. Being one of the ladies who lunch I must put the Berkley on my "to do" list.

Love Mx