It’s approaching that time of year where its totally acceptable to watch Love Actually, so we’ll all be a little more familiar with that infamous speech by Prime Minister Hugh Grant where he talks about all the wonderful things that make our wonderful country the Great Britain that it is. You know, the bit where he talks about David Beckham’s feet and basically tells Billy Bob Thornton to eff off. Well he missed something off that list. Afternoon Tea.
It’s one of the things the Brits do best. I mean, we were all basically raised on cake and tea, after all. And for me, there isn’t a better Afternoon Tea experience in London than the fashion inspired Pret a Porteá at The Berkeley.
My mummy and I have been visiting the Berkeley twice a year for their seasonally changing Fashion Tea since I turned 21. It has become a bit of a tradition of ours, and every year has been more beautiful and delicious than the last. While we have only been enjoying this tea experience for seven years, it has actually been delighting Londoners and tea enthusiasts alike for the last decade, and to celebrate they have devised a menu of the most popular fashionable cakes and biscuits from the last 10 years of the Pret a Porteá experience. And I enjoyed it all over the weekend!
Earlier this year, The Berkeley underwent a bit of a renovation, including the Caramel Room in which the tea has always been hosted. While before the room was elegant and refined, now the room (re-named as The Collins Room) is bright and chic, with beautiful marble features, shiny distressed mirrors, silver velvet seats and a large window letting in thick streams of light into the room which is coloured with layers of lavender, a soft palette of dove greys & intricate blossom detailing on the wallpaper.
It’s beautiful, and complements the food even better than before.
As all good afternoons should do, ours started with a crisp glass of Laurent Perrier Brut champaign. This was the first and only alcoholic drink i’ve had this November (i’m on a mission to prepare myself for a messy December) and I don’t know whether it was because of the absence of champagne (or any alcohol) in my life or because it it truly was the nectar of the Gods, but oh my! At that moment, life couldn’t have got any better… but then the food arrived, and it did!
This afternoon tea is so wonderful because it works on an all-you-can-eat basis (though slightly more elegant than that!) so you can keep the food arriving at your table until you’re ready to pop. We’ve always made the most of this, so we had two delicious rounds of the savoury plates to begin with!
Included on these beautiful plates was a stunning beetroot gazpacho topped with pomegranate seeds which burst with intense, fruity flavour and contrasted with the beautiful, subtly sweet flavour and smooth texture of the beetroot. On the other plate, a gorgeous roasted pepper filled sun-blushed tomato bread sandwich, a classic salmon and cream cheese, and a chicken sandwich all elegant and light with beautiful fresh bread. In addition, a brisket beef sandwich which was sadly a little on the dry side, and a delightful miniature spinach and feta muffin which was fluffy, light and left a sweetness in the mouth, preparing you for the next course: the star of the afternoon!
Three tiers high, the delicious cakes and biscuits arrive along with your tea. Mum went with classic Breakfast tea, while I enjoyed the Earl Grey. Like the plates of food, you can drink tea ’til your heart’s content, and sample as many of the flavours and varieties as you like. I also enjoy the gorgeous fruit teas they offer, and new to the menu, you can also enjoy a few premium teas at a small supplement.
But this is really all about the cakes. We all know this. And of course it’s not just about how they taste, it’s about how they look. Especially with this one in particular… its about fashion, after all! Each cake or biscuit is modelled after a key piece from a previous season, or an iconic timeless piece, all from the world of high-end fashion.
Perhaps one of the easiest pieces to recognise is the Moschino handbag which was made of a blood orange Victoria sponge encased within red chocolate. This was the most sickly item on the plate, with a sweet intensity from the chocolate, though the sponge within was light and airy.
Not so iconic but beautifully designed was the vanilla eclair filled with salted caramel crème patissière all based on Simone Rocha’s ethereal embroidered tulle dress, alongside the Jimmy Choo glittery gala pointed-toe shoe made with velvet praline cream cake with hazelnut croquant and a sweetheart bow. It tasted like a Ferrero Rocher in cake form, smooth and decadent, and unapologetically nutty!
On the top tier is where the best treats reside. My favourites every time we visit are the biscuits, and my absolute favourite we’ve ever had is the Burberry Trench chocolate biscuit which made a wonderful return for the 10 year anniversary. This gorgeous biscuit which resembles my absolute dream fashion item is utterly delicious – buttery and sweet, with a light crispness coated in smooth royal icing. The ultimate accessory to your cup of tea, but definitely not to be dunked!
Other biscuits on the plate include the Carrie Bradshaw wedding shoe we all know and covet (but in yellow), in the form of a ginger biscuit, and Charlotte Olympia’s dramatic cinnamon biscuit boot with black and red icing.
As well as that, a shot glass filled with blackcurrant bavarois and star anise pannacotta, topped with chocolate owl dress design in homage to Dolce & Gabbana also features on the top tier, alongside one of the most famously styled pieces from the Pret a Porteà collection: Jason Wu’s romantic cherry bavarois and coconut cream topped with playful pink skirt and biscuit heel. The Dolce glass was an electric blue which turned our tongues and teeth blue in an instant, though the flavour wasn’t as powerful as the colour which was a stark contrast to Wu’s beautiful pink glass of sweet and tangy mousse.
After two pots of tea each and another round of biscuits, we actually found ourselves defeated and heading towards a sugar crash. As well as replenishing your plates as often as you request, you are always offered a doggy bag to take home any bites you haven’t quite been able to finish, in a beautiful container which resembles an elegant hat box.
Which meant that we were able to enjoy a few treats with our evening cuppa in front of the fire once we had returned home. Bliss!
Once again, the amazing team at The Berkeley have created an incredibly special experience for lovers of fashion, cake and tea! Each delicious aspect of the tea is elegant and perfectly designed. The skill behind the chef and his team is outstanding, and this can be seen so clearly in their special anniversary book which is available to purchase online or within the hotel, which gives 20 of the most iconic designer recipes from the past decade. You can purchase your own copy (with a bit of a discount) here, and if you want to book yourself a table, visit their website, where you can also book yourself onto a special Prêt-à-Portea Masterclass with Head Pastry Chef Mourad Khiat who will personally share the secrets behind fashion’s favourite afternoon tea. The perfect treat for someone you love this Christmas!
Thank you so much to our dear fashion friends for continuing to inspire us to recreate our fashion favourites through our #pretaportea fashion afternoon tea! Celebrating our 10th anniversary with this little book of our top twenty designer recipes inspired by @manoloblahnikhq @anyahindmarch @jimmychoo @jasonwu @philiptreacy @dolcegabbana @moschino @paulsmithdesign @burberry @simonerocha_ @nicholaskirkwood @giambattistapr @zacposen @heidikleinswim @charlotte_olympia @dvf @christianlouboutinshoes #pretaportea #pastrychef #theberkeley #pretabook #fashion #Fashionfavourites #fashionista #fashiontea