There is afternoon tea, and then there’s Prêt-à-Portea. Comparing The Berkeley’s high tea experience to some of the countless ordinary afternoon teas is like comparing a Givenchy handbag to one from Accessorize – it’s still nice but not in the same league. This is because Prêt-à-Portea adds a creative twist to the classic elements of afternoon tea by serving exquisite cakes and pastries resembling the latest catwalk designs for the style savvy.
The menu is changed every six months to follow the changing seasons in fashion. I recently experienced Prêt-à-Portea’s newly launched Spring/Summer 2014 collection and understood why it has been selling – quite literally – like hot cakes. In fact, as soon as I walked inside I noticed it was packed so it came as no surprise when I learned that the hotel usually recommends that guests book three months in advance for weekend sittings due to its popularity.
Afternoon tea is hosted inside the Caramel Room, which oozes art deco glamour. As I walked towards my table, I was wowed by the mirrored art, low lighting, chocolate coloured wall coverings and lush velvet and faux-crocodile fabrics. The sound of a piano twinkling away in the background creating the perfect setting for an elegant few hours devouring the trendiest cakes in London.
The hotel’s pastry chefs visited London Fashion Week shows to get their inspiration for the tasty treats and this was obvious by the intricate design of each cake. I could not help but marvel at the detail that had gone into creating each little dessert when the three tier cake stand was placed in front of me.
The Miu Miu exotic skin tote bag (see photo above) was particularly impressive as it featured a realistic looking animal skin texture. My favourite pastry was the Simone Rocha pineapple and coconut shirt dress. This was topped with a lime spun sugar hat which tasted like candy floss.
Every part of this afternoon tea experience has been carefully crafted to ensure it looks amazing but tastes delicious too. This was most obvious in the two desserts that were served inside shot glasses – the Dsquared mini strapless mango dress with hot pink lampshade hat and the Alberta Ferreti guava and lemon verbena panna cotta with striped ballerina-inspired skirt and strappy shoe tuile.
The hat and skirt on these treats could have easily been made from royal icing which would have looked great but compromised on the taste. Instead the kitchen staff painstakingly crafted both the hat and skirt from white chocolate which was then coloured to match the shade of the outfit. The result was scrumptious.
Chocoholics will not be able to resist the Victoria Beckham graphic geometric cherry and white chocolate mousse shirt. And biscuit lovers will adore the Christian Louboutin chocolate biscuit with turquoise icing and signature red sole.
Every element of the experience embodies style and sophistication – even down to the sandwiches. You won’t see any old filling between the freshly made bread. The prawn filling is mixed with celery and apples, and even the meat inside the chicken sandwich is slow roasted in sage which makes it very decadent.
Another way that Prêt-à-Portea stands out from the crowd is thanks to the attentive serving staff at The Berkley. As soon as my plate or cup looked half empty, they rushed to replenish it. I have noticed that while many other venues offering afternoon tea do replace your drink within the price of the experience, they seldom offer more cakes and sandwiches.
For this reason, I’d recommend attending the last sitting of afternoon tea as your belly won’t have any room left to devour dinner by the end of the recommended two-hour slot.
The wide selection of teas, coffee and hot chocolate are served in bespoke fine bone china which features a multi-coloured diamond pattern.
For a special celebration you can also order champagne, cocktails and even non alcoholic cocktails (see photo on left) which makes it an ideal venue for celebrations such as a baby shower or hen party.
As I left I was given a goody bag filled with some of the cakes I had which was a lovely memento of the most fashionable afternoon tea I have ever experienced.
Visit The Berkeley Hotel, Wilton Place, Knightbridge, London SW1X 7RL or call 020 7235 6000. Alternately email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.