Tel: +44 (0)20 7107 8866
Prêt-à-Portea £52pp* (12.5% service charge not included)
Prêt-à-Portea served 1pm – 5.30pm
Back with a bang! If you are to venture back into the heady world of afternoon tea reviews (hello fan, and hello to Jason Issacs) what better place to begin than with The Berkeley and their fashionista-inspired afternoon ‘Pret-a-Portea’. As puns go, this is one of the more bearable. Located in Knightsbridge – home to Harrods, Harvey Nichols and people inexplicably taking pictures of cars pulling up at the lights on Sloan Street – this stylish hotel offers a unique take on the standard afternoon tea with sumptuous savouries, exquisite desserts and waiting staff so attentive that you wouldn’t mind taking them home so they could help you concoct a plan to steal the moon.
Tea is taken in the Collins room, a tranquil dining area with plush chairs and non-descript muzak playing in the background. The staff are smartly attired, charming and extremely helpful in assisting with your menu choices. They are happy to talk; to explain each and every sandwich filling; every ingredient in the savoury treats; how each delicate cake and biscuit is modelled on what (insert name of pouty stick insect here) wore on that catwalk of (insert name of fashion hotspot where bulimia is in but Primark leggings are out) and how the designer (insert name of someone I might have once heard mentioned in Sex And The City here) oversaw this season’s collection of iced biscuits. This is 5 star service, and I appreciate the enthusiasm, but as I thought Moschino was a type of cherry showing me pictures of young girls in pan stick and glorified painting smocks does little to excite me. A dislike of talking to people outside of a job where I am contractually obliged to feign interest in the humans doesn’t help matters either. I would be more likely to pay the service charge if they promised to stop.
However, despite this futile attempt to engage me in my surroundings (the fault is all mine. I came for sugar and sweet things), I can report that this was an extraordinarily fun and delightful experience. The savouries are plentiful and my request during the online booking process for a egg mayonnaise-free existence was adhered to. There are a range of moreish finger sandwiches and a selection of appetizers served in small serving dishes including seared yellowfin tuna, Cornish crab with lemon emulsion and smoked duck with brioche (I also sampled a quinoa option which was very… well, quinoa-ry), However, as the menu is amended in accordance with the changing fashion seasons (i.e. when we stop/start turning the radiator on) and nothing ages a blog post more than a blow-by-blow account of food that is no longer available to eat, I would advise checking out the official website for the latest changes to the menu. You will also be able to read through their extensive list of teas. It is worth noting that while a number of other blog posts mention that tea is unlimited and the menu itself does not allude to the precise number of pots included, do check with the waiting staff exactly how many you are entitled to before incurring any unexpected additional costs. I indulged in blackberry, lemon & ginger, vanilla and green sencha before being told that two pots was the usual limit, though additional charges were wavered when my eyes bulged from their sockets and I began to apologies frantically for my piggish behaviour. However, each pot is brewed to perfection and elegantly served in charming Wedgewood China, adding that extra touch of style to the proceedings.
Of course, to some extent these are but a prelude (though an exceptionally flavoursome one) to the main attraction. This tea is one of the most outstanding owing to the artistry, whimsy and creativity of the desserts. It is the skill and presentation of these beautiful creations that elevates The Berkeley from the luxurious into the realm of the truly unique. There is a genuine sense of excitement upon finishing the savoury part of the tea and waiting for the delivery of the three tiered stand (I found myself diverting my eyes from other tables so it wouldn’t spoil the fun of seeing it as it arrived at mine. At 31 this doesn’t sound charming so much as childish, but what the heck), and there is fun to be had reading the extensive list of designers who have attached their names to apricot sponges and berry compote, Aruna Seth and Richard Quinn and other people I’ve never heard of contributing Victoria Sponge handbags and black forest gateauxs while the likes of Versace and Dolce & Gabbana branch out into the cake trade with designs that cause a stab of pain at the prospect of doing something as uncouth as eating them. Yet design as not eclipsed flavour, and each of these delightful confections succeeds in being both aesthetically pleasing and delicious in equal measure. There is both style and substance in this joyful afternoon tea, and when combined with the surroundings and the exceptional service this is an experience that shouldn’t be missed by any teaholic. And because a picture is worth a thousand words (or 901 if we must split hairs) I leave you with what remains once the edible bathing suit has been consumed.
Verdict: Unique and utterly delightful. 5/5 teacups
*Prices/information correct as of 24.9.18
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