Thursday, August 12, 2010
After spending last week in the beautiful Lake District, my mother and I felt a bit sad to return to London. To cheer ourselves up, we decided to go for afternoon tea at The Berkeley in Knightsbridge. The hotel is famous for its Pret-a-Portea service, which they describe as “fashionista tea”. Inspired by the current season’s runway shows, everything from the the cakes and cookies to the teacups and saucers is beautifully on trend with the latest fashions.
It was a bit out of character for me to go to a fashionista tea. I’m not shy about my lack of fashion sense and my complete ignorance of all things designer. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a bit of fashion every once in awhile. I may have never heard of Jason Wu or Erdem, but put their work in food, and I’m a fan.
On Thursday afternoon we headed down to Knightsbridge and made our way to the Berkeley. We sat down for tea at four o’clock and were promptly brought a pot of Earl Grey in a bold striped teapot. Next came a tray of finger sandwiches that ranged in filling from roast beef to egg-and-mayonnaise.
But the real treat was when the three-tiered tray of savories and pastries arrived. On the bottom was a plate of canapés filled with everything from Asian chicken to giant prawns.
Above that was the start of the catwalk-inspired cakes that are at the heart of the Pret-a-Portea service. First there was an Yves Saint Laurent-inspired skinny stick of white chocolate mousse and raspberry custard topped with meringue and miniature red strawberry candies. It was one of my favorites.
Then came the Jean Paul Gaultier-inspired bright yellow cheesecake on an almond and oat base with a fluorescent yellow sugar spring. After my experience with cheesecake-from-a-box in Windermere, I was happy to indulge in some truly good, homemade cheesecake at Pret-a-Portea.
Other pastries on the plate included a marzipan-wrapped apricot sponge cake in the likeness of Anya Hindmarch’s ‘Halen’ bag, a rich dark chocolate cake topped with chocolate lace that resembled an Erdem dress, and a sweet pink almond macaroon with elderflower ganache that represented the latest fashions from Christopher Kane.
The top tier of the tray featured two cookies and two small glasses of mouse and bavarois. One cookie was inspired by a Jason Wu dress. The other was in the shape of a clog, which, according to the menu, is the shoe of the season.
The cookies shared the plate with a striped vanilla mousse and raspberry jam modeled after Sonia Rykiel’s nautical fashions. Next to it sat an orange, papaya, and hot pink lavender-flavored Bavarian cream that could only be inspired by Paul Smith. Sadly, it was the last of the sweets I tried, and although it was delicious, my body couldn’t ingest another bite of sugar. It was left half-full.
I, on the other hand, was left completely full. The tea service included as many plates of these goodies as we could eat, as well as all the tea we cared to drink. They even sent us home with adorable green boxes of Pret-a-Portea cakes, which we promptly fed to my boyfriend when we got back to Hampstead.
Pret-a-Portea afternoon tea was a beautiful way to cheer up after leaving the lovely surroundings of the Lake District. It wasn’t just the sugar high that brightened our moods, though. The thought and creativity that went into the cakes even put a smile on the face of the most unfashionable girl in London.