After 12 years of friendship, you tend to develop some major traditions that do not under any circumstances get changed – one of which is our annual festive afternoon tea. Girls, Rule 101 of longterm friendship – a bond created over afternoon tea discussing Chanels, boys and future wedding details strengthens the friendship like no other even if that means leaving work early to go eat. (Before you start congratulating me or my friends… We are all single but it’s nice to get the small details decided well in advance.. We like to be prepared for when-and if!- that ocassion was to arise for any of us)
So today, I got up put my best dress on appropriate for any Tuesday, and went to work. Spent the good part of all my morning at work staring at the Afternoon Tea menu at The Berkeley, not because I don’t know what it consists of, more to psyche myself up, its like a work out but for foodies. Step 1) Starve yourself. Step 2) Stare at menu for a pump up. Step 3) Put on your best shoes. Step 4) Attempt to eat as much as you can for the next 4 hours of your life… Okay so it might not be anything like a workout, but then again I wouldn’t know as my version of exercise is running after that HMxBalmain jacket that I had been lusting over for the good part of 2 months!
I work about 2 minutes away from The Berkeley, so luckily no workout needed this time round. I got there, and as always, was the first of my friends to arrive unfashionably early. But this gave me a good opportunity to Snapchat the cute menus and take photos of the adorable tea set.. Anticipation increases!
I just love this time of the year. Everyone is so festive and happy, in love with this city as it is, but the lights and Christmas cheer make it look so magical. One of the reasons why I look forward to this time of the year also has something to do with our annual afternoon tea. Now, I love an afternoon tea all year round, but its so magical at this time of year which makes it all the more special.
As I was looking around admiring my surroundings as always, everything in The Caramel Room at The Berkeley was so cute, with small groups, families, friends, couples enjoying their own teas. However, the first thing I noticed was there was no Christmas cheer, no lights, no Christmas tree not even a cheeky mistletoe or two that screams its almost Christmas. I was sorely disappointed at this thought and made me a bit sad.. What kind of annual festive afternoon tea would it be without the festivities! If I had known, I would’ve brought a tacky paper Christmas hat for extra measure.
Eventually my friends arrived, and as expected, at least two out of three of us had to have matching handbags (Chanels obviously, duh) The tea came.. Followed by sandwiches. What I love about this place is that they pride themselves in everything being Halal, the waiter was fully aware that we were ordering halal food and was very accommodating. The sandwiches were of beef, chicken, cucumbers and a cute little brioche bun with egg cress.
I loved that the sandwiches and pastries were so different and not your bog standard sandwiches that I could probably whip up at home (given that I can’t cook if my life depended on it, that might be entertaining all on its own) My favourite sandwich was the beef one, at the majority of restaurants I’ve been to, halal chicken is plenty, however you don’t always get halal beef, so when you do, take the opportunity to order a few extra because you can! I particularly liked the brioche bun with egg cress. The sweetness of the brioche was not too overpowering and the combination fer just right. They also had a few extra sandwiches and an interesting selection of savoury scones filled with cream cheese, salmon with ginger ornament, and a mousse of herbs. I have to say I was a bit confused by this selection. The tastes on this plate were very different, almost very Indian in their taste, not what you would expect at an afternoon tea, all in all a very British experience. The salmon here, as delicious as it was felt a bit out of place here, almost as though they were trying too hard to fit a gourmet ceviche type dish ehich wasn’t actually required here. When you go for an afternoon tea, you expect certain standard things – sandwiches, scones, jam and cakes. Now the scones, I have to say, this was the biggest disappointment, so much so that I might even go as far as saying that if I wasn’t so excited by the actual thought of the fashionista tea itself I would have possibly chosen somewhere else to tea with my girls (I have that kind of power over them, no I’m not Queen B.. They just choose not to be as fussy (or selective as I like to put it) as I am). An afternoon tea without scones is like a man without a wallet- pointless! (Just kidding guys, TLH is an independent woman, so you can pretty much leave the Amex at home!)
However, I waited patiently for the badboy of the whole experience. Now, as you will have guessed from the name Pret-a-Portea, this is no ordinary tea. Fashion and afternoon teas are pretty much all I know in life and, well the next course was pretty much as good as it gets for any fashionista/diva (That’s me incase you had any doubts). I absolutely love the idea that this tea brings to the table (literally!) Pret- a-Portea is, easentially, a designer themed tea that takes its inspiration from the latest pieces off the catwalk of that season. The current one being Autumn/Winter 2015-2016, their key pieces were Fendi’s double breasted biscuit coat, Dolce & Gabbana’s pink rose dress taken from their “Viva La Mama” collection as featured on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue recently, as well as D&G’s Mary Jane biscuits and one of my personal favourite designers Valentino’s rockstud striped victoria sponge cake shoulder bag! Each one was perfection, although if I’m totally honest I was a little disappointed that the Rockstud bag inspired cake didn’t actually have any rock studs on them, but that might just be my love for the Rockstuds. Here are some of the many photos I took:
One of my other major disappointments with this menu was that to my disarray there were no scones, no clotted cream and no jam! I was slightly distraught by this but soon got over it after tasting the D&G inspired shoes.
All in all, I thought the whole experience was great. As mentioned before, this is one of my alltime favourite afternoon teas, despite not having a festive feel to it or the lack of scones, I love a tea with a theme and Pret-a-Portea stick to the theme and is great for anyone remotely interested in designers or fashion or just good cakes. What I love even more is that they change the menu every 6 months in line with the new season collections. Now if that’s not commitment for you, I don’t know what is!
So….. Crunch time!
Food 7 / 10
Overall, The Berkeley afternoon tea gets an 8 out of 10 from me plus brownie points given for some cool photo spots, the bathroom being my favourite spot for most photos!
Check it out for yourself and let me know your thoughts.
Ciao till the next delicious adventure….
PS. Please excuse the poor quality of pictures from my phone while I replace my old SLR, which unfortunately is no longer with us 🙁