A Melbourne, London & Hong Kong dessert blog
A haute couture high tea experience that is guaranteed to become this season’s must have.
So we come again, to that time of the year when the seasons move on. Spring dances to its first step as winter gasps its last, autumn swirls and tumbles in after the glaring heat of summer. New season, new clothes, yes? Oui, bien sur. Melbourne has just finished its Spring Fashion Week, and New York is now strutting in swathes of cashmere, leather, wool, lace and silks. After NY, it will be London, then Milan and Paris to round off the year that is 2013. And if you love clothes, as much as desserts, we have something very special to share with you. A Prêt-à-Portea with coutured fancies.
Afternoon tea at The Berkeley in genteel Belgravia/Knightsbridge, London, is held within the confines the Caramel Room on the ground floor of the hotel. The atmosphere is refined, though bustling because of the somewhat closely-spaced tables. We recommend trying to reserve a table near the window, for greater privacy and intimacy. There maybe a lot of service staff, but they aren’t quite on par with their surveillance duties. On our visit, it took some very determined, somewhat embarassing hand waves to beckon them. The dining ware is striking, a tessellated pattern of green, yellow, white and pink diamonds. The tea menu is divided into traditional loose-leaf teas served in traditional tea pots and tea saucers, and infusions that arrive in tall glasses. Absolutely, go for the infusions!
Changing twice a year, and inspired by the latest fashions to hit the catwalks, afternoon tea at the Berkeley is without a doubt, one a of kind. On our visit, four small triangle sandwiches (roast beef, salmon, cucumber and chives, egg) and a mini goats cheese burger were served as the appetizer course. If desired, seconds of these sandwiches can be served. But why fill up your tummy with savouries, when there are sweets? 🙂
Every table, without fail, gasps and gushes when the three-tiered stand arrives. You won’t find a boring lemon meringue or fruit tartlet or little cake cube thing. The care taken in crafting each item on this stand is evident. On our visit, the bottom tier featured were five savoury bites. Our favourites were the eyebrow-raising cone that held a prawn mousse paste swirl, and a tube of cucumber jelly that acted as the perfect palate cleanser. The other three savouries included a roasted summer vegetable tartlet possessing a buttery crust and Mediterranean flavour; one spoon holding a medallion of watermelon topped with a medallion of feta which was refreshing in its light/pungent flavour contrast, while another spoon held a dabble of tomato and a meringue mushroom.
Shall we move onto the sweets now? You have been waiting long enough. Nine, beautifully executed patisserie items. Pictured below is the middle tier of sweets.
On this tier, the first sweet irresistible to be sampled was a creation inspired by the popping block colours of a typical Jonathan Saunders dress. At the Berkeley, the chefs had interpreted this designer into a chocolate short bread biscuit embellished with two white chocolate domes infused with lemon and orange blossom respectively.
The second creation was inspired by Prada‘s typical sleek elegance, a log of Grand Marnier white chocolate set on a biscuit base and embellished with hard iced, red petite fleurs.
For the girl that loves desserts and bags, the next sweet is for you. Here we have, a very Jason Wu-proper, white chocolate hatbox cake bag overlaid with a leopard print. It featured a slight coconut tone.
The fourth sweet on the middle tier of the afternoon tea stand was one of our favourites. Appropriately show-stopping in the way that most Alexander McQueen creations are, a little marizipan bee sat upon an embossed, honey-flavoured cremeaux log. It was springtime on your plate, in your mouth. Delightful.
The fifth creation was another favourite of these Dessert Correspondents. Richly-toned, moody with a twist, that is what Balenciaga offers to the fashion world. The Berkeley’s version reflected that perfectly — an intense mousse with a dark and white chocolate aspect, accented by its brownie base and tempered chocolate set into waves.
Are you in sugar heaven yet? Wait, there is still the top tier, yes! After the serious indulgence of the middle tier, the top tier of the afternoon tea stand was a little lighter.
There was a Dolce & Gabbana pistachio and vanilla striped pannacotta in one glass tube topped with a blueberry and a chocolate curl, and a vibrant Oscar de la Renta peach bavarois layered with sweet strawberry compote.
And just for nibbles, who can resist the following? Try to think away thoughts of your now inflated stomach as you munch on the toned dimensions of the Tory Burch bikini biscuit. And now completely satisfied, strut out of the Berkeley with a last gobble of the Manolo Blahnik high heel biscuit…even if you are wearing a pair of Louboutins or Jimmy Choos yourself, or perhaps something a little more high street, a little less couture. 🙂
If you are looking for traditional and classical, or scones, do not take tea at the Berkeley. If you are looking for an afternoon particularly focused on sweets, something different, something fun, something utterly memorable, the Berkeley must be one of the best themed afternoon teas on offer. The extravagantly serious fashionista might turn up her nose at prêt-à-porter fashion, but with the Berkeley crafting such couture sweet irresistibles, Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley is surely this season’s, and next season’s, must have.
- Dessert adventure checklist
- Dessert destination: The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London, United Kingdom.
- Budget: $$$ ($39 GBP pp)
- Sweet irresistibles: High Tea.
- Must-eat: The “Alexander McQueen” bee and the “Balenciaga” chocolate cakes.
- The short and sweet story: A haute couture high tea experience that is guaranteed to become this season’s must have.