If you read my previous review of the legendary designer Prêt-à-Portea at 5-star hotel, The Berkeley, you can imagine how ecstatic I was to return this season to sample their new haute couture afternoon tea, ‘The Couture Cakewalk’. A homage to Autumn-Winter designs taking the catwalks by storm, this year they have introduced a delicious new finale: a monthly cake made in collaboration with a fashion world tastemaker.
Now in its 28th season since Prêt-à-Portea was first launched in SS 2005, their exciting new collection kicked off this October with an eye-catching collaboration with Erin O’Connor and the striking four-tier Schiaparelli gown she walked the Paris catwalk in at nine months pregnant (in Converse trainers!) – read on to find out more …
We stopped briefly at the main entrance to snap some of their autumnal decorations before stepping into the iconic Collins Rooms, which was as stunning as I remembered, named after the legendary British designer David Collins and later redesigned in 2016 by Collins’s protégé Robert Angell. We arrived earlier for our booking this time when it was less busy, and had a better opportunity to admire the room and its hand-painted floral wallpaper, inspired by the classic de Gournay cherry blossom and Dior Grey wallpaper. We were once again lucky enough to be seated at a lovely corner table in the extended glass pavilion, under the chic porcelain white petal chandeliers that hung from the ceiling – as you can already tell by now, I am all about natural light and airy spaces.
Our luxurious experience aptly began with elegant flutes of my favourite (and very Instagrammable) Laurent-Perrier Rosé – approximately 720 bottles of Laurent-Perrier bottles are popped a month at Prêt-à-Portea!
They have an extensive selection of rare and seasonal teas, categorized into six main tea types: white, yellow, green, Oolong, black, and Pu Erh, as well as Tisane, often known as herbal teas. I remembered that I enjoyed the First Flush Darjeeling tea from my last visit and decided to order it again, specially sourced from the Thurbo Tea Estate by Steven, the lovely restaurant manager, who we unfortunately missed on our visit this time round.
For the coffee aficionados, they also offer single origin coffee which is prepared table side using a modern interpretation of the traditional Japanese Kinto slow brew method.
I looked forward to their perfectly hand-cut sandwiches, the fillings which have since been seasonally tweaked to match the colder autumn/winter months:
Roast corn fed chicken, truffle cream, braised leeks & parmesan on sourdough bread Peppered pastrami with mustard celeriac remoulade, Montgomery cheddar, wild rocket on onion bread Home smoked salmon, horseradish, capers, beef tomato & pickled shallots on dark rye bread Hickory smoked duck & egg mayonnaise, mustard cress on white bread Baked heritage beetroot with aromatic peppered goats cheese, pickled walnuts, French sorrel on tomato bread
The fillings were all really tasty and flavoursome, it was hard to pick a favourite – although the smoked salmon is often a firm personal favourite of mine. The chicken with truffle cream came a close second.
The savoury treats in the form of elegantly presented canapés included dainty miso scented Madeline, topped with whipped chive cream, treat roe, and a glistening gold leaf, as well as a heartwarming bowl of truffle baked new potatoes, with wild mushrooms, blackberries, soubise veloute, and watercress. We enjoyed both of them very much and were kindly offered second servings.
Not long after, the much awaited pièce de résistance arrived at our table, a triple tier of the most exquisite looking designer cakes and fancies.
On the top tier was the striking yellow Fendi raincoat sable, in honor of Karl Lagerfield’s last work for Fendi, finished with glossy royal icing. Next to it was a contrasting bright neon pink cinnamon financier filled with a Pink Lady apple mousse and wrapped in a delicate web of spun sugar – a design that takes inspiration from Molly Goddard’s evening gown design that was featured as a dressed-to-kill costume on BBC thriller, Killing Eve. Like many fans out there, I am (im)patiently waiting for the release of Season 3!
The October Tastemaker, Erin’s Schiaparelli gown, was reimagined in the form of a red plum mousse set on airy Emmanuel sponge, topped with tiered light ombre meringue. The iconic Jacquemus ‘Le Micro Chiquito’ was recreated as an almond & blackcurrant cake with chocolate garnish. Finished with a cassis mirror glaze, this edible work of art was made according to the actual lifesize version of the handbag, so small that it only holds a pound coin!
At the bottom tier lay a vibrant red creation based on Emila Wickstead’s red velvet gown from her collection that was inspired by one of the greatest films of all time, The Godfather. The red croustillon covered choux bun was filled with Gianduja cremeux and roasted macadamia nuts that added a nice contrasting texture, finished with whipped ganache, chocolate disks and a sugar bow.
Last but not least, was our personal favourite, based on Jeremy Scott’s Moschino designs, inspired by American game shows such as The Price is Right and sent dollar bill print ensembles down the catwalk. This delightful treat was presented as a velvet pistachio and mascarpone cream delice with a salted crumble base, and of course, topped with a sugared one million dollar bill – now if only edible dollar bills had legal tender value …
As we slowly savoured mouthfuls of the almost too-pretty-to-eat cakes, we eventually tucked into the Sharing Cake – a pecan chocolate brownie base base topped with white chocolate and framboise mousse with a raspberry and ginger confit centre. Taking inspiration from Richard Quinn’s AW18 show that juxtaposed a riot of florals with latex bodsuits, boots and opera gloves, I very much enjoyed this upside-down version, topped with a blue sugar bow and wafer legs.
Unlike most afternoon teas, scones are not included as part of the Prêt-à-Portea, but we were already pretty full and satisfied from their array of afternoon tea treats. I did have the chance to sample a couple of their plain buttery scones last time so I can confirm that they were definitely up to standard. And of course we finished off with their very Instagrammable Prêt-à-Portea coffees.
After yet another very enjoyable experience, the Prêt-à-Portea remains as one of my top afternoon teas to try in London – definitely a worthy of winner of the Best Themed Afternoon Tea award at the Afternoon Tea Awards 2019!
The Prêt-à-Portea is served daily from 1:00pm – 5:30pm, priced at £60.00 per person, with further options available as follows:
Champagne Prêt-à-Portea, with a glass of Laurent-Perrier, £70.00 per person.
Signature Mocktail Prêt-à-Portea, with a glass of a refreshing Mango & Rooibos mocktail, £70.00 per person.
Couture Champagne Prêt-à-Portea, with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Rosé, Bollinger Rosé or Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, £76.00 per person.
The month of November sees the addition of a limited edition boot biscuit, co-created by November’s Tastemaker, Sandra Choi, Creative Director of Jimmy Choo. From 15 November to 31 December 2019 they will be serving Festive Prêt-à-Portea only, from £75.00 per person that will include their fashion-inspired delicacies, as well as festive treats, alongside your choice of a mocktail, a glass of champagne or a glass of mulled wine.
- My Prêt-à-Portea experience at The Berkeley was complimentary – views and photos are my own.