A friend reserved a table for the Pret a Portea at The Berkeley – the famous fashionista’s afternoon tea. Not that I qualify in any way for the description of fashionista, but there were plenty of them in the room to make up the shortfall.
The table was beautifully set, with individual stylised menus and a personalised name card. Our only criticism was the size of the font on the menu (see vent number 21). We also had some concerns when only one cake stand was set on the table for four people – there was only two handbags!. However the waiter quickly reassured us that the plates would be swapped out as and when we finished them. He was true to his word as we discovered following multiple plate changes.
The sandwiches (we had 3 rounds each and were offered more!), savoury spoonfuls and cakes were all of a very high standard. In fact I actually enjoyed the afternoon tea more than the lunch we had a few months back in Marcus Wareings restaurant!
We also had a few glasses of champagne – they offer standard or couture. The waiter serving the champagne was particularly proficient as he single handedly poured the champagne, smoothly swapping from one hand to the other. He also used a small laser pointer to individually identify and describe the sandwiches and cakes! I jokingly commented that he put on a better show than the Fat Duck. So you can imagine my shock when Heston Blumental walked by a few minutes later. The Berkeley will be a rival to his planned new Restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental just around the corner (see Foliage replacement – the gossip!), so I guess he was just being neighbourly!
This was my first visit to The Berkeley to experience the 2 star Michelin cooking of Marcus Wareing. A chef that many critics believe to be eclipsing the cooking of his former boss Gordon Ramsay. I must say the room was very impressive. Unfortunately the cooking didn’t live up to expectations. I did get the chance to try the famous custard tart. It was certainly an amazing texture. It was so light that it seemed to defy the laws of physics. You’d think it would collapse under its own weight. I didn’t think the taste was that great however so overall was not that impressed.
Unless you are in an area that specialises in Tea Shops, its often hard to find good venues to relax with a coffee or tea and eat cake. Why go to the big chains like Starbucks, when you have alternatives.
If you really want to go up market and have Afternoon Tea somewhere grand, like The Athenaeum or The Berkeley, then great, but if you are looking for something cheaper, then here are a few options.
Actually the Starbucks I have been to in New York are a lot better than London. I had an amazing piece of Cognac and Pumpkin cheese cake in one on the Upper East Side, but for something more unique try:-