I have a confession to make. In addition to being a travel addict, I am also a bit of a closet fashionista. I love splurging on yummy things whenever I travel and love me some Gucci, Louis Vuitton and my absolute favourite: red soles created by Christian Louboutin that just scream elegance. When I am not being a Wanderluster and am in the office in lawyer mode, you will often find me strutting around in red soles. So much so that some of my colleagues have a running joke where my shoes are concerned and their slogan for me has become “the Wanderluster doesn’t wear Prada: she struts in Louboutin!” You may be wondering what this confession has to do with a travel blog. Well, grab a cuppa or a glass of bubbles (either would be apt) and make yourself comfy, because in usual Harpreet’s Wanderlust ramble fashion, I’m going to tell you!
It helps to have friends that “get you” and my lovely fellow wanderluster friend Binny knows all about my little obsession with sparkly things. I had in a previous trip to London subjected her to my shoe fetish and Binny graciously accompanied me to buy “just one more pair of shoes” from Christian Louboutin’s Mount Street store in Mayfair. The ordeal had Binny (and my WanderlustMate M) sitting on the red couch in said store, watching me disdainfully as I tried on shoes and oohed and aahed over various styles. Thankfully, Binny is a fashionista herself and she totally indulges my whims and fancies. Another of my favourite things to do in London is the essential high tea, and because B is well acquainted with my fondness for both, suggested that we indulge in a spot of fashion whilst catching up. She had the perfect combination for this: the chic fashion afternoon tea at The Berkeley in Knightsbridge.
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” – Henry James
I couldn’t agree with Sire James more. Traditional afternoon tea would involve some savoury sandwiches, cakes and the piece de resistance: quintessentially English scones topped off with clotted cream and jam, and of course, the tea itself. But not at The Berkeley. This, my dear Wanderlusters, is a fashionista’s dream come true. The cakes and cookies are decorated to resemble some of the seasonal haute couture pieces of renowned luxury house designers such as Balenciaga, Miu Miu, Mulberry and my personal favourite, Gucci, making it a real fashion lover’s affair. This my friends, is afternoon tea with a twist, and what a delicious one at that!
“Pleasure without Champagne is purely artificial.” – Oscar Wilde
You know where I’m headed with this quote, don’t you? Well, you will agree that an elegant afternoon had to commence with nothing but the best. Starting as we intended to carry on, Binny ditched her usual signature mojito for bubbles with me and we toasted to our adventure in London with delicious pink Champagne Milkshakes at the aptly named Blue Bar. These are so more-ish and we could have easily chinked a couple more flutes, but a whole afternoon of bubbles and goodness beckoned and so, with one cocktail down we waltzed into the plush Collins Room and settled in to indulge in the raison d’etre at The Berkeley: Pret a Portea.
This afternoon tea is based on seasonal fashion collections, and we were indulging in the Spring/Summer collection of 2017, featuring nine designers: Pucci, Miu Miu, Balenciaga, Charlotte Olympia, Stella McCartney, Gucci, Mulberry, Ralph & Russo and Dolce & Gabbana. As one can expect with teas of this nature, we had savouries and sweets to look forward to, but as I have already hinted, this is definitely no ordinary tea! Step inside, as I take you through and try and describe the delectable feast that Binny and I had.
Now, I am a savoury kinda girl, but that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy my sweets! My weakness with High Teas is really the crumbly scones which have to have lashings of clotted cream and dollops of jam all over them. But my preference leans towards the savoury and I was gobsmacked with what Pret a Portea had as their offerings. None of those limp cucumber or boring egg sandwiches on bog standard stodgy white bread, heck no! The sandwich selection was incredible. I would describe these morsels of deliciousness as delicate, luxurious and creative. The sheer varieties of bread had me gaping with amazement! Just listen to some of the selections: Roast Fed Corn Chicken on Onion Bread, graced with gherkins, gem lettuce and smoked mayo. Duck Egg Mayo with mustard cress on white bread (not stodgy). Poached Scottish Salmon with tarragon emulsion on Rye bread, to name but a few. Incredible! The best bit? B and I didn’t have to umm and ahh over what to eat because we each had our OWN plate of sandwiches to devour! I’m sure the sound of all these sarnies have made your mouth water, as they have mine!
Sandwiches wolfed down and the urge to order more resisted, the next treat was a selection of miniature savouries. Veloutte with edible flowers, macaron and mackerel were on offer, delicately presented and elegantly served. We could easily have been dining in a Michelin star restaurant and not indulging in an afternoon tea! I thoroughly enjoyed every delicious morsel of these little treats, with the tomato macaron filled with peppered goats cheese, confit tomato, peas and olives being a firm winner for me.
Drrrrrrummrooollllll please…the moment of glory when the cake stand was brought out finally arrived! Now, in ordinary High Tea’s the savoury and sweet is all put together in a three-layer cake stand but at Pret a Portea, the pastries are akin to the show stopper on the fashion runway and so the stand is dedicated just to these delicate creations. This isn’t a traditional high tea and so no scones, but the pastries were so creatively crafted that the scones weren’t even missed, if I dare to say so!
Being a huge fan of the quintessentially British Battenburg slice (I’ve been known to sneak in a box or two of the Mr. Kipling variety at the supermarket), I couldn’t decide between Stella McCartney’s pump in the form of said cake or to dive straight in and devour Gucci’s pink candy floss summer berry sable Breton jumper in the form of a mousse! Needless to say, the descriptions of the pastries were as quirky and fun as the morsels of delight themselves, and B and I had a whale of a time matching the descriptions and diving in.
Miu Miu’s “beside the seaside” retro lime bikini was creatively painted onto a biscuit base and I resisted the urge to dunk this into my tea, because, after all, manners! Speaking of tea, the variety was mind boggling with some blends being specially curated for the season itself. I would have loved to indulge in something different like Matcha which is all the rage at the moment, but I didn’t want to wander too far away from tradition. Nilgiri Frost – a black tea from India was my choice, and the type Awesome (Type A) personality in me was thrilled to see the little label on my cute lavender and lemon yellow checkered teapot too!
In every meal there has to be something that stands out as memorable, and I have to say that the sandwiches and savouries were my personal favourite components of this tea. But, if I were to choose a sweet, then Balenciaga’s Raspberry bavarois and blueberry compote topped with kinky slinky pointed stiletto’s to hip legs would be a firm winner. Quite apart from tasting amazing, the creativity of the legs had me chuckling away because they represented how I felt at that moment: drowning in a delicious food coma!
We could have sat in the opulent Collins Room enjoying the sophisticated yet not stuffy ambience a while longer, but my London blogger friends had other great ideas. Aftab of Fresh and Fearless joined us for bubbles at The Berkeley toward the tail end of our feast and I was really excited to meet him, having become good friends over Instagram! Social media has completely shattered the concept of six degrees of separation, making it zero degrees as far as I am concerned and I love it! I had an incredible time traipsing around London and indulging in fancy cocktails at the Bulgari Hotel and comforting food at Jean Georges amidst lots of banter and chuckles. To be typically British, my friends warmed the cockles of my heart with their warmth and generosity and left me with amazing memories of my time in London.
Well, dear Wanderlusters, I suppose this is my cue to quit my rambling and leave you be. But, if you find yourselves in London and want an afternoon tea with a twist that will leave a lasting impression on you then look no further and shimmy over to The Berkeley for their Pret a Portea! Until next time, Happy Wanderlusting! Xoxo.
-This isn’t a sponsored post but rather my ramblings on what was a very memorable time in London, with Afternoon Tea at The Berkeley being a birthday treat from my dear friend Binny: thank you B!
-For prices and news on the latest seasonal tea, head on over to The Berkeley website.