Friday, 17 June 2016

Afternoon Tea Review - The Berkeley's Pret a Portea

Afternoon Tea Review - Pret-a-Portea at The Berkeley, £45

A Knightsbridge designer afternoon tea, Prêt-à-Portea, is "inspired by the themes and colours of the fashion world". The menu is revised every six months to follow the changing seasons in fashion.  Perfect for the Tea Ladies' Christmas treat!

We were shown into a large dining room, full of people having afternoon tea.  We had had to wait around 10-15 minutes before we were seated, possibly because it was close to Christmas, although it may well always be that busy.

The tea selection wasn't large and there were only 9 real teas compared to 8 herbal or fruit infusions. There were three black teas, two green, two Oolong and two white but there were several interesting varieties within that selection.  Mo had the Bohea Lapsang, Caroline had the Nilgiri Frost then the Ceylon and  Rose, and Charlotte had the Wuyi Oolong followed by the Jasmine Silver.  There was no information on the teas, which was a little disappointing.  It's hard to choose when you don't know what they are, especially if you're someone who doesn't drink a lot of different teas.  Some were brewed better than others - the Ceylon and the Jasmine were far too strong.  Refills, hot water and different teas were happily provided though.  25/30

The Sandwiches arrived on large plates rather than on a stand.  They were a good selection: ham and piccalilli;  turkey and cranberry; cheese and beetroot on beetroot bread; egg mayonnaise on brioche (our favourite); beef with horse radish and capers; and smoked salmon and poached salmon on dill and orange bread.  Charlotte doesn't eat red meat, so they provided some alternative sandwiches for her: cucumber and cream cheese; mozzarella, tomato and pesto; and hummus and pepper.   The bread was a little dry on a few of them, and some of the fillings weren't very flavourful but on the whole, they were very nice sandwiches, and a great selection.  28/30

There was no scone course but  miniature savouries were served instead: carrot mousse with sesame seeds and cauliflower; cheese scones with mascarpone and chutney; and salmon ceviche with pickled radish.  We were divided on whether this was a good idea.  The carrot mousse was okay, Mo and Caroline really liked the salmon but Charlotte didn't, and we all agreed there was far too much chutney with the scone.   We all like the idea of extra savouries, but we're not sure these ones added anything to the meal. 

Of course because there were no  sweet scones that meant there was no clotted cream - which is always a shame.  But because there were so many cakes we didn't really feel the lack!

Cakes...... many cakes.

The cakes were all designed to reflect this season's fashion collections and very pretty they were too!  We were given a 'fashion menu' to show what items the cakes were made to match. 
There was no way we could remember them all, or properly describe all the items that inspired the cakes, so we've copied the below from the hotel's website:

Dolce&Gabbana's popular pink rose dress from their ‘Viva La Mama’ collection, becomes a lychee and almond mousse set upon pink pâte sablée topped with light pink chocolate and delicate rose detailing.

Alice Temperley's favourite flutura skirt becomes a gianduja chocolate supreme set on sable Breton glazed with chocolate mirroire, sprinkled with edible gold and a bright blue chocolate flower.
Fendi's double-breasted chocolate biscuit coat with red and brown icing details.
Moschino's quirky cartoon inspired nu-rave dress is a cream and orange financier and coconut savarin topped with a button of yellow and red chocolate.
Simone Rocha's ethereal embroidered cream tulle dress with floral detailing is refashioned into a vanilla  éclair filled with salted caramel crème patissiere and decorated with red sugar flowers.
Giambattista Valli's pink and yellow pop culture dress as an elegant bavarois with custard cream and chocolate cremeux crowned with crisp pearls and a quirky leg tuile
Dolce&Gabbana's cinnamon biscuit Mary Janes decorated with a contemporary twist of tantalising rose petals and sparkling sugar crystals.
Alexis Mabille's haute couture oversized bow gown from his 'Portraits of a Woman' collection is recreated with vanilla panna cotta and chestnut cream duchesse satin topped with a large pink chocolate bow.
Valentino's rockstud striped Victoria sponge shoulder bag with cranberry compote amidst multi-colour striped chocolate, finished with a golden handle.   

 The cakes, unsurprisingly, looked great and we really admired the skill they put into creating and executing them.  They mostly tasted great as well, although the biscuits were very dry.  We were offered extras, and we were given handbag-shaped doggy bags of one cake each to take away with us.  28/30

Although the room we were in was nice, it wasn't particularly special or elegant in any way.  It was also very crowded and noisy, so not a particularly relaxing atmosphere.  We were glad we were by the window, and not in the centre of the room.  The service was erratically attentive, the staff were very welcoming and professional but not always easy to find, and several times we had a long wait for something we'd asked for.  We think it was probably due to how busy it was with people out for a Christmas treat, and not the norm. 

For  a special occasion, it's a good place to go.  The food and the tea are good, and there's plenty of both.  No scones and cream, but plenty of cakes for a sweet tooth.  Unlike afternoon teas of a similar price, the Pret-a-Portea has a specific theme which is done well, and makes it stand out from the crowd.  However, we'd probably advise you to go at a quieter time of year.

Pros                                                                              Cons
Good, interesting teas                                           Very noisy
Beautiful, well-themed cakes                             Lack of information on the teas
Good selection of food                                          Slow service


8.5 out of 10

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Afternoon Tea Review - Kensington Orangery

Afternoon Tea Review - Kensington Orangery, £26

Kensington Orangery is a beautiful, airy building with high ceilings and long glass window, situated next to Kensington Palace, which is a Royal Palace and currently the residence of  William and Kate - The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  The Orangery was built in 1704 for Queen Anne when she was a princess.  She used it to host parties - I wonder if she served tea!

We had been meaning to go there for some time, so we were very pleased to be invited there for afternoon tea. 

The tea selection wasn't large - only one green, 4 herbal, and 6 black teas (four of which were blends, including two variations of Earl Grey).  Mo had the Royal London tea, Caroline had the Afternoon at the Palace, and Charlotte had the Earl Grey with Blue Flowers (Lady Grey).  The teas were loose leaf, and all very nice.  The selection wasn't very exciting but the teas were good quality and the three we had were distinctly different.  We liked the fact they have their own special blends, as we felt it added something to the experience.  The teapots were small but the waiter quickly brought us a large pot of hot water to top them up with. 21/30

There were 4 types of sandwiches: egg mayonnaise on a bridge roll; smoked salmon and cream cheese on a mini bagel; cucumber and mint on plain bread (2 each of these); and a coronation chicken wrap.  They were all very small, canapé size sandwiches, and are the smallest sandwiches we've ever had in an afternoon tea.  However, they were all nice, good quality sandwiches.  They tasted freshly made, and we liked the different breads that were used.  They also looked nice, which we don't often find - even the best sandwiches we've had just look like sandwiches on a cake stand, but the use of different forms of bread gave them an added variety, so they looked dainty but interesting.  21/30

There was one fruit and one orange scented scone per person.  They had a good flavour and a light, slightly cakey texture rather than being crumbly, which wasn't to everyone's taste.  However, they were well made, very tasty and obviously homemade as the size of them was a little erratic.  The clotted cream was room temperature, so nice and spreadable, but the jam was pourable, and was actually running off the scones, which made them a bit tricky to eat.  22/30

The cake selection consisted of a small slice of sponge cake each, 2 orange mousses, 1 chocolate and berry mousse, 2 orange eclairs and a slice of battenberg.  They were all small and dainty, and looked very appetising.  The sponge was our least favourite as it tasted of too much baking soda, and the filling didn't really stand out.  The eclairs and mousses were very nice but the marzipan on the battenberg was quite wet and sticky.  There wasn't a lot of flavour variety, but we did like that they had orange flavoured cakes and scones, to fit in with where we were.  The only problem with this was that Charlotte couldn't taste most of the orange flavour because she was drinking a citrussy tea.  We'd really recommend you don't have an Earl Grey if you go here.  Although there weren't many cakes, it balanced well with the quantity of the sandwiches, and we didn't feel that we'd had too much sugar, which often happens with an afternoon tea.  18/30

Despite the time of year (January), the Orangery was full of people having afternoon tea, but we didn't feel crowded at all, and we couldn't even hear the conversation at the table next to us.  Even in winter, we had a lovely view of the grounds, although it would definitely be nicer in summer.  The atmosphere was very relaxing and we didn't feel rushed at all.  We all enjoyed our tea, and we liked the addition of orange to the scones and desserts, to echo our surroundings.
The Kensington Orangery was a lovely place for afternoon tea, and we're very glad to have been there.  Although we've been to many places with unlimited refills, and so much tea we were practically swimming, we didn't feel that the smaller quantity of food detracted from the experience.  This was exactly what an afternoon tea is supposed to be - a way to fill the gap between lunch and dinner, not a meal in itself.  The room is very grand and elegant, and its situation next to Kensington Palace makes it a great place for tourists to experience a traditional afternoon tea.  It's possible to buy a combined ticket for afternoon tea at the Orangery and entry to the Palace, which is definitely worth a visit. 

Pros                                                         Cons
A traditional afternoon tea            Cakes could have been better
Elegant setting                                   
Relaxed atmosphere          


7.5 out of 10

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Afternoon Tea Review - The Waldorf, London

Afternoon Tea Review - The Waldorf, £26 with a voucher

The Waldorf Hilton is in the heart of London's theatreland, close to Covent Garden. It opened in 1908 and is one of the capital's most glamorous and historic hotels.

The afternoon tea is served in its main restaurant, decorated in gold and black, and in the room next to it, which is decorated in marble with mirrors, and serves as a tea dance area.  We were in the second room, which was light and airy, and a lovely setting for our tea.  It was surprisingly quiet, we had expected them to be a lot busier, although we were at the last setting for afternoon tea before they changed over to dinner service. 

The teas were loose leaf Twinings varieties, although there was a signature Waldorf Blend, which Mo had.  Caroline chose the Mighty Assam, and Charlotte had the Jasmine Petals and Pearls.  We felt the selection was quite limited for somewhere like the Waldorf, as there were only 12 teas in total.  Also, we were surprised they had chosen Twinings, which was fine but not very interesting.  We were offered refills though, so had plenty of tea.  22/30

There were five types of sandwich: smoked salmon and cream cheese on brown bread; ham and mustard on onion bread; egg and watercress on basil bread; tomato and cheese on Mediterranean bread; and cheese and cucumber on carrot bread.  We weren’t told up front that we could have refills but saw another table having them, and asked about it.  Refills of all the courses were available if we wanted any.  We all enjoyed the sandwiches, they was a good selection and we particularly liked that the breads had been made to complement the fillings.  The depth of filling was occasionally a little erratic, but as refills were available, this wasn't really an issue.  27.5/30

We were given two chocolate scones, three plain, and one fruit.  They had a nice flavour but were a bit stodgy and chewy, although the chocolate ones were slightly better.  It seemed a bit strange that with three types available, we weren't given equal numbers, or offered a choice  24/30

There was a lot of variety in the cakes, and they all looked lovely.  We had: chocolate mousse; coffee and walnut cake; Eton mess shortcake; pannacotta with green tea and passionfruit; chocolate and hazelnut éclair; fruit meringue; coconut and pineapple cake; and a layered raspberry cake.  It was a very good selection, which covered a large range of patisserie items.  There was also a good variety of flavours and a nice balance between fruit flavours and richer, chocolate ones.  28/30

Although the tea is advertised as having a limited session time, we weren't hurried by the staff at any point, and we spent a very leisurely and enjoyable time there.  The only downside was that the room we were in was just off the main room, so it was occasionally difficult to find any staff when we needed something.  This wasn't helped by the fact that they started setting the main room for dinner towards the end of our session, so the staff were all busy elsewhere.  This was our only real quibble, and apart from that, we very much enjoyed ourselves. 

This is definitely a special occasion tea, as the grandeur of the setting is impressive and helps to make the tea feel special.  The Waldorf also hold regular tea dances in these rooms, though if you can dance after all the tea and cake, we'd be impressed.  At the full price of £38.50 for afternoon tea (£47.50 with champagne) we do feel it's value for money, but at £26 it is easily be our preferred tea at this price range, which is why (for the first time, oooooh!) we have given two scores below.

Pros                                                         Cons
Good quality food                              Basic Tea selection
Beautiful setting                                 Staff were occasionally hard to find
Relaxed atmosphere          

Score with a voucher/deal:             

9 out of 10

Score at full price:

8.5 out of 10