The Berkeley London has been on my to-review list for ages but the pandemic has made travelling rather difficult so I only got round to it a few weeks ago. Let’s see if the Prêt à Portea afternoon tea deserves its classy reputation.
NB: this review is about the Spring/Summer 2021 afternoon tea and by the time the article will be published, the Berkeley London will be serving the Autumn/Winter 2021 and/or the Festive afternoon tea (priced at £79/person). While the article will not be obsolete per se, the cakes & sweets will have radically changed.
The Setting ★★★★★
The Hotel Berkeley London is located between Hyde Park and Knightsbridge, just a stroll away from many of London’s most prestigious hotels such as the Mandarin Oriental London and the Lanesborough.
The building is located in a former 1700s coffee house and looks very modern compared to other five-star hotels. The interior is gorgeous and had been decorated for the Halloween celebrations, as seen in the pictures below.
The Collins Room ★★★★★
Afternoon tea is served on the ground floor’s Collin’s Room The venue is both pleasant and relaxing, albeit a little noisy. I’m always very glad to sit on a real chair instead of a sofa, as these are usually quite bad on my back and knees.
The Collins Room at night
It’s winter so the night comes early! The Orchid Lounge is even prettier at night, but do mind this if you don’ like obscurity!
The Tea & Beverage Selection ★★★★★
The tea is supplied by JING tea, a very decent supplier that works with roughly half of the hotels serving afternoon tea. There are 28 teas and infusions on offer, more than enough to accommodate everyone. I was glad to see that there is a yellow tea on offer but I didn’t feel extravagant enough to pay the £38 surcharge. Next time, perhaps?
The brewing method is the best (in the kitchen) and the service is exemplary. The afternoon tea menu also features some pairing suggestions for each course, though the staff will also be happy to help you choose. The teas are great but the best ones of them come at an extra (£2-38 surcharge) so be careful if you don’t want to have a nasty surprise when the bill comes 😉
I also suggest you stay away from the Matcha which was extremely underwhelming, though the fault is not with the preparation but with the grad itself.
However, the Berkeley London afternoon tea shines brightest with the coffee selection which is downright amazing. I strongly suggest ordering one of the 14 “Origins coffees” (£2) which are expertly brewed using the Kinto slow brew method. I had the pleasure to try the Tanzania Peabody and that was probably the best brews I have ever had, though I’ll admit that I am a profane on the coffee front.
28 teas (8 black, 6 green, 2 white, 1 yellow, 4 oolong, 1pu-er & 6 infusions); 2 classic coffees + 14 specialty coffees
Tea brewing method: In the kitchen; Coffee brewing method: Kinto slow brew
Tea & coffee refills: yes
The Savouries ★★★★☆
The afternoon tea starts with five delicious sandwiches:
- Roast Corn Fed Chicken, French Sorrel, Gem Lettuce, Crispy Shallots on Onion Bread
- Cucumber, Brown Butter Boursin Cream, Pickled Carrots, Wild Rocket on White Bread
- Poached Scottish Salmon, Tarragon Emulsion, Marinated Shallots on Rye Sour Dough Bread
- Peppered Pastrami, Beef Tomatoes, Basil, Creamy Cheese on Granary Bread ♥
- Duck Egg Mayonnaise & Watercress on Brioche Pain De Mie
A couple of more original treats are also brought on a separate plate:
- Smoked Duck Profiterole, Pickled Girolles, Orange, Capers & Chives
- Marinated Cherry Tomatoes & Melon, Yuzu Jelly, Currants, Basil, Elderflower Jus ♥
I couldn’t resist ordering another serving of Pastrami sandwich and that delicious Fruit & veggies salad.
The Scones ★★☆☆☆
The Scones are optional and it shows, I recommend skipping this stage unless you can’t envision an afternoon tea without it.
Both the scones and the clotted cream felt dry, though it is possible I just got a bad batch. Either way, the Cakes & Sweets are plentiful so you will likely get your fill of sugar anyway…
The Cakes & Sweets ★★★★★
The cakes are the star of the Prêt-à-Portea afternoon tea and are renewed with each season: Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter + a twist during the festive season.
As disclaimed at the beginning of this article, we will be talking about the Spring/Summer 2021 selection below, which will have already been discontinued. However, experience tells me that the quality of the cakes will carry over, no matter when you go!
The cakes look and taste amazing. My favourites are marked with a ♥ below:
- Loveshackfancy’s: two-piece is a Joconde sponge in a trio of colours, topped with a high-shine strawberry made of strawberry and rhubarb cheesecake ♥♥♥
- Isabel Marant’s: bow purple ensemble is an almond sponge with a briolette jelly centre, glazed in glittering purple and topped with a chocolate bow
- Versace’s: the ocean-inspired dress is a coconut dacquoise and mango confit, encased with exotic fruit mousse and topped with a shimmering sugar starfish
- Tod’s: neon shopper tote is a citrus Victoria sponge, glazed with acid-lime icing, sandwiched between fluorescent green Valrhona chocolate Ivoire
- Halpern’s Showstopper: light financier cake with raspberry compote complete with Amatika chocolate dome with praline crunch and topped with grue de cacao, black wafer legs are a final flourish.
- Valentino’s: the gown is a pistachio bavarois with Amarena cherry, set on a pistachio croquant and finished with a sugar lily ♥
- Anna Wintour puppet: vanilla biscuit, intricately piped with royal icing and signature dark sunglasses, a homage to Moschino
The Loveshackfancy’s is my absolute favourite here: I love the strawberry and rhubarb combo!
Every cake is a great balance between looks and tastiness. Even the Versace felt great and I’m not a huge fan of coconut.
The Service ★★★★★
The Berkeley London staff did a fantastic job, as expected of a five-star hotel of this calibre. Everyone is attentive and professional, making sure that the experience is flawless from start to finish.
Below is a video detailing the contents of the Berkeley London Prêt-à-Portea cakes & sweets (Spring/Summer 2021):
Conclusion & Overall Mark ★★★★★
The Berkeley London prêt-à-portea is one of the themed afternoon teas in London. It will delight both foodies and fashion aficionados, as well as tea and coffee connoisseurs.
The only qualm I would have would be the scones but these can easily be skipped so you’ll have a full stomach for the delightful cakes!
+: The hotel and the Collins room
+: The Connoisseur teas
+: The Origins coffee
+: The delicious Savouries
+: The Cakes & Sweets Buffet
+: Excellent service
+: Great value for money
-: Slightly noisy venue
-: The scones
-: The Matcha
-: Can get pricey if you go crazy on Champagne & extras