Most hotels in London offer afternoon tea as do many restaurants and cafes. For something different, it's fun to try a themed afternoon tea and what better subjects than art and fashion. The Rosewood London, near Holborn station, has just launched an "art" tea created by Executive Pastry Chef, Mark Perkins. In Knightsbridge, the Berkeley Hotel ties in with the new fashion season to offer its popular Prêt-à-Portea "fashion" tea.
Rosewood London's afternoon tea includes the traditional items of crustless sandwiches with various fillings; smoked salmon, ham and Comté cheese, coronation chicken, avocado and tomatoes and egg salad, as well as freshly baked scones served with clotted cream, lemon curd, and homemade strawberry jam. While these were all delicious, we had to stop ourselves from eating everything in anticipation of the main act; the art-themed cakes.
The cakes have been inspired by five iconic artists and are immediately identifiable; Yayoi Kusama, Alexander Calder, Mark Rothko, Damien Hirst and Banksy. My favorite, the Kusama cake, was a milk chocolate mousse with passion fruit, encased in a yellow glaze. The cake which was inspired by Kusama's installation "All the Eternal Love I Have for Pumpkins" was presented in a mirrored room in the Victoria Miro gallery last summer and I recall the daily lineups for entrance throughout the run of the exhibition. Alexander Calder's famous mobiles are represented in a red chocolate sculpture filled with pistachio and cherry flavors. Abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothko’s bold use of color can be seen in the coconut sponge layered with raspberry, coconut mousse and adorned with bright pink raspberry chocolate. Damien Hirst’s spot paintings are represented with a white chocolate tart flavored with cassis jelly and yuzu curd and decorated with Hirst-style colored spots.
Grafitti legend Banksy’s "Girl With a Balloon" cake is a white chocolate cube filled with vanilla cream choux, salted caramel, and chocolate cream. A tiny chocolate replica of the artwork is attached to one side. I've enjoyed many afternoon teas but often find the sweet goodies don't taste as good as they look but this is definitely not the case with Rosewood London's art tea. The cakes taste even better than they look.
The Berkeley's Prêt-à-Portea "fashion" afternoon tea changes twice a year for the two main fashion seasons, Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter. The Berkeley is currently celebrating the 10th anniversary of this popular tea with cakes and biscuits inspired by the fashion world. Head Pastry Chef Mourad Khiat has prepared the greatest hits of cakes and cookies from the past ten years including Burberry Trench chocolate biscuits, Moschino’s blood orange Victoria sponge ‘yellow M’ handbag encased in red chocolate and Manolo Blahnik’s stiletto ginger biscuit.
The fashionista tea is served in the newly redesigned Collins Room, a bright chic space at the front of the hotel. The Berkeley’s first recipe book, Prêt-à-Portea, High-Fashion Bakes & Biscuits has recently been published to tie in with the tenth anniversary. For a limited time, Chef Mourad Khiat is offering masterclasses to teach how to transform fashionable designs, fabrics, and accessories into delicious cakes, mousses and biscuits using recipes from the cookbook.