Afternoon tea – Pret a Portea at The Berkeley

Pret a Portea
If you’re looking for the girliest afternoon tea you can find, this is it with cakes in the shape of handbags, cookies in the shape of boots…and it’s all based on this season’s catwalk.  Not that I qualify in any way for the description of fashionista, but there were lots in the room! All the major hotels in London offer afternoon tea but The Berkeley have combined  fashion and cake with their Fashionista’s Prêt-à-Portea, which puts an interesting twist on the traditional English afternoon tea! This is not a traditional style though so if that’s what you want then this isn’t the place to go to!

So out with the scones, jam and fresh clotted cream, which I did miss and in with cakes and biscuits that resemble catwalk designs from the likes of Marc Jacobs, Fendi, Yves Saint Laurent, Lanvin, Prada, Burberry Prorsum, Diane Von Furstenberg and Manolo Blahnik. The menu read like a fashion show and the style was definitely that.

The table was fashionably set, with individual menus and a personalised card in hot pink!  We had some concerns when only one cake stand was set on the table for three people and there was only two handbags!  The waiter quickly reassured us the plates would be replenished as and when we finished them not that we needed this.

There we lots of interesting tea infusions such as mint chocolate tea, funky fruit, caramel as well as the traditional Earl Grey and Lapsong all served in the classic Paul Smith teapots and cups. The sandwiches (we had two rounds and were offered more!) were unique using different types of bread each filling from cream cheese and cucumber to brie, red pepper and cranberry.

Then came the classic tiered tray that featured a plate of unique taster spoons with a ratatouille , a layer of beautiful cakes, and a small dish with two cookies and glasses filled with brightly coloured concoctions. Our server set down the tray and pulled out pictures of the season’s catwalk shows to point out which cake went with which designer.

The maître explained each delicate and creative dessert with the help of a catalogue, which resembled the latest catwalk designs of the season.  Desserts ranged from tasty types of mousse, biscuits, cookies, macaroons and cakes.

PretaPorteaThe desserts were a little different – cool but not overly the best tasting I’ve had however it’s a fun afternoon out especially when catching up with friends.

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Dishoom

Dishoom – paneer frankie and keema frankie

I’ve been wanting to try Dishoom the vintage vintage Mumbai cafe in London and had heard some great things. As we were in Shoreditch, we decided to eat at Dishoom which is around the corner from Boundary Hotel (cool rooftop bar here!). I always wondered what the word Dishoom meant – apparently the hindi word used in Bollywood films to represent the sound made when the hero’s fist hits his opponent.

Dishoom is modelled on Mumbai cafes when Persian immigrants who moved to Bombay (now Mumbai) started a trend for all-day cafés based on elegant European coffee houses at the turn of the 20th century. Many thrive to this day in Colaba in their original form and location and are the inspiration for this London eatery.

It is a casual and quirky restaurant with elegant painted brickwork, old photographs and signs on the walls, dark wood tables with white marble tops, tall dark shutters and low lit lighting.  It was great to be see the cooks in the open-plan kitchen – the chefs making fresh naans and chargrilling kebabs. 

We are quickly seated up at the bar where the chef was making keema pau and pau bhaji and told a little about the restaurant by our waiter who explained that the food is served when it’s ready. Neil ordered: bhang lassi: fresh ginger, mint and hints of Bombay spice with rum which he was a little disappointed with as it was tasteless whilst I had the traditional nimbu pani.

Food wise – we had a look at the small plates and opted for the bhel which was tasty – a little more chutney would have been great. As we were in a rush we went for the frankies – open-ended naan parcels, baked and filled with chicken, lamb, chickpeas curry or paneer – best eaten with the hands. I went for the paneer one which was really tasty – had enough spice and crunch to it. I’ve heard the portions are small but for what we ordered it was fine.

Food done, we were pretty full so didn’t have any desserts. I did however opt for the masala chai – one of the nicest I’ve had and close to the one you would have in India. We loved the small glasses in which the hot drinks are served.

I loved Dishoom – the decor, the atmosphere and the food! I’d like to go back to try other dishes like the pau bhaji and the famous golas! Dishoom is great for a quick snack,breakfast or a longer dinner. I’ll be back.

Mmmm - chai

Crispy pitta chips with aubergine, pomegranate, feta & mint

Last year’s family Christmas was hosted by my cousin and her hubby – she made a lovely starter dish of crispy pitta chips topped with aubergine, pomegranate, feta and mint! We’ve made this plenty of times as it’s quick, easy and perfect for entertaining.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large aubergines
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped mint
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate seeds
  • 125g feta, crumbled
  • 4 good-sized pitta breads
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 3 tsp ground cumin

1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC. Wash the aubergines and place under a hot grill, turning them frequently for around 15 minutes, until blackened and charred on either side.

2. Once cool, cut the aubergines lengthways and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, chopping it finely. Mixl with the garlic, chilli, lemon juice, olive oil and mint (keep some mint aside for garnish). Season with sea salt and set aside, while preparing the pitta chips.

3. Split each pitta in half widthways and cut into wedges. Place flat on a baking tray and drizzle with enough oil to coat each chip. Sprinkle with salt and cumin and place in the oven for eight minutes until golden and crisp.

4. To serve, spoon a little of the aubergine mix on to each pitta and top with a few pomegranate seeds, some crumble pieces of feta and little bit of mint.

Serve immediately!

Brunch – french toast

Hello Breakfast! A lovely breakfast dish, easy but filling. Ordinary French toast can be changed easily to become fancy french bread with a few exciting additions.

Coconut French Toast

First up is fluffy french toast made with desiccated coconut giving it a lovely texture and coastal flavour. Then it’s cooked until golden and drenched with an irresistible, deliciously sweet syrup and to finish it’s sprinkled with shredded coconut. Recipe from Anjum’s Indian Vegetarian Feast which is definitely worth buying.

  • Eggs – 1 per person
  • Bread – 2 per person
  • 200 ml of milk
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 6 tbsp dessicated coconut
  • Butter
  • Vegetable oil

Whisk together the eggs, milk and sugar. Spread the coconut on a small plate. Heat oil and butter in a large frying pan, dip one slice of bread in the batter for about 30 seconds and transfer to the plate of coconut pressing gently, turning to coat both sides. Place into the hot pan and repeat with the other slices. Cook over a flame till golden brown on both sides. Add maple syrup for extra sweetness and some raspberries.

Another tasty addition to the french toast mixture is mixing in Indian spices – chilli powder, salt and a pinch of haldal giving it a kick.

Anyone else have any tasty combinations to their breakfast french toast to share?