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.

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

Ready to pop…baby shower

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So my amazing sister and mother organised a fabulous baby shower for me – it was all based on the theme of popping to celebrate the arrival of my sweet baby Reya. I think the theme is so clever, with a “pop”corn bar, various “pop” style food and “pop” decor around the house.

There were “pop” themed invites sent to my friends and family alongside matching cards placed by the food. Keeping with the theme there was a range of food including poppy seed bagels, corn nuts, pop tarts, rice crispy cakes, cake pops and popcorn (both sweet and savoury. And of course there was pop (lemonade or prosecco with pomegranate) and  milk!

We played a couple of baby related games including how fast can each team member blow up a balloon and place it under your top. We also played baby charades, guess the baby (everyone had baby images on the wall) and making baby products from plasticine. So much fun and laughter!

Just think of all of the cute ideas you can come up with for this theme! 

Macaron making class

Last week my sister and I learn how to make Macarons at On Patisserie owned by award-winning chef: Loretta Liu. Macarons are made from egg white, ground almonds and sugar – delicate and totally delicious but really difficult to make.

We started off making the macarons which are french meringue. You need to:

  1. Separate eggs three days ahead and leave the egg white in the fridge
  2. Whisk egg whites (at room temp) for about a minute and add 95g caster sugar gradually for another 3-4 minutes till it’s very stiff
  3. Sift 170g ground almond and 260g icing sugar. You can add colour gel here
  4. Fold in the merengue into the dry ingredients using circular movements until it’s all mixed in
  5. Transfer the mixture into a piping bag and pipe out 4.5cm diameter circles on a silicon mat. Leave until the skin dries (20 minutes)
  6. Bake at 160 C for ten minutes and when ready take out the baking tray. Leave till cool and scrape off.
Chocolate ganache:
  1. Add 200g of dark chocolate into a pan
  2. Heat 190g of whipping cream in a saucepan – stir occasionally and add 50g of unsalted butter
  3. Add chocolate and leave to cool
  4. Once cooled, add to the shells of the macaron.

Have fun making the macarons and more importantly enjoy eating them.

 


Parisien Love

Whether you are immersing yourself with city life from a sidewalk café or taking a leisurely walk along the Seine, you will slowly unravel what the city of chic, romance and lights has to offer. After spending a year in Paris, the top 10 things to visit in Paris such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Versaille were replaced by hidden sights, as I continued to explore and discover the city. My sister – blogger junkie asked me to write a blog about Paris – so I have put together my top must see/do’s!

Sacré Coeur. One of my favourite places in Paris. The Sacré Coeur is a Roman Catholic Church dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus. Situated on top of a hill crest, the large monument is visible throughout Paris. You can walk up the steps or take the funicular to the top and walk around the cobbled streets to discover the artisans. The Square Jehan Rictus at Place des Abbesses has a blue tiled wall with the words “I love you” written in over 250 languages and dialects.

Le Marais – known as the Jewish quarter, is an area filled with chic boutiques, art galleries and cafes.  Down a small cobblestone street full of falafel and bakery shops, there is always one restaurant with the longest queue:  L’As du Falafel – best falafels in city!

Afternoon Tea at La Duree: The iconic patisserie, salon de thé and delicatessen offer a wide selection of tea, cakes, and of course famous macaroons in all colours, flavours and sizes. No visit to Paris is complete without going here.

Another famous salon de thé is Angelina, just steps away from Le Louvre (where you can stop to see the famous Mona Lisa).  Whether you stop for tea or their famous hot chocolate or maybe a mille-feuille or their famous Mont Blanc, you will not be disappointed.

Best Views of Paris: After going up and down the Eiffel tower countless number of times when friends or families came to visit, I realised that I appreciated the view of the Eiffel Tower more than the panoramic view of Paris.  Metro Station: Tocadéro will lead you to a large open area where you have a breath-taking view of the Eiffel tower.

During the spring and summer, Champs de Mars, a large greenery area in Paris, home to the Eiffel Tower is the best place for a picnic. It’s near station Ecole Militaire.

If you want an amazing view of Paris, climb the 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. The monument itself is the centre of several avenues that form a star. Bbest to climb in the evening, as you will be able to view the several avenues that spoke the monument and form a star.

Bon voyage!! And enjoy your trip to Paris…


Surprises at Sync karaoke bar

My amazing husband and sister threw me a fabulous surprise party at Sync Bar. For anyone who lives in North London, this is such a fun birthday place or simply a great night out.

Sync Bar is a karaoke venue in Pinner which serves up delicious cocktails – trust me when I say they were good as I’m a really fussy drinker (and eater!) so totally particular about the cocktails of choice. I’ve found myself a new favourite – Lychee Martini!

Not only were the drinks in full flow, those that used the karaoke rooms were able to sing their hearts out. As I was too busy socialising and dancing, I’m going to have to go back to try the karaoke. It’s been a while since I’ve danced like that and loved the music – The DJ played some classic old school tunes and new songs.

The highlight, obviously apart from my surprise and birthday cake, was the dance routine by the bar staff. Big shout out to the staff that went above and beyond to make it a special night. Oh and was very impressed they still had the remains of the cake and my forgotten jacket the next morning!!

See you there soon for more singing…and dancing.

Big Egg Hunt

I was so excited to read about the start of The Big Egg Hunt in London – a collection of 200 eggs hidden around Central London designed and decorated by designers and artists, ‘hidden’ around central London. Some of you may remember my obsession with Elephant Parade in 2010 so of course I was ready to get involved!

I’ve spent the last 2 weeks looking around different areas of London for these eggs – maps were available but I had to find myself a little cheat sheet as the eggs weren’t so easy to find! It was lots of fun – and I got to discover so many parts of Central London that I didn’t know existed.

I managed to find about 150 of them in total out of 209 and below are some of my favourite ones:

Big names decorating the eggs include the Chapman Brothers, Marc Quinn, Zaha Hadid, Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood, Sir Peter Blake, Sir Ridley Scott and Bompas & Parr. The Big Egg Hunt was a plan hatched by Elephant Family and Action for Children for a record-breaking egg hunt across Central London to raise money for these two eggshell-ent causes!

It’s also sponsored by Fabergé and there is an opp to win Diamond Jubilee Egg by texting a unique code word which each egg holds.