Sunday, August 1, 2010

The CakeWalk

Let's not lie, we all have...shall we say... ideas about ourselves. You know it's true. We very rarely see ourselves the way we actually are. We might fancy ourselves funny, attractive and kind to the misfortunate, when in actual fact we tell Dad Jokes, have heads like prawns and are prone to splashing gutter-bound beggars as we speed by in our porsches. A little bit of delusion is fair enough, we've got it in our noble hearts to let Jennifer Aniston persist with the acting thing. We're even kind enough to let Posh rant on about how happy she is and how she just has a 'naturally fast metabolism'. Heck - we can even indulge people who think that dark blue tights impersonating actual jeans are both stylish, convincing and viable. I mean, why not, i'm guilty of exactly the same crime.

I used to fancy myself profound. Imagine that! I read Nietzsche and thought about Life (not life) and spent a poetic number of nihilistic hours in Glebe coffee houses. I thought I was the real deal. I was dark and deep and truly, paradoxically-existentially-ontologically post-conflicted.

But then I discovered Zimmermann...Oh, Zimmy, let there be dresses and the light shines in. Twirling. Dancing and swaying and smiling, Shimmermann.

Then there was taking one thing off before I left the house with Chanel. Alexander McQueen followed. I headed Westwood. And I Jamin Puech'ed, breathless and beaded. I became a wee bit mad about about Marni. Adored Alaia and was positively potty about Paul Smith. I became a Stalker for Karen Walker. I lusted after Tigerlily. I coveted Marc and his dreamy daisies. Stripes and prints and flowers and lace. Silks and leather and wool. In short, I discovered all of the worldly joys of fashion and I stopped caring so much about the Big Questions.

Marx gave way to maxis, Schopenhauer to stilettos and quite frankly, I ain't never looked back.
Enter old school chum, the charming and hilarious Miss Shona, mother of Ava and the regular one-liner. I reunited with her bubbly blondness in London and became the recipient not only of some damn good company, but also of one of the most sugarlicious heads up i've ever been given. She told me that if I wanted a high tea that would rival Palm Court, a high tea that was as funky as it was fun, as frivilous as it was flirty, then I simply had to pop into The Berkeley, London for their absolutely one of a kind Pret - A - Portea experience. Afternoon tea with cakes and treats inspired by the leading fashion houses. Oh my God. Conventional high tea is so five minutes ago! This is the new black and it's where people who couldn't possibly eat good carbs, let alone sandwich and cake, go to be seen to be eating sandwich and cake. I lost no time!

She wasn't expecting me to duck out as soon as we were finished catching up, but that's exactly what I did, Darlings. And here you have it, your second helping of London afternoon tea (you spoilt readers!), so exquisite and unashamedly girlie. So hot and so haute, so superficially enjoyable it was almost..profound!
Upon entering the understatedly chic Berkeley entrance and tripping over a step, up and almost into the shocked arms of the lovely blond Maitre Tea, I am informed that they are fully booked.

Whenever you hear those two words, don't you cast your sullen head down and walk away. No, No, No. Believe! Fight! The human spirit is tough and resilient, we always get there in the end. Reach into your heart, into your fire and into your strength, find the salt of what you are. You can do anything you put your begging to. A hungry foodie who can sniff some promising cake never backs down. I pulled out the big guns, the whole sob story...i'm from Sydney..I hardly ever come to was such a long flight...i'm mad about tea...i've heard your version is the city's best...i'm 30 and I have nothing left to live for...five minutes later and with a charming window seat, the energy is pumping, the crowd is tense, The CakeWalk is about to go off and yours truly is front row center and anticipating quite the collection. I even had the camera ready.
Again, an unassuming earl grey makes me remember Alice's, it won't be long until true tea, but my fork is poised and my spoon is shaking...
The tray is presented, my Karen Walker's are on the table and off to the side, my phone is on silent, and I am as ready as i'll ever be...

The little placard of fashion-cake inspirations is presented and announced, the veins in my neck are thick, the pulse is a-quickening, I am all central nervous system and salivary glands, all agitated pulses of an anticipating heart...But not right yet, no just a few things we have to sort through first...
A line up of soft, lovely, layered sandwiches...
A perfect skewered prawn for first,
a curious canape...
or two?...lightly, lightly and so delightly, and then we have...

Anya Hindmarch light apricot sponge summer Halen bag wrapped in almond marzipan
Paul Smith orange, papaya & pink lavender bavarois topped w chocolate bowler hat
Season's must have Chanel Dog biscuit adorned w chocolate brown studs and white leather glaze
Yves Saint Laurent soft romantic white chocolate mousse & raspberry custard finished w crunchy meringue scattered w mini strawberries
Sonia Rykiel nautical vanilla & raspberry jam layered mousse topped w yellow hat
Belted Jason Wu poppyseed cocktail dress biscuit embellished w ruffled purple icing
Erdem dark silky chocolate cake
filled w passionfruit and delicate lace
Christopher Kane pale pink almond macaroon
filled w white chocolate and elderflower ganache
Jean Paul Gaultier fluroescent cheese cake on almond and&oat base accessorized
w a bright yellow sugar twirl...

Hush steady, be still..we're about to fall, hold on tight.

Mmm. Gentle lavender biscuit sashaying from the plate and to my mouth. This elegant little poppyseed number was little-purple-dress for the tongue. Buttery and iced and so absolutely fanciful I almost freaked. The frill on top, all a purple ruffle, the chic little black belt. Eat me, Indeed. Minilicious.
Chanel as Shoe, yes, I do. I played with this shoe before I ate it. You don't know what else to do, it seems a shame just to eat it right away. But the moment comes when it does, you buck up and down you chomp, and then you discover: Chanel tastes as sweet as it looks. I wasn't sure about the dog biscuit tag, but if this is what's going on in doggie treats these days, then i'm perfectly prepared to get down on all furious fours. But some things are bound to drive us off our leash...
This little wedge of chocolate was as a dainty as it was dangerous. So wicked and rich. I timidly ruptured the innocent, chocolately casing with my shy fork and tasted a little splinter of frozen cocoa and then I dipped into the moussey flesh with more cunning and confidence. You had to roll this one around on your tongue it was so rich. The world spins around with it. Given that the other treats were light and quite fruity, I made sure this was left until the very end. I like to go out with a punch. It was a glorious corner of DevilSugar, heavy with its own richness - and you know you can never be too rich. Or too thin, which makes this next dessert a bit of a shame.
Too cute! About the size of my sticky thumb in moorish marzipan, hard cheery candied, scarlet marzipan. Tote it all the way into your perfect pout. So dainty and alimentary-amiable, it'll make a bag snatcher out of us all. Scope that wee little bow. Oh, my.
Dirty, little Wilbur-piglet-pink. Swirly circle round spin. PaleEnglishRose that breaks under bite, beautiful crunchy texture kissing a gentle cheek of elderflower-glossed cream. So smooth and quirky, I managed to get three blissful bites from the round, pink whole. It melted in my mind and in my mouth. My toes are wriggling just now remembering it.
And my golden child, a Summery cheesecake in libertine lemon. Ambrosial citrus waltzing in cream against soft but grainy oaten-almond. This is a floating taste, a long and languid line that leads to a pause and closed eyes. You just sit there, mesmerised and levitating. I don't often say this about cake, but this baby was so good it was frickin poignant.
Don't let the fluro twirl throw you off, it tasted old school and country style creamed. SoftlySweetestSweet and with spiked tartness as well. I like pleasure spiked with pain and lemon is my aeroplane. And it's Gaultier, what's not to like?
This meringue topped white chocolate mousse was a lovely line of gentle, beckoning flavour. Light like baby's breath and as almost as sweet, but not nearly as vomity. The mousse was so airy it practically felt like nothing on your tongue. Amazing. Amazed. Amazement.

I simply could not fathom that all of these treats managed to be fun and impeccable, I would eat any of them as a full sized dessert - but that's not saying much really. Who wouldn't?
To make sure you'll never fit into your skinny jeans, they offer you as many rounds of sandwiches, cakes and biscuits as you'd like, and will even pack some up to go. Two rounds was all I could muster in good faith (I was in public, goddamnit), so this little take away pack was squirreled back to Sommers. Satisfaction. Elation. Unprivation.
So angelic and decadent and girlie and in every colour under the rainbow. Fancy as Sugar.
In yellow and orange and purple and
ScreamBlushLipShadeSmackBrightGirlLollypop Pinks. Every hue a lady could want.
What I couldn't fit into my tummy I donned upon my finger. Wearing a candy hat/ring in putrefying London heat isn't the most practical thing one can do, but I felt fucking fabulous nonetheless. Sticky too.

This is down right the most extravagant and playful way to make sure you never wear skinny jeans ever again! The most sumptuous as well. And so totally worth it. It's my favourite Afternoon tea in London: the flavour and imagination are startling. You're forced to look before you touch, to oooh and aaah before you gobble.

It's an ode to your ass, in class. You must Net-A-Portea if the opportunity ever arises. Heck, make it arise.
It's fine dining - that doesn't miss a bead, but with so much more playfulness and so much less pretension - it's the perfect place for mothers and daughters and groups of giggling girlfriends. Fine champagne is also on offer and the tea seatings are daily from 1pm - 6pm. And all of the crockery is fine-bone Paul Smith styled china, try not to purloin any, though. At 25 pounds a pop, it's the cheapest Chanel you'll find. And it's just so damn sexy, too sexy for Milan too sexy for Milan for New York and japan...I do my little turn on the cakewalk.

Ahhhh. Net-A-Portea! How did I ever live with out you? The bakers in this kitchen fit my idea of model citizens. Drop Dead Gorgeous and Designer cakes. London, I Love You.

Thanks Shona! Can't wait to see you at the Gunners x.

C + K'ers, If the shoe fits, then you should most definitely eat it.


Belinda MacDonald said...

Why must you taunt us this way???

bowb said...

holy moley! i had a very nice afternoon tea at the wolsley when i was there in london over easter... but what i wouldn't do for a miniature anya hindmarch tote. sweeet.

amanda said...

because you love cake, belinda!

hey bowb, was wolsley good? i heard it was one to try but didnt get beyond these two.

bowb said...

the set tiered tray was so-so, but the stuff off the menu was very VERY enjoyable: treacle tart, lemon curd sundaes... sadly they have a strict no-photo policy (it even says so on the first page of their menu)

(you can read about it here:

Cath @ Moo-Lolly-Bar said...

How cute were those chocolate shoes!