Having been taken to its Blue Bar recently, by friends from my Qatar days, and seen the hotel's radical stylish makeover, I decided the mother of my godson and I must try their famous Prêt-à-Portea (fashion themed) afternoon tea.
We were a little early and so went to the Blue Bar for a cocktail first. This bar was originally decorated in 50 shades of Lutyens Blue and has been stunningly refurbished. You do not often see a white marble & imitation crocodile skin floor.
The Collins Room
We were then walked over to the Collins Room by our elegant server with our cocktails on her tray.
We had been allocated a beautiful table in the light & airy innovative glass extension by architects Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners, Richard Rogers designed the Pompidou Centre in Paris & the Lloyd's of London building.
Alex (the German Restaurant Manager) then, kindly, sat with us for a chat & it was fascinating to hear some of the recent history of the hotel.
Sandwiches & Savouries
We were first served sandwiches & savouries on exquisite Wedgwood china.
The sandwiches were fairly conventional with Scottish smoked & poached salmon; egg mayonnaise; chicken, apple & watercress; sundried tomato & smoked tomato jam; and dried strawberry & mint cream cheese & cucumber. They were all light moist & delicious. There was also a curried prawn milk bun that 'tasted of the sea' and was perfect.
The rest of the savouries were more adventurous and hit & miss. The swordfish ceviche was fresh and delicious with the tang of orange & lemon juice & a kick from chilli & ginger but the carrot & courgette muffin and red pepper mousse with goats' cheese, garlic, thyme & black olives were flavours we were not very keen on.
Diane von Furstenberg, Stella McCartney, Prada & Manolo Blahnik Cakes
The selection of cakes is changed every 6 months to reflect catwalk trends.
Our selection was stunning and included a vanilla biscuit in the shape of a red polka dot Manolo Blahnik stiletto; a Prada handbag made of red velvet chocolate cake; a Heidi Klein chocolate shortbread bikini; a tower of green & white lined joconde sponge filled with pistachio & lime supreme to represent Stella McCartney's striped dress; and Balmain's bright orange flame dress as a peach posset with grenadine jelly topped with soft meringue.
It all tasted divine but we particularly loved the DVF bourbon vanilla cream on a crème brûlée tart sprinkled with edible gold, to represent a summer silk dress, and Nicholas Kirkwood's zigzag pumps in pink fraise de bois (wild French strawberries) & blueberry with white & dark chocolate garnish.
Hot Chocolate Was Not a Problem
I accompanied all this with excellent Earl Grey tea and my friend loved her hot chocolate.
Smell of Petrol
The only problem that afternoon was a smell of petrol while we were trying the cakes. The new extension seems to have some sort of ventilation problem with the cars outside and engineers were checking on this.
First Class Server
Our cheerful server was brilliant at explaining things to us and asking if we needed anything replenished. In fact we could not even eat all the biscuits & cakes we were given but there was no problem about having them beautifully packaged to take home.
🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻 (5 out of 5 ‘teddies’) - the traditional sandwiches were excellent & I was surprised, & impressed, by the attentional to detail regarding the designers and the biscuits & cakes. It made picking cakes like choosing from a box of chocolates, such fun. Alex & his staff run an incredible operation and the petrol smell was the only reason this afternoon tea did not 'break the teddy score'. My tips:- ask for a table in the original part of the room to avoid the risk of the ventilation issues with the new extension; ask to retain the menu, so you can reference to it while you try the biscuits & cakes; and do not be afraid to ask for your uneaten food to be packaged to take home.