Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Prêt-à-Portea Afternoon Tea at The Berkeley

A little girly treat is needed from time to time, so recently, off my friend and I went to London to enjoy the much acclaimed Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley Hotel.

The splendour of the hotel’s Caramel Room plays host to the event labelled as a fashionista’s afternoon tea.  Named Prêt-à-Portea, it is a twist on the French fashion phrase – Pret a Porter, meaning ‘ready to wear’ .  The focal point is the confectionery - hand-made and emulating this season’s fashion themes and colours (think swimwear biscuits and marzipan hats), which differs from the traditional cream tea offering of scones and light cakes.

Our experience of the hotel’s customer service was second to none. Both of us being vegetarian, I’d communicated our preferences as part of our reservation and we were advised that they had all been recorded. However, on the day, it seemed to the contrary. Upon providing proof of the correspondence, the Berkeley team were profusely apologetic and made sure we had a wonderful vegetarian selection brought out to us incorporating all our preferences. In addition, as a token of their apology, we were given a glass of champagne with their compliments (welcomed with open arms) which indeed only added to the glamour of the event.

The china also forms part of the fashionista experience and is commissioned for The Berkeley and the Prêt-à-Portea event by Wedgwood and is exquisitely painted in hues of pink, pastels and gold on a white base and is available to purchase if you fancy an indulgent souvenir.


Wedgwood Berkeley China

Served in the said china, are a range of teas and coffees all depicted on the menu which include the bespoke Berkeley Blend to traditional Earl Grey and Darjeeling teas through to herbal teas. The service is such that the waiting team are just a moment away and when they see you are ready to pour yourself more tea, they are on hand to perform the ritual for you.

The delicately cut sandwiches featured quite a number of contemporary fillings such as red pepper & rocket, aubergine dip with gherkin and goats’ cheese & beetroot. All delicious and not being a fan of butter or spread on my sandwiches, they kindly prepared a portion to fit that request.

In conjunction with the sandwiches we were served savoury canapés consisting of cherry tomatoes with avocado, goats’ cheese & beetroot mousse pastry, tomato water and artichoke & papaya. The latter was our personal favourite and we asked for additional portions as we were insatiable for them!


Next came what Prêt-à-Portea is famous for and that is its confectionery/desserts. All of which I was assured were veggie friendly. Examples of which included: 

Christian Louboutin chocolate biscuit Pigalle Spike heel with fresh turquoise hue icing and signature red sole.

Karla Collecto lemon biscuit swimsuit with cherry red icing and pretty rosette-appliqued neckline

Victoria Beckham graphic geometric cherry and white chocolate mousse skirt

Simone Rocha pineapple and coconut Savarin shirt dress with a “wow” lime punk spun sugar.

Selection of Desserts

Even with my sweet tooth I couldn’t finish all the biscuits, but The Berkeley offer you a little take-away box, shaped like a handbag (keeping the theme), which they will place some biscuits inside for you, which is a delightful way to carry on The Berkeley experience once you leave.

Handbag Take-Out Boxes

Our visit served as an early treat for our forthcoming birthdays (which we had advised them of), and as a gesture from the hotel, we were given a ‘Happy Birthday’ platter complete with candle and truffles plus a fruity cocktail which really added to our experience.

Our Happy Birthday Platter

The whole event was a pleasure from start to finish garnished with extra touches for a memorable day. From a vegetarian’s point of view, the selection of sweet and savoury items were plentiful, with contemporary ideas steering away from predictability. Strict vegetarians are catered for and welcomed rather than been made to feel like an inconvenience which is a refreshing change.

I would love to return again, especially as the sweet/dessert selection changes each season, so each visit would a different experience to the last. One thing I would wholeheartedly recommend (in addition to going in the first place), is book in advance, especially if you need to accommodate a large group, as places are limited and are booked up months ahead – as I would hate for you to be disappointed and not be able to experience the charming afternoon that we did.


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Honestly Healthy for Life - Vegetarian Recipes for an Alkaline Diet

It was only a few weeks ago that I sat down and read in the Sunday papers about the benefits of an alkaline diet.   I remembered thinking what an interesting idea that was and what a feasible argument the article portrayed of how this change in diet can be advantageous.
So it was with great interest that I was given the opportunity to explore this concept in more depth by receipt of a new cook book called Honestly Healthy for Life which is offers vegetarian, alkaline diet inspired recipes.
Honestly Healthy for Life is written by Natasha Corrett and Vicki Edgson who have fused their respective knowledge together to compile the book following the success of their previous title – Honestly Healthy
Natasha is a gourmet vegetarian chef  whose passion for cooking started at the age of 16 in the kitchens of her father’s restaurant which then led to an interest in nutrition based on a personal quest for a healthier lifestyle.  She is now a leader in alkaline cooking and has trained chefs to cook the Honestly Healthy way in 5-star hotels across the globe including London.  In addition to training, Natasha runs a food delivery service called ‘Fridge Fill’ which provides UK customers with bespoke ready-made plans.
Vicki is a well-recognised nutritional therapist and naturopath, practicing in London, Majorca and Miami helping people to understand how their bodies work and the nourishment they require.  As well as running international bespoke lifestyle retreats, she has also appeared on TV in series such as ‘Diet Doctors’ on Channel 5 and ‘Fat Nation’ for the BBC.
First of all, the explanation of why this lifestyle/diet approach is worth exploring.  (Of course noting that any change in diet should be done so with prior medical consultation if appropriate).  It isn’t a diet in the sense of a weight-loss plan which often involves a dramatic cull of food and a military strategy of exercise, this seems quite the opposite.  It offers an opportunity to assess your intake of foods and see potential advantages without any drastic compromises.
The book is split into two sections – the first section explains the principles behind the diet and the potential benefits for the body.    
Foods are grouped into two sections – acid based and alkaline based.  The body likes to be somewhere in the middle of these two groups in a ‘neutral’ capacity.  It is recommended that to achieve this status, diets are to be divided into consumption of 70% alkaline and 30% acid foods.  The associated benefits of eating alkaline foods is that it promotes energy and well-being, reduces bloating, minimises inflammation/ailments and hunger pangs.  The approach is majority vegetarian-led, with a recommendation of eating organic where possible with emphasis on vegetables, pulses, nuts and sprouted beans that assist with building proteins.  Typically alkaline foods include:  broccoli, kale, spinach, beetroot, peppers and cucumber to name a few.  Acidic foods include:  yeast, ketchup, dried fruit and dairy foods.
The one thing to highlight is that whilst some foods are acidic in their raw format, they convert to alkaline once cooked so be mindful of this change.  Equally, it isn’t the taste of food that assesses whether it is acidic or not, it is how that food is broken down and digested once consumed.
Consumption of excess acidic food can drain minerals from organs such as kidneys or the liver as the body fights back to return to a neutral PH level.
Interestingly, the book features a health questionnaire and if you suffer from any of the symptoms listed, you may well need to think about adjusting your diet as it may help to reduce those identified ailments.  The book also contains a useful guide of foods ranging from ‘Really Really Alkaline’ through to ‘Acidic’ making it easy to decipher the kind of foods suggested for adopting this diet and there is also a ‘larder list’ of essential store cupboard items to help support cooking alkaline based meals.
The second section showcases a wealth of recipes that encompass the diet’s principles and are sub-divided into real-life scenarios such as weekday suppers, lazy weekends, barbeques and Halloween etc.  All the recipes are vegetarian with plenty of desserts ideas for those with a sweet tooth.
Even if you don’t wish to follow the mantra of alkaline eating, the book and recipes featured are a delight for vegetarians and offer some great suggestions using everyday ingredients as well as ones that are more unusual.
Endorsed by celebrities such as Victoria Beckham and Lisa Snowdon and by publications such as Marie Claire and Sunday Times Style, it is hard not to follow suit.  I for one am very interested in this method of eating, the science behind it makes a lot of sense to me and of course it fits in beautifully with my vegetarian lifestyle.  I’m not sure if I would be able to follow it religiously, (life and preferences don’t always allow), but I feel after reading the book that it will make me more mindful of what I choose to eat and Honestly Healthy for Life proves an invaluable reference tool for the adoption of this lifestyle.
DisclosureThis post was written following kind receipt of Honestly Healthy for Life.  This review was conducted honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website.  Please note that I am not endorsing this diet and I have not personally trialed it, I am simply commenting on the positive aspects of it and my expressing personal opinion of the advantages I have gleaned from the publication.  Personal research and personal verification of facts should be conducted to ascertain if diet changes are appropriate for an individual’s circumstances and any diet changes embarked upon should be done so with medical advice where applicable.