What is “fashion” and what is “fashionable”? Everybody, it seems, interprets those terms differently. I do admit I have a hard time editing content for my London “Fashion” Eat fortnight. If “fashion” suggests “trend” and “fashionable” means “trendy”, we will only be strictly talking about great food with great ambiance populated by fat and skinny bastards like us, won’t we? But, if we take into account the “fashion” and “fashionable” folk and what they actually eat, we will be talking about skipping meals, skimming carb, body conscious or mere cheap eat (so money can be spent elsewhere on clothing and accessories). And, what about London Fashion Week A/W 11-12? It’s, as usual, held at Somerset House and other scattering sites around Covent Garden. Should I also be thinking about where to flash eat but in style to fit my LFW busy schedule, too? So, my more or less London Fashion Eat first post will give you the sites where “fashion” and “food” converge. Have a look and decide for yourself which of “scene” you are into!
(1) THE CARAMEL ROOM, BERKELEY HOTEL
Fashion couldn’t be materialised into food as literally as this. The Berkely’s much talked about Pret A Portea features afternoon tea menu inspired by recent fashion trends and major designer’s labels. Say, you’ll get Zac Posen, Alexander McQueen and Christian Laboutin on your fine china manufactured by Sir Paul Smith. This is not the kind of traditional afternoon tea as one would imagine. While there are still scones and jam and finger sandwiches, the actual highlight is the innovative patisserie. This comes with a tag explicating which cakes are inspired by what. Novelty? Yes, exactly. Personally, I don’t think it’s a mere gimmick but I’d rather have a solid, traditional afternoon tea fix at, say, Brown’s Hotel, the Connaught or Claridge’s, where I can get a slice of Dundee cake or Victoria Sponge. The very proper ones, I mean.
(2) SKETCH THE PARLOUR
This multi-million project by Pierre Gagnaire has turned an instutition itself after 3-4 years. It is still hip though its iconic egg shell toilets ooze unappetising smell. Years ago, I thought Sketch did the best ever scones in London – light, fluffy and butter-perfect! Now? Well, perhaps due to its proximity to Oxford Street, the funky Gothic-Eclectic decor at the Parlour has attracted the high-street folk than the high fashion fab. The service is laissez-faire, which on this occasion, can be translated into English as unengaging and “let the diners be”.
The afternoon tea is still decent, but considering that it costs £27 per head with no refill, I’d rather go somewhere else and pay a little extra for unlimited sandwiches, cakes and choices of tea. At the Parlour, they do only a pot with no hot water refill. Standard kinda fingers sandwiches, not particularly deep-filled to £27 or enough to balance off the heavy carb. The cakes by Gagnaire are probably ones of the finest in the world – only perhaps outdone by the other Frenchie Pierre (Herme). I quite enjoyed the coconut madeleine but found the canele too rock solid I needed a fist to break. The scones – you’ll get two each – used to be better and are not so stuffy as they are now. And, there was only one choice of fruit scones. The jam of raspberry and orange marmalade was, for the former, sour beyond redemption and, for the latter, bitter beyond .. jam! I was having this last Saturday and wasn’t quite sure if I was actually having scones with jam or with unripe fruit. Enough said, really …
Oh, don’t forget to check out the loo. It’s rather coo..l. That said, as there is no ventilation within the egg shell cubible, you need to pray a bit that the one getting in before you do not leave behind the foul aroma of tea – sorry!- “wee”.
(3) ROSE BAKERY, DOVER STREET MARKET
After all the bitching, this is my pick of grazing food. Rose Bakery is a much unheard of, least written about cafe. It is a Parisian import tucked in one small corner at the top floor of Dover Street Market. If the weather’s good, you can opt for outdoor seating. Though the view isn’t one of the most stunning, it is one of the most neighnourly. You’ll get to see Mayfair from a point of view of tranquility! There are also a lot of art and fashion magazines to browse, while waiting for your hunger fix.
Wait! Maybe I should say something about Dover Street Market, which itself is an exclusive, rarely spoken about concept fashion store, the outpost of Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garcons label. Yes, you walk into the place and there are these people who are dressed to inspire – or simply make you feel fashionably inferior – and sell items that will cost you at least £100 per piece. Rose Bakery, funny enough, is a subversion of all this. Cheap, organic, health-conscious, minimalist food. Think Canela but without the freaking microwaves to warm food up, or enormous quiche a whole family can feast on. Still, the crowd at Rose Bakery is the fashion-minded upper crust and many Mayfair locals.
The humble menu at Rose Bakery is either prepared raw or with the help of one massive oven. Expect really colourful salad options, some of which are super-good; others underseasoned; but they are all very fresh. They also do Specials of the Day, such as Cottage Pie, Mushroom Risotto and Soups.
And my fix? Bacon quiche which was so perfectly cooked and flavoursome. The egg and bacon mixture had this heavenly fluffy, well-risen texture; the cherry tomatos bursting their juice; and the base was just crispy. It came with a salad with light vinegar dressing. I also asked for their Gluten Free Chocolate Hazelnut Brownie. Very moist, leaning towards chocolaty sweetness than bitterness, and with with grainy bites of hazelnut to trigger my palate.
That’s it. In case you want to see the fashion folk in action, you might want to loiter at Tom’s Deli at Somerset House. Great selection of sandwiches and cakes and its side windows just overlook the back stage entrance of LFW main catwalk! Link here x
My head rating for Pret A Portea at the Berkeley Hotel says, “7 out of 10″.
for Sketch the Parlour says, “6 out of 10″.
for Rose Bakery Dover Street Market says, “9 out of 10″.
My heart rating for Pret A Portea at the Berkeley Hotel says, “7 out of 10″.
for Sketch the Parlour says, “5 out of 10″.
for Rose Bakery Dover Street Market says, “9 out of 10″.
CARAMEL ROOM, BERKELEY HOTEL
Gound Floor, Berkeley Hotel
Tel. 020 7201 1699
SKETCH THE PARLOUR
9 Conduit Street
Tel. 020 7659 4500
ROSE BAKERY DOVER STREET MARKET
Top Flr Dover Street Market
17-18 Dover Street
Tel. 020 7518 0680