Goutea by Cédric Grolet at The Berkeley

When it comes to patisserie it doesn’t get more special and spectacular than Cédric Grolet. When he opened his first patisserie outside France in February 2022, I was first in line to try his creations. Positioned inside the luxurious Berkeley hotel in Knightsbridge, it is a fitting location for this legendary pastry chef.

After stunning customers with his breakfast pastries, counter tasting menu and magical fruit masterpieces, this month he has launched his much-anticipated ‘Goutea’ – a fusion of the tradition of French snacking and a more traditional British afternoon tea.

Goutea by Cédric Grolet at The Berkeley

We were seated at a beautiful corner table in the Remi Tessier designed Berkeley Cafe. The friendly staff soon appeared with appetising glasses of iced vanilla tea and poured us glasses of champagne.

The tea is available seven days a week, served at noon, 2pm and 4pm. It is priced at £85 per person, which is very reasonable when you consider the array of treats you are presented with.

Goutea by Cédric Grolet at The Berkeley

The goutea menu will evolve with the changing seasons, but I’m sure certain elements will remain the same. There are some recognisable afternoon tea staples, for example – a perfectly delicate scone sandwich filled with jam and clotted cream. The savoury features are rather more unusual – an intricate avocado tart (topped with with an egg) and a trompe – l’œil burrata topped with balsamic dressing which reveals a vibrant tomato gel and basil pesto when cut open. A mini comté and bacon quiche is delivered to the table to enjoy warm. I really appreciated that each guest is given their own stand of patisserie, there is no sharing here… thank god, because you’ll want it all to yourself.

Goutea by Cédric Grolet at The Berkeley

When it comes to the sweet part of the tea there is a real variety on offer, nothing is too sweet or heavy. The Autumn menu includes a classic Paris Brest, a pistachio cookie, Grolet’s iconic vanilla flower and a signature green apple, filled with fresh apple and dill. It’s difficult to choose a favourite, but the apple was perhaps the most beautiful, both in appearance and taste. I was beginning to lament the tea coming to a close…  but then a waiter appeared with a tray of freshly baked madeleines, I was full but it is difficult to resist the smell of just-out-the-oven Cédric Grolet madeleines.

Just as I thought I couldn’t be surprised and excited by another afternoon tea Cédric Grolet has come up with an experience that truly wows. Trust the French to add a little magic to the tired British tradition of eating tea and cake. Bravo chef.

For more information and to book Goutea by Cédric Grolet at The Berkeley click here.

I was invited to this tea as a guest of The Berkeley.

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester

Alain Ducasse is a titan of the food world and his restaurants always provide unforgettable experiences. I can remember each and every time I have eaten his food, from a taste of superior hot chocolate at the Coal Drops Yard boutique to a memorable meal at Louis XV in Monaco for my first wedding anniversary.

When I heard that the three Michelin star restaurant at The Dorchester had undergone an extensive renovation I felt the need to check it out for myself.

Alain Ducasse

Firstly, I must mention the restaurant is currently only open for dinner, it is dark and atmospheric and consequently my shadowy photos do not do justice of the beautiful food I tasted.

“International design duo Jouin Manku originally designed the interiors for Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in 2007; this year they have returned to update their vision for the restaurant.” The design is elegant, emphasising elements of nature and texture, without distracting the diners attention away from the food.

Alain Ducasse

Once we were seated and greeted (by several charming waiters), our tasting menu for the evening was decided, factoring in any dietary preferences. The new Head Sommelier Vincenzo Arnese popped over to say hello, an absolutely lovely man we came to know (and love) throughout our meal thanks to the regular wine pairings and interesting drink anecdotes.

Alain Ducasse

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester offers a 7 course tasting menu (priced at £210 per person), this carefully curated menu offers a taste of Executive chef Jean-Philippe Blondet’s innovative dishes always incorporating seasonal produce.

Our meal started with several extra amuse bouche treats, fried ravioli bites and delectable adorned crackers, bread and butter. Everything was immaculately presented, and arranged at our table discreetly.

The menu for the evening featured a range of indulgent and luxurious ingredients – Lobster medallion, chicken quenelles, Périgord truffle and homemade semolina pasta was one of the most special dishes – buttery soft lobster paired with an assortment of complementing textures and tastes, adding flair and interest without detracting from the beautiful and subtle shellfish.

Alain Ducasse

The Farmhouse veal fillet, aubergine, oyster and buckwheat was one of my favourite courses. It is such a treat to have veal, as it’s still rarely on menus in England and is difficult to find in supermarkets. The pale pink meat was cooked to perfection, sitting alongside smokey aubergine and earthy buckwheat flavours, and finally topped with oyster and a wonderfully rich jus.

Amazingly, despite the French style of cooking, none of the food felt too heavy or rich, butter and cream is kept to a minimum, and lean cuts of meat are used. Vegetables are given a leading role and always stand out on the plate proudly rather than acting as a mere condiment or decoration.

Alain DucasseAlain Ducasse

We were lucky to try a few desserts between us, my Strawberries with Lemonade Sorbet and Olive Oil was a palate-cleansing delight with the freshest last season strawberries. In comparison my dad’s chocolate dessert felt more Autumnal, a surprisingly light mousse was accompanied by an intense chocolate water, an indication of Alain’s fascination and love of cocoa.

Alain Ducasse

Often I find tasting menus tiring and stressful (I can never resist the bread and then find myself struggling to the finish line)… but this experience at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester was perfectly balanced, immaculately executed and wonderfully refined. From our first step inside to our parting petit fours, I couldn’t fault the team, and would highly recommend a meal here if you have something extra special to celebrate.

I was a guest of Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. More information and book a table here.

Paco Tapas, Bristol

The Bristol food scene is moving fast with exciting new restaurants and bars opening every week. Paco Tapas is the younger sibling of acclaimed fine dining establishment Casamia (which sadly closed a little while ago)… and despite its relaxed atmosphere this convivial tapas eatery is one of only a few Michelin star recognised restaurants in Bristol.

Paco Tapas

The interiors at Paco Tapas are dark and moody with high tables with bar stools creating a laid back feel. We sat at one of the heated outdoor tables which offered a lovely view of the sunset over the water. A glass of fresh white Spanish wine and a smokey negroni piqued our appetite, ready for the feast ahead.

It is tricky to get the right amount of food when ordering from a tapas menu, but our informative and charming waiter helped us identify the key players from the menu, while ensuring our meal was nicely balanced. From the snack (Para Picar) section we picked the Tortilla Española, an iconic oozing egg dish at Paco Tapas and the pillowy Bread with Olive oil, perfect for mopping up the tortilla.

Paco Tapas

Each dish comes when it’s ready, ideal for gradual grazing. Don’t miss the Jamón Croquetas, indulgent golden nuggets filled with a meaty, cheesy bechamel sauce. Absolutely divine.

Paco Tapas

I could have ordered anything from the meat menu, but we took our waiter’s advice and opted for the Cornish shortrib and the Duroc Pork Ribs. The meat options regularly change dependant on what is available to the kitchen, with much of the meat coming from the brilliant Philip Warren Butchers in Cornwall. Pork Ribs were particularly tasty, falling away from the bone beautifully, and seasoned to perfection… I had to fight my toddler for the last bite.

Paco Tapas

Arguably my favourite dishes of the night were from the ‘vegetables’ section of the menu – I couldn’t resist the classic Patatas Bravas, but it was the Devilled Corn on the Cob and the Cauliflower & Manchego that blew me away. These dishes show that Paco Tapas is more than a classic tapas restaurant, offering inventive riffs on more obvious Spanish culinary ideas. The corn was coated in an addictive buttery spice mix and topped with salty cheese. The cauliflower was grilled and caramelised, sitting in a luxuriously smooth manchego cheese sauce. Rest assured vegetarians will not go hungry here.

Paco Tapas

Definitely leave room for dessert, Pedro Ximinez Flan is a must, the creamiest silky smooth set custard pudding, which we finished in less than a minute between us. The Chocolate mousse with toast and olive oil was also delicious, ideal for chocolate fans, but without too much richness (perfect at the end of a meal).

It’s easy to see why Paco Tapas is one of Bristol’s best loved restaurants. Vibrant Andalusian flavours paired with wonderful warm service, it’s impossible not to have a good time here.

More information and book a table at Paco Tapas here.

I was a guest of the restaurant.