Style and Design

Tea in a Tiny Hotel

Guest post by Gerald Robinson

It’s a very tiny hotel, just 3 inches high, and could hold about 4 oz. of loose tea; –  a reproduction of London’s Berkeley Hotel. In 1972 the Berkeley Hotel moved from Piccadilly to its present five-star location in Knightsbridge. To celebrate the twenty-first anniversary of the move, in 1993, the hotel commissioned…

A Tea Caddy!

It’s a rectangular tin container with detachable lid, and is decorated with an accurate reproduction of the hotel façade.

The 1993 Berkeley Hotel Tea Caddy

How accurate is revealed by comparing the illustration with a photograph of the actual hotel. In the tin’s illustration,  under the canopy at the main entrance,  surrounded by the same steps, lamps, and planters, we see the same doorman decked out in a top hat greeting patrons who have just arrived in a Rolls, while other guests are departing in a “London Growler” taxi.

Front entrance of the Berkeley Hotel as depicted on the tea caddy
A recent photograph of the front entrance of the Berkeley Hotel

Trompe L’oeil

Turning the caddy around we see that the rear wall of the hotel has been opened up like a doll’s house to reveal interior rooms and on the domed lid is an illustration of the roof-top pool.

Rear View of the Berkeley tea caddy with a "trick of the eye" rooftop pool revealed

The illustration on the lid of the tea caddy shows 3 swimmers in the pool doing serious laps, while others are taking in some rays on the surrounding terrace, and oblivious to it all, a portly gent in an armchair is reading The Times, presumably the financial pages.

"Looking down" into the rooftop pool. A clever Trompe L'oeil


The Caramel Room – then and now

Below the rooftop pool we see cut-away illustrations of various rooms of the hotel, including the elegant Caramel Room as it was in the 1990’s.

The elegant Caramel Room in the 1990's
The updated Caramel Room with Prêt-à-Portea served on Paul Smith dinnerware

Nowadays in the Caramel Room patrons may enjoy an elegant fashionista’s afternoon tea, Prêt-à-Portea, which is offered daily between 1 and 6 p.m. in an atmosphere which the hotel describes as “relaxed and friendly, subtly sexy, intimate and discrete”. Decorum prevents us from probing further into what might be on offer, speculating that “loose leaf tea” might refer not to the constitution of the leaves but to the behaviour the beverage could engender. CARAMEL is a perfect anagram for CAMERAL, referring to secret meetings held in private.  You can investigate these hidden meanings further by invoking the hotel’s website