Keep your pinky finger poised. Here’s where to enjoy a contemporary take on high tea around Australia.
There’s something fabulous about sipping tea out of dainty crockery while nibbling on stellar sandwiches and petite pastries, so we’ve done the legwork for you with our round-up of the best high teas in hotels around Australia.
The tradition of high tea (or afternoon tea) can be traced back to Britain in the 1700s when the working classes ate sandwiches and treats during their afternoon break, sometimes in lieu of eating dinner.
Then high society cottoned on. Picture the 7th Duchess of Bedford getting peckish in the afternoon and the servants coming up with an array of delightful afternoon snacks. She invited friends, they had some tea, it was all very convivial and so became an event on the social calendars of the elite.
Today, heading out to sample high tea is something we do out of curiosity, to catch up with friends, or treat someone special. Here are 12 for you to try around the country.
1. High tea on Level 36, Shangri-La Sydney, NSW
Shangri-La Sydney is one of the best hotels in Sydney for high tea, which means you’re likely to encounter everyone from multi-generational family groups to couples and colleagues partial to tea, cake and fizz with a view at High Tea on Level 36. While the panoramic views of Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are hard to beat, the menu designed by pastry chef Kumiko Endo (ex-Tetsuya’s and Bather’s Pavilion) also causes heads to swivel with dishes such as the braised ox-tail on a milk bun or traditional buttermilk scones with house-made berry jam and fresh cream.
Must try: The honey cheesecake with coconut ginger streusel and cherry glaze.
2. G&Tea The Lobby Lounge, Hyatt Regency Sydney, NSW
G&Tea at Hyatt Regency Sydney is a mod Oz twist on high tea and it’s everything we want it to be. After settling in for an afternoon of indulgences, G&Tea takers are led on a multi-sensory journey starting with two cocktails crafted with Australian Poor Toms Gin and London Dry Gin. The native botanicals used in the cocktails have also inspired sweet and savoury delicacies such as scones matched with Australian jams and wattle-seed zucotto and prawn twisties. Order your choice of Rabbit Hole loose-leaf tea and enjoy the theatre of watching pastry chef Prashant Anand apply the finishing touches to dishes at the Botanical Dessert Table with a blow torch.
Must try: The raspberry-orris root chocolate, melted in front of you at the Botanical Dessert Table before being served.
3. High Cheese at voco Kirkton Park, Hunter Valley, NSW
If you’re obsessed with cheese, then this is the high tea for you. Although it is a novelty idea, it is also extremely well received and a fun way to taste a wide variety of cheeses. All of the cheeses served during the High Cheese experience are artisan cheeses sourced from the Hunter Valley. There’s a wood-fired brie, a Binnorie Dairy Duetoo (a creamy blend of mascarpone and gorgonzola), as well as savoury sandwiches and treats such as mushroom and molten cheese arancini. Best of all, you get to enjoy indulging in your cheese obsession from the light-filled Conservatory overlooking the prestigious 28-hectare voco Kirkton Park, which has just 70 guestrooms.
Must try: The Binnorie Dairy chilli, garlic and rosemary labna with a glass of Peterson House Sparkling.
4. Eat your Art High Tea at W Brisbane, Qld
Nix the starched white tablecloths and stuffy service. The high tea at the Living Room Bar at the W Brisbane echoes the contemporary styling of the hotel, which flaunts its big, bold vibes for all to see. While the hotel interiors have been inspired by the tidal patterns of the Brisbane River, the Eat your Art High Tea nods to the river city’s partnership with QAGOMA (Queensland Art Gallery l Gallery of Modern Art), with guests urged to wander around the hotel to spot the Mad Hatter-esque flourishes that influenced the menu. Everything on the menu, from the wagyu beef pumpernickel bite with avocado cream to the paint-your-own panna cotta, is sublime.
Must try: The tropical Oh My GOMA vodka cocktail, which is served with an edible art print.
5. High tea in Coco’s Kitchen + Bar, Pullman Cairns International, Qld
High tea in Coco’s Kitchen + Bar Pullman Cairns International, at the marina end of the city, starts with a flute of Australian sparkling wine followed by pretty petit fours and finger sandwiches. The menu in the lobby bar is seasonal so expect jams made from exotic tropical fruit to spread atop freshly made scones, with dollops of cream as well as local fresh fruits, and an array of house-made pastries and cakes. Savoury tooths will be pleased that the tiered trays include finger sandwiches stuffed with shredded chicken or Atlantic salmon. After a few pots of tea, stroll a block down to the centre of Cairns where you will find a plethora of cool places to eat and drink.
Must try: The plate of local and international cheeses.
6. High Tea at Deco Lounge, The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Hobart, Tas
The Deco Lounge at The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Hobart, is a dreamy place to take in high tea in Hobart. The Tasman opened in December 2021 and is the new kid on the block with 152 rooms across three different eras of architecture: heritage, Art Deco, and modern. The high tea experience at The Deco Lounge is, like the vibe in the state’s capital, refined but relaxed. Although the signature high tea changes with the seasons, you can expect a glass of Arras Blanc de Blanc on arrival and an Aussie inflection with dishes such as lemon myrtle scones, the signature Tasman lobster roll, and bush tomato bread.
Must try: Hoji tea panna cotta complemented with a pot of Storm & India’s plant-based wellness tea.
7. Afternoon Tea at The Ritz-Carlton Perth, WA
The Ritz-Carlton Perth has a new Afternoon Tea menu at Hearth, which overlooks the picturesque Elizabeth Quay. While the two-course menu is not afraid of a cucumber slice, you can expect it to arrive pickled alongside house-smoked tart on top of your three-tiered stand. The Afternoon Tea also includes savoury delights such as braised pork rillette with pink lady apple, and baked camembert tart as well as sweet treats such as Davidson plum and coconut lamington. Elevate the experience with a two-hour package served with Howard Park Petit Jeté sparkling wine.
Must try: The white peach mousse with lemon verbena and a peach glaze.
8. Afternoon tea at The Langham, Melbourne, Vic
There’s a soft light filtering into the lobby at The Langham, Melbourne and staff pirouetting around tables, making sure everything is just so. Afternoon tea at the Aria Bar & Lounge room is special-occasion stuff. And while there are the obligatory finger sandwiches, pastries, cakes and scones, the skill demonstrated by executive chef Thomas Rappl is in adhering to certain traditions while fusing flavours that are completely up-to-the-minute. Start with sandwiches and savouries such as the saffron arancini with shrimp butter sauce followed by hand-made pastries like the kaffir key lime meringue tart, which will finish you off in the best possible way.
Must try: The scones, oh the scones. Served with Yarra Valley clotted cream and macerated strawberry preserve.
9. High Tea by the Sea at Stamford Grand Adelaide Hotel and Resort, SA
Enjoying views of Glenelg Beach makes the experience of a traditional High Tea by the Sea at Stamford Plaza, Adelaide even more special. The Promenade Restaurant is a peaceful oasis in a notable position that hums with the low chatter of happy customers and attentive staff who whirl about the space in a whisper while you while away the afternoon. Ask the knowledgeable staff to help zone in on your Dilmah tea of choice to accompany the food, which there is an abundance of. Take your time over a traditional selection of sandwiches – pulled chicken and mayo; classic egg salad; smoked salmon and cream cheese – followed by pastries and petit fours and hot and savoury options.
Must try: The candy-coloured assortment of mini macarons.
10. Champagne High Tea at PepperBerry, Hilton Darwin, NT
Although guests partaking of high tea at the Hilton Darwin will receive the prerequisite selection of sandwiches and petit fours, the sweet and savoury treats on the tiered tray arrive infused with flavours such as Kakadu plum, rosella, crab and coconut. Expect the Piper-Heidsieck to be flowing at the sophisticated Champagne High Tea, located in Hilton Darwin’s signature restaurant, PepperBerry Restaurant. The hotel hosts high teas on Sundays with each tier arranged with savoury sandwiches such as crab and apple salad in rye sourdough, scones with raspberry and quandong jam and desserts such as blueberry cheesecake.
Must try: Scones with whipped butter, quandong jam and chantilly cream.
11. High Cheese at Sheraton Grand Mirage Gold Coast, Qld
While the ocean views might be one of Pearl Bar’s main selling points, the carefully curated High Cheese is also worth feasting your eyes on. It’s a high tea, albeit with cheese and it’s proving so popular at the Sheraton Grand Mirage Gold Coast that it looks set to stay. You’d have to be Jatz crackers to count calories in this case: plan instead for a post-prandial walk on the beach (or one of the many other Gold Coast bush walks) so you can inhale every last crumb of cheese on the pretty platter. Enjoy triangles of creamy camembert, sharp cheddar and a tangy blue accompanied by silky prosciutto, fresh fruit and crackers before sinking into the Pearl Bar’s plush chairs.
Must try: The rosemary-baked camembert.
12. Chapter & Verse high tea at JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa
The Chapter & Verse high tea served at JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa is inspired by local ingredients sourced from the Gold Coast Hinterland. There’s a Teeny Tiny Tea for chipolata-sized fingers, which includes a miniature mix of sweet and savoury dishes, and a High Seas experience showcasing local seafood such as oysters and tiger prawns and a High Cheese that includes brie, blue and cheddar cheese. Purists will also be appeased with the Traditional High Tea, which includes sandwiches stuffed with Bangalow pork and truffle cheddar cheese as well as pastries crafted from hinterland berries.
13. QTea at QT Sydney, NSW
Adriano Zumbo is known for zigging when everyone else zags. And the Australian patissier is doing just that with his new QTea experience at QT Sydney.
Make no mistake, Zumbo didn’t blow the dust off his yiayia’s old book of recipes. His carefully curated spread seems to take its cues from Willy Wonka. Forget silver platters and a muted palette of finger food. Think extravagance, theatre and fashion writ large, which is more in line with the QT brand and its cool clientele.
While Zumbo hasn’t taken the tradition of a tiered tray off the table, the one on offer at QTea looks like the work of an artist from the Cubist movement. We expect the Mad Hatter might have also been on Zumbo’s mind with his mix of sweet and savoury dishes, such as new and innovative Sconez and a lobster roll with coconut, chilli and lime mayo.
Flex your pinky and be prepared to play with your food while enjoying paired pourings of Perrier Jouet Champagne.