Champagne, cupcakes, spa treatments… there’s nothing stuffy about today’s high tea, writes Tatyana Leonov.
There’s something fabulous about sipping tea out of dainty crockery while nibbling on cute sandwiches and petite pastries, and you’ve got to admit, Aussies are leaders when it comes to leisurely activities.
High tea (or afternoon tea) can be traced back to the 1700s – and Britain of course. Working men and women used to fill up on their afternoon break, sometimes in place of eating a late dinner.
Then the rich got hungry. 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 – voila! Gradually it became an event on the social calendars of the elite, and was seen as a more substantial meal consumed before important activities – like playing cards or going to the theatre.
Today it’s something we do out of curiosity, hunger, to catch up with people, or just to sit back and relax. Here we’ve found 10 spots that offer a superb high tea – but with a twist.
1. MUSÉO SALON & SPA, Mt Lawley, WA
A day spa and salon under one roof, and they serve high tea? If you’re after a complete pamper session, this is the place to go. Indulge in a treatment, get a blow-dry, and finish off with a mixture of tasty treats. Baby quiches, fruit sorbet, macaroons, raspberry and pistachio slices – these ladies know how to make it just right. At $20 (or $35 for two people) why wouldn’t you unwind in the relaxation lounge or on the verandah after a hard day of… er, relaxing!
690 Beaufort St, Mount Lawley, WA,
(08) 9371 2299
2. SPARKLE CUPCAKERY, SYDNEY
Everybody loves a cupcake (or two) and Sparkle Cupcakery makes sure your high tea (they call it T Party) includes a few. You get a bunch of other cool stuff too – cones of popcorn-inspired sweet treats, a blood-orange jelly and lemon sorbet dessert shot, sandwich snippets and a toffee apple. For $45, which includes a glass of bubbles, it’s worth trying the innovative delicacies on offer. Plus you’re bound to walk out with take-home cupcakes – which is a good thing, we think. A bookings-only policy applies so make sure you call ahead.
132 Foveaux St, Surry Hills, (02) 9361 0690
3. MADAME BRUSSELS, MELBOURNE
This kitsch bar is named after a former high-society brothel, but now it caters to different vices: liquor and, yes, high tea (though they call it a garden party). For $38 on a Saturday or Sunday, indulge in old-fashioned sandwiches, frittatas, sweets and more, plus delectable summer punch in a teapot to wash down the bites. A lift will whisk you up to the rooftop level where you can relax in the eclectic space (pink cushions, lace latticework, antique furniture and fake grass) and get lost in the mishmash of colours, textures and kookiness that is Madame Brussels.
Level 3, 59-63 Bourke St, Melbourne,
(03) 9662 2775
4. CASAVEEN KNITWEAR AUSTRALIA, OATLANDS, TAS
Jumpers and teapots!? One hour’s drive north from Hobart, you’ll find this historic gem – a knitwear shop, factory, showroom, visitor centre and café all in one. High tea is a traditional scrumptious feast, with most (if not all) delicacies made from fresh local produce. At $22.50 you can enjoy the high tea experience, and follow on with a factory and showroom tour. Bookings are essential so be sure to call ahead.
44 High St, Oatlands, Tas, (03) 6254 0044
5. AKI’S INDIAN, SYDNEY
Served on the first Sunday of every month, high tea at Aki’s Indian (a 2012 chef’s hat winner) is inspired by the tiffin concept of India (tiffin refers to a light meal or lunch, originating from British India). The nibblies include Indian specialities such as shredded chicken tikka in wholemeal roti and Chennai shrimps, and an Indian take on sandwiches (cottage cheese, tomato and chutney). With chocolate naan as one of the dessert selections and the choice of masala chai, lassi or sparkling to drink, it’s definitely got a spicy flavour. Priced at $45, bookings are preferred.
1/6 Cowper Wharf Rd, Woolloomooloo,
(02) 9332 4600
6. BYGONE BEAUTYS TEAROOM, BLUE MOUNTAINS, NSW
If you’re into teapots, the Bygone Beautys (sic) tearoom has a lot – in fact, it houses one of the largest private teapot collections in the world – more than 3000 – all on display throughout a gorgeous Edwardian building. You couldn’t ask for a more fitting setting – or better service. High tea is served by a waiter in tails and a top hat, and consists of a variety of old-fashioned items including dainty hand-rolled and crustless sandwiches – it’s the way the Ritz in London does them. Everything is made fresh on site and they use fine bone china, silverware and cloth serviettes. It’s very popular, so book ahead: the cost is $57.50 for first two, then $22 for each person (further reduced prices for large groups).
20-22 Grose St, Leura, NSW, (02) 4784 3117
7. PARLIAMENT HOUSE, BRISBANE
If you’re after something a little upmarket, book in for a high tea at Queensland’s Parliament House. Held in the Strangers’ Dining Room on a loose monthly schedule, you must call and book ahead. Assortments of quintessential high-tea treats are prepared by the parliament’s resident chefs: salmon, cucumber and turkey sandwiches, along with quiches and cakes, all served in the state’s premier heritage building. If that’s not enough, you have the option to go on a tour of the Parliament after your indulgence – and it’s included in the price of $40.
Cnr of George and Alice Sts, Brisbane, (07) 3406 7381
8. PALAZZO VERSACE, SURFERS PARADISE, QLD
Spectacular architecture, Italian furnishings, antique chandeliers, marble, mosaics: everyone knows this is the glamorous place to be, and the great news is that you can indulge in its Fashionista High Tea without even staying at the hotel. Unwind in the Le Jardin lobby bar, soak up the elegance and enjoy freshly made delicacies in this season’s colours (hot pinks, lavender, molten chocolate, lemon and pistachio, just so you know). There are four different teas to choose from, depending on your selection of beverage (from $45). Best of all, the divine French pastries vary at least daily, depending on what the chef feels like conjuring up – so you can go back again and again…
Sea World Drive, Main Beach, (07) 5509 8000
9. SIR STAMFORD AT CIRCULAR QUAY, SYDNEY
First came babycinos, now the littlies are getting in on high tea. Scones, raspberry trifles, chocolate-coated strawberries, rice crackles, chocolate brownies – it’s good to be a kid. There’s a catch though: adults have to come too (but get their own version of a more “adult” high tea). The kids’ high tea is $32, while adults pay $49 or $65 depending on their drink of choice. The good bit for mini high tea addicts: it’s available every day.
93 Macquarie St, Sydney, (02) 9252 4600
10. APOTHECARY 1878, ADELAIDE
Feel like a cuppa in elegant surroundings? The Apothecary 1878 wine bar and restaurant in a heritage-listed building really takes you back to another era. The 133-year-old antique pharmacy cabinets, classic Thonet chairs, antique chaise longues, velvet carpet and opulent chandeliers make for an atmospheric setting, and for $35 why wouldn’t you indulge in high tea in such sumptuousness? Available on Saturdays at 4pm (reservations only), the menu changes weekly but you’ll be sure to get savoury delicacies, sandwiches, petits fours and scones. If wine is more your thing, there are more than 500 bottles to choose from – just remember, not all apothecaries know best…
118 Hindley St, Adelaide, (08) 8212 9099