On the weekend, I went out for Tea. Please note the deliberate capital ‘T’ in Tea, for this was not just the beverage, which I can have at home, and do, on a regular basis.
This was Tea, or High Tea; a glorious collection of little sandwiches and cakey things, accompanied by leaf tea, in a pot, taken in elegant surroundings, with one’s favourite people.
In this case, the elegant surroundings were provided by the National Gallery of Victoria (which is an art museum, for those who don’t know!) on St Kilda Rd Melbourne (Victoria, Australia, for those not local) and specifically, on the first floor, in The Tea Room.
The occasion was a birthday, the company consisted of three of my favourite women and a good time was had by all. But now down to details.
One of the things I love about the Tea Room at the NGV is that they have a tea menu. Not just a list of four or five standard teas, but a whole menu. There are Indian teas and Chinese teas, flavoured teas (the Chai has whole spices in), white and green teas – 15, at last count. One of the great pleasures of having tea there is poring over the menu and deciding what to try.
It must be admitted that the individual prices in the Tea Room are a little steep – at least, if all you want is a quick drink. A pot of my favourite tea, Golden Monkey, is $7.50. But you do get a whole pot to yourself, which they will top up for you with more hot water, so for a tea lover, it quickly starts to sound much more reasonable.
And the high tea deal is actually very good value. We paid $70 per two people. No, it isn’t what you would want to pay for a coffee and cake, but given that High Tea at many other venues in Melbourne can set you back about that much for one person, I was quite happy. The deal includes whatever we wanted from the tea menu, with extra hot water and milk whenever we wanted it and a three-tiered cake stand of goodies for each pair of people. (We could have had coffee or hot chocolate instead of tea, but we were all tea drinkers, so we revelled in the opportunity to have four different teas.)
Our cake stand held (working up from the bottom) four little gourmet sandwiches and four little savoury pastries, two large fluffy scones with jam and cream and, on the top level, 5 or 6 little sweet treats each.
The sweet treats included adorable little macarons (little sisters of the ones in the picture) flavoured with rose, which were magnificent; little layered squares of chocolate mousse cake, one coffee and one chocolate eclair, with confectioner’s custard (after which I could have died happy), two teeny lemon merengue pies, tiny, iced carrot cakes with walnuts balanced on top and I think there might have been something else as well, but my brain has seized up just remembering and I wasn’t smart enough to take a photo!
I was very happy with the quality of the food. They apparently keep their own pastry chef at the NGV (I asked) and that is reflected in the cakes. They were fresh and each one was a very good example of its kind (I have rather more knowledge than is strictly healthy of teeny cakes and these were good ones). The staff were lovely, too. They even brought over a friand with a candle in it for the birthday girl!
And in spite of the teeny, dainty gorgeousness of everything, there was plenty of food. We are all hearty trencher-girls and we couldn’t finish it all. I took the carrot cakes home to the poor one who didn’t get to come (who chose to go to the football instead, in case you are feeling sorry for him). He also scored the friand.
So, all in all, if you want an elegant place to have afternoon tea for a special occasion, I would recommend the Tea Room at NGV International in Melbourne. They take bookings and I would recommend doing that, especially if you have a group, as it is often very busy. And make sure you leave some time to check out the collections. Most of the gallery is free to look at and it is a lovely way to bookend your tea experience.
My apologies to those not fortunate enough to live in Melbourne, but should you ever visit, now you have a lovely place to go for tea. I’ll join you!
Do you have any favourite places to go for tea, or coffee, or cake or general jollities with the girls (or lads, we’re equal opportunity tea-takers here). Doesn’t have to be in Australia – they can always go on the bucket list! Share, please!