Afternoon Tea

Published in Australian Traveller.

While the British might not be renowned for their cuisine, there’s one culinary tradition they can take credit for: afternoon tea. This civilised pastime usually involves loose-leaf tea (never ghastly teabags), cakes and pastries, scones with jam and cream, and dainty sandwiches (preferably cucumber or salmon).

Thanks to British imperialism, the tradition can be enjoyed the world over, so if the Ritz in London is out of the question, don’t despair.

The Windsor in Melbourne has been serving afternoon tea since 1883, with a traditional high tea at 3.30pm daily and a chocolate indulgence high tea on weekends.

The elegant Sofi’s, in the SofitelMelbourne, serves a chocolate afternoon tea on Saturdays with goodies such as white chocolate and cranberry scones, and double chocolate mud cakes. On Sundays, it serves high tea with finger sandwiches, cakes and pastries, and for added kick, a glass of bubbly.

On weekends, you can take afternoon tea overlooking the beautiful formal gardens at The Mansion Hotel at Werribee Park, near Melbourne.

Sydney has two dedicated tea rooms: The Victoria Room in Darlinghurst and The Tea Room in the QueenVictoria Building.

At the InterContinental Sydney, afternoon tea is served in The Cortile, a courtyard with soaring ceiling and historic sandstone arcade. On weekdays, it does a silver-service afternoon tea, but on weekends it pulls out all stops, with a buffet of savoury and sweet items including a waffle and crepe station.

Rice paper rolls, French toast with apple chutney, and triple-layer sandwiches are among the goodies on offer at afternoon tea, daily in the Westin Sydney. Sir Stamford at Circular Quay does a daily high tea, with open fires in winter.

In the chic Gallery Tea Lounge at Sydney’s Sheraton on the Park, there is a choice of loose-leaf teas, Penelope Sach herbal teas, coffee or Max Brenner drinking chocolate with afternoon tea.

When is a teapot not a teapot? When it’s a “tilting teapot”, a design that Sydney’s Shangri-La Hotel says ensures its tea is brewed to perfection. Its afternoon tea is served daily from 2.30pm.

It’s all the romance of a bygone era at The Observatory Hotel, where the daily afternoon tea in the Globe Bar comes with a glass of Moet & Chandon Champagne. Live classical music is played during afternoon tea at Lilianfels Blue Mountains where you can sink into plush Victorian sofas by the fire or dine alfresco in the garden.

There’s high tea on Saturdays from 3pm in the Conservatory at The Sebel Kirkton Park Hunter Valley, while one almost feels inclined to dress 1920s flapper-style for the daily buffet in the art deco Tea Lounge of Canberra’s Hyatt Hotel.

No use wasting words on a restaurant name. C Restaurant, with its bird’s eye view over Perth, does high tea daily except Saturday. Pay an extra $20 for a baby bottle of Piper Heidsieck Champagne.

Tea is not just tea at Sofi’s in the Sofitel Brisbane. Its afternoon tea, from Friday to Sunday, comes with a choice of teas, fruit and herbal infusions, Max Brenner drinking chocolate and outrageously delicious treats such as duck confit on walnut bread, lavender crème brulee and scones with clotted cream.

High tea at the Cairns International Hotel is not just afternoon tea but morning tea and everything in between – it’s available daily from 11am. It wouldn’t beQueenslandif they didn’t do things differently, but rest assured it still comes with traditional salmon and cucumber ribbon sandwiches. It wouldn’t be afternoon tea without it.

Fact file:

The Windsor Hotel: +61 (3) 9633 6004.
Sofi’s, Sofitel Melbourne: +61 (3) 9653 7744.
The Mansion Hotel at Werribee Park: +61 (3) 9731 4130.
The Victoria Room: +61 (2) 9357 4488.
The Tea Room (QVB): +61 (2) 9283 7279.
The Cortile, InterContinental Sydney: +61 (2) 9240 1220.
The Lobby Bar, Westin Sydney: +61 (2) 8223 1197.
Sir Stamford at Circular Quay: +61 (2) 9252 4600.
The Gallery Tea Lounge, Sheraton on the Park: +61 (2) 9286 6650.
Shangri-La Hotel: +61 (2) 9250 6000.
The Observatory Hotel: +61 (2) 9256 2222.
Lilianfels Blue Mountains: +61 (2) 4780 1200.
The Sebel Kirkton Park, HunterValley: +61 (2) 4998 7680.
Hyatt Hotel Canberra: +61 (2) 6269 8815.
C Restaurant: +61 (8) 9220 8333.
Sofi’s, Sofitel Brisbane: +61 (7) 3835 3535.
Cairns International Hotel: 1800 079 100.

© Christine Salins

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