Can we tempt you with a cucumber sandwich? How about a mini-cupcake while you decide from a list of 20 different varieties of tea? One of the best things about taking high tea is the undeniable feeling of old-world luxury – not to mention justifying a meal of comprised mainly of cakes. And if tea isn't your drink of choice, why not add a glass of Champagne into the bargain. Melbourne loves an afternoon tea, so we roadtested the best to find our where you should get your fresh scone fix.
The best high teas Melbourne has to offer
What is it? A strictly traditional afternoon tea
How Much? $75pp. Sat, Sun $99pp
Why go? Having served afternoon tea every day since 1883, the Windsor has perfected the traditional offerings of ribbon sandwiches, warm scones and an ever-changing array of pastries. Be sure to try the Grey De Luxe tea, enjoyed by members of high society since the 1880s after it was made famous by British Prime Minister Earl Grey himself. On the weekends afternoon tea includes the Windsor's famed dessert buffet, with an eye-popping array of cakes, tarts, and sweets of all types. The highlight might well be the dark and light chocolate fountains, into which you can dip strawberries, cookies, brownies or artisan marshmallows.
What is it? The new generation who want a scone-free high tea that's full of delicious surprises.
How much? From $69
Why go?Seven sweets and seven savouries make for a deceptively filling experience. Every miniature delight was perfectly crafted to be a two-bite taste explosion. But for those who want their high tea traditional, this ain't it – there are no scones here, and the service is definitely not obsequious. The Adelphi is a classy hotel, but you don't need your white gloves and pearls. Go full Melbourne and wear black.
What is it? An olde-worlde tearoom in the Block Arcade offeing a cosy retreat that's prim and proper.
How much? $65pp
Why go? On top of sandwich and cake items, you’ll be presented with warm scones. There’s fruit to cleanse the palate, and we recommend the Dahl House tea. Emerald drapes hang above floral wallpaper and golden-framed mirrors. Couple that with soft jazz and some sconce lighting, and you’re in for a serene experience. Wear something with an elastic waistband – we actually couldn’t believe how much there was to eat. Your grandmother couldn’t fault it, but there are all ages here today.
What is it? Highbrow tea themed to the National Gallery of Victoria's major exhibitions
How much? $75pp. 10 per cent discount for NGV members.
Why go? The NGV's team of talented pastry chefs serve up the usual mix of macarons, éclairs, cakes and savouries, but with a twist – the menu changes to reflect the gallery's latest major exhibition. Befitting the rest of the NGV's fitout, the scene in the Tea Room is minimalist. While you can get incredible teas (like the slowly unfurling chrysanthemum), it’s a fitting setting for cocktails, too. Coffee and sparkling wine are also available.
What is it? A grand hotel offering an all-you-can-eat chocolate buffet.
How much? From $59pp
Why go? Imagine chocolate desserts of all kinds and colours, from Granny Smith apple, white chocolate and frangipane layer cake to 55% bitter chocolate terrine with raspberry croquant. Picture Belgian milk chocolate and Vittoria coffee éclairs with caramel pearls, miniature dark chocolate and hazelnut tarts with gianduja mousse, white chocolate and passionfruit pops, chocolate cannoli filled with coconut, Malibu gel, white chocolate and berry cream, Bailey’s Irish cream pannacotta with coffee crumbs and chocolate spaghetti, and vanilla and white chocolate mousse. Throw in a chocolate fountain with fruit, marshmallows and cake. Now imagine you can eat as many of these treats as you want. You've just imagined the Langham's Chocolate Bar High Tea.
What is it? High tea in the well-padded comfort of Nova Deluxe cinema lounge. It’s like Gold Class but with a Pimm’s cocktail.
How much? $45pp including film admission
Why go? On top of two sandwiches and four desserts in a special high tea box, you will be offered bite-sized delicacies like a gooey chocolate tart and warm feta-flecked frittata, all while watching a movie. The Pimm’s cocktail takes the old English staple and serves it with two cherries sunk deep inside a highball glass. It tastes like summer and comes garnished with the compulsory cucumber slice. Because Nova’s boutique lounges are smaller and more luxurious than its regular cinemas, each recliner chair has its own little table, and staff move discreetly between patrons with their platters. You can also privately hire the cinema for 20 people or more – choosing any movie in their catalogue.
What is it? A glitzy hotel bar with chandeliers and candles, waitstaff in maroon uniforms – and you.
How much? $70-$120pp
Why go? This is the grown-up, sophisto-choice. Spend a little more and you'll get a glass of sparkling wine, and quite apart from the savouries you’ll get a passionfruit and blueberry tart and a strawberry and rhubarb layer cake. It’s intimate and chic, with modern table settings, brown suede seats and light jazz standards playing in the background so your dress code is anywhere from smart casual to cocktail finery.
What is it? High tea with a different live act every month.
How much? $79-$89, plus an $8.50 booking fee (Arts Centre Melbourne members exempt).
Why go? On the first Sunday of the month Arts Centre Melbourne host High Tea Live, a traditional high tea with a different live act every month. The acts range from opera to jazz. Your three-tiered stand of sweets and savouries is delivered swiftly before the performance starts, but don’t fill up too fast. The real treat is the basket of rich, fluffy scones that come fresh from the oven. They host it in the fancy-ish upstairs space, the Pavilion. The gold-accented ceiling and sparkling wine on arrival are classy, and the service is impeccable, but this is a function-style high tea, so if you want something boutique and intimate look elsewhere.
What is it? Your own Mad Hatter’s tea party, overlooking the Melbourne skyline.
How much? $55pp
Why go? It’s a “daggy high tea” – sangers include curried egg and ham and pickles, and you’ve got to fit in a sausage roll before your scone. Wash this down with jugs of cocktails like the DD Cup filled with Maidenii: a vermouth sourced from Central Victoria oozing native botanicals. The garden theme is taken to the extreme here with the indoor hedged bar decked out in gaudy floral arrangements, glass tables and AstroTurf. Bring your rowdiest pals.
What is it? An all choc affair featuring pralines, macarons, French style patisserie goods, chocolate cocktails and hot chocolates
How much? $42pp or $54pp with a cocktail.
Why go? Available on request any day in Gânache’s South Yarra store for an easy price point ($42pp), this high tea delivers both sweet and savoury goodies without the airs and graces. The hazelnut fan slice and brownie mousse slice are standouts, as are the honeycomb sticks made with honey harvested on the store’s rooftop. Toasties and quiche help with the sugar overload, but save room for a hot chocolate – it’s rich but very tasty. While it’s lacking the extravagance of traditional high teas, it makes up for in relaxed, treat-yo’-self vibes.
What is it? An unpretentious afternoon tea with all the fixings in the Sheraton’s glorious sunroom.
How much? From $49pp
Why go? While the menu changes seasonally, our three-tiered stand came fresh from the kitchen with petit pesto chicken brioche sliders, smoked salmon and dill finger sandwiches, porcini mushroom quiches and crunchy olive bread with marinated artichokes and feta. The middle tier was a real sugar kick – expect anything from housemade blueberry macarons and mini fig cheesecake to yuzu meringue tart and chocolate and passionfruit slice. Scones are a hit – and you’re given a hefty serve of cream and raspberry jam so you can reapply after every bite.