Evolved from the 18th and 19th century fetish for fancy sandwiches, tea, and extravagant pastries and cakes, in some respects, it’s a miracle it’s survived into the 21st century.
Combining an elegance of presentation with a sense of distinct optimism and occasion though, it has far from died out. Instead, it’s become a pinnacle of occasions.
It’s a “Yes!” meal, a decadence, an indulgence, or even, occasionally, just a way to leave the mayhem of the modern world behind and embrace an older tradition of elegance for a while.
And if you’re in Melbourne, there are plenty of places to indulge that elegant fantasy or mark that celebratory day. Grab your bone china cups, extend your little fingers, and let’s take a tour around 15 of the top high tea spots in Melbourne.
8, Level 1 Crown Towers, Whiteman St, Southbank 3006
Part of the point of high tea is that the venue should exude comfortable opulence. Conservatory in the Crown has comfortable opulence breathing out of every pore, every inch of its marble flooring properly upholstered chairs.
With high ceilings and swags of drapery, it has that sense of good things about to happen from the second you walk in. And that’s before they bring out the food.
Depending how high you want your high tea, you can choose to have it… with tea, with a single celebratory glass of Piper Heidsieck champagne, or with the fabulously discreet “Free-flowing” Piper Heidsieck if you want a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
You can look forward to traditional warm scones, hot savories (including a wagyu sausage roll – naturally), finger sandwiches including smoked salmon, cucumber and horseradish cream for the traditional touch, and cakes including a classic Opera cake and a raspberry and Earl Grey tea ganache tart.
The elegance of traditional high tea meets impeccable modern gastronomy under Conservatory’s soaring ceilings, right in the heart of Southbank.
187 Flinders Ln, Melbourne 3000
The Adelphi is the world’s first dessert-themed hotel.
Let that sink in for a second, and ponder what it means for your high tea, the state of your teeth, and any diabetics you take along.
The kitchens at Om Nom have been led by world-class pastry chefs like Christy Tania and Joanne Ward, so what you get in your high tea will include some of the best patisserie in Melbourne, and possibly some of the best in Australia today.
It’s edible art that will you’re your mind, and it’s not that expensive, either – high tea at Om Nom is an affordable dalliance with the mind-altering drug that is flavor.
K Rd, Werribee VIC 3030
High tea is a weekly affair at the Lancemore Mansion Hotel, and as such it’s a moveable feast as the year turns.
The spread of sweet and savory elements makes for an exciting experience, and the event (held traditionally on a Sunday and known – don’t blame us – as SocieTEA) moves from the hotel’s spectacular lobby to the balcony the warmer months of the year, and the book lover’s dream that is the hotel’s library in the winter.
The point is to give you a glamorous venue for your high tea irrespective of the weather, and it absolutely works.
A glass of champagne comes as served with this one, though the price of the tea reflects that extra decadence.
Part of the fun of the Lancemore high tea is that you can treat a friend or relative with a voucher to cover the cost of tea for 1, 2, or 4, and then let them book their treat when they most need picking up or have cause to celebrate.
Regency Towers, Corner Exhibition & Lonsdale St, Melbourne 3000
The Essence on Exhibition delivers a tea that’s quite high enough at a price-point that makes it more accessible to those with either limited resources or rather more of a regular need for the fancy.
In fact, it’s three plates high, and the accent is on miniature dainties to intensify the feeling of a special occasion. Miniature sandwiches, miniature scones and the unending pleasure of a macaron plate are in store for those who take high tea at the Essence.
One thing to note though is that if you’re upgrading from tea to champaign, the per-person cost goes up with a bang.
495 Collins St, Melbourne 3000
Want a high tea with a history? Check out the Clarke Sisters’ High Tea at the InterContinental in the Rialto building.
A little something different again, this is degustation-style high tea in a venue with a history of lavish celebration. The Clarke Sisters were each in turn married to the man who initially commissioned the Rialto.
The perfect, precise one-bite cakes in particular zing with echoes of their decadent and opulent lifestyle. And to set the seal on the deal, you can get a glass of champagne, or – in tribute to the Clarke Sisters, naturally – two whole hours of the free-flowing stuff.
Make the most of the opulence while you can, we say – that’s what high tea is all about.
8 Whiteman St, Southbank VIC 3006
You can get a whole range of high tea experiences at the Melba Restaurant at the Langham, and many of them are heavy on the Wedgwood.
Using both tailor-made Langham Rose Wedgwood teaware and specially blended Wedgwood tea, the high tea at the Melba also brings you a menu of pastry delicacies not otherwise available, from the restaurant’s highly experienced pastry chefs.
Other time-specific high tea options include a twilight high tea, a mother’s day high tea, and an afternoon high tea – the content of the tea is generally the same, but the detailing allows you to celebrate specific times or people with the high tea of their dreams.
1 Parliament Square Off, Parliament Pl, Melbourne 3002
The Art of Afternoon Tea at the Park Hyatt Melbourne is high tea turned up to 11. World-class chefs use local ingredients to give you an unparalleled high tea taste of Melbourne, rather than relying on the tried and tested staples of the high tea game.
Be aware that this dedication to local produce means there’s no traditional champagne on offer at the Park Hyatt’s high tea – but you do get unlimited Victorian sparkling wine, as well as unlimited tea and coffee.
123 Collins St, Melbourne 3000
Yes, it’s another Hyatt, but the Grand Hyatt and Collins Kitchen in particular has a reputation that runs ahead of it. There’s a distinctly French feel to the high tea at Collins, with the likes of macarons and handmade petit-fours taking the place of chunkier high tea staples.
Standing up to the quality of the French patisserie, Collins Kitchen also uses 24-carat gold-rimmed plates from Cristina Re, to add that extra luster.
If that’s not enough to sell you on high tea at Collins, there’s a simple one-price upgrade fee to take your high tea to a free-flowing champagne high tea.
3/59 Bourke St, Melbourne 3000
This is an odd one. Madame Brussels isn’t strictly a high tea venue – and you’ll immediately notice as much from the décor. But what it lacks in interior elegance, it gains in outdoor ambiance, and a distinctly budget-friendly price-point.
The logic behind that is that there’s no alcohol provided with the tea, but you do get lashings of high quality caffeine, either in your tea or the sumptuous French plunged coffee.
Along with the drinks come plate after plate of both savory and sweet treats.
While it may not hit the same marks of culinary one-in-a-lifetime excellence of some of Melbourne’s hottest of high tea hot spots, it will likely have you sneaking back time and again, both because it’s good enough to make you and because you can afford it.
111 Spring St, Melbourne 3000
There’s a certain “Two million guests can’t be wrong” feel about high tea that the Windsor. Because yes, Melbourne’s favorite grand hotel has been serving high tea for almost 140 years, clocking up well over two million high tea-fiends.
It’s also fair to say that high tea at the Windsor includes elements that give you a really different take on the luxury tea than you’ll get in many other places. Cauliflower cheese pie, anyone? Caramel log? Mandarin mousse?
All available as part of the Windsor’s innovative take on high tea – alongside it’s distinctly more traditional scones.
Unless you have a very traditional experience in mind, if you’re only in Melbourne for a handful of heartbeats, this is definitely one to put on your list.
205 Collins St, Melbourne 3000
High tea at The Westin really is significantly about the tea – there are blends from the world’s most significant growing regions, along with a heaping handful of herbal infusions to stir a stick in. If you want high tea with a huge variety of ta, this is the one to go for.
What’s more, if you like the idea of high tea, but maybe can’t get to the Westin, or fancy surprising a friend of relative, the partnership of the Westin with Maker & Monger allows you to get high tea at home, for you, your friends, or both together – high tea shared by Zoom?
That’s a very 21st century approach to a 19th century invention.
180 St Kilda Rd, Southbank 3006
Don’t shoot the messenger – we didn’t expect this one, either. But with great art comes fantastic high tea, it seems. Macarons, eclairs, savories and the like matched with a variety of teas and china.
Surprisingly unstuffy given its location, the high tea at the NGV will surprise you. It’s not mandatory, but it’s fun to check out the art first – then you feel like you’ve earned yourself some sophisticated decadence.
558 Sydney Rd, Brunswick 3056
Mary Eats Cake – and now, so do you. The Brunswick location is slightly counter-intuitive, because Mary Eats Cake has a flowery, feminine vibe overall (though kudos is due for the idea of a gin high tea!), but the Brunswick location is industrial.
That feminine vibe extends to artisan teas, sweet treats and add-ons like a tea-blending workshop and calligraphy – right there in industrial Brunswick.
153 Johnston St, Collingwood 3066
Mámor Chocolates has a sense of feather boa whimsy and all the best china. It takes luxury seriously and life with a frivolity that draws you in. Plush velvet and antique silverware are just the start.
Its Luxe high tea (a Petit version is also available) serves lemonade scones and very fine petit-fours, along with some curiously traditional savory options like a coronation chicken tartelette.
There’s respect shown to the original occupiers of the land too – an odd note among the plush and dazzle, but a good one. Enjoy the plush and the whimsy of lemonade instead of champagne for a high tea with a difference.
282 Collins Street – shop 1 and, 2 Collins St, Melbourne 3000
The Hopetoun tea rooms have plenty of history, having started life in the 19th century and become one of Melbourne CBS’s best tea rooms before the 20th century kicked in.
Given the history, you won’t be surprised that its high tea is a little more traditional than some – quiches, petit-fours and even seasonal fruit appears regularly on its 3-tiered high tea platter.
Whether you go traditional, modern, or avant-garde, high tea is a tradition that’s alive and well in Melbourne – come check it out in all its flavors.