by Jodi Panayotov
In the midst of this fast-paced caffeine-fuelled era, high tea in Brisbane is having a bit of a renaissance. And understandably, for the art of high tea is not just about indulgence and tea-drinking but about taking forced time out for a couple of hours and reliving the simple pleasures of a past when leisure time was leisurely and rituals and niceties mattered. While the majority of city hotels do a decent high tea, here are eight other Brisbane venues where you can indulge in the old-fashioned art:
The grand first lady of Brisbane's high tea venues is the ballroom sized Stranger's Dining Room at Parliament House, where 125 years of dignitaries and VIPs have sipped and supped. Held on the first Friday of each month (prepare to book a couple of months ahead for this one), the sitting goes for an hour and a half, plenty of time to take in the classical music, the formally attired waiters and the gorgeous old world surrounds. Tea is served on the government silverware and embossed fine bone china and consists of traditional finger sandwiches, dainty hot morsels such as quiches and tarts, fresh baked scones and dainty pastries and choc-dipped strawberries, accompanied by an endless pot of tea, coffee or juice. Special occasions such as Mother's Day are marked with live music and a glass of bubbles.
What this little country style tea house in New Farm lacks in size it more than exceeds in quality, with every plated morsel, be it pastry, scones or cakes, individually made and baked fresh in the kitchen just before serving (even the truffles and chocolates are made in-house). High teas here come in 3 layers of possibility and price, starting with the Elegant: sandwiches, heavenly scones, canapés and petit fours then the Indulgent: add-ons of mini dessert & hot savoury and the ultimate Decadent: a chocolate lovers dream of all of the above with individual choc and caramel pots with biscotti, Rocky Road and truffles. And for the Under 12's there's a Kids High Tea. To accompany, around 30 types of loose leaf tea are available or there's freshly brewed coffee. Note that because everything is made upon arrival, more patience is required although it more than pays off.
Tucked away on the upper gallery of the French baroque Brisbane Arcade, Room with Roses is a vision of old-fashioned refinement and a picture perfect setting for a special occasion high tea. Seating is at linen clothed tables with vases of fresh roses in the chandelier room or on the balcony overlooking the arcade below and high tea is served on a decorative porcelain stand. Sittings are twice a day, with a leisurely two hours to feast on dainty ribbon sandwiches, mini fresh-baked raspberry and ginger scones, salmon and corn cakes, savoury and lemon curd tartlets, mini choc cake and old-fashioned biscuits. GF & V avail.
The only Brisbane cafe to put on a French high tea, French and Mor can be found in a tiny shopping centre out in Albany Creek. This is one to enjoy on the terrace, overlooking a patch of forest and with seated on a mix of vintage and Parisian style furniture. Outside of the classic sandwiches and fruit Danishes, the rest of the high tea is a Gallic delight, with almond croissants, petit fours, tartes, gateaux, and a Napoleon – raspberry and citrus coulis topped with marscapone, served on a three tier stand of fine bone china. To accompany choose from a pot of T2 (choice of 20) loose leaf teas or barista made Elixir coffee. Worth noting: F & Mor also offer a 'Teenage High Tea' for the wannabe adult who's not quite up to the full indulgence.
A veteran of the tea scene, this charming 1920's style Nundah tea house is a haven of low key elegance, with waitresses decked out like maids and all the old-world niceties on hand – music, linen, china and silverware. High tea comes in three guises: Imperial, Gluten Free or Littlies Tea Party, with the first consisting of tea house sandwiches, savoury tartlet, Melba toast with delicious topping, seasonal fruits, scone with jam and cream, tiny cakes and petite sweets and rosewater jelly served on fine white bone china, with a pot of coffee or tea (choose from 130 loose leaf varieties) included.
Tucked away in the back rooms of an historic corner store (the front half a gift shop) in Greenslopes is this quaint Tiffany lamp lit tea room – a locals' secret straight out of yesteryear. Along with Devonshire teas (renowned for the delicious premise-baked scones) the popular choice here are the high teas, served on dainty vintage patterned crockery and comprising the scones (with clotted cream and secret recipe raspberry jam), freshly made sandwiches, mini quiches, cakes and sweets, with a side of old-fashioned touches such as sugar bowls of sugar cubes with tiny serving tongs.
For a high tea combined with a cherished piece of Brisbane history, The Shingle Inn at the Brisbane City Hall is the place. Take a booth seat within the quaint restored wood-panelled walls and enjoy a range of high tea starting with the classic ribbon sandwich, scone and sweet and savoury pastries up to the Celebration High Tea with special occasion cake or a special children's high tea.