Isn’t it funny how high tea was once considered a fussy and old-fashioned pastime? Today, high tea or afternoon tea is a much sought-after and popular activity the world over, especially for those seeking to leave the mayhem of modernity behind for an hour or so.
There’s a (not entirely unfair) association between high tea and snobbery. Of course, it doesn’t help that you “take” high tea rather than “have” it. Or that most high tea imagery evokes a kind of pinkie-finger-out ladies-who-lunch set that’s largely irrelevant in contemporary Australia.
But look past that, and the fun’s undeniable. High tea is a great excuse to dress up, and it’s a socially acceptable way of eating a meal that is basically cake after cake – with a few savoury interludes.
These venues have the best high tea in Melbourne. Many of them cleverly deconstruct high tea and put their own creative spin on it. But the ones who stay classic do so well and very extravagantly.
The decadent display of pastries, preserves, and well, tea served in dainty china at these spots will likely
- a) send your mind straight to the Victorian era;
- b) make you feel like a right gentleman;
- c) trigger a growl in your tummy;
- d) remind you of a visit to grandma’s
- e) all of the above.
Where can I get high tea in Melbourne?
There are quite a few places in Melbourne to get high tea. Check out The Conservatory at Crown Melbourne, Mansion Hotel at Werribee Park, Om Nom at Adelphi Hotel, The Langham Hotel, or Cafe Blush.
What is high tea in Australia?
High tea in Australia is a fancy affair. It’s an afternoon tea, with a menu that generally consists of a mix of sweet and savoury items, such as finger sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, macarons, cakes, tarts, and vol-au-vents. It’ll be served with a pot of freshly made tea or coffee and occasionally a glass of sparkling wine.
What do you wear to a high tea?
High tea dress codes tend to be smart casual, so it’s the perfect excuse to break out a pretty floral dress. Opt for something loose so you can indulge and avoid anything too short. If you’re not into dresses, go for a nice pair of tailored slacks and a button-up blouse. Guys should wear long trousers and a collared shirt.
What is a high tea menu?
A high tea menu generally consists of a mix of sweet and savoury treats. This might include finger sandwiches, quiches, mini-tarts, vol-au-vents, scones with jam and cream, cupcakes, macarons, slices, and mini-cheesecakes. The food will be accompanied by a teapot, with Assam, Orange Pekoe, and Earl Grey the most common choices. Some venues might also serve it with a glass of sparkling wine for something extra special.
The Conservatory at Crown Melbourne
Can’t go to Paris? The Conservatory Crown Melbourne brings Paris straight to you in the form of a classic Parisian hotel tea room. So if you’re looking to impress, you can’t go wrong with a booking at this opulent location.
Situated in the heart of Melbourne’s Southbank, its stunning Yarra views, marble floors, lavish décor, hand-crafted chocolate desserts, and indulgent buffet spread will surely delight the senses. In fact, foodies have even dubbed Conservatory Crown Melbourne as one of the best buffet experiences in Melbourne.
The best word to describe it is “opulent”. That shows up in the tall white arches and modern chandeliers and the finer details in the marble buffet tables and floral arrangements throughout the room. The all-white fit-out is classic and sophisticated.
It’s a fitting backdrop for an afternoon high tea. The tables are decked out with tiered arches that hold several bites on weekends, such as scones with jam and butter, finger sandwiches, and mini sausage rolls and beef Wellington pies.
There’s also an all-you-can-eat assortment of cakes and sweets, including macarons, tarts, chocolates and layered desserts in shot glasses, all of which follow a set theme for four months before the selection is changed completely. Tea and coffee are complimentary with the basic high tea option, though this can be upgraded to include free-flowing champagne.
Outside of the afternoon tea sessions, The Conservatory hosts buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Expect to see the buffet counter laid out with freshly cooked seafood on ice, different kinds of pastas and curries, a spread of cheese and crackers, various types of sushi, and other dishes worldwide.
Crown’s other venue for high tea is the Conservatory. The wonderfully sophisticated and stylish restaurant hosts afternoon tea every weekend and provides an assortment of delectable open sandwiches, sweet treats, and scones.
The Hotel Windsor
For authentic high tea food (Melbourne style), head on over to The Hotel Windsor, which has been serving over two million guests since its inception in 1883! In celebration of its 130 years of afternoon tea, the hotel came up with a guide highlighting tea etiquette and high tea history. Some enticing treats on the menu include cauliflower and cheese pie, caramel log, mandarin mousse, and The Hotel Windsor’s Famous Scones. If you could only pick one of the best high teas in Melbourne CBD to try, you can’t go wrong with The Hotel Windsor.
The Hotel Windsor is something of a throwback to a previous era. Built in 1883, the 180-bedroom luxury hotel is home to a grand and lavish dining room, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, but most notably, traditional afternoon tea.
Enter the hotel foyer and continue into the dining room where afternoon tea is served daily – as in the 19th century – with finger sandwiches; housemade scones with jam and cream; and sweet cakes and pastries including macarons, millefeuilles, and rich chocolate gateaux.
It feels like a special occasion, and maybe it is. Everything comes laid out on glistening three-tiered silver stands. The signature Windsor Blend tea pot is a most pleasant accompaniment to a cream lathered scone or cucumber sandwich.
Bar a few touch-ups here and there, the hotel has hardly been altered in over a century. Preserving the Victorian architecture of the building, the dining room interior has a classical, ornate fit-out with chandeliers hanging above white-clothed tables. In the centre of the room, a large wooden bar contains crockery and crystal glassware.
Like any genuinely high-class establishment, opening hours can be negotiated on booking, including vegetarian and gluten-free options.
This place will likely give the Madhatter a run for his money. Not a high tea venue per se, but more of an all-year garden soiree is what Madame Brussels will be able to offer you and your tribe. For $55 per head, you’ll get an array of sweets and savouries, pots of tea, and French plunged coffee. Enough to send any man into a food-induced coma.
You might feel as though you’ve just stepped out of Alice's rabbit hole into a fantasy world of peculiar characters and illusions. Do not fret – this self-professed ‘rather fancy terrace and public house' is precisely that and so much more. The bar's catchy name pays tribute to the Madame herself – a 19th-century city brothel owner and entrepreneur famed for her sensational attitude and unconventional lifestyle.
The 'garden party' entrance is complete with pink walls, garden chaises (some heart-shaped), wicker sun lounges, white picket fences, and faux greener-than-green grass all year long. The smiling staff decked out in their tennis whites will welcome you and happily prepare the house specialties of Pimm’s, punch, rosé, and creamy cupcakes all afternoon long to help you escape the pace of city life.
If the drinks and cupcakes aren't enough to satisfy, sample Madame’s snack menu complete with her famous poached chicken, chive and mayo toasted sandwiches served with lemon wedges, or the smooth chocolate fondue of French 70% cocoa pearls.
This third-floor establishment also boasts a city terrace garden with skyscraper vistas. Blankets are available for those willing to brave the terrace on Melbourne’s wintry nights.
The place is almost always packed, so be prepared for a bit of a line, especially in summer. Nevertheless, enjoy your day or night out at the country club without even leaving the city. Dogs welcome – need we say more?
Hopetoun Tea Rooms
This charming spot was initially a bulk grain store that was sold in 1837 but unfortunately burnt down in 1889. It was then erected by The City Property Company in 1893.
Soon after, it became one of the best high tea Melbourne CBD has today. Since then, Hopetoun Tea Rooms has continued the tradition of dishing out fine foods and beverages made with the utmost quality. Treats such as quiches, pinwheels, petit fours, and seasonal fruits generally decorate the three-tiered serving platter.
The old-world charm of the Hopetoun Tea Rooms is the key to this veritable old dame of the Melbourne tea scene. Purchased in 1891 for a mere 18 pounds, the Hopetoun Tea Rooms have been nestled comfortably within the Block Arcade for over a century. So it is easily spotted by the gaggle of food lovers gazing wistfully at its bugling, window display of cakes, tarts and muffin assortments proudly presented on silver trays.
Once inside, the amazing Victorian wallpaper creates a quiet and subdued atmosphere. The rooms are without much pomp but very tastefully decorated. Gone are the days of the purple-rinsed ladies with their tea trolleys, but service remains friendly and efficient.
As befitting such a place, the tea menu is extensive with various traditional English teas, herbal infusions and some newer blends with more exotic flavours and scents. The Tea Rooms offers morning tea, a packed lunch and an afternoon menu, all with an English focus. Think cucumber sandwiches, light soups and many other sandwich and salad options. Arrive early for lunch as this institution of tea-drinkers fills fast, and the owners ensure that the Rooms are never overcrowded.
Many of the teas are available to buy in old-world tins allowing you to recreate the moment at home.
Miss Violets Tea Rooms, Old Man Drew
Step back in time and enjoy a traditional high tea at one of Melbourne’s best cafes. Picture high tea, and you instantly think of Royal Albert China, crystal chandeliers, white starched table cloths and fresh flowers.
That is precisely what you are greeted with when you visit Miss Violets Tea Rooms in the Old Man Drew cafe. Sometimes it’s nice to be treated to a traditional menu with no surprises, and that’s exactly what this venue offers. The menu provides well-established options, such as scones, ribbon sandwiches, and cold savoury options. Reminisce the bygone era with Miss Violets Tea Room.
Ascot Vale’s Old Man Drew has so many hidden nooks you might feel like you’re the only one there. Grab a spot in the dog-friendly garden for homemade beef pies, fried chicken brioche sandwiches, and salted caramel crumpets.
Old Man Drew is a whimsical cafe with old-world charm. And beyond its grand old green and ivory façade, it feels like a labyrinth. The clashing, contrasting decor of the eatery’s six very different spaces amalgamates family heirlooms and community contributions.
On the ground level, exposed brick walls, hanging plants and timber furniture surround a staircase, which leads to the underground cellar. Its bluestone dining room is cosy, fitted with an old leather chesterfield couch, gas fireplace and a Queen of Hearts-inspired chessboard. Back above ground, check out the provedore. It stocks a selection of jams, olive oils, chocolates and other bits and pieces.
Step through another walkway and into the light-flooded atrium, where the adjacent kitchen pumps out reliable brunch fare such as hash browns with halloumi, eggs and aioli; homemade beef pies and smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels. There are toasted crumpets with caramelised banana, oozy salted caramel, vanilla mascarpone, candied nuts, and sticky caramel popcorn on the sweeter side.
Past the kitchen is a dog-friendly garden, where vegetable plants call a rusty 1940 Bedford truck home. It’s filled with mismatched wrought-iron tables and chairs, which sit around a weeping tree adorned with fairy lights.
Miss Violet’s Tea Rooms – which is accessible via its own staircase – is the final room. It hosts high tea every week on Saturdays and Sundays at 1 pm. It’s also available to book out for functions.
Before opening Jardin Tan, Shannon Bennett would walk his dog around The Tan track several times a week and lament the closing of the Observatory Cafe. Now that the space has been added to his expanding repertoire, Bennett has put his own stamp on the venue.
Rather than sticking to the French cuisine, he is well known for, the menu is inspired by the fusion food that followed France’s colonisation of Vietnam at Jardin Tan.
Chef Mike Reid is serving exotic, French-Vietnamese dishes using fresh produce direct from Burnham Beeches’ own garden. The front-of-house kiosk is sure to attract those keen for breakfast or a bánh mì after doing laps of the tan and those after an ale and a more substantial lunch at the wooden tables inside. Or just lounge in the beer garden out back, surrounded by lush foliage.
The Tea Room NGV
When it comes to the art of afternoon tea, the Tea Room at the NGV prides itself on providing a little bit of history with a modern twist. The menu notes the seventh Duchess of Bedford as the instigator of tea and cakes between meals before Queen Victoria took up the cause. Today, set on level one of the excellent, serene NGV space – and just to one side of the famous water wall – the Tea Room shines the spotlight on the art of afternoon tea once more.
Gilt-edged mirrors, deep bucket seats and intimate tables provide a dramatic setting for elegant, tiered cake plates. Although the sweets and savouries – from jam scones to white bread with egg and watercress – are made in-house, the perfect extensive list of teas offers more than the standard fare.
Keep an eye out for Silver Needles or Spring Snow. The brews are served in pots with a corresponding theme: classic shapes for classic teas or more modern green tea and chai patterns.
But the Tea Room is not just for ladies-who-lunch. Instead, it proves a perfect setting for any sort of rendezvous, from an art student catch-up to a business meeting or romantic tryst.
It’s afternoon tea made accessible by the welcoming floor staff and the inclusive nature of the gallery. We love the teapot motifs on the waitress’s skirts, not to mention the fact that you don’t have to be viewing an exhibition to enjoy the tea.
Mamor Chocolates And High Tea Szalon
Mamor’s is home to an abundance of high tea options, offering a little something for adults and children over 12 years old to enjoy. With four different high tea options, you will be spoiled for choice.
First up is the ‘Traditional High Tea’ option, with plenty of savoury and sweet items, including vegetable puffs, wild mushrooms, brioche buns with hummus, Reuben tarts, artisan chocolate, and more. Prices start from $65 on weekdays and $75 on weekends.
Otherwise, families interested in a high tea experience emphasising chocolate can check out the ‘Chocolate High Tea’. The inclusions are similar to the ‘Traditional High Tea’, though this option also incorporates chocolate throughout the dessert menu.
The morning/ afternoon tea line-up is partylighter, including sandwiches, scones, desserts, and drinks. Prices start at $47 on weekdays and $55 on weekends.
Alternatively, the ‘Devonshire Tea’ package ($20) only includes scones, dessert, and an endless supply of tea. For bookings or a complete list of menu items, visit the Mamor website.
The Stables Of Como Cafe
The Stables Of Como Cafe offer a variety of high tea experiences to suit both parents and children. Starting from $65 per person, the regular high tea menu includes plenty of savoury and sweet items for kids to enjoy. This includes smoked salmon bagels, baguettes, French toast, meringues, chocolate mousse, scones, and more. Plus, mimosas are also provided. Otherwise, a non-alcoholic option is available.
Alternatively, the Como Cafe also offers a ‘Guy Tea’, including mini wagyu beef burgers, chicken pies, sliders, chips, brownies, and more. Prices start from $75.
Finally, the ‘Kid’s Tea’ is the perfect option for children, whether it’s for a birthday party or another special occasion. The menu features milkshakes, croissants, cheeseburgers, mousse, cupcakes, and popcorn for only $40.
- Meat dishes such as steak and kidney pie.
- Fish dishes such as pickled salmon.
- Baked goods such as crumpets or, in Ireland, barmbrack.
- Vegetables such as potatoes or onion cakes.
- Other heavy foods such as baked beans and cheesy casseroles.