The Waiting Room in Crown Towers
8 Whiteman St, Southbank, Melbourne
I’m guess I’m one of the lucky ones; my mother in-law isn’t horrible. Not only is she not horrible, she’s actually a really great lady, who I get along with very well. She already has two daughters (another two lovely ladies who I adore), but for the last decade has still always gone out of her way to make me feel like part of the family; I’ll be eternally grateful for that : ) So, keeping in mind all of the horror stories I hear about other women and their awful, meddling, nasty mother-in-laws, I was really excited when mine decided that we should do high tea together!
We decided to go to Crown Casino for our high tea afternoon; after calling up to make a reservation and being told that the Conservatory was fully booked, I was informed that The Waiting Room was still available. I’d never heard of The Waiting Room before, but the service was described as being very traditional tea service with all the classic touches, which sounded exactly like what we were after. I booked us a sitting on Saturday afternoon, and it was a really good afternoon! For $65 per person, you get the full tea service (3 tiered sweet and savoury tray, scones, sorbet and sparkling wine, and well as unlimited tea) in an unassuming, understated, beautiful little corner of the Crown Towers lobby. It truly just pops out of nowhere, and is the perfect little place to spend some time being a properly civilised lady (or gentleman) on a Saturday afternoon.
Here’s a closer look at what a high tea service at The Waiting Room entails…
The proper, traditional three-tiered tower, composed of hot savouries on the first tier: gougères filled with wild mushroom duxelles and rock lobster thermidor croustade. They were both really nice, but unfortunately had gone almost cold by the time they reached us. The mushrooms in the gougères were delicious, though!
The second tier held the cold savouries: the traditional chicken sandwich on dark rye, the crab, avocado and dill sandwiches, the mini Waldorf salad cups and the egg and caviar sliders. Unfortunately the sandwich bread tasted a little stale, but the fillings were amazing! The chunks of walnut in the chicken sandwich were a great touch, and I absolutely loved the crab and creamy avocado with dill – amazing!
And the final tier was the good stuff. The sweet stuff. The sugar coma-inducing stuff. I’m not even going to try to pretend like I remember exactly what everything was, but front and centre is the chocolate eclair (filled with creamy chocolate and so good!), the perfectly layered creation on the right was a chocolate citrus layer cake thing (amazing – really light fluffy cake, and the fruity cream was perfect with the chocolate), the little one at the back was I think a flourless cake with a syrupy sweet glaze and raspberry, and the pink domed thing, I cannot for the life of me remember what this was, but oh my God it was SO GOOD! Some sort of delicious mousse on a biscuit base, so smooth and creamy, deliciously crunchy bottom… it was perfection!
Next up were the scones; they’re baked fresh to order, and take about 15 minutes. We had a fruit scone and a regular one each. To be honest, there wasn’t really any difference in taste other than the few raisins in the fruit one, but what a difference it makes getting the scones fresh out of the oven instead of just re-heated! They were some of the best scones I’ve had at a high tea!
Just when we were ready to unzip our skirts and roll out the door, we were told that our final course was on the way, a small scoop of palate cleansing mandarin sorbet to finish on. We weren’t hungry, we were overflowing with sugar, we didn’t need the sorbet. But we actually did. It was such an unexpectedly great way to finish! The mandarin flavour was absolutely on point, just sweet enough, just tangy enough.
The food was quite good, as you’d expect from a venue like this. The scones were a stand out, and the waiting time isn’t an issue, because you’re told from the start that they require 15 minutes cooking time, and you’re given the option of deciding when you’d like them brought out. The sorbet was also a really great touch and not something I’ve ever seen offered before – it was nice to end on something to light and refreshing after all of those heavier bites.
But what really made it for us was the service. It was authentic, impeccable service with a smile, and I’m not talking about forced “I-have-to-be-nice-to-you-because-that’s-what-I’m-paid-to-do-but-I’d-rather-be-elsewhere-and-I-hate-that-I’m-here-pretending-to-be-nice-to-you-instead” smiles either. I mean, they were being paid to look after us, obviously, but they were all so genuine and friendly and professional about it. And don’t fall for the stereotype that high tea is just for the ladies – there was the obligatory group of women celebrating a birthday or pending wedding or baby maybe? But there were also couples and mixed gender groups of friends, too. High tea might sound old fashioned and girly, but at the end of the day, if you enjoy being served up good food in a lovely setting, and enjoying a glass of wine and scones fresh out of the oven, it’s probably something you’re going to enjoy doing for a few hours as well!