Tea time: The Village Larder, Woodend, VIC 

The Village Larder
81 High St, Woodend
http://www.thevillagelarder.com.au/

Going back in time today because it’s cold and I’d rather be sitting in front of a fireplace with tea and scones. Unfortunately, I’m fairly stationary today, but when you’re taking a road trip and it’s freezing cold and raining a little bit and you’re not quite there yet, you gotta stop for hot tea and coffee. On our way from Melbourne to Bunjil Farm, we passed through the sweet little town of Woodend, and The Village Larder looked like the perfect place to stop off and warm up.

If I lived here, this would be my regular tea house. It was perfect; warm and cosy, owing mostly to the fire place (heaven!), cute random fabric curtains, the most gorgeous old wooden counter and plenty of space to sit and read and relax.

Tea and coffee were both delicious, and so was the sultana scone, warmed up and served with delicious berry jam and cream. I also really loved the two drawings stuck to the coffee machine; one a beautiful pen sketch done by someone who was clearly a talented artist, and another done by a child, signed with their name. They both looked perfect there. It’s the simple stuff 🙂

The breakfast menu looked great, too – shakshuka, fig date & raisin toast, bacon + egg + avo + chipotle ciabatta and freshly squeezed juices… next time, I think I’ll want to leave a little earlier so I can have breaky instead of just morning tea!

 

The Village Larder Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Port Arthur Lavender, Tasmania (to shop, eat & tea at)

Port Arthur Lavender
6555 Port Arthur Hwy, Port Arthur, Tasmania
http://portarthurlavender.com.au/

From one delicious food and drinkery to another, I’m crossing the ditch today and throwing it back to the Tassie trip we took a few weeks ago. How the husband and I ended up at a Lavender farm is a story that pretty much sums up our whole relationship; we were driving to Port Arthur from Hobart, and husband saw a large sign on the side of the road that read “DISTILLERY.” His eyes lit up, knowing the Tasmania does some good whisky, but said nothing. Do you want to turn around and go back to check it out? Cue quick U-turn and large grin.

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At this point, I’m wondering what the hell kind of a sweet little lavender farm and cafe has a distillery on site… then I saw the sign pointing the way to the lavender oil distillery. Cue disappointment and angry tirade at the signage clearly designed by a woman to trap distinguished gentlemen wanting a civilized glass of whisky. I’d already spied the scones flying out of the kitchen, but thought better than to push my luck. Two days later, on the way back to Hobart, we went on back to the lavender farm, and I got my scones.

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The Port Arthur lavender farm is a family owned business, where over 16,000 lavender plants are grown, harvested and processed each year over their two plants. There’s a gift shop on site where everything is scented, flavoured and/or coloured lavender, the beautiful fields you can stroll around, and a tiny little “distillery” education shed, where you can learn about how the oil is actually made.

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They also operate as a cafe, serving incredibly lavender-inspired and infused cuisine and drinks. Lavender infused fudge and ice creams, lavender panna cotta and pancakes, oysters with lavendar dukkah and lavender relish as a side to the savouries. Drinks, too; I (naturally) ordered a lavender grey for my afternoon tea. They even served it in a lavender coloured tea pot, bless! Also full of gorgeous, bright lavender buds, and the flavour wasn’t anywhere near as overpowering as you might expect.

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We’d stopped off for afternoon tea, so we by-passed the breakfast and lunch offerings, and shared a plate of scones instead. Fresh, soft, fluffy scones. With a side of house-made jam (wow – THAT good!) and lavender infused cream. Everything about it was perfect – the scones were massive and fresh, the cream had the most amazing lavender flavour without being over powering, and it was easy to see why the jams they make win all those awards!

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Isn’t it funny how a stuff up can often lead to a brilliant discovery, if you’re willing to let go of your preconceptions and roll with it?! Couldn’t be happier we found this place! And don’t worry, we got him to the Sullivans Cove Whisky Distillery where he thoroughly enjoyed a whiskey tasting session and left with a bottle of the good stuff 😉

Port Arther Lavender Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a weekend in Warburton

A few months ago, I took a little timeout weekend away for myself in Warburton. I absolutely love it there – it is SO peaceful and quiet, it’s beautiful and just so easy to wind down and feel calm. I went back a few weeks later with husband, because a day trip seemed a good idea to pass a weekend, and I really wanted to show him the incredible Californian Redwood forest. But it rained. A lot. We both really wanted to go back to this beautiful teeny tiny town, and finally an opportunity presented itself – Melbourne, being the sport mad city it is, decided only a few weeks ago to call a public holiday the day before AFL Grand Final Day. If you’re not an Aussie, taking the day off work before a footy game probably won’t make a whole lot of sense to you, but this state also takes a public holiday in honour of a 3 minute horse race, so, you know…

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Anyway, this year that public holiday Friday happened to fall on our 5 year wedding anniversary. We decided to take advantage of the time off together, and after I finished work on Thursday, we drove up to Warburton for a  night away 🙂 We both desperately needed it, and it was so nice to spend a bit of down time together away from our normal lives, particularly before I head off to Japan next week (NEXT WEEK?! ARGH!! I NEED TO PACK!!). I enjoyed putting together the part 1 and part 2 Beechworth mini-guides, so I thought I’d put together another one for this beautiful little pocket of Victoria that doesn’t get nearly enough visitors – here’s how to spend a weekend in Warburton!

 

Distance from Melbourne CBD:
Just under an hour and a half in the car from Melbourne’s CBD will have you in Warburton – easy!

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Stay here:
Alpine Retreat Hotel
3340 Warburton Hwy, Warburton
http://www.alpineretreat.com.au/accommodation.htm

This is going to depend how princessy you’re feeling, but for an absolute maximum of AUD$105 per night, you can’t really go past the Alpine Retreat Hotel, AKA the pub! Rooms start from $80 per night, and if you ask for a room with a view, you’re going to be away from the noise of the pub at night and have the most gorgeous view over the river in the morning. Added bonus – should you feel like a drink, the pub is just downstairs! 

Eat here:

Little Joe
3416 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
https://www.facebook.com/warburtonlittlejoe
IMG_2107Visit for: Some of the best wood fire pizza going around. And those marinated olives…

Little Joe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

RiverView Cafe & Wine Bar
3373 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
http://www.theriverview.com.au/
IMG_2120Visit for: Friendly service, a gorgeous view of the river from the back terrace, simple but delicious food, breakfast in particular – for something simple, the muesli with fruit compote, yoghurt and milk is delicious, and if you wanna treat yourself a little more, the bacon and eggs are some of the best you’ll ever have!

RiverView Cafe & Wine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

The Patchwork Tea House
3305 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
http://thepatchworkteahouse.com/

Visit for: the most heavenly scones, blackberry jam and the rhubarb cream tea. Wow..

The Patchwork Tea House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

The Warburton Bakery
3415 Warburton Hwy, Warburton
http://www.warburtonbakery.com.au/
IMG_2135Visit for: The absolute best sausage rolls in Australia. Dead set.

The Warburton Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Shop here:

The Old Tea Shop
3393 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
http://www.theoldteashop.com.au/
IMG_9691Visit for: Quite possibly the most impressive range of tea I’ve ever seen. Highly recommend the Macadamia tea, the Caramel Rooibos, and the Sticky Toffee… so much deliciousness! Also a great idea to tuck into some baked-to-order gluten free gem scones. Because they’re magical, caeliac or not.

The Old Tea Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

What-Nots
3395 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
IMG_2132Visit for: The most perfect array of vintage what-nots. Not junk, genuine, collectors items and the most gorgeous little bits and pieces you’ll want to take home with you.

 

What to see and do:

Californian Redwoods
Cement Creek Rd, Warburton, Victoria
IMG_2154I’ve written about the Redwoods before from a previous visit this year, but the stunningly silent forest is full of almost 1500 giant Californian Redwoods. It’s one of the truly most beautiful and peaceful places I’ve ever had the honour of spending time in, and it’s somewhere I know I’m going to visit over and over again now for the rest of my life 🙂

Mount Donna Buang
Address
http://parkweb.vic.gov.au
IMG_2093At 1250m above sea level, this beautiful location turns into a gorgeous snowfield in winter. Outside of snow season, you can (and should) climb the 21m tall summit tower for the most incredible views out over the Yarra Valley, the Dandenong and Cathedral Ranges, Mount Baw Baw and The Alps.

Enjoy the Warburton River Walk
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Pass by the suspension bridges and just enjoy a bit of time down by the river. Highly recommend grabbing a bite to eat from the bakery and taking your brown paper bag of sausage roll and pie down to one of the benches. Enjoy lunch and walk it off with the most beautiful views!

Shop & Eat at The Grove Farmers Market, LA (Bryan’s BBQ Pit, Bob’s Coffee Doughnuts & Short Cake)

The Grove Farmers Market
6333 W.3rd St.Los Angeles
http://www.farmersmarketla.com/

“When did you get back?”
“Ohh like 2 weeks ago now!”
“How was it?! Did you have a favourite place?”
“Nah, I loved everywhere. Except LA. What a hole!”

This was a conversation that went on in my office last week. Poor old Los Angeles. It gets SUCH a shit wrap from Aussies who visit! And I blame Hollywood – after spending 10 minutes on Hollywood Boulevard, I found myself asking my husband, “is that it?? Seriously?!” So very underwhelming… BUT there are some absolute gems hidden around the city if you’re willing to let go of the “Hollywood” fantasy and see something else! Greystone Mansion & Park was one of my favourite not-shit spots in the city, with Grand Central Market , the whole Venice Beach/Santa Monica area and The Grove’s Farmers Market coming right in behind it; these are the three places I’ve been recommending to people going to LA who are already wary of it’s disappointing and tacky reputation.

The Grove’s Farmers Market in LA was the nicest surprise possible for someone like me. After running the gauntlet of designer clad, miniature dog-clutching “ladies” and “gentlemen” rolling up in their fancy cars, throwing their keys to/at the valet, I felt like I was walking through the world’s biggest cliché! Not at ALL my scene! We pushed on through the crowd though, determined to see this Grove we’d heard about with it’s pretty Christmas decorations and nice shops (which people neglected to mention we wouldn’t be able to afford to actually shop in, for the most part).

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Yes, it was mental. Yes, there were kids running around all over the place. And ladies swinging oversized handbags around, paying no attention to anyone passing them. And tourists stopping to take a photo beside every Christmas tree (and there are a real lot of trees there). And incessant Christmas carols. You don’t want to spend too long at the Grove at Christmas, but you definitely do want to experience it. After all, what’s Christmas without sparkling lights and complete mayhem?! After 15 minutes of that, we were ready to give up and call it a night, when I saw the sign for the Farmers Market. I was out of the twilight zone and back in my world, even though it was on the other side of the world…

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The Farmers Market is part fresh produce, part eateries, part tourist shopping. It reminded me a lot of the Queen Vic Market in Melbourne, but on a smaller (and much more American) scale. The beauty of this place is that, unlike other farmers markets, it’s open daily, not just on set dates! Foodies rejoice! The touristy souvenir stalls were a bit tacky for me, but the produce looked quality, and the little food stalls were fantastic, heaps of variety, and all busy. We visited of an evening, and also during the day, and the crowd didn’t seem to have been any lighter at either time, which I guess speaks to the quality of the market. It’s absolutely a must-visit in LA if you want a proper food experience without the “fanciness” factor and price tag (and especially if you need to escape the Hollywood hip crowds). As for places to eat, I’ll recommend the following…

Bob’s Coffee & Doughnuts
http://www.bobscoffeeanddoughnuts.com/

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/436/65412241/files/2014/12/img_4767.jpgFirst up, check out the variety – cake, raised, original, glazed, decorated, they have it ALL! And while I can’t speak for the coffee, but the doughnut I had here was amazing – I got a buttermilk glazed and it was light, fluffy, sugary perfection. Absolute must.

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Short Cake
http://www.shortcakela.com/

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/436/65412241/files/2014/12/img_4768.jpgVegan? All good. Caeliac? No worries. Not only does Short Cake cater for the regular sugar lovers, the dietarily challenged can indulge here, too! I’d heard amazing things about their date and sesame seed scones, so I had one of them with a cup of tea – fantastic, particularly as a winter warm up! Would have loved to have had more stomach space to try some of those cookies – the coconut avocado one really had me intrigued! Anyone else tried them?!

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Bryan’s Pit Barbecue
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bryans-Pit-Bbq/356609594406484

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/436/65412241/files/2014/12/img_4769.jpgThis isn’t fancy food. It’s not typical hipster LA. There’s no gluten free/refined sugar free/lactose free/super food charged/vegan option. It’s meat and carbs and grease and deliciousness. Pulled pork sandwich. Mac & cheese. Big serving for a decent price. That’s what happiness looks like my friends.
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Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a weekend in Beechworth part 1 (where to stay, eat & shop)

It’s a bit of a catch-22 when you finally realise that you’ve found what you want to do with your life, but it’s not something you can do so easily; I know I want to travel, but I can’t exactly drop what I’m doing and pack my bags and live on the road indefinitely. That costs money, and I need to work to earn enough of it to hit the road again! That said, just because I can’t give my passport a workout every month, doesn’t mean I can’t still explore and take adventures and appreciate what I’ve got in my own backyard; I am SO lucky to live in Melbourne, where , within a few hours, I can be at the beach, on snowy mountains, or in beautiful forests. Victoria is an incredible unique place, where we literally have it all – we just need to get in the car and actually look for it!

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So, over the next few months, I’m going to start to practice what I preach, and cultivate a little more adventure at home as well as abroad – why the hell not?! I’m going to start taking more mini-breaks, more weekends or even just days away, more road trips and local adventures, because “adventure” shouldn’t just be reserved for “vacations.” Living authentically, for me, means have adventures every day, and that’s something I can control.  And on that note, without further ado, let me take you to stop #1: Beechworth 🙂

Distance from Melbourne CBD:
It’ll only take around 3 hours to drive to Beechworth from the CBD – depending on which direction you’re coming from, just get yourself onto the Hume Freeway, and keep going until you hit Beechworth! It’s a really, really easy drive!

 

Stay here:
Beechworth on Bridge

38 Bridge Rd, Beechworth
http://www.beechworthonbridge.com.au/

I came across Beechworth on Bridge through a quick Trip Advisor search for accommodation in Beechworth. Being that the race was on, a lot of accommodation was booked early, and this was one that looked nice, but was still reasonably priced. We had two nights accommodation (Saturday and Sunday) for only $250, and it was a hundred times nicer that I could have possibly expected! Brenda runs a tight ship, and is one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting on my travels 🙂 She welcomed us with a big smile and open arms, and made us feel right at home from the moment we walked through the front door. She gave us menus for breakfast (complimentary and home cooked), invited us to help ourselves to the enormous DVD collection should we need a relaxing evening in instead of heading out, and was happy to help us with anything else we may have needed. She walked us over to our gorgeously appointed room, and it honestly felt just like home (only, a little bit nicer!) – it was the perfect place to spend the weekend!

Features:
* In-ground, solar heated pool
* Rooms have new HD/LCD tvs
* New super quiet Fujitsu AC Split Systems
* Kitchenette with fridge, toaster, microwave, crockery and cutlery
* Tea, coffee, fresh milk and bikkies
* Expresso Coffee Machines
* Electric Blankets and cosy doonas
* Triple sheeted beds to ensure maximum cleanliness with NO recycled bedcovers
* Hair dryers, irons, ironing boards and fresh towels and high quality toiletries
* Beautiful gardens with BBQs on site

Inclusions:
* Complimentary breakfast which you can choose from the a-la-carte menu
* Free WiFi
* Complimentary DVD hire
* Free car parking
* Guest laundry is available at no additional cost

Oh, and Brenda makes some AMAZING pancakes!!! Highly recommend these!

 

Eat here:

Bridge Road Brewers
Old Coach House 50 Ford St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://bridgeroadbrewers.com.au/

Visit for: the beer (apparently) and the pizza. They cater really well for gluten free (gluten free pizza bases, which are actually really good, as well as GF beer and cider), and be sure to check out the specials board, which is where we found the pork knuckle – absolutely phenomenally good!! Really friendly service, gorgeous set up, just be sure to make a reservation because they get super busy!

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Moments & Memories Tea Room
34 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.moments-memories-tearoom.com.au/

Visit for: The devonshire tea with an insane amount of teas to choose from to go with it. Yes, it’s pink and frilly and girly and just SO pink. Not at all my style, but don’t be fooled; the service is as sweet and sassy as you’ll find in town, and the scones are good enough to brave the bright pink interior for! With around 60 different teas to choose from (and yes, you can take them home with you if you like them enough!), it’s a little tough to select just the one to go with your scones (again, gluten free particularly well catered for with a gluten free Devonshire Tea option also on offer, which I also sampled, and can very much vouch for!), but I ended up going with the Devonshire Cream tea – top choice, and I bought a bag to take home with me! You can also find a gorgeous selection of award winning jams and preserves, tea cups and saucers, cook books and other little tea-related trinkets that are waiting to be taken home, too. Perfect way to spend a winter afternoon 🙂

 

Beechworth Bakery
27 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthbakery.com.au/

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Visit for: A sausage roll and a pie – I like the steak pie and husband like the chicken and leek, but let’s be honest – they’re all good!! The sweets are also amazing, with the beesting being (a sweet, “melt-in-your-mouth” dough bun filled with apricot jam and creamy custard, and topped with toffeed almonds – delicious!) their most popular export, and for good reason! I’m also a huge fan of the flourless orange almond cake, and the snickerdoodles (custard filled pastry tart, topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries) – and don’t forget a bottomless cup of tea to go with these treats! This bakery is the original and the best; we used to travel to Bright most years to spend the Easter holidays when we were kids, and I have the best memories of stopping in here for lunch at the bakery on the way to Bright! While they’ve now expanded to locations in Albury, Bendigo, Healesville, Ballarat & Echuca, this one is the original, and still the best 🙂 Don’t be put off by the long lines – they move pretty fast.

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The Beechworth Sweet Co.
7 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthsweetco.com.au/

IMG_7114Visit for: the home made fudge and other home made chocolate and lollies. They’re all delicious – it’s kind of impossible to choose, but the salted caramel fudge is a good place to start! This is another place I have very fond childhood memories of, with many holidays spent eating my weight in musks and chocolate drops from this place 🙂 Their hand made fudge is pretty popular, and they have heaps of amazing flavours to choose from, as well as some pretty delicious peanut brittle. They’ve also got fantastic individual chocolates like the ones below – a little more pricey, but worth it for a special treat!

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Shop here:

Beechworth Honey
31 Ford St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthhoney.com.au/

No doubt you’ve seen this stuff sold in your local supermarket – where better to buy it from that straight from the source?! If you like your honey, this is a must-visit shop in Beechworth, where you can stock up on all things honey; from hand creams and soaps, to honey mead and multiple ranges of honey (everything from the classic original stuff to some fancier orange blossom or creamy honey, fig and ginger), it’s all there.

 

 

Quercus Community Bookshop
Cnr Ford & Church Sts, Beechworth, Victoria

A little heaven of used books, with some very friendly and knowledgeable service to boot 🙂 This is the place to go if you want to browse and/or talk books, with a massive range with new arrivals popping in all the time. If there’s something you’re after and can’t find, just ask – help is at hand and ready to go! With prices starting at only $1.00, you’re bound to walk away with at least a few books.

 

 

Beechworth Antiques
17 Loch St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.indigoshire.vic.gov.au/Services/Business_Directory/Beechworth_Antiques

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There are a few little antique shops in town, but this one was particularly beautiful – heads up though, they are genuine antiques and as such, the prices are more for serious shoppers and collectors. There are a few cheaper treasures in there, though, and definitely well worth a look around.

 

 

So, there’s part 1 of my guide to a weekend Beechworth visit, hope you’re enjoying your virtual break so far and have maybe seen something to motivate you to email Brenda and book a room for a weekend away of your own! I’ll be back later in the week with part 2 (what to see and do while you’re there), so I hope you’ll be back for that 🙂 In the mean time, back to reality and back to work for me this morning, already looking forward to the next adventure!

Tea time: The Old Tea Shop, Warburton, Victoria (tea & sweets)

The Old Tea House
3393 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, Victoria
http://www.theoldteashop.com.au/

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I got a few strange looks from people over the weekend when it was apparent that I was alone. I know that a lot of people can’t think of many things more horrifying than dining alone, but I actually really love it! I find that I’m really happy sitting in a cafe with my tea or meal, and a book or notepad or tablet to do some reading or writing in between bites of food and people watching. No, I’m not on my phone, I’m not texting or checking Facebook, I’m just enjoying MY time. My favourite places to enjoy this time alone are always tea houses, so you can imagine how excited I was when I arrived in Warburton and saw a sign hanging over The Old Tea Shop, boasting over 200 tea blends. And another sign promising not only freshly baked, but gluten free scones! Done deal!

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The Old Tea Shop was the place dreams are made of for premature nannas like me; beautiful tea sets all around, the smell of fresh scones baking, and a wall of tea that stopped me in my tracks. Not only can you take any of the teas home with you (or order online!), you can also select any of the teas on display to enjoy in store (the best way to do this is to open every jar and smell them all). After MUCH deliberation, I decided on a pot of the almond and vanilla black tea, which was incredibly good; just enough almond flavour to know what you were drinking, subtle enough nor to taste funny. I also took home packages of sticky toffee, macadamia and French Earl grey.

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So the teas are fantastic. But let’s talk about the gluten free scones for as moment; can it be done?? Can they honestly, truly be made to be soft and delicate and buttery and delicious if they’re gluten free? In a word, yes. I’d never have believed it if I hadn’t tried them for myself, but the scones here are delicious! While they’re not traditional scones (more like a scone/cupcake hybrid, they are beautiful. Lighter and fluffier than you’d ever believe possible for a gluten free item, they’re the perfect little accompaniment to your pot of tea.

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This is a place that tea lovers in Melbourne should visit; the tea is amazing, both in variety and quality, the service is the friendliest in town, and they cater exceptionally well for special diets! And if you can’t make it down to visit, do yourself a favour and check out the online store!

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High tea at The Waiting Room (Crown Towers), Melbourne

The Waiting Room in Crown Towers
8 Whiteman St, Southbank, Melbourne
https://www.crownmelbourne.com.au/bars-nightclubs/bars/the-waiting-room

 

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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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