It’s February, which means that medical researchers from around Australia flock to Lorne for a series of
parties conferences, leaving the rest of us behind, eyeing the beach-friendly weather bitterly and noting that the lab is strangely quiet.
We had about 30 people from our floor go to Lorne Cancer this year, so it was particularly noticeable. Fortunately, the RAs and I have our own February tradition – as soon as all our scientists have nicked off to Lorne, we find somewhere gorgeous to go for breakfast or High Tea. Why should the postdocs have all the fun?
After our appalling experience with High Tea at the Grand Hyatt last November, we decided to fall back on the pricier but more reliable Langham Hotel. And we were very glad we did, because really, this was much more what high tea is supposed to be about.
The Langham has changed its menu since we were last there, which is a bit of a pity, because I adored their old menu. Still, it’s possible that I am in the minority in wanting Far Too Much Cake, and adding an option with more savouries to it was probably sensible. Though why this was the chocolatey option, I do not know – don’t they realise that the sort of person who wants All The Chocolate probably doesn’t care about savouries all that much? Or am I just weird.
(Don’t answer that.)
(Well, yes, of course I’m weird, but I’m not just weird, alright?)
Anyway, you can order either a Classic High Tea or pay $5 more for a Chocolate Indulgence High Tea. Both high teas have the requisite scones and sandwiches (though the Chocolate Indulgence sandwiches are definitely posher), and a layer of cakes and sweet pastries, but the chocolate high tea also has leek quiche and tiny mushroom vol-au-vents. And more chocolate, of course.
I ordered the Chocolate Indulgence version, and instantly regretted it, because while it was beautiful, I was utterly seduced by the colour and freshness of the Classic High Tea that was happening next to me. And who really needs mushroom vol-au-vents, even with truffle oil?
Of course, due to the early start to Lent this year, I’m currently vegetarian, which is always tiresome when eating out. The waitress was un-fazed by my request for a vegetarian High Tea, and merely asked if anyone else had dietary requirements that needed to be catered for, which was promising in terms of awareness.
High Tea at the Langham is very beautifully presented, on the traditional three-tiered stand, with one stand generally shared between 2-4 people. Unlike the Hyatt, however, the items on the stand are divisible by the number of people sharing, as they should be.
Because I was in the Vegetarian Ghetto, I got a mini stand all to myself (exciting considerable envy amongst my colleagues), with the same cakes, scones and savouries as others, but rather more boring sandwiches. Which is a terrible thing to say, but there you have it. The sandwiches were lovely and fresh and well made and the bread was good, but basically the fillings were the same as the vegetarian fillings on the other stands – egg and mayonnaise, cream cheese and chives (without chives, as far as I could see), and cream cheese and cucumber. Very rich. My colleagues had all sorts of lovely things with smoked salmon, moreton bay bugs, and little toasts with proscuitto, parmesan and onion jam. I eyed them enviously, I must say, but the Langham does get points for knowing what vegetarian is and making a reasonable effort.
I did like the leek quiche and mushroom vol au vents, though – beautiful pastry and lovely flavour, but again, rich!
The scones were excellent – fluffy and soft with a nice crust – and the jam, cream and butter were all good. I did enjoy my cakes, though yet again, they were very rich, and I cast envious glances at the Classic High Tea, which included little fruit tarts and lemon tarts and a glacé fruit tea cake garnished with dried raspberries and tiny slivers of pistachio, like buds and leaves. But the white chocolate and strawberry crème brulée was beautifully made, with lovely crumbly pastry and a deliciously crisp sugar crust, and I did like the very, very chocolatey chocolate truffle mousse cake thing, which was pretty much the point of a chocolate high tea.
And most of us couldn’t finish, which is to say, the portions were definitely generous enough.
The service was a bit patchy – well-intentioned, but I think our waitress forgot we were there for a while, and it was nearly an hour from when we arrived until when we got our food. Admittedly, it took us about 20 minutes to order, but that was partly because we couldn’t find the waitress! Having said that, we did get as much tea, coffee and hot chocolate as we wanted while we waited, and it was a nice environment to wait in. Very comfortable, and we felt very welcome.
In terms of dietary requirements, they did pretty well with vegetarian, though it did feel just a little bit second-class in the sandwich department. I wouldn’t really want to try going there as a vegan – I don’t think they’d cope very well without being able to use eggs and butter. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did a fair stab at gluten-free, but am not sure. I got the impression that they do understand about dietary requirements and keeping things separate that need to be separate, but I’m not sure they are all that passionate about catering for them as brilliantly as they do for the omnivores.
Altogether, a very pleasant afternoon, and yes, we felt we got our money’s worth this time.
But next time, I want the classic high tea! And – alas! – I want to not be vegetarian when I have it!
This time last year…