Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day - high tea at High Societea

High Societea
318 Junction Rd, Clayfield

If I had first been told about high tea in my teens, it would have invoked images of frills, pink, doilies, dainty china and ahem... posh, old ladies. At the time, it was definitely not my scene and I would have promptly classed anyone as 'uncool' for suggesting it.

Fresh flowers from our table

In actual fact, I only heard about high tea last year when I saw a brochure from one of my favorite cafes in the Eastside. As soon as I read the tantalizing descriptions, I wanted to give it a try.

The idea of chatting for hours with a pot of tea or glass of champagne, periodically selecting a small sweet or savory treat was very enticing but undeniably girly. Somehow I didn't think Charlie would appreciate the small food or pretty serving ware. No, I had to wait for a better occasion - and what is a more perfect opportunity than Mother's Day?

A peak of the outdoor dining space

High tea is becoming more popular in Brisbane and you hear about more and more places offering their own versions. A friend of mine tried the selection at High Societea in Clayfield, locally dubbed as 'the place' to go to for high tea. It has certainly been awarded 'Best Coffee Shop/Tea room' in Queensland a number of times.

High Societea offers a few different high tea selections but on every Sunday, they only offer the Royal Ascot. From Monday to Saturday, there are 3 sittings and on Sunday, there are 2.

We went on Mother's Day Sunday at the 2pm sitting. I had an extremely positive first impression of the place. The furnishings and table settings really set the mood - before we even sat down, I noticed the beautiful wallpaper (or wall fabric?), carpeted floors and fresh flowers on each table. There are outdoor and indoor dining areas and the whole of High Societea is quite expansive. We were seated inside one of the buildings and I was put to mind of an English tea room.

The place was really full (to be expected, since I had to book nearly a month in advance) and there was an overall pleasant vibe in the air. On our table, there was water in wineglasses with citrus and flower petals. I stupidly thought it was just for decoration until I saw someone else drink it :).

Glass of champers

Fruity punch

We were offered champagne or punch. My mum and I chose one each and my dad went without. The champagne was delightful. Pink, bubbly, sweet and fresh. I also quite liked the punch which was fruity with a hint of ginger.

Next, a lovely waiter gave us the tea menu. We were able to choose a pot each and the three of us all went for something different. I selected the Stockholm Blend, mum went for Lady Grey and dad chose the Ceylon tea.

Royal Ascot high tea finger food

The glorious golden tiers of finger food came before the tea did. I later learned from the waiter that you're supposed to start from the bottom tier (savory) work your way up to the top tier (sweet). He mentioned that most people just take whatever and some go straight for the cakes. Which is precisely what I did.

Top tier - sweet items

Middle tier - scones and pancakes

Bottom tier - savory items

It's timely that I've just developed a soft spot for all things small (cupcakes, anyone?) because the tiers were loaded with tiny sandwiches, scones and quiches. I started in the middle tier which my dad hypothesized to be the 'neural' flavors: scones and pancakes. You should know by know I'm crazy about scones with jam and cream. The mini scones themselves were OK but the cream was a standout. Extremely thick and rich; a whole different league to using that supermarket whipped can stuff.

Close-up of baby cupcake

Close-up of smoked salmon, cream cheese and omelet roll

A shot glass of trifle

I won't go through every item of food I tasted. The smoked salmon omelet rolls were a standout for me, although I also loved the chicken finger sandwiches. Cupcakes were a bit too sweet but the trifle was well-received. My dad also liked the asparagus bread rolls.

Cup of Stockholm Blend

Our tea came out not long after the food. My mum scored an extra large serving of Lady Grey tea because they had run out of small teapots. I liked the Stockholm Blend - fruity with a hint of vanilla. The others tasted more ordinary to me but I'm really a 'coffee person' and I know next to nothing about tea.

At the end of it all, all the mothers dining at High Societea were also given a special present!

It was a cupcake soap. Cutest thing ever.

Service was absolutely impeccable. Waitstaff were very attentive and really volunteered their assistance - for example, offering to take a photo for the whole table, bringing out water before we asked and providing a take home box for left over treats. Not that there was a lot of left-overs, mind you.

My friend had told me that high tea wasn't as 'delicate' as she imagined and I can see her point. I guess that if I had a few hours spare and could be bothered, I could probably replicate most of the finger food. However, to me, it wasn't about the food. The whole experience was memorable. My parents and I are used to just gobbling down food as fast as possible because we're that time-conscious. To actually sit down, gossip and soak in the atmosphere over a period of time is a luxury in itself.

High tea is not something you'd have the time or money to do frequently and indeed, that would be missing the point entirely. I personally loved the food, more so loving this 'style' of food (small and lots of variety) but the food itself is secondary. Beautiful settings and excellent service makes High Societea a unique pampering experience.

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