Elegant, decadent and steeped in tradition, there’s nothing quite like sitting down for a sumptuous high tea. The origins of high tea, or afternoon tea as it is known in the UK, reportedly date back to 1840 when Anna Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, decided to take tea and cake in the privacy of her room one afternoon because the long stretch of time between lunch and the late evening meal left her with a “sinking feeling” in her stomach.
The afternoon meal became a social occasion as the Duchess began to invite friends to join her for a spot of tea and a chat, and was soon a widespread practice among the upper and middle classes in England.
These days the high tea remains a cherished ritual to be shared among family and friends and has become a popular option for baby showers, hen’s parties, Mother’s Day and other special occasions.
But there’s much more to high tea in the Hunter than just cucumber sandwiches and a cup of Earl Grey, with local venues combining all the classics with a host of new gourmet favourites.
We take a look at just a few of the tempting high tea menus on offer across the region.
A relaxed and elegant dining destination located in the Cockfighters Ghost Vineyard in Pokolbin, Hunters Quarter offers a contemporary menu to enjoy from the private terrace, picturesquely positioned amongst the vines. They offer two high tea menus for groups of 10 or more, with seven days’ notice required.
The Grand High Tea offers a variety of finger sandwiches alongside caramelised onion and feta tarts, with the sweet selection including Chocolate Mousse Petit Crème.
Stump up for the more expensive Premium High Tea, and you’ll get an additional two styles of savoury tartlets to try, as well as an expanded sweet offering with five different tempting treats, including Torched Lemon Meringue Tarts.
Bottomless cups of tea and coffee will help wash everything down or try one of their refreshing homemade iced teas.
Restaurant Eighty Eight
With the lush grounds of The Convent providing an elegant and romantic backdrop, there’s no better place to settle in for an afternoon of high tea than Pokolbin’s Restaurant Eighty Eight.
Their modern high tea features gourmet tea sandwiches including the classic egg, cucumber and spinach, the rich smoked salmon, avocado and watercress and the light and tasty tomato, fetta and rocket.
A delicious looking range of petite treats provide plenty for those with a sweet tooth to savour, such as the delicately constructed macaroons, and the light and fluffy angel scones, a traditional favourite served with decadent Chantilly cream, house-made jam and fresh berries.
Choose from a wide selection of coffees and Premium French handcrafted teas including English Breakfast, Earl Grey, peppermint, lemongrass and ginger, green tea, Darjeeling and chamomile, or step up to the London High Tea or Paris High Tea to add some bubbles to the mix, with a glass of Sparkling Wine or Champagne on offer respectively.
This Mount View vineyard may be off the beaten track, but it’s well worth a visit for its relaxed, friendly atmosphere and the stunning natural backdrop of mountain views, lush vineyards and tranquil gardens.
While Briar Ridge doesn’t have an on-site restaurant, it does have a special high tea experience as part of the suite of Bridal Experiences on offer at the vineyard.
Groups with a minimum of four people can celebrate the upcoming nuptials in style with a delicious high tea catered by Bistro Molines, accompanied by a glass of Briar Ridge Signature Sparkling wine.
voco Kirkton Park Hunter Valley
High tea seems the perfect pastime to enjoy in the midst of this elegant Colonial-style property. Luxuriously refurbished in recent years, voco Kirkton Park Hunter Valley is a charmingly different destination renowned for its quality, service and world-class dining experiences.
A sparkling soirée with all the trimmings, Kirkton Parks’ exclusive high tea is served in their sun-filled Conservatory, with tranquil views of the rose garden and glimpses of the Brokenback Ranges cascading in the distance.
Offering “something sweet”, “something savoury” and “something hot”, you can sample petit tarts, French pastries, fresh scones and finger sandwiches made from regional ingredients.
Local smoked trout with crème Fraiche and blinis is an exquisite choice, while mozzarella, shiitake and spinach arancini and mini meringues with lemon curd are among the other delectable options.
Paired with a soft fruity and crisp bubbly or a glass of the premium Peterson Gateway Sparkling wine, the stylish high tea at voco Kirkton Park is perfect in any season and for any occasion.
On the outskirts of Pokolbin, you’ll find this peaceful family-owned and operated estate, surrounded by 30-year-old Chardonnay, Merlot and Muscat vines.
With kangaroos bounding past your door and birds chirping in the trees, Gemelli Estate on Palmers Lane is the perfect place to laze away the afternoon, whether you’re enjoying a glass of wine and a cheese platter or one of their monthly high teas.
Able to be enjoyed surrounded by the flourishing garden or in the gallery, the high tea comes with a glass of wine of your choice from the boutique estate, as well as a selection of sweet and savoury delights.
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A number of other venues hold seasonal high teas throughout the year, including Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, which in the past has put on Harry Potter, Easter and magic-themed high teas for kids, while Estate Tuscany held a Mad Hatters Tea Party within their spectacular grounds as part of the Hunter Food and Wine Festival in June.
If you’re looking to travel further afield, Maitland and surrounds are home to several high tea experiences, held everywhere from the aptly named Ducks in the Field at Duckenfield, to the magnificent and historic Mansfield House, where private high teas can be arranged amid the grand features and lavish Victorian architecture.
Main Header Image: Restaurant Eighty Eight. Photo Credit: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
Second Image: Hunter's Quarter
Third Image: Restaurant Eighty Eight. Photo Credit: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
Final Image: Hunter's Quarter