A Melbourne, London & Hong Kong dessert blog
Get-away to a peaceful hamlet in the Yarra Valley Hillsides for a generous buffet high tea.
There is something endearingly beautiful about the wine regions of country Victoria. In any season, an emerald landscape of row upon row of grape vines, tinged by the warm gold of haystacks machined turned into round bales. The sky an unbelievable cerulean blue. A scattering of woolly lambs and ruminating cows grazing on lush fields. Meandering roads caressing undulating hills, and unsealed paths threading towards get-aways promising cosy fireplaces and tables laden with the finest produce and wines delivered straight from nearby farms and cellar doors.
The Sebel Heritage is perched atop the verdant hills of the Yarra Valley in south-east Victoria. A hamlet of luxuriously appointed apartments and guest rooms overlook a vast golf course, its golf and spa facilities offering an indulgent retreat for ladies and gentlemen alike. For MoMo & Coco however, it was the promise of a weekly Sunday chocolate-themed high tea amidst a country resort that seduced us away from urban life and the dreary winter that unfurled and rolled out clouds like a grey dough, distantly rumbling with thunder and rain.
Departing from the increasingly annoyingly repetitive Melbourne CBD-norm of dark-wooded bistro dining, the Sebel Heritage’s Bella Restaurant was all starched, white-linen formality and polished, prompt, faultless service. The dining audience was demurely genteel — a few tables of the traditional afternoon tea demographic of grey hairs and twin-set pearls, a corner romance, small quiet groups of young ladies and a subdued hen’s party discreetly secluded in another room. Dramatic florist works featuring Australian native flowers of luridly orange Kangaroo Paw and garnet globes of waratah cohabited with posies of English David Austin roses and magenta Singaporean orchids. Stem ware were filled with sparkling wine. Plates and tea ware were plain unadorned white. Tea was forgettable, self-serve with tea bags – a possible faux pas in the institution of afternoon tea.
A two-tiered service arrived promptly. There were four types of double ribbon sandwiches (smoked salmon, ham and cheese, scrambled egg and cucumber, and poached chicken), served variously on soft white, multigrain and wholemeal bread.
Savouries also included two warm pastries — a dry-ish miniature sheperds pie with a baked twirl of mash, and a filo pastry encasing spinach and ricotta.
Scones were of the raisin type, nuggets rather than pillows, accompanied with generous dishes of sweet strawberry preserve and luscious cream.
And so, we reach the dessert buffet. Watched over by a huge rooster, it was no chicken feed. On an adjacent table, there was also a chocolate fondue fountain, with chunks of amber honeycomb, pineapple, strawberries, meringue droplets and marshmellows. With any buffet-style afternoon tea, systematic strategy is required. MoMo & Coco visited four times, sampling 3-4 items each time, and in this way, we only missed out on the chocolate cupcake, carrot cake, the chocolate fountain components and the cheese and crackers.
This was MoMo & Coco’s first plate of irresistibles from the high tea buffet, consisting of fairly traditional, classical dessert fare that is easy on most palates. The first irresistible from this first plate was a square of orange poppyseed cake, with a moist texture and a tiny dollop of cream cheese frosting. The second and third irresistibles were two lemon numbers: a lemon meringue pie possessed a soft meringue swirled on top of a zesty lemon curd base; and a fine and dandy lemon tart with a musketeer troop of glazed orange, kiwi and strawberry conferring a dash of colour.
The second plate of irresistibles selected by MoMo & Coco moved to less fruity, slightly heavier but no less irresistible dessert fare. An eclair was all golden choux pastry encircling a tubular interior of custard. A good French pastry should make a mess when one cuts into it, and it sure did here. A large cube of so very Australian lamington was a disappointing dry vanilla sponge, dipped in chocolate and flecked with coconut. The third irresistible on this second plate was a large upturned cyclinder of robustly-flavoured coffee panna cotta, with a creamy, light texture and flakes of chocolate scattered on top.
For a light intermission, MoMo & Coco’s third plate of irresistibles comprised a quartet of four round morsels. First up from this platter, a trio of pastel macarons possessed the sought-after melt-in-the-mouth texture, but the consequence of tiny dots of ganache filling unfortunately resulted in negligible flavour. The next irresistible was the raspberry financier with juicy morsels of raspberry hidden within golden softness.
MoMo & Coco’s finale plate of irresistibles was an extravaganza of chocolate, sugar, butter, and diabetes. Dusted with icing sugar, a moreish square slice of chocolate brownie was simply baked perfection. With a light chocolate biscuit base, a tart shaped as a chocolate cube cupped silky chocolate. A tower of a mud cake was pure decadence — rich, moist, chocolate, iced over with a luxurious ganache and decorated with twirls of dark and white chocolate.
To cleanse the palate, a large bowl proferring a veritable rainbow of fruit was available.
Overall, although the Sebel Heritage makes no culinary breakthroughs with its high tea, it presents a version that has wide palate appeal. It furthermore comes at a quality, a generosity and a price that puts the sudden influx of other “high tea” offerings in the last 6 months or so, to absolute shame (MoMo & Coco have regrettably partaken in several dismal examples, and according to our blog philosophy, refuse to feature them in this journal-blog). Because of its unfussy, generous approach, and at an accessible price bracket, the Sebel Heritage High Tea offers grandmothers, mothers, daughters, grandaughters and friends (and of course, their male counterparts) an escapade from the grind of urbanism and of life, to retreat, relax and rejuvenate, to breathe in that distintive crisp country air, and to indulge oneself in a languid afternoon tea featuring attentive service, fine surroundings, and the glory of sugar, butter, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate…
- Dessert adventure checklist
- Dessert destination: The Sebel Heritage, Heritage Avenue, Chirnside Park, Yarra Valley, Vic 3116.
- Budget: $$$ ($38.50 pp)
- Sweet irresistibles: High Tea
- Must-eat: Weekend only.
- The short and sweet story: Get-away to a peaceful hamlet in the Yarra Valley Hillsides for a generous buffet high tea.