A Melbourne, London & Hong Kong dessert blog
Dessert buffet-style afternoon tea in a picturesque estate for Mother’s Day 2013.
For Mother’s Day in 2011, we fetched our mother to the Plaza Ballroom for high tea, an experience that remains unsurpassed in Melbourne. For Mother’s Day 2012, we ventured to the gothic Labassa Manor. And this year, last month, we decided in favour of a venue a little less formal that the Plaza Ballroom and a little more universally beautiful than Labassa. The Gables in East Malvern was our choice. As our car rolled into the pebble driveway crunching leaves the colour of marigold and oak, The Gables in East Malvern revealed itself as a splendid Queen Anne-style edifice. Well-loved by brides, it has been serving high tea since late last year in its splendid front parlour rooms and elegant verandahs.
Upon entering, a large table generously laden with a colourful dessert buffet greeted us. The number of people (including us!) who took photos, what a sight! The high tea was held in three high-ceilinged rooms. Draped with white linen, tables were well-spaced, so that one did not feel too claustrophobic at all. Seating were high-backed, plush chairs made for lingering over tea. Framed with beautiful stained glass windows, two of the rooms faced the street. We do recommend you try to reserve a table in either of these two front rooms, for a little more privacy and/or a more romantic ambience. Alternatively, we understand that on particularly warm days, high tea is also served on the verandah. That would be such a delight! For Mother’s Day, a pianist serenaded guests for the first 1.5 hours of the 2 hour seating. This will read very very weird, but the restrooms at The Gables are simply lavish and well worth a quick visit too.
The dining ware itself was of a pretty Chinoiserie style — if we are not mistaken, of a Maxwell & Williams make. Tea was served loose-leaf in individual metal plunger tea pots, but patrons had avail to only one type of tea — black tea. They were re-filled by an entourage of friendly, efficient staff.
Afternoon tea at The Gables was served with the combination of a three-tier stand for the savouries and a dessert buffet. On the lower tier of the three-tier stand were the sandwiches — three types being scrambled egg, salmon and chicken. They were large triangles rather than the traditional rectangle shapes, and were a little unfortunately, dry. The middle plate of the stand featured warm savouries — a miniature, thick-pastry meat pie and a quiche.
The top tier held scones with an ideal soft texture, without too much crumble. They would perhaps have been nicer if withheld and served warm later (as London afternoon tea venues do). Jam and light cream accompanied the scones. A question for you readers: do you put cream or jam first on your scone? And do you squish the scone halves like a burger and chomp or do you eat each halve separately?
Let us not meander anymore. The dessert buffet is surely what you have been waiting oh-so-patiently for us to describe. There was a bridge to heaven made with chocolate wafer cones, each holding a ball of chocolate mousse cream, martini glasses of fresh fruit, squares of rich chocolate brownies, vanilla slices, raspberry frangipanes, tiramisu and almond-flaked slices, white platters of tarts variably piped with chocolate ganache, lemon curd, passionfruit curd and unidentified coloured cream, a stand of butterfly cupcakes and bright macarons and also profiteroles, jelly cups, and espresso mousse mini-mugs. And! Yes, additionally, apothecary glass bottles of liquorice allsorts and marshmallows, and Mediterranean almond cookies. Which were our favourites? Not the tarts, which seemed made of a ready-made supermarket variety, nor the jelly, which were gratingly artificial in taste. Most definitely, the robustly-flavoured tiramisu slices, the espresso mousse mug and the darling little chocolate cones.
There are many things to love about taking tea at The Gables. The setting which fuses old-school beauty with new century spaciousness. The attention that has gone to sourcing prettily patterned plates, as well as efficient, friendly service staff. However, like most afternoon teas in Melbourne, although the generosity of the food cannot be doubted, the quality of the food (especially the desserts which are of greatest concern to these dessert reviewers) is somewhat variable. The tea range ought to be expanded also.Yet perhaps, this detractors are personal pedantries of these dessert reviewers. Rather, it must indeed count for something that after afternoon tea at The Gables for Mother’s Day 2013, our mother was all smiles.Thus, for an afternoon tea that will find easy appeal to three generations of a family, afternoon tea at The Gables is a splendid proposition.
- Dessert adventure checklist
- Dessert destination: The Gables Estate, 15 Finch Street, Malvern East, Vic 3145.
- Budget: $$$ ($65 pp for Mother’s Day; $55 every other day).
- Sweet irresistibles: High Tea.
- Must-eat: High Tea.
- The short and sweet story: Dessert buffet-style afternoon tea in a picturesque estate for Mother’s Day 2013.