A classically elegant afternoon tea with bespoke themed sweets.
From across the river, the Langham Hotel in Melbourne has always looked like a crown-shaped building to these Dessert Correspondents. Whereas its facade is all severe geometric lines, the Langham’s interior features sinuous curves and a strikingly plush atmosphere. Afternoon tea is taken in the Aria Bar, which is accessed by scaling the front elevator, strolling across a spacious hotel lobby decked out with gilt mirrors and French-style cabriole leg chairs, and ascending the cascading dual stairwell studded with various water fountain sculptures and large floral centrepieces.
By contrast to the opulent, chandelier-bright hotel lobby, the Aria Bar is a moody place, furnished in a palette of cool charcoal and warmer browns. Various latticed screens create some sense of privacy between patrons seated on soft, squishy cream chairs that surround low-set tables.
During the few weeks of Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival, the Langham Melbourne hosted a themed afternoon tea in their signature “pink” colour. On the afternoon of MoMo & Coco’s visit, we took our tea at the Aria Bar. The tea setting at the Langham was plain, boring white. *Sigh.* We really would love to see lovely painted porcelain dining ware feature in a Melbourne high tea someday. However, the rest of the tea setting was most commendable. Sugar cubes, rather than loose packet sugar was available. The selection of tea available was delightfully diverse (and loose-leaf!), though not as numerous as the one we encountered earlier this year during afternoon tea at the Intercontinental Melbourne. There were four unique house blends (the strong Langham Blend, for example) and also traditional English breakfast, early grey, and herbal infusions. We selected a house blend, the very fragrant Palm Court Blend, a subtle Chinese white tea infused with hibiscus flowers, rose hip and rose petals. It arrived commendably loose-leaf in a very heavy silver pot. And it poured out pink!! 🙂
Afternoon tea at the Langham was presented as a traditional three-tiered affair, properly arranged with savouries at the bottom, scones in the middle and sweet irresistibles at the top.
There were four varieties of ribbon sandwiches — chicken mayonnaise, cucumber and water cress, egg and mayonnaise and cream cheese and chives. There was also a pinwheel sandwich of smoked salmon. They were properly soft in bite, but as insatiable sweet-tooths, we always feel that ribbon sandwiches waste stomach space.
Each afternoon tea participant availed herself to two small slightly misshapen scones, one studded with raisins. The scones were accompanied by shallow dishes of strawberry jam, butter and thick cream. The jam was thick and flavoursome, just the way we like it. Not drippy, not sugary, not crystalline. We thought the butter unnecessary, and would have rather preferred it replaced with lemon curd. There was nothing to fault with the pillowy, non-crumbly scones. However, they were not held back as the English hotels do, so they were served room temperature rather than oven toasty. We still have yet to come across an afternoon tea venue in Australia that follows this practice. Just out-of-the-oven scones are far more memorable!
The “Tickled Pink” theme of the afternoon tea was expressed in the presentation of the five petite sweet irresistibles.
To cleanse the palate, we started with the White Chocolate-Dipped Strawberry with cute curls of pink-toned white chocolate. Such a naughty little bite!
This was followed by the Jam Meringue Kiss, a lip-shaped morsel of pure chalky meringue dusted with pink flicks.
The Pink Lemonade Macaron was more crunchy pink biscuit than a macaron. We failed to detect any pink lemonade tone. Dear readers, for a more sublime pink lemonade macaron, allow us to direct you to one of our favourite Melbourne macaron specialty sweet boutiques, La Belle Miette.
We stepped up the sugar marathon with the Pink Velvet Cupcake, an airy dainty thing with a very indulgent cream frosting. It was fine, but a traditional red velvet cupcake will always have our hearts.
We ended with the miniature tumbler of Raspberry Pannacotta. It was a relief from the previous sugary irresistibles — creamy, but light in texture, any sweetness counterbalanced with its tangy raspberry elements.
Afternoon Tea at the Langham Hotel Melbourne is a classical affair. The setting is appropriately hush-hush, the theme of the food considered in expression. But, when we compare it to our most memorable Palm Court Bijoux afternoon tea at its London counterpart, the standard of artisanship in pastry-making and the level of service at the Langham Hotel Melbourne is not quite on par. It is because of these factors that the Langham’s afternoon tea is a little difficult to distinguish from what other heritage Melbourne hotel are simultaneously offering. Nonetheless, we would recommend taking tea at the Langham as an introduction to the tradition or as the most reliable, elegant outing of all the hotel afternoon teas in Melbourne.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: The Langham Hotel Melbourne, 1 Southgate Avenue, Southbank, Melbourne, Vic 3006.
- ☑ Budget: $$$ ($49 pp).
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: High Tea.
- ☑ Must-eat: Buffet on the weekend, traditional 3-tier during the week, and themed events occasionally.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: A classically elegant afternoon tea with bespoke themed sweets.