Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hopetoun Tea Rooms, Melbourne CBD by Big Fil

Everyone has slightly embarrassing comfort food options which they don't often share. Two of mine are chip or twistee rolls and afternoon tea. I just love the air of refined gentility of the best tea rooms, the way the rest of the world seems shut off for an hour or two while indulging in polite conversation, tea and dainty sandwiches or scones.

A survivor from when the ladies who lunch used to promenade around the Block arcade, Hopetoun Tea Rooms must be one of the longest established eateries in Melbourne. It also has one the best shop front windows. The cakes look delicious behind the big glass and included on the day we visited lime tarts, pavlovas, crumbles and Portuguese tarts.

Small in size the tea room is popular resulting in a ten minute wait for a table to become free. Patrons were an interesting mix of visitors from out of town, those who appeared to be regulars and passersby like ourselves drawn in by the window display.

Inside is decorated in what is (to me) a tired old Victorian or Edwardian theme which surprisingly still works. The wall paper is an unattractive shade of green, one wall almost covered in a huge mirror decorated with Roman or Greek mythological themes. Rather than being off putting though it does contribute to the feeling that you have entered one of those places that time has forgotten somehow.

Our indulgences of the day were a series of sandwiches off the menu and cakes from the window. The pinwheel sandwiches looked appropriately delicate.

The Rubens and beef with horseradish sandwiches were tasty.

Vegetarian options were a little lacking though Ms No Meat was able to specifically request an avocado, cheese and lettuce sandwich which staff were happy to make up for her.

The cakes though were what had attracted us in but reactions were a bit mixed. We all agreed that the pecan tart wasn't really up to scratch, lacking in caramel flavours and could have done with the addition of a few more pecans.

The other cake we all agreed on was the lime tart, a little bit sweet, a little bit sour, and more than a little bit delicious.

Where we differed in view was on the lamington and the vanilla slice. Personally I liked them both. The lamington was light, delicate and moist, the vanilla slice fresh with a creamy textured filling. I suspect the issue was more that the cakes were made to suit slightly different tastes, in particular Ms Counting her Calories and Ms No Meat preferring a more custardy filling for the slice.

Not somewhere I'd want to have lunch every day but fun for the occasional visit. Other than the sandwiches and cakes a number of savoury options are available, such as a ploughman's lunch, Shepherd's Pie and a variety of special 'Chef's Favourites' which seems to change every visit. Staff were friendly although food did take a little while to come out and the prices are reasonable.

If you are happy to suspend any cynicism about tea rooms being the preserve of little old ladies and don't expect everything to be the same quality as High Tea at the Ritz not a bad option in the middle of the city.

Food - 7.5
Service - 7.5
Ambience - 7
Price - 6.5

Block Arcade
282 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9650 2777

Hopetoun Tea Rooms on Urbanspoon

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