Saturday, August 20, 2016

Mrs D’Ebro’s High Tea at InterContinental Melbourne, Melbourne CBD (by invitation) by Benny

‘High Tea’ has always evoked a feeling of decadence for me – more a social outing than a meal; a celebratory extravagance of times past. So I was surprised to learn that it actually started out in the mid 1700s as a no-nonsense working man’s meal served about 3pm, consumed standing up or sitting on tall stools, thus ‘high’. The afternoon extravagance that we now know as High Tea is likely an amalgam of that working man’s meal and the leisure classes’ Afternoon Tea, which was more a social event with tea (tea then being hugely expensive) and light snacks.

High Tea at the Intercontinental - Rialto: savoury and sweet treats
Irrespective of the history, Bilby Blue and I were delighted to be invited to a modern High Tea at the heritage-listed Intercontinental Melbourne – The Rialto. The Intercontinental provides the perfect setting for an indulgent social event from centuries past: it is housed in a beautiful reinvention of two heritage listed buildings from the 1890s – the Wool Exchange and the Rialto Building, both products of the post-gold rush era when Melbourne was the richest city in the world. You enter directly over the bluestone cobbled laneway that runs between the buildings, now transformed into a stunning multistorey atrium that bathes the hotel interior in natural light. The décor is as refined as you would expect from an international class hotel, and the Market Lane Bar (at street level, just inside the Wool Exchange) is a comfortable modern bar. Tables are laid with cloth napery, white crockery and fine, old-fashioned tea cups with a pastel pearlescent glaze.

High Tea at the Intercontinental - Rialto: champagne
The inspiration for the High Tea is Mrs D’Ebro, a society lady who was renowned for her lavish afternoon teas, and whose husband Charles was the architect that designed the Wool Exchange. A collaboration with the Genealogical Society of Victoria lends some authenticity to the experience. Historical afternoon tea menus were reimagined to cater for modern tastes (the tongue sandwiches are no more, and jam doughnuts have been added) and the champagne is Perrier-Jouët (which was available in Melbourne in the 1890s).

High Tea at the Intercontinental - Rialto: espresso martini
Espresso martini

High Tea at the Intercontinental - Rialto: mocktail
On arrival guests were offered a flute of champagne or an espresso martini. We tested the bartender’s non-alcoholic skills and received an excellent mocktail of cranberry and grapefruit juice with a squeeze of lime juice. Being an invitational event, we also sipped some champagne, but decided that adding an espresso martini would be just a bit too much (although it looked spectacular).

High Tea at the Intercontinental - Rialto: fruit scones
On being seated only one further decision was required: to choose from a selection of fine traditional and herbal teas. A very good fruit scone with a touch of spice, served with jam and clotted cream arrived with the tea, soon to be followed by a three-tiered stand of delicacies.

High Tea at the Intercontinental - Rialto: crumbed prawn, beef pie and asparagus quiche
The tier of hot savouries was a panko crumbed prawn with sweet chilli sauce (although the menu described it as a tempura prawn), a petite short-crusted beef and red wine pie, and an asparagus and ricotta quiche tartlet. The prawn was particularly crisp and tasty; the pie and tartlet good examples of the baking arts.

High Tea at the Intercontinental - Rialto: sandwiches
A tier of sandwich fingers was refined and imaginative: ham tomato and rocket on tomato bread; cucumber and cream cheese and dill on spinach bread; and turkey, cranberry jelly and mesclun leaves on whole grain bread – all freshly made with good flavour combinations. The different coloured breads gave the plate an extra fillip.

High Tea at the Intercontinental - Rialto: macarons, brownies, doughnuts, sponge and pralines
And the top tier of sweet treats rounded out the high tea, with a Belgian chocolate brownie topped with whipped cream, a fruit macaron, chocolate praline, blackberry sponge cake, and a raspberry filled mini doughnut. All were first-rate, with the chocolate brownie being especially notable.

We spent a leisurely, and dare I say it, decadent afternoon lounging around, sipping champagne and grazing on a generous selection of excellent savoury and sweet delicacies. Service was excellent.

High Tea at the Intercontinental - Rialto: table setting for tea

Intercontinental - The Rialto: Collins Street, Melbourne


We loved it
We loved it.


Mrs D’Ebro’s High Tea is perfect for just about any special celebration amongst close friends. If I am being very picky, I would have preferred a bit more savoury and a bit less sweet (Bilby did not agree with me).

High Tea is served on Wednesdays through to Sundays. The cost is $65 per person, which includes a glass of champagne or an espresso martini. Bookings are recommended.

Find it at

Market Lane Bar, Intercontinental Melbourne – The Rialto
495 Collins Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Phone: 1800 593 932

Market Lane Bar - Intercontinental Melbourne - The Rialto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

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