The Bestie had been keen to try out one of the handful of high tea offerings in Perth so when my birthday rolled around last month, she insisted that she shout us to an afternoon at the Duxton Hotel. A sterling idea as I hadn’t had the chance to partake in high tea since Leaf sprouted in Cottesloe some years ago.
To be honest, up until last Sunday my participation in high tea was entirely limited to Leaf and Sheraton on the Park in Sydney. I sadly haven’t experienced the lofty heights of high tea bliss as served at the Raffles in Singapore or Hong Kong’s Peninsula. Nonetheless, my benchmark was set reasonably high as the Sheraton’s spread was certainly intended to impress an equally cosmopolitan and international clientele.
The sad thing about Perth is that quite often, trends are introduced to our fair shores with the filter set at ‘mediocre’. It’s almost as if the assumption is that since a large proportion of the population won’t know any better, it’s OK to serve up mediocrity so that our collective benchmark remains low. It’s only when competition increases exponentially with demand that we start seeing amazing food happening in Perth and we start moving away from safe fare. I’ve seen this happen with tapas and gourmet burger joints. Just once, it would be good to see a food trend explode in the west with a huge bang, but I digress…
I am happy to report that high tea at the Duxton Hotel was a lovely affair. I state this now before people take my creeping cynicism as an indication that my review is to the contrary. As the Bestie pointed out, the Duxton isn’t blessed with a stunning outlook like some other high tea venues (C Restaurant comes to mind but according to Wannabe Gourmand, the restaurant’s magnificent 360 degrees view of Perth doesn’t lessen the pain that is the high tea experience thereof). There is no body of water to gaze over while sipping tea but there is a bit of big city glamour in taking tea on the Terrace (OK, on a Sunday afternoon there is nary a soul in the CBD, but just go with me on this).
On arrival, we were promptly attended to and escorted to our sunlit table for two. Crisp linen tablecloth and napkins. Check. Water glasses. Check. Menu ready for perusal. Check. So far so good. There was nothing complicated with the Duxton’s high tea set up. You either had your high tea with tea or with tea and sparkling wine. The selection of food was good and served on a tiered stand (de rigueur in High Tea World); a nice balance of savouries and sweets, but admittedly nothing to write home to mother about either. Shall I say, the food was safe? Isn’t that a dirty word on Masterchef?
Anyway, I can’t criticise a menu for being safe too harshly if it’s been made well and tastes good. The savoury bites consisted of sandwiches made with lovely grainy bread with fillings of brie and smoked ham, smoked salmon, egg and saffron mayonnaise, and goats cheese with basil and tomato. Unfortunately for The Bestie who found herself to be newly pregnant for the second time, all those items were verboten. The staff was pretty accommodating in coming up with alternatives, even if the Bestie was left with a consolation prize of bread, chutney, lettuce and hard cheese. I therefore highly recommend that you advise the Duxton (or any other high tea venue) if you have specific dietary requirements.
Once the savouries were scoffed and washed down with tea, we moved on to the next tier of goodies. Petit fours of chocolate tarts, shortbread, diced fruit with saffron floss and custard in a tart shell. All were good except the comparatively uninspiring shortbread which we both bypassed for the next tier: scones and carrot cake. Scones were accompanied by a lovely, dark strawberry jam and double cream. The carrot cakes (disguised as muffins) were suitably tasty but quite possibly too big given there’s just so much food to consume overall.
The tea menu was also well balanced with the inclusion of fruity, zesty teas for those inclined that way, and more traditional drops like Darjeeling (the Bestie went for this) and spicy chai. I chose a tea of orange and cinnamon which was surprisingly not overpowering and didn’t distract my tastebuds from the business end of high tea: the food. I was also happy to see that the range of tea available could be listed on one sheet of A5 paper. As much as Leaf impresses with its repertoire of tea, their menu always gave me a minor stress headache.
The Duxton’s staff was very attentive and polite. I couldn’t fault them at all. The only hiccup of sorts was the failure of the kitchen to finish our little spoons of diced fruit with the saffron Persian fairy floss. We hadn’t even noticed until other nearby patrons were delivered their stands. We pointed this out to one waiter who definitely had that look of ‘you’ve got to be kidding’ on her face. She suggested politely that the kitchen may have run out (not likely since we got served first…) and asked if we wanted some brought to our table. Bad response. She should have simply said that she’ll get some for us, not make us feel like pedantic bogans who were out to get exactly what they were paying for. I’d like to add here that the floss went wonderfully with the fruit. Nay, it completed the fruit.
Looking at various high tea menus online, I think the Duxton charges reasonably and you certainly felt like you were getting value for money. We couldn’t finish everything on the stand (and yes, we contemplated sneaking the shortbread into our bags). Location-wise, there’s easy parking next door at the Concert Hall and as the hotel is located in the quiet part of the Terrace, you can avoid the riff raff of Sunday afternoon shopping.
I’d happily come back for another serve.
1 St Georges Terrace
Perth WA 6000
(08) 9261 8000