A while back I interviewed my dear friend Alison. This year marks the 20th anniversary of us knowing each other, so we went on a date to the State Library of Victoria for high tea.
High tea was part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. The idea behind it was to have food inspired by some of the collection that the SLV has: there’s heaps of ephemera from various people important to Victoria’s history including place cards-cum-menus for dinner parties, an awesome fold-out fan menu from a Melbourne Cricket Club event, old Jimmy Watson menus, and what is apparently the oldest cookbook printed in Australia: one for different flavours of ice cream. We got to see a bunch of this stuff – it’s not usually on display, so that was fun.
The food was also good. The prosecco was lovely and the English breakfast tea not stewed, which is always a concern… The sandwiches were delicious, with the chicken and pear and basil being quite a surprise but definitely a winner. I think my favourite of the sweet things was the chocolate waffle tartlet with salted caramel; I ate the popcorn but eh, I always think it’s a waste of space. The scones were not as light as I had expected; they were still tasty, as was the jam. The bachelor’s buttons were the big surprise – really quite tasty. And oh look, a recipe from the National Museum!
It was one of those sit-with-other-people events. We were the only people not with our mothers, on our table (one group was three generations). It was a very popular Christmas gift apparently.
It was a lovely event, in a lovely space.
The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival has featured fairly heavily in our Marchs the last few years – some things by ourselves, some things with some equally foody/wine passionate friends. We’ve done French, we’ve done Spanish, we’ve done Middle Eastern and Japanese; some have been incredibly overpriced and eye-rolly while others have been staggeringly good value and amazingly good food.
This year we’ve done just two events, which is feeling really sparse now that they’re both done but it’s a shortened Festival this year… and it does mean we’re saving money. So I guess that’s good.
The first was “Melbourne meets Barcelona”, at a Spanish place in Hawthorn, with friends. It was… ok. It was a lot smaller than other venues I’ve been to which was nice. There were six courses, and they were nicely varied, but there was no course that I thought was amazing. One course was abalone… and I think I preferred the manchego-infused rice. The steak was ok but it was just steak. The dessert was weird: shortcrust pastry with a fig paste and then an almond milk cream of some sort, then with pieces of three different cheeses plonked on top. Like I said: Weird. Probably the greatest discovery of the evening, to be honest, was the Spanish vermouth. Totally in love. I also preferred the Australian wines (one from the Pyrenees, another from Heathcote) over most of the Spanish. I didn’t actually finish the sparkling wine *gasp*.
Our second event was at the Hellenic Museum: Hellenic High Tea. My beloved was a bit dubious but he was pretty impressed when we walked through the Hellenic Museum (which I’ve been meaning to visit for maybe a decade) and there was an amazing courtyard and pavilion with tables and chairs. In the middle of the city. For this one, we were seated at a mixed table of six. Two of the other people were quite happy to chat, and we had occasional interesting conversations. The other two… yeh. For a start they were pretty young, so maybe they had never been on a mixed table like that before. They barely spoke to each other. There were phones out. The beloved hypothesised that this was a gift that they weren’t wild about. I mean, they didn’t even eat everything. What even I do not understand.
Because oh, the food. It was pretty classic high tea food, but the Greek twist was wonderful. Chicken sandwich… with preserved lemon and dill. Gougeres… with oregano and feta (actually that wasn’t my favourite but still). Spanakopita, braised lamb cigarillos, pistachio macarons (SWOON), and it was just wonderful overall. The Greek island iced tea was
excellent. I’d gone for the ‘drink on arrival’ option – the sparkling was ok but I’m told the frappe martini was a bit like having cold coffee. The presentation of all of the food was great, the ambiance was lovely (a warm day but we were in shade; a trio of maybe-uni-students playing entirely background-worthy music; two of the most spectacular arrangement of dahlias I have ever seen in my life).
I’m already looking forward to seeing the advance programme for 2017.