5 Places to Try Australia's Take on High Tea


The British tradition of high tea began in the mid 1700s and was initially a meal for the working man. Served between 3pm and 4pm, it was taken standing up or seated on 'high' stools, and consisted of tea with cakes, scones and cheese on toast.

Over time, the idea of high tea shifted towards social calendars of ladies and gentlemen, becoming an important event in high society circles. For the 'Leisure Classes', high tea served a practical purpose – a chance for the privileged to enjoy a substantial meal before attending the theatre or playing cards.

It was around this time that John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, had the idea of placing meat and other fillings between two slices of bread. Thus, the high tea sandwich was created.

Today, Australia is home to a large number of swanky hotels and panoramic open-air hideaways that love to put a modern twist on the traditional British high tea. Still serving classics such as crustless finger sandwiches and freshly baked scones, these establishments also present inventive twists on tradition with inclusions such as mimosas, warm savoury pastries and surprisingly large collections of tea.

Know someone who loves a high tea? Gift them the dining experience with a Good Food Gift Card and they can indulge in any of the places listed below.

Where to go for high tea

GPO – Bendigo

GPO Bendigo accommodates many types of functions right in the heart of the CBD. Spaces include the dining room, courtyard, and the balcony room, which overlooks Bendigo's beautiful and historic streetscape.

GPO Bendigo offers diners the chance to pre-book a decadent high tea experience in its central location, at a cost of $37.50 per person. Including a glass of sparkling on arrival, you can enjoy selections such as salmon, cucumber and dill cream cheese sandwiches, spinach, pumpkin and feta quiche, date scones with whipped caramel butter and pistachio and passionfruit macarons.

Pullman Cairns International – Cairns

Located on the lobby level of Pullman Cairns International Hotel, Coco's Restaurant is one of the best places to eat in Cairns. Famous for its nightly seafood buffet and elegant high tea, Coco's is the perfect place for any celebration.

For fans of high tea, there's little chance for disappointment. The hotel itself is beautiful, and the foyer is a wonderful start to what is a sophisticated and memorable experience. As for the high tea, there are four menus to choose from! You'll find 3-tiered silver stands packed with cute finger sandwiches, pork belly wontons, fresh fruit, assorted cakes and pastries, petit fours, and of course scones with jam and cream, and this can all be washed down with a wide selection of teas, champagne or delicious cocktails.

Lenzerheide Restaurant – Hawthorn

When you dine at the award-winning Lenzerheide Restaurant you'll experience sumptuous elegance and the best fine dining that Adelaide has to offer. The highly trained and friendly staff compliment the elegant surroundings, and a sumptuous menu focused on local produce ensures lunch and dinner are always memorable.

For those looking for afternoon tea, Lenzerheide's high tea is a truly magnificent affair. Welcomed with a glass of sparkling wine, you'll be escorted to a crisp white linen table to find a selection of mixed sandwiches and savouries, house made scones with jam and cream, an assortment of petite sweet treats and a wide selection of specialty teas and coffee.

Bookings must be made 24 hours in advance and gluten free options are available on request.

Peppers Beach Club & Spa – Palm Cove

Peppers Beach Club & Spa offers the ideal setting to soak in the ocean views while staff treat you to a classic high tea. Served on a three-tiered stand in the stunning Lime and Pepper Restaurant, or beside the pool if you so wish, you can enjoy a complimentary glass of sparkling, homemade scones, Daintree chocolate dipped seasonal tropical fruits, Atherton Tableland lemon curd tartlets with finger lime caviar, wattleseed tiramisu, mini quiches and traditional finger sandwiches. All from $35 per person.

Chef Thomas Ege is internationally renowned and has worked throughout Europe's hatted restaurants as well as the Cayman Islands. Having cooked for the former president of the Soviet Union, the Crown Prince of Qatar and the Chancellor of Germany, Thomas knows what it is to serve a great afternoon tea.

The Botanical – South Yarra

Every Sunday from 1pm to 6pm, The Botanical's Main Bar offers a tea party like no other. As well as enjoying American-style barbecued meats from the Bulleit Bourbon Smoker, you'll find the Pimms Cocktail Bar and Bulleit Bourbon Bar. No reservations are necessary.

The Botanical is a sophisticated drinking and dining destination, perfectly situated on the edge of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Having undergone a massive $4 million renovation, The Botanical is where the "cool people" hang and its multi-faceted style makes it ideal for alfresco-loving diners, serious drinkers, families and private events.

What to expect

While high tea is no longer the pearls and fancy dress that it used to be, it is still suggested that you dress appropriately for high tea. A high tea should include various selections of leaf tea, however, you will most likely be offered sparkling wine and coffee also. Finger sandwiches without the crusts are the norm, as are scones with jam and cream. If you have a particular favourite or are really hungry, your tea sommelier will be happy to bring you some more sandwiches, pastries or cakes.

High tea is about attentive service, great food and a relaxing atmosphere in which you can wile away the afternoon hours. Enjoy!

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Mireille Kilgour

Mireille Kilgour

Mireille Kilgour has been an entrepreneur for 35 years in the hospitality sector. French born, she has been an accomplished business owner and operator for a number of Sydney venues. Leading the industry with high profile institutions such as Lamrock Café Bondi, she has endless passion for the industry, and now has the pleasure of supporting restaurants to fill their tables with the new Good Food Gift Card program.