The Block Arcade,
Shop 1 & 2, 282 Collins St Melbourne
Date visited: 23rd October 2012
Who doesn't know the Hopetoun, the charming, old worldly Victorian tea room hidden in the splendour of the Block Arcade. We have passed it many times, staring at the extraordinary window display of glistening tarts, cheesecakes, spongecakes, enormous Swissrolls, cream filled lamingtons, macarons and pavlovas, marvelling at the queues outside at any time of the day.
It was AS' birthday and she had always wanted to try the High Tea at the Hopetoun Tea Rooms. We did some research and knew that they required 48 hours notice for the high tea, so we booked it online four days in advance. The online reservation option was not the easiest to navigate and it was also quite inconvenient that payment was to be made at the booking. Not only that, but we were notified the next day it was already fully booked so our payment had to be fully refunded.
No matter. The three of us decided to just show up anyway and order from their menu. We got there at around 11.30am on a weekday, and surprisingly there was no queue so we could walk straight in. =D
Upon entering the tea room, it felt like we had stepped into another world where ladies donning gloves and hats sat chatting and sipping tea over scones and pinwheel sandwiches and no ladette behaviour was allowed. The lighting was dim, and the green flower wallpapered room was packed almost back to back with small tables of diners.
On the far end was a feature wall with a gorgeous etched mirror.
They had either the Breakfast or Lunch Menu and the Chef's favourites. Check out their website for the whole menu. They didn't have a list of their cakes, so you had to actually go outside and check out the display, which was a bit bizarre getting up and down after you were already seated. Here are some photos of the cakes in the display - you will be totally spoilt for choice.
AS and I wanted something light for our meal and have cakes for dessert after. We couldn't decide on what to get from the Breakfast/ Chef favourites menu, so we asked also for the list of sandwiches on the Lunch Menu. Our poor waitress was patient although her smile looked slightly strained at the end LOL.
* Sorry, the lighting was fairly dim so my camera flash was acting up and my pictures were either too dark or too bright. The cashier also took the receipt with the breakdown on prices in the end, so I don't have the price for each separate item either.
AS had her usual latte. She said it was strong, pretty good.
They have a long list of organic teas to choose from. MerlinFan had the Snow White, which was apple, raspberry, rose-hip white tea. I had What A Pear, which was green tea and pear.
AS and I shared two light lunches. AS chose the Toasted Ham & Cheese Croissant. Beautifully toasted, light and flaky yet buttery with delicious ham and cheese. It was a really good croissant.
I chose the Welsh Rarebit, which was spice cheddar cheese and Bechamel sauce melted over thick white toast with a garden salad. Loved the bread, but would have liked the salad with some sort of vinaigrette rather than olive oil. It's just my preference - never liked how olive oil just gives the greens a tasteless, oily feel.
MerlinFan, forever the sweet tooth, couldn't wait to have dessert like a normal person and just had to have her Pavlova whilst we were having our mains. @_@
MerlinFan thought the pavlova was to die for. The meringue had a crisp crust with a soft, light inside and a slightly chewy centre. It was topped off with cream, drizzled with passionfruit sauce and laden with fresh strawberries, blueberries, kiwifruit and orange which complemented the sweetness beautifully. My only peeve was the fact that they left the skin and leaves on the fruit... but I'm nitpicking here.
Now AS and I couldn't come to Hopetoun without having dessert. LOL so MerlinFan had second dessert sharing ours.
Argh! Too many choices!!! Initially I was totally tempted by the Red Velvet Swiss Roll or the Lemon Lime and Pear Tart or the Apple Raspberry Crumble... too many choices!!! Grrr.... However after the mains I suddenly had a craving for chocolate so we settled on the Toberone Chocolate Cheesecake.
Yum!!! The Toberone chocolate was rich without being overly sweet and there was a nice crunch of pistachios and biscuit base for texture. Sooo indulgently good!
Our other dessert was the Mixed Berry Frangipane Tart. It was subtly fragrant, complemented very nicely by the blueberries and strawberries. I loved the berry sauce on the side as well.
As soon as we finished, our empty plates were whisked away, instantly replaced by our bill on a saucer placed on our table. I didn't mind having our bill appear magically without our asking - there was a long queue outside by now and they needed the tables.
Overall, a satisfying birthday lunch for all of us. Looking back, I was really glad we didn't end up having the high tea, for the pieces of petit fours (which we were most keen on trying) on the three-tiered stands around us were really petite, and for $50 per person, it was probably more worth it to order your own.
However, I see now the long queues are not just a gimmick - their light mains are pretty good and they have a huge range of organic teas and coffees. I would definitely recommend their cakes - we all agreed we would all would love to return and try the other mains and cakes in the display, and it is somewhere I would definitely bring friends and other family members from overseas.
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