Melbourne Restaurant Reviews: The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar

YES, this is yet another Melbourne food blog!

Hotel Windsor (high tea)

100-150 Spring Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9633 6000
http://www.thehotelwindsor.com.au/

There’s something about high tea that sends women into a spin. While I’m a self-confessed tomboy who prefers The Ashes to sashes, Havaianas to wedges and Supercoach to Coach bags, I must admit that the ritual of putting on a pretty floral dress, sitting in fancy surroundings and tucking into a scone at high tea secretly thrills me. So what better place to have high tea in than at the famous Hotel Windsor, the grandest institution in Melbourne? Or so Linda, Shirley and I thought.

We rocked up in time for our 12pm booking one sunny Sunday afternoon, wearing pretty summer frocks. Despite my efforts to doll up though, the humidity was doing all sorts of nasty things to my hair and skin so I was looking like a tree full of owls. But while The Windsor was posh and had an air of 19th century snottiness, the staff were anything but snotty and with friendly smiles, they directed us to a table against the wall.

Built in 1883, the Windsor is Australia’s only surviving ‘grand’ hotel and apparently where bits of the Australian constitution were drafted (like, wow). Despite much criticism about its deteriorating state and its supposedly tired carpeting and outdated decor, I have to say that I was mightily impressed when I walked into the sun-filled lounge area where other ladies (and the odd fellow) were filling in for two hours of scones, teas and all things sugary. As we sat down on the comfortable cushy chairs, I marvelled at all that was around me – linen tablecloths, ornate iron chandeliers and delicate crockery – and hoped that when they get around to renovating this hotel, this room would remain the same.

With our glasses were promptly filled with water and flutes of complimentary (but crappy) sparkling roses given, we were showed our menu for the day before being left alone. At this stage, we thought that we would be offered tea but it didn’t happen. Thinking that they were still in the stages of seating everyone, we decided to let them finish while we sipped our ghastly and sandpaper-dry roses (sorry, I didn’t get the name of it).

We didn’t have to wait long for someone to return to our table, this time carrying a three-tiered silver stand of goodies. From the top, there were scones (two raisin and two plain); in the middle were an assortment of ‘French pastries’ merely consisting of two pork pies, two different types of quiches (times two) and finally, there were cut sandwiches which came with assorted fillings: smoked salmon with creamy avocado & dill, egg, mayonnaise & snow pea tendrils, Virginia ham & Dijon mustard, chicken, apple & mayonnaise and cucumber with sour cream & chives.

And for the scones, double cream and two kinds of jam. It would have been nice to be told what jam was what (we weren’t told) but I’m guessing that the Southern Highland strawberry jam was the intensely sweet one while the one with a slight tang was the summer berry preserve.

What really annoyed me the most was not the quality of food (more later) but the fact that a neighbouring table of two had exactly the same amount of food as we did, and we had an extra person. And while the fact that the whole ‘tapas come in three’ thing irks everyone in Melbourne, especially those who dine in even numbers, the fact that we received two of everything created a more frustrating situation as not everyone was able to try everything. In hindsight, I should have been all “yo, what the f*ck is up with the quantities?” but none of us thought of it at the time. Plus, they would have probably sent me to Eggleston Hall with all the other feral chavs with that sort of language. The photo above depicts how much savoury stuff I devoured in the entire course of the tea. Yeah.

The pies and quiches were alright but nothing to twitter about, and ditto the scones which were not at all fluffy and on the dry side. The jams were not bad though. As for the sandwich? They were boring, dry and tasteless, like they had been sitting around, uncovered, for several hours (they probably were). Things were not going so great.

Another thing that irked me was the service. We had just about finished the tower and were thinking of starting work on the next stage of the tea – the dessert buffet table on the other side of the room – but we still had not been offered any actual TEA to drink! Our waitress eventually came around and asked us if I could like some Windsor Blend tea (when I asked her what sort of tea it was, she said it was “something like an English Breakfast tea.”). Shirley shook her head while I said yes, Linda had not yet given her response but the waitress construed her silence as “no” … and just left the table! Linda DID, in fact, want tea so we had to flag the waitress down. Sigh. The same waitress also seemed to have an issue with filling two of our glasses up with water but running off before she would fill the other empty glass. What the hell was with that?!

After realising that no one was going to ask us what type of tea (from the list on the menu) we would like, we flagged down a different waitress to ask for some non-Windsor Blend tea. A grassy sencha green for Shirley, a chamomile and orange blossom tissane for myself and an exploding flower a ‘glorious blooming tea’ for Linda. There was some slight awkwardness when the teas were being brought out because the waitress and her companion couldn’t remember who had ordered what but they got there.

The next stage was the dessert buffet table where we were free to roam around and sample the desserts on offer. I may not have a massively sweet tooth but you bet your arses I wasn’t going to leave here until I’ve devoured $79 worth of cakes, pastries, puddings and chocolate!

More cakes.

Prettiness! And creme brulee!

They even had ice cream! Unfortunately, I never got to the ice cream stage…

Chocolate fountain!

This was all the dessert I ended up having. After the crappiness that we had to endure for the first half, I was glad that the dessert part fared much better. I wouldn’t say that the desserts were to die for – and certainly no better than the desserts that you can get at buffet restaurants such as Melba at The Langham, for example – but if I had to say ONE good thing about the Windsor afternoon tea experience, this would be it. Props to a lovely, delicate creme brulee and a delicious peanut butter and raspberry slice but the cake that had the biscuit-like macaron half (above) was a bit of a fail as it was a-kg-bag-of-CSR-sugar too sweet.

Unfortunately, I stopped eating after that. I was full, yes, but usually at other place I would have kept on eating to get my money’s worth but the desserts here were not fantastic enough for me to want to eat until I puked. You can say that it’s because I’m not a sweet tooth and that OTHER people would have kept going but Linda and Shirley have the sweetest tooths in the world and they, too, didn’t eat more than I did. That says A LOT.

The three of us left the doors of Hotel Windsor feeling mightily disappointed. $79 for one mini quiche, half a party pie, one scone, three sandwich fingers and one plate of dessert was one helluva rip-off. Yes, I know that high tea isn’t meant to be cheap but when you have places such as Dolls at the Mount that keep people happy at a THIRD of the price and places such as The Langham and The Hyatt that, despite being as ‘toffy’ as Hotel Windsor, don’t charge anywhere near as much as $79, then you know what the problem lies in the guys who organise high tea at Hotel Windsor. You can say that we’re supposed to be paying for the experience of dining at the OMG!WINDSOR! but c’mon, you can go all out on the furnishings and all that but when you have poor service and predominantly insipid food, you’re not going to fool anyone.

Despite our negative experience though, I know that high tea at Hotel Windsor will, unfortunately, always be a popular weekend activity for the ladies of Melbourne. As my workmate, Sean, so eloquently put it, the people at The Windsor realise that “stuff like [this] is popular with gullible women so they just throw anything together.” Hah. We won’t be back.

111 Spring Street Restaurant at the Hotel Windsor on Urbanspoon

22 Comments on Hotel Windsor (high tea)

  1. shirlz
    January 18, 2011 at 21:36 (3 years ago)

    What the feck man, they had ice cream?? I NO SEE!! *wails* And a peanut butter slice?? I NO SEE EITHER!! Now I’m even more cut about having paid so much >:(

    Reply
  2. Hannah
    January 18, 2011 at 21:44 (3 years ago)

    Wow. What a terrible, terrible farce of a high tea. I haven’t been to one myself in over ten years, and yet even I know that 12 year old me had better service than you guys did! Bah, humbug! I hope your next High Tea experience fares better :)

    Reply
  3. Celeste @ Berrytravels
    January 18, 2011 at 22:15 (3 years ago)

    Ouch, that sounds pretty much like my Langham High Tea experience. I’m going to try out the Windsor High Tea this Saturday and after your review, now I’m rather scared of going! So so sorry to hear about your terrible experience. Here’s a tip, don’t go for Langham either. Same ol’ story.

    As for windsor, I’ll still go as a lady never goes back on her promise. And hopefully (as it always tends to be), good company will help ease the disappointment of the crappy food. Or I could be lucky and the chef will have a ‘let’s excel ‘ day! here’s crossing those fingers >___<

    Reply
    • libishski
      January 18, 2011 at 22:44 (3 years ago)

      Was the Langham seriously THAT bad? ‘cos that place was next on our list… oh noes =/

      Reply
    • Nicole
      January 21, 2011 at 08:29 (3 years ago)

      After you go to Windsor could you report back on which is better between it and the langham am seriously intrigued to book some sort of choc indulgence for when I visit Melbourne.
      It would be so appreciated.
      Thanks

      Reply
      • Celeste @ Berrytravels
        January 25, 2011 at 08:56 (3 years ago)

        Definitely the windsor was better. The desserts were much better made, they actually have a flavour other than sweet! I enjoyed my time immensely on windsor.

        Reply
  4. Faith
    January 18, 2011 at 23:38 (3 years ago)

    I can’t believe the quantities they served…and to not even be offered tea until so late in the meal is really the icing on the cake! Hope you have a better experience if you have high tea somewhere else.

    Reply
  5. nicole
    January 20, 2011 at 16:18 (3 years ago)

    hey
    am coming to melbourne and wanted to do a high tea buffet.
    saw your posts on the langham and windsor and apparently the sofitel has a chocolate indulgence as well.
    which do you recommend still the langham even though the windsor has ice cream and crepe stations and a chocolate fountain?
    be honest… ( i know obligation since the langham shouted you the high tea is to be positive)
    also any MUST-DOs eating out/food wise you can recommend in melbourne.
    xx nicole

    Reply
    • libishski
      January 21, 2011 at 21:05 (3 years ago)

      Hi Nicole, thanks for stopping by.

      Although I HAVE been to the Langham for a buffet dinner, I haven’t actually been there for high tea so I can’t say whether I can recommend it for high tea. I haven’t been to the Sofitel either but that (and the Langham) is definitely on my list and so are a few smaller places :)

      As for restaurant recommendations in Melbourne, what sort of places are you after? Casual? Fine-dining? What cuisine? How much are you willing to pay? Location? etc.

      Reply
      • nicole
        January 23, 2011 at 20:36 (3 years ago)

        good cafes for brekkie in south yarra, some nice dinner restaurants that aren’t too expensive- maybe your best pizza or sushi suggestions- am staying in south yarra so within i guess a 15-min drive frmo there.
        i’ve heard great things about mamasita (i love mexican), cumulus inc and movida (but which movida?!)i dont know if you’ve been to sydney but sort of the equivalent of fratelli fresh’s cafe sopra. around the $20-$30
        what are your thoughts?
        i also have an uncontrollable sweet tooth- so any must trys in that sense would be welcomed! thanks
        x

        Reply
  6. msihua
    January 20, 2011 at 20:24 (3 years ago)

    Oh my.. I think the Windsor is over rated.. despite the fact that I quite liked the sandwiches on my tier… but I couldn’t eat most of the pasties because it was meat pies… and I ate a lot of crepes… which also did not amount to $79… quality seems to be going down here… a pity.. I want to go Dolls now!

    Reply
  7. Nouveau Potato
    February 18, 2011 at 15:06 (3 years ago)

    Love your blog!! I went to Shanghai Street Dumpling the other day. Was nice, casual, enjoyable.

    Reply
  8. neeno
    February 27, 2012 at 22:58 (2 years ago)

    I went High tea on Saturday at the Windsor! Naturally I checked out your blog first and Urbanspoon. I’m guessing the $79 is for the high tea experience. The food was nice, but not “omg YUM!!” the tea was good, i enjoyed the tea. We were seated in the Winston room, was was a bit disappointing cos we were away from the buffet and other fancy ppl, but I left the booking too late, so my fault. Main reason I wanted to go to high tea despite mediocre reviews was because I wanted to take my little sister for her 18th bday, and I handmade dresses for my sister and I to wear. The dresses were kinda vintage looking (on my blog if u want to see), and this 1883 hotel was the only place I thought we could show them off. I had a nice “experence” and our waiter due “Rahim” was lovely. It’s something I had to do once so i didn’t mind the price, but yeah, my aunty hosted a high tea last year, and it was just as nice. More food too :)

    Reply
    • libishski
      February 28, 2012 at 22:18 (2 years ago)

      Yeah, I guess having high tea at The Windsor is a must-do experience – more like crossing off an item off your bucket list, really.

      Reply
  9. Naomi
    June 12, 2012 at 16:17 (2 years ago)

    Sad to say not much has changed since your experience some months ago. My husband had a ‘significant’ birthday and was given an Indulgent Arvo Tea for 2 at Hotel Windsor. I can honestly say without too much effort I could do far better with service and selection than we experienced. I feel rather disappointed. They print a fancy menu with what they MIGHT serve – if you get REALLY lucky! Ho hum…..

    Reply
    • libishski
      June 13, 2012 at 15:44 (2 years ago)

      Haha a ‘menu with what they MIGHT serve’ – that’s a good one!

      I agree with you. For that price, you’d think that there would be a greater selection!

      Reply
  10. Lauren
    August 22, 2012 at 12:06 (2 years ago)

    Wow, I went to this as well many years ago with my auntie and family and we thought it would be wonderful and worth the money. Our experience as well was really bad service including a refusal to offer a complimentary hot chocolate instead of a tea or coffee for one of our party, insipid food, and total disappointment. Of particular note was the terrible pavlova (my mother makes them brilliantly so it was really disappointing that theirs was so terrible. It seems that are quite consistent in providing a bad experience.

    Reply
    • libishski
      August 22, 2012 at 21:23 (2 years ago)

      I can’t believe they refused to swap your tea or coffee for a hot chocolate! It’s not like they’d be losing money either just by doing it…

      Reply
  11. MikhaelfBlue
    November 19, 2012 at 16:00 (1 year ago)

    Was going to book Hotel Windsor’s high tea until I came across your blog and found out a table of three got the same amount of food as a table of two. I totally agree with you, what’s up with that – one person would have paid for nothing. Not going to visit until I have an even numbers of diners!!!

    Reply
    • libishski
      November 24, 2012 at 20:14 (1 year ago)

      Definitely a great idea to make sure that there is an even number of diners in your group!

      Reply
  12. ellen
    April 17, 2014 at 20:51 (4 days ago)

    we were a table of 12 from western Australia and were sooo looking forward to this treat. I am sorry to say I recommended it as I had been before.
    I was interested to see you were served savouries as we were not apart from some very long ribbon sandwiches.. the ho hum pastries and ok scones on stands which were bent and need of some repair we another disappointment.
    the sandwiches seemed to contain processed ham. we didn’t eat them.
    the coffee tasted like nescafe when it was finally served and the tea was not hot enough.
    we were invisible after we had all the food on the table.
    the staff was not well trained and seemed more interested in talking to each other than look after us.
    very disappointed after our earlier experiences will never go again and will not recommend it to others.

    Reply

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