107-111 Victoria Avenue
Albert Park VIC 3206
+61 3 9699 9744
And so the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival party continues. We decided to focus on sweets this time, and with a handful of high tea events taking place at various venues around the city we decided that it was our duty to attend one of them. While most of the high tea events were pretty generic, there was one that caught my eye: the Port-a-Portea high tea at Hotel Nest. Described on the festival’s web site as a ‘designer afternoon tea… inspired by the latest fashion collections, including IT bags and shoes, and designs by Chanel and Prada”, Shirley and Linda exclaimed, ‘SOLD!’ before I could point my finger at the event and say, “I Jimmy Choo-choo-choose you.” A booking was made two weeks beforehand which then had to be changed because Linda realised she had double-booked (what normal girl chooses the air show over high tea? Pffft). A cancellation fee would have normally been charged on my credit card, the number of which was given to the lady at the time of my initial booking, but thankfully they let me off this time.
Located in charming Victoria Avenue and 10 mins from the beach, Hotel Nest well, nestles snugly between rows of little shops, cafe and residential apartments. The main bar looks like any gastro pub but in the function rooms upstairs, the polished timber and white walls combined with a cute DJ spinning some chill-out music created a scene that was both classy yet modern at the same time. The little bird cages dangling from the ceiling were also a cute little touch too. I, however, wasn’t sure about the random placing of Prada and Chanel shopping bags all over the tables in the room though – I thought that they were cute, yet a bit try-hardy.
Shirls and I sat on a rather smallish table in the middle of one of the rooms and took in the scene while the room began to fill with pretty fillies dressed to the nines in silk and lace dresses, stilettos *this* high and foundation *this* thick. I looked at my simple sundress, which was bought from General Pants Co, and my coral Bloch ballet flats. And sighed. But not to worry, for each table had a tea menu, telling us what teas were available, fastened onto a clipboard with an Hermès ribbon. That made us feel fashionable. Heh.
Having read negative reviews of Hotel Nest’s (normal) food, I was actually worried what high tea was like here. Still, I told myself, it can’t be worse than the afternoon we had at Hotel Windsor so with an optimistic smile, I accepted my Lavender Love cocktail from our host whose name I couldn’t remember except that she looks a lot like Alyssa Sutherland but shorter. And ditzier. The cocktail was ridiculously sweet but good. Real good. Made with a splash of Veuve, apple cider, honey, lemon and a spring of lavender. The first time I took a sip, I almost choked as the sweetness was overpowering, but the more I drank, the more I liked.
Our savouries arrived. Each of us were given a plate of sandwiches and a cut of ham and cranberry baguette. From L-R: cucumber and cream cheese, curried egg and chicken and chive. I thought it was odd that they would cut the sandwiches in halves rather than quarters (sandwiches look prettier in quarters!) but it was much more than what the jokers at Hotel Windsor gave us so I didn’t whinge. While the baguette was perhaps a little flat and bland, I thought the sandwiches were alright – not the best I’ve had but they didn’t suck (well, except for the cucumber sandwich which Shirley thought was ‘tasteless’).
For some reason, the other tables were getting their sweets towers before us. This annoyed us a little bit because we were seated earlier, and long finished our sandwiches. Faux Alyssa Sutherland was nowhere to be seen and our tea cups remained empty. Luckily, our tower came before we really started to get cranky. It was a simple tower which was not jam-packed to say the least but the vibrant colours and the funny shapes of all the sweets that we were about to devour got us all excited.
Top tier: a luscious chocolate mousse and a creamy blueberry and vanilla panacotta competed for attention while sundry ‘fashion items’ surrounded them. There was a wisp of Persian fairy floss which I took to be a scarf or a shawl, a Tiffany’s gift box (which was a pound cake covered in that trademark Robin’s egg-coloured icing) and a rich dark chocolate crocodile Hermès Birkin masquerading itself as a Chanel. As for that biscuit on the left? I have no idea what it’s trying it to – it just looks like something Claudia Kishi would wear as an earring.
Middle tier: there was a square made out of dark chocolate and strawberry, a lovely combination of bitter, sweet and sour all packed into one block; a honeycomb slice that was not too sweet but still needed a bit of oomph, oomph, baby; a pistachio macaroon[sic] that was more sugar and dye than pistachio; a mini vanilla cupcake that was soft and fluffy as the fabrics in an Ellie Saab wedding gown and finally, a piece of salmon on toast which clearly did not belong.
Bottom tier: honeycomb slice, vanilla cupcake, pistachio macaroon[sic] and loserish salmon toast made another appearance, this time joined by two newcomers: a mushy berry marshmallow and a sundried tomato, cream and chive tart, the perfect morsel to counteract all the sugar that would no doubt contribute to Type 2 diabetes.
This Tiffany’s pound cake was my least favourite. Sure, it looked pretty, even when cut in half, but the cake was rock hard and the icing just tasted off – like someone had chucked bath soap into the icing mix or something. Revolting.
FINALLY, we got tea. I started off with an apple tree tea which was described on the menu as “sweet” but it wasn’t overly so – and that was a good thing. The apple flavour was strong and a slight tang was present. No sugar required. Shirley’s first tea (and the second tea I ordered) was the berry green tea, an organic Japanese green tea which was infused with a blend of raspberries, red currants and strawberries. Like the apple tree tea, it was flavoursome but the flavours were still delicate enough to let the natural taste of green tea shine.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper high tea without scones. We got one scone each which I thought was a bit tight but given how full our tummies were, we were really in no position to complain. I can’t say that the scones were the best I’ve ever tasted (they weren’t hard but they weren’t as fluffy as clouds either) and while I liked how they presented the Chantilly cream and strawberry vanilla jam, it made getting the cream and jam slightly difficult.
At this stage, we were offered more cakes and sandwiches which I thought was a nice gesture (and certainly the first time I’ve had this happen to me at high tea!) but we were too fully so we said ‘no.’ My waistline and that Fleur Wood asymmetrical dress that’s been hanging in my closet for six months now and is SURELY out of fashion would thank me.
Finally, we received a tiny shot glass of raspberry and lemon sorbet. It was cool, tart and refreshing, the perfect finish to what was a faaaaabulous afternoon, dah-ling!
Hotel Nest may (apparently) serve crappy pub food but for a place that doesn’t specialise in high tea, we were both happy. Okay, so there were some things that needed work such as the service which was laggy at times, their willingness to let anyone wearing more than one centimetre of foundation into the function room and their crappy pound cake. Plus, I also felt slightly jibbed. I thought that the entire high tea was revolved around fashion but apart from a few choice items on the top tier of the tower, nothing was remotely related to fashion (unless they’re trying to tell us that marshmallows are the new macarons). And where were the nibbles inspired by Prada? I couldn’t see any biscuits resembling a platform shoe, dammit! But anyway, they did get most of it right which is more than what I can say for high tea specialist, Hotel Windsor. Apparently Hotel Nest do high teas regularly during the year so it’s worth a look into if you are unable to make the final pret-a-portea high tea for the food festival this Sunday.