High Tea in Territory

12 Jun

*This post was by T2, a co-author of In The Taratory from 2011-2013.*

Queanbeyan. I gotta say, I never really thought there was much in that town worthy of a special trip. Which is a bit rich of me really, considering I was born there 23 years ago (shh, I don’t usually let people in on that one!). So when a friend suggested that I visit her new place in Quangers before heading out for afternoon tea, I must admit that I wasn’t overly enthusiastic. Then she mentioned that it would be High Tea – and my ears pricked right up! I’d always wanted to get dolled up in a fancy hat and gloves while nibbling on crustless sandwiches and talking in posh accents. I’d heard that the Hyatt Hotel puts on an impressive High Tea, but wasn’t aware of anywhere else that did it in Canberra – let alone Queanbeyan…

Well there were no flash hats or pompous accents, but my friends, B and S, and I were definitely not disappointed with the experience. The High Tea was held at Benedict House, which is former girls boarding school and convent located in one of Queanbeyan’s heritage streets. We arrived a smidge before 3pm, just in time for the two-hour afternoon session. Since the dining room wasn’t quite ready for service, we elected to have a wander through some of the other rooms. It turned out that Benedict House also doubles as a painting/jewellery studio and bead shop (further research on their website tells me that they hold regular workshops, including crocheting and card-making – check it out, my crafty readers!).

As we were admiring some unique art pieces in the hallway, a smartly dressed woman appeared and ushered us to our corner table. It was carefully set with china, cutlery, linen napkins and wine glasses.  The host returned promptly and filled our glasses with bubbly (it was a delicate, sweet Lindemans Bin 25 Brut Cuvée, for you interested wine connoisseurs. And, oh, did it go down easily). Then came the food, presented elaborately on a three-tiered plate stand. After I snapped a quick Instagram picture (I know, I know – I’m one of THOSE people – gah!), we dug in. Wait, ladies don’t ‘dig in’, do they? Okay, we started to nibble gracefully…

The food was all home made, from scratch (later, we found out that most of the vegetables were grown in the backyard garden and suitable waste was all recycled to a worm farm. Impressive.). The first round of items were petit savoury: pumpkin-stuffed mushrooms, crustless chicken sandwiches, spinach and feta triangles, and two types of toasted bread (sort of like the Italian bread used for bruschetta) topped with a thick, soft feta, and smoked salmon and chives. B wasn’t a fan of the smoked salmon and I wasn’t keen on trying the mushies, so we swiftly switched portions. My favourite item was the feta-topped bread – although, at first, we weren’t even sure if it was actually feta! The texture was unlike the usual feta that I buy from the deli; it was much softer and fluffier. If anyone could enlighten me on what type of feta this may have been, I’d be most interested.

The host brought around a selection of leftover savoury items but we wisely declined, knowing that dessert was on its way. Sure enough, another two-tiered plate was soon delivered, stacked with scones, jam, cream, and some sort of chocolate pavlova-like concoction. S and B quickly claimed a scone each, while I discreetly snapped another picture of the decadent spread. It was such a delight to indulge in a hot, freshly baked scone with all the toppings. I hadn’t had one since I worked at BB’s Café – a good seven years ago.

But the real star of the day was, without a doubt, the nutty chocolate creation (I’m sure it has a proper name, but my memory fails me… There’s a picture of it on their website though, if you’d like to feast your eyes on it). With exclamations from S of ‘you have to try this!’ and ‘this is amaaaazing’, I sunk my wee silver spoon into the dessert. What a sensation! The creamy, whipped topping tasted just like a Ferrero Rocher – which is, coincidentally, my favourite chocolate. The bottom of the dessert had the texture of pavlova and, combined with a couple of soft raspberries, it was an absolute winner. My mouth is watering now at the memory of it…

Again, the host came around with second helpings of scones, but there was no chance of fitting any more into our already-full tummies. Instead, we settled for a pot of steaming hot leaf tea; the perfect way to cap off a winter afternoon. Then, as we sat chatting, the sound of squealing and hooting started echoing loudly from the adjoining room – continuing on for a good twenty minutes! The girls and I had a chuckle, jokingly remarking that it sounded like a hens night was in motion… and, as we were settling the bill later, we found out that it was! The hoots and cheers had been for the male stripper! We thought it was hilarious – who would have thought that this lovely, quiet, ex-convent building also hosted wild hens parties?!

So there you have it: Benedict House offers something for everyone, whether you’re interested in craft, art, fine food, or a venue for a naughty shindig. I thought the High Tea was great value, at $30 a head (I know that some High Tea places in Sydney can cost upwards of $70). I enjoyed its atmosphere – there were around four other groups there, so the room was filled with chatter and laughter, but it wasn’t overly crowded either. For three Darwin girls (yep, like me, S and B also hail from the Northern Territory), it was fun to get a bit fancy for a change and enjoy a chilled out afternoon together. I know I’ll be going back. Even if it’s just for that darn tasty chocolate-pavlova thing!

Date: 3-5pm, Sunday, 10 June 2012

Attendees: T2 and two friends

Cost: $30 per person

Worthwhile factor: Very worthwhile.

Want more? http://www.benedicthouse.com.au/cafe.htm or http://www.outincanberra.com.au/benedicthousecafe

3 Responses to “High Tea in Territory”

  1. Gary Lum June 12, 2012 at 5:45 am #

    Looks great T2. Nothing like some sweet and creamy delights on a Sunday afternoon.

    Who said NT girls aren’t fancy. NT girls are great.

  2. Gary Lum June 12, 2012 at 6:17 am #

    PS instagram and food images are a perfect match lol 🙂

  3. Melissa June 16, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    This is awesome – we are planning an annual high tea and usually go to the Hyatt, but this sounds like a fun alternative to try.

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