Saturday, 9 August 2014

Brisbane Arcade - high tea by candlelight

I'm sure many of you who are regular visitors to the Brisbane CBD and in particular the Queen Street Mall, know it can get pretty hectic at times. After visiting all of the major city Malls around the country, I can safely say that our very own Queen Street is the best and busiest in Australia. It's become particularly crowded since the East West building had been demolished to make way for the new double decker Jimmy's on the Mall.  Amongst all of the craziness that can be the QSM is an oasis of calm and tranquility, yep, I'm talking about the wonderful Brisbane Arcade.

Brisbane Arcade celebrated it's 90th birthday last year, which make it an anachronism in today's increasingly modern and fast paced world.  Originally designed by one of Queensland's most important turn-of-the-century architects, Brisbane Arcade reflects the Edwardian Baroque style made popular in European cities in the late 18th century.  In a city that for decades has torn down the old to replace with the new, it's a miracle that the original terrazzo stairs, balustrades and dado panelling that grace the arcade are still standing, just as they did ninety years ago.

Many of the shops that call Brisbane Arcade home feel as if they are from another era too, one that was reminiscent of a bygone time where style and substance was the order of the day.  Award winning fashion stores mingle with classic timepieces; jewellery stores mix with wonderful gift stores; it's still one of the only places in Brisbane that has a classic millinery shop (that's a hat maker if you didn't know).  What most people don't know, or often forget, is that there are a number of wonderful options to refresh and energise within the arcade.

I was invited along for a very unique opportunity to experience high tea by candlelight in the Brisbane Arcade. With the arcade closed for the evening, the ground floor was transformed into a magical dining room resplendent with the finest silverware and the most beautiful candelabra imaginable.  I've walked through Brisbane Arcade countless times, but never truly appreciated it's beauty but witnessing the arcade transformed into a dining room lit mostly by candles was breathtaking.

Our master of ceremonies for the night was celebrity chef Dominique Rizzo, who helped takes us back through time with her wonderful stories about the arcade and its inhabitants.  Throughout the night, guests were given the microphone to share some of their own personal memories of Brisbane Arcade, many of which were touching and a quite amusing.  

Our high tea kicked off with a couple of winter classics from L's Espresso Bar, run by David Lawler and Cate Swan, which is located on the street level of the Arcade.  I was excited about one half of the soup pairing of traditional chunky pea and ham soup, but was a bit nervous about the second soup of pumpkin with coriander.  I've always been a fan of pea and ham and really enjoyed the thick and hearty soup.  I'm not a fan of pumpkin and it lists as one of my least favourite vegetables, but I'd decided to give it a go anyway and to my surprise, quite liked it.  The soups were helped along by some toasties, which I used to add some crunchy texture.

L's Espresso Cafe on Urbanspoon

Before the high tea had kicked off, I'd been chatting to Peter Craig from Keri Craig Emporium and learned quite a bit about the emporium but even more about Peter's love of golf!  The Keri Craig Emporium has been perfecting the beautiful  art of high tea since the 90's and is well known as the best location to enjoy a traditional crab sandwich.  I have to admit that I'm not too familiar with high tea or crab sandwiches, I even initially thought my sandwich was made from chicken, that was until I took a bite.  It all made so much sense, the crab sandwich was stunning, with loads of fresh crabmeat and a flavour that I won't forget any time soon.  Presented along with the crab sandwich were salmon rosettes, filled with more of that lovely crab meat and roast turkey breast on a potato rosti with cranberry sauce.  Without doubt though, that crab sandwich was the highlight of the evening.

Coffee Lounge at Keri Craig Emporium on Urbanspoon

What would high tea be without tea?  We were presented with a trio of teas from Kim Torstensson's The Tea Centre, which has an amazing 185 varieties of tea.  I've only recently become a convert to tea and while not yet appreciating the nuances of tea, I definitely know what I like.  For the high tea event we were treated to a green tea from India, which I found to be a little bitter for my palate; a jasmine tea from China, which was well balanced and eminently drinkable; and finally a flavoured tea from Stockholm, which was the most amazing tea I've ever tasted!

Tea Centre on Urbanspoon

When I normally think of high tea, images of tri-level plates filled with scones and cakes come to mind and I wasn't disappointed when our next element of the high tea arrived.  Vicki Pitts from Room with Roses presented the quintessential high tea platter with little lemon tarts, berry scones with jams and fresh creams as well as petite little sandwiches with their crusts cut off.  Another of my favourites was the lemon tart, filled with beautiful lemon curd and a dollop of fresh cream - yum.  I'm not normally a fan of scones either, but the beautiful buttery berry scone went down a treat with a helping of fresh whipped cream!

Room With Roses on Urbanspoon

Chocolate Moments by Gerrard Gosens provided the most amusing tales of the night.  Gerrard who has garnered reputation as a master chocolatier, is also blind and amassed a range of incredible feats, including being a champion paralympian marathon runner and Mt Everest conqueror.  With all of those feats in hand, its amazing that Gerrard has found time to build a business that is so well regarded.  Gerrard presented us with a chocolate tasting that took us on a tour through the world of chocolate including exotic locations like Ecuador, Madagascar, Grenada, Ghana and Java.  The small drops of intensly flavoured chocolate were easy to eat and it was fun combining the different flavours to create new flavours.  My favourite was when I combined each of the different drops into one gigantic collision of chocolate!

My high tea adventure by candlelight in the Brisbane Arcade had been a wonderful experience.  I think it was my first formal and complete high tea and one that I will remember forever.  It was a wonderful evening filled with people's tales and experiences in one of Brisbane's most iconic arcades.

There was a lovely mix of people sharing the experience, which really added to the night.  Best of all was the setting, which was beautiful and haunting at the same time.  It's not often that you can partake in such a unique event but I'm thankful that I was able to attend.  It could even be the start of a FoodMeUpScotty high tea adventure series!  You never know....

** I was a guest of Brisbane Arcade for this event


  1. that looks absolutely fab! yum and i agree re pumpkin soup - no love there.. but the rest oh yeah!

    1. Ahhh, Sherry, finally! Someone agrees with me about pumpkins and pumpkin soup!!


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