High tea at the National Gallery of Australia

HIGH TEA SETTING AT THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA IS A WORK OF ART.

High tea at the Art Gallery sounds like fun for children and Mums alike and being able to run around and look at pictures is even better!

Photo license Fiona Rothchilds 2015 high tea
Jemma Rossetta and waiting staff.
Photo license Fiona Rothchilds 2015.
High tea bush view.

The Wedgwood Tea Room is stunning – as is the view. Yes, this is obviously a weblog which the Wedgwood Company would be happy to know about. But before you click off this page, spend a few moment’s looking at the transformation of the National Gallery of Australia’s (NGA) Members’ Lounge area.

Wedgwood is a successful porcelain pottery firm which began in Staffordshire, England in 1759. The company has an international standing. It has joined forces with The Big Group to establish the Wedgwood Tea Room at the NGA until the end of the Tom Roberts exhibition (March 2016).

What once was the Members’ Lounge is now transformed into a refined and elegant tea room for diners of certain palate. Instead of sitting in black modular chairs, which were not ergonomically designed to enjoy a meal at the coffee table, Wedgwood et al offer high back blue or black padded velvet chairs with a small table at an appropriate height for dining.

Comfort and elegance are two words which come to mind in this happy place. For those unable to enjoy velvet chairs, there are banquet tables with high back sofa seating from which to view Lake Burley Griffin and the Carillion. Wheelchairs can be accommodated.

Photo license Fiona Rothchilds 2015 high tea
High tea pots.

The Wedgwood Tea Room is open to the public as well as to members of the NGA. The caterer’s advise that the menu is inspired by the era and themes of the Tom Roberts exhibition. The fare is sweet and savoury with English tea and coffee beverages. It is served on a range of Wedgwood patterned crockery.

The design favourite so far is the Queen of Hearts, followed closely by the Polka Dot design series. The waiting staff like to describe the design patterns and crockery styles while serving the tea at your table. This is an enjoyable moment not to be interrupted.

Photo license Fiona Rothchilds 2015 high tea
Blue velvet with bushland view.
New decor in the NGA eateries. high tea
Décor in newest NGA eatery.

WHAT TO CHOOSE?
The mainstay of any English-style tea in the Wedgwood Tea Room is the Devonshire Tea. This is always a family favourite.  If you have a small palate, or just need a mid-morning snack or small afternoon tea, then the Devonshire Tea is the smallest fare available. This meal is sometimes referred to as a ‘Cream Tea’ or ‘Cornish Tea’ as it is served with scones, jam and cream as well as the pot of loose leaf tea or filter coffee.

The Tea Room offers an All-day High Tea with a range of sweet and savoury cakes and sandwiches suitable for any brunch or afternoon tea.  For example, this high tea is served with the original Wedgwood loose leaf tea. Or if you prefer non-Wedgwood branded tea, at your own cost are a selection of loose leaf teas or other beverages.

Photo license Fiona Rothchilds 2015 High tea
Devonshire tea.

Between 12 and 2pm the lunch time offerings to expand the waistline include The Bushman’s Plate which is a starter’s sample (tasting) tray of savoury morsels – and the Farmhouse Board which is more substantial fare for sustenance to view the National Gallery’s latest exhibition: Tom Roberts’ retrospective.

As well as marketing teas and a range of high-tea crockery, the Wedgwood Company provides a free, small booklet for tea time patrons. It provides details on the Wedgwood patterned designs and styles of crockery. Just ask for one.

The author of the Wedgwood booklet regrettably advises that we should not dunk items in the tea or coffee while in public. Perhaps that’s why biscuits such as shortbread, macaroons and ginger nuts are not part of the high tea.

If we have sugary fingers? The booklet advises to ‘use the napkin’. In other words, when enjoying a cream tea or high tea, do not lick or dunk. For further information see the Wedgwood Tea Time Booklet on tea time etiquette.

DOWN TO BUSINESS
If you book your ticket to the Tom Roberts Exhibition online and want to take tea on the same day, use the following link to book your high-tea experience: http://nga.gov.au/VenueHire/food.cfm Otherwise, as ‘walk-ins’ to the Wedgwood Tea Room, the following information applies:

The Devonshire Tea for a non-NGA Member currently costs $15.00 – for an NGA Member it’s $13.50 (tea, two scones, pot of jam, and pot of cream). NGA Members receive a 10 per cent discount on production of their membership card.  The Devonshire Tea is available from 10.30am to 4.30pm every day except Christmas Day. Bookings are available and the first in each day are offered the window seats with view of the Sculpture Garden.

The current cost of the All-Day High Tea for a non-NGA Member is $43.00 – for an NGA Member it’s $38.70. NGA Members receive a 10 per cent discount on production of their membership card. The All-Day High Tea is available from 10.30am to 4.30pm every day except Christmas Day. Bookings are available and the first in each day are offered the window seats with view of the Sculpture Garden.

Photo license Fiona Rothchilds 2015
High tea and branded tea range.
Photo license Fiona Rothchilds 2015
High tea savoury.

The difference between the two fares is the two-tier cake tray of eight petite items. That is, the All-Day High Tea is the Devonshire Tea plus eight additional items.  The eight items in the All-Day High Tea consists of four savoury (one chicken ribbon finger sandwich, one cucumber ribbon finger sandwich, one small salmon bun, one small savoury tart) and four sweet (one tiny chocolate layer cake, one tiny shortbread round with jam, one tiny lemon meringue tart, one tiny sweet tart with daisy flower).

For a non-NGA Member: those eight items currently costs $28.00 on the cake tier. Individually this is $3.50 per item. For an NGA Member: the eight items currently costs $25.20 on the cake tier. Individually this is $3.15 per item.

TO SUGAR OR NOT TO SUGAR? DOWN TO BUSINESS
If you are on the NO SUGAR DIET, about one third of the All-day High Tea is for your palate. There are limited options available on the All-Day High tea or the Devonshire Tea because there are currently no savoury alternatives available to replace the sugary items.

In the savoury range, the chicken-mayo ribbon finger sandwich is Number One. If you prefer savoury items and NO SUGAR items, and do not want to take the All-Day High Tea or Devonshire Tea, then the better options are the two savoury plates available at luncheon: the Bushman’s Plate or the Farmhouse Board.

Photo license Fiona Rothchilds 2015 high tea
Wedgwood crockery & booklet.

TEA LOVERS
If you choose Wedgwood Black tea with your Devonshire Tea or All-Day High Tea then you will happily receive as many refills of the teapot as you request. If you select a specialty tea, this is available but as one pot per order.

If you are a big tea drinker, or very much like Wedgwood-branded tea, then the suggestion is to order the Wedgwood black tea with your Devonshire Tea or All-Day High Tea and drink as much tea as the waiting staff will happily provide.

To sample the Wedgwood Tea Room, the Irish Breakfast tea was enjoyed with the Devonshire Tea on Thursday 3 December 2015. The Wedgwood-branded tea was enjoyed with the All-Day High Tea on Friday 4 December 2015. All items were paid for by the weblog author.

DON’T LIKE VELVET?
If you do not wish to take tea on velvet chairs in the Wedgwood Tea Room (open until 28 March 2016), there are options within the NGA-National Portrait Gallery area.  The large café on Lower Ground 1 of the NGA offers views of the gardens.  There is also a café outside the National Gallery serving Vietnamese food and a café at the National Portrait Gallery if you are heading that way.

If you are an NGA member – try the newly-located Members’ Mezzanine on Level 2B with views of the Sculpture Garden. High Tea and Devonshire Tea are served there throughout the day with less remarkable table settings.

Thank you to maître d’ Jemma Rossetto and Ellie the waiter for their advice in the Wedgwood Tea Room at the NGA.

Copyright text and photos Fiona Rothchilds. Uploaded 5 December 2015.