“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ....Oscar Wilde

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Afternoon Tea at The Hotel Windsor

The quintessential sound of a silver teaspoon stirring tea in a porcelain china cup can take you to another era...one where the refinement of a tradition has delighted for decades. 
That tradition is to partake in Afternoon Tea. 
I had the opportunity of indulging in such a tradition last week...
Afternoon Tea at 'The Hotel Windsor' or 'The Duchess of Spring Street' no less.

For someone who adores drinking tea and is a total teapot like me, then as you can imagine I was thrilled. 
To visit The Hotel Windsor for afternoon tea has been on my tick list since we arrived in Melbourne and it's one that nearly got away. But thanks to my lovely girlfriends at my book club they made sure that that tick was firmly in the box! 
Even on approaching The Hotel Windsor you can't but help to be impressed with her grandeur.
The Hotel is located in Melbourne's central business district on Spring Street, in close proximity to the corporate, financial and fashionable heart of the city.

Many of the city's best theatres, landmark attractions and sporting venues are within a comfortable walking distance. I arrived at the Parliament train station which is located right at the hotels's door step! 
Before we enter into the lobby....let me give you a little of the Hotel's history...just to set the scene.

It was built by George Nipper in 1883 and designed by Charles Webb, during this time it was known as the Grand Hotel. It pre-dates The Ritz and Savoy hotels in London, Raffles in Singapore and The Plaza in New York, and is the only surviving hotel of its type in Australia....now how's that for a pedigree?
The hotel changed hands in 1886 and the new owner James Munro, burnt the hotel's liquor licence and changed its name once again to the Grand Coffee Palace. The experiment failed and in 1897 the hotel began selling alcohol once again. The hotel became known as 'The Windsor Hotel in 1923, in honour of a visit by The Prince of Wales.

This photo is courtesy of The Hotel Windsor's Heritage webpage...

Under the threat of demolition in 1976 (which is unthinkable) The Windsor was bought by the Victorian Government to ensure the conservation of an essential part of Victoria's heritage. 
Lastly in November 2005 The Hotel Windsor was purchased by local parties committed to creating the most exciting period of the hotel's history to date.
If you'd like to see some fantastic old photographs, or to read more about this grand lady then click here

So now you have some background information...let's take a step inside. 
"Good day to you too"....

Now I'm aware that my blogging and photo shoots can get in the way of just chatting and meeting up with friends, (some don't know or do blogging...shocking that that fact might be to some, but there you go..it's true) so I have to say I tried very hard to get a snippet of events for you, without hopefully offending anyone. 
Trust me I could have gone mad.
I knew I was in trouble when I nipped to the 'Ladies Powder Room' and there was a very smart lady ready to do whatever was needed, in her crisp white apron! It's okay I resisted asking could I take a few photos whilst in there...I don't want people to get the wrong idea but it was tough! ;D

But let's get to the afternoon tea....pinkies poised people!
(for those who haven't heard that expression before...it means hold up your little finger when drinking from a china teacup...a la posh!) 

Once the ladies were seated our waiter came and introduced himself to us in his crisp white apron and before we knew it a bottle of sparkling wine appeared. Cheers!
Followed shortly by afternoon delicacies of freshly baked scones with jam and cream, exquisite pastries and finger sandwiches on tiered silver stands plus unlimited freshly brewed tea and coffee.

For those who may be a tea fanatic like me...here's the list of tea's that were available (click here)

So how did this tradition begin?
And what's the difference between High Tea and Afternoon Tea?

Afternoon Tea itself came about around the time that gas lighting was introduced in the 1800s in Britain. This meant people were able to stay up later into the night, and therefore sought to eat their evening meal later too. This shift left a large, food-less gap in the day.
 Legend has it that in 1840 Anna, the Seventh Duchess of Bedford (one of Queen Victoria's ladies-in-waiting), began to request tea and a small meal of bread and butter, cakes and biscuits in the afternoon to tide her over until dinner. Her innovative (and somewhat indulgent) habit became a highly social occasion, with friends coming to share the hot beverages, delicate snacks and convivial conversation. By 1880, the trend took off and afternoon tea spread to the homes of the upper classes with tea shops later springing up across the country.
The name 'High Tea' actually refers to a similar practice adopted by the working classes midway through the Industrial Revolution. It involved a heavier meal served with tea at 5.00pm, upon returning home from work. As it was served at high tables it became known as 'high tea' whereas the more sophisticated afternoon tea was technically named 'low tea' in reference to the low drawing room tables that the upper classes would sit around to carry out the ritual. 

(photograph courtesy of The Hotel Windsor website)
If you'd like to make a booking for afternoon tea click here

Along with our book club, the hotel has also welcomed a long list of international celebrities, politicians and royalty. 
The Hotel Windsor also has a collection of 15 paintings by the Australian traditional representational  artist Ernest Buckmaster (1897~ 1968) on display in the hotel lobby. 
Unfortunately or maybe that should read fortunately, I didn't take photos of the paintings, because since that afternoon I've tried to find them on the internet and I can't find any? 
So maybe it was a good decision not to take them because maybe I've missed a copyright issue!  
The fact that I was too busy talking and saying farewell to my friends had nothing to do with it. I'd have obviously asked the concierge permission first. ;D
But I've added this link so that you can see the paintings that are on display if you want to.

Well I think it may well be time to pop the kettle on for another cuppa now. 
Maybe I should have done that at the beginning of the post.
I hope you've enjoyed your visit to The Hotel Windsor...I know I did.
Hope to see you again soon...in the meantime remember...

Yesterday the Past,
Tomorrow the Future,
But today is a gift...that's why it's called Present! 


  1. Looks great, and those cakes look soooooooooo divine! Do they serve coffee, too?? Hugs, Valerie

    1. They are only tiny cakes Valerie, so there's hardly any calories involved! ;D LOL
      You'll be pleased to hear that they do serve coffee, so don't worry when you come they'll be able to cater for all your needs.
      Melbourne has a huge, incredible coffee culture.

      Thanks for stopping by ~ Have a great week :D

  2. wow, thats a splashy place, very posh, beautiful, what an eperience, I enjoyed this very much!

    1. I'm so glad you were able to come with us Laurie,
      It was a very pleasant afternoon with friends in lovely surroundings and let's not forget tea galore! ;D
      I hope your week is going well...I'll pop across to you check what you're up to soon :D

  3. Very interesting. I particularly enjoyed learning about the origin of the term High Tea, which I hadn't known before.

    1. Thanks Mark,
      Yeah, I thought that was interesting too ;D

      Have a great week whatever you have planned...enjoy! :D

  4. Here is a link to an email series about teas that you may enjoy, I have been reading it. http://www.republicoftea.com/natural-hibiscus-tea/a/Tea101_1/

    1. Hi Terry,
      That's fascinating. I learnt something in the first few lines ;D
      Thanks for passing the info on to me.

      Have a great week and may your kettle be far from the boil! :D

  5. How wonderful Neesie.... and i love the term "total teapot"....TEA rules...LOL...Love the hotel...and thanks for the Tea lesson....I've gone to afternoon High Tea....but never understood why "high".....I personally drink tea...ALL DAY....

    enjoy your time left down under.

    1. Yep I'm a total teapot...and I realise I may be getting worse because sometimes I even refuse a glass of wine for a cuppa! Serious eh? ;D
      High tea or low tea I don't mind...just pop that kettle on! lol

      Have a great week and I'll catch up with you soon :D
      Blessings to you too.

  6. Hi Neesie
    wow that looks brilliant I was really tempted to click to make a booking.... but it is a long way from southern England.
    Although I have had tea at the Ritz in London which was fabulous, they even had someone playing the harp

    1. It's only 12,000 miles Janet! Nae probs as they say in Scotland ;D

      But then if you've 'done' the Ritz I can understand you not wanting to do the journey! lol

      I didn't notice a harp player but there was music playing.
      Maybe I should go back to double check? :D

      Have a wonderful week, whatever you have planned I hope it's fun.
      Catch up with you soon xoxo

  7. It's fascinating to hear your personal memories Ros,
    Maybe you should contact the hotel because they are celebrating their 130th Anniversary and they are asking the community to share their memories and memorabilia. From wedding photographs, parking receipts or any amusing anecdote?
    If you look on their website there's the details...I'm sure they'd love to hear from you ;D

    Lovely to see you again and I promise I'll pop across to you soon.
    In the meantime have a great week xoxo

  8. That looks like fun Denise! I love taking "tea!" We have a missionary sister here at the moment from Melbourne. Had her over here for supper last night. It was fun getting to know her better! xxoo

    1. It was indeed Marie,
      I was really spoilt by my friends ;D

      Fancy having a visitor from Melbourne with you...it certainly is a small world isn't it?

      Enjoy your week and I'll pop over to you soon.

  9. What wonderful friends you have to make sure you had your tea party before you left. It's a beautiful old place. The cakes look delicious.

    1. I know I'm so lucky...they're a special bunch. (Well I have to say that don't I...just in case they read this post!) lol
      It was a very special afternoon and in such magnificent surroundings too :D
      The cakes weren't bad either ;D
      I hope your week is going well and that your weekend turns out to be even better!

  10. What a lovely idea fom your friends to take you to tea so another tick is dusted... It looked very inviting... those cake look devine.. Loved the history of High Tea...Lovely post Denise... Hugs May x x x

    1. I'm glad you liked the post May,
      It was a lovely afternoon and one I would certainly like to do again. Maybe my next one will be in the UK?

      I thought the history was interesting too so thought I'd share it ;D

      Hugs to you too

  11. Oh gosh! I learned so much! What fun and I'm so glad you and your girlfriends took us with you. :)

    1. Listen to you Rita...you sound so British there with your 'Oh Gosh'
      I bet you had your pinkie sticking up with us too ;D
      I'm glad it was fun...that's what it's all about isn't it?
      I'm trying desperately to get to do another post but the day is galloping away with me hanging on!

      I'll pop over to your place soon...in the meantime give Karma a cuddle ^..^

  12. Oh I do love a High Tea! Yours looked particularly inviting. We have a pastry chef here in Perth who puts on a mighty fine one as well.. Rochelle Adonis. Deeelish. You must be getting pretty excited about heading home? I am soooooo jealous. Hubby and I watch Escape to the Country all the time and just drool, sigh and swoon. We cannot wait to pull up stumps here and head off to Ol Blighty for our "UK adventure" ... one day ... sigh again.
    Have a super week!! xx

    1. Me too Angy...it's a very civilized way to spend an afternoon ;D
      I'm a little mixed at the moment with excitement and sadness. My head is tending to drift more towards home lately though and I'm remembering lots of things that I've been missing without even knowing!
      It's amazing that so many people watch 'Escape to the Country' including us now because that's just what we are about to do. Our place is surrounded by country-side so there will be lots to share with you.
      You do sound like you're wanting a UK adventure. LOL
      But I think it might be a little chilly for you, so I'll go ahead and get that dodgy thermostat fixed! :D

      I hope your week is going well...I'll be across to see you soon


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