High Tea at The Conservatory, Crown

A couple of weeks ago, I tried out the High Tea Buffet at The Conservatory in Crown. It was quite a pleasant experience apart from a few small downsides, but definitely worth going as it's quite affordable ($50 per person or $70 to include a glass of champagne). The High Tea buffet is offered on the weekends only; from 3-5pm on Saturdays, or 3.30-5.30pm on Sundays.

The interior design of The Conversatory is very classy and sophisticated, with tall ceilings and large windows that look over the Yarra River for a bright, open space. The use of mostly white furniture with black here and there gave the design a modern feel, together with the chanderlier-like lights dangling from the ceiling and the soft music playing in the background. What makes high tea at the Conversatory different from most high tea places is the fact it is a buffet style one. There's a good range of both savoury and sweet dishes, and we managed to try a bit of almost everything! The only downside with high tea here is that you don't actually get to choose the type of tea/coffee served. I thought this was a bit surprising as one of the features of a typical high tea is having the ability to choose a type of coffee or tea to have with your food.

We started off with all the savoury foods, which consisted of a small range of sandwiches, burgers, a chicken and leek pie, pork puffs, vegetarian dumplings and peking duck. I thought it was interesting to have a mix of western and asian foods, and the vegetarian dumplings were actually one of my favourite dishes from the whole buffet, with its thin, smooth skin that contrasted really well with the different vegetables in the filling. I also really enjoyed the chicken and leek pie, which had a soft and creamy filling and actual chicken pieces, covered in a light and crispy pie pastry.

There were egg sandwiches and smoked salmon sandwiches, as well bread based canapes with chicken, prosciutto and tomato and the other with bococchini, pesto and tomato. These canapes were also really enjoyable, and I especially liked the bococchini one, except one of the pieces was extremely salty because it has too much pesto on it. The bread itself was lovely and soft, and the crust wasn't too hard either which was great. The BBQ pork puffs had a really crispy puff pastry with a sweet filling, and the ratio of filling to pastry was perfect so that it wasn't too dry to eat. The peking duck was already wrapped for you, and you could add a variety of different sauces on top.

There was a larger range of desserts than savoury foods, and unfortunately we didn't get around to trying a bit of everything within the two hours of High Tea. The desserts consisted of a range of cakes and tarts, as well as scones, ice cream and fruit and lollies that could be dipped in a range of chocolate sauces from the chocolate fountains. My favourites were probably the chocolate cake, the strawberry mousse on a biscuit base and the raspberry tart. The cake was really delicious and moist, with a glossy ganache on the outside for great presentation as well as a raspberry macaron that was quite sweet with a subtle raspberry taste. The strawberry mousse had a hint of passionfruit flavour in it which gave the dessert a slightly acidic hit, and the smooth texture of the mousse contrasted well with the crumbly biscuit base and the cream on top. The raspberry tart had a creamy filling with a slight strawberry taste as well, and the base was crumbly and not too dry, contrasting well with the crunchy seeded texture of the fresh raspberries.

We tried a range of the other cakes and tarts such as the raspberry eclair, which had a good sour filling that was strong in flavour; carrot cake that had a good ratio of creamy icing to the actual cake to ensure it wasn't too dry, and a strawberry tart which actually just had a chocolate and whipped cream filling. There was also a small round lemon tart which we discovered was the exact same as the triangular lemon tarts, just with a different coloured meringue on top; a brownie that was quite rich and sweet with lots of walnuts in it, and a blueberry crumble that didn't actually have any blueberry flavour, even though you could taste the texture of it. We also tried a chocolate mousse that tasted like it was tea-infused, but the more you ate of it, a strong orange flavour emerged, almost as if you were eating a jaffa lolly.

There were two types of scones (raisin and original) that could be eaten with a range of different jams and creams such as strawberry and blackcurrant, or a pineapple or grape syrup. My friends and I all thought the scones were quite average; a bit dry and only warm to the touch. Also in the desserts section was a cheese board with various types of cheeses that came with biscuits, breadsticks, dried fruit and nuts.

If you're looking for a cheaper high tea option with good atmosphere, The Conversatory would be worth visiting. It is different with the buffet style as opposed to the three tier stands of food that you normally see at High Tea, allowing you to go back and have seconds (or maybe even thirds!) of those dishes you enjoy most, or if you simply wanted to have a dessert buffet. A pretty good experience for the price, given it is located inside Crown which is known for its more high end/fine dining.

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