We fell down the rabbit hole and followed Alice to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party situated in Melbourne’s iconic Crown complex.
Located in the lobby of Crown Towers at Crown Melbourne, The Waiting Room is well known for its take on a British classic – afternoon tea. It is a quick find, as it is to the immediate right of the hotel entrance. Now, it was no ordinary afternoon tea, on this special day we had the delight of attending the Mad Hatter’s very own tea party. With Alice, the Rabbit and the Queen roaming the floors, The Waiting Room was transformed into Alice’s Wonderland!
We were greeted by ‘the Mad Hatter’ at the front, and although 20 minutes early, he did not have any issue in seating us slightly earlier than scheduled, rather, he was more than excited to…! We were seated on a table around the outside of the bar, which meant we had the hotel lobby singer for background music and Crown guests walking by. The hotel lobby singer did not quite provide us with the perfect background music which was a shame but the strolling or dancing characters definitely made up for it! They only interacted with us while we waited for food, so not only did we get to enjoy the food in peace, it didn’t feel as though we were waiting…despite being at The Waiting Room (ha)!
The Mad Hatter was our initial point of contact when we arrived, so already the service differed from anywhere else we have eaten! Once seated, we were waited on by different servers. All the waiters and waitresses were friendly and did everything with a smile.
Despite being one of the first things that we had requested, our main drinks took a long time (I guess we did have our share of waiting here). By the time we had gone through half of our afternoon tea, we had to ask for their whereabouts. We had ordered the 2 specials that were available, a glass of white bubbly and the punch. They arrived shortly after inquisition, so we’re guessing that our waitress who had taken the order had forgotten about it. The other slight downside was that despite asking a couple of times towards the end of our sitting the servers forgot to top up our water and there was none around to just pour ourselves. However all food items came out promptly, which was the main thing!
The Mad Hatter’s tea party included:
- Crab and leek vol-au-vent
- Ricotta cheese filled zucchini flowers
- Cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches
- Spice chicken and walnut sandwiches
- Egg and chive salad sandwiches
- Smoked salmon and herb crepe roulade
- Chocolate and blackberry vanilla mousse
- Vanilla macaroon
- Mango curd tart with tahitian vanilla cream
- Violet and cassis éclair
- Freshly baked scones served with homemade jam and cream
- Raspberry sorbet and pecan praline
We were initially told the scones took 15-20 minutes to bake fresh, so we had to let the servers know when we wanted them. We decided to leave them until the end.
The afternoon tea stand was the first to come out. It was beautifully displayed on a silver three tiered platter, with quaintly displayed items.
We were told the crab and leek vol-au-vents were ‘to die for’ and that the sweets tier was the ‘staff favourite’. So, after hearing this, we decided to leave best things till last and started with the zucchini flowers. The zucchinis were nice and fresh and ricotta is a great cheese to fill the flower with, so it was a good start.
The crab and leek vol-au-vents were up next, and my word this small delight did not disappoint! The puff pastry was excellent, light and flaky as it should be and the crab and leek filling was bursting with flavour. We could have had a few more of these quite easily, but we still had another 2 colourful tiers to go, so we let go and continued on.
Going straight onto the middle tier, we ate the cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches first. The bread was really nice. All the bread was slightly on the dry side but this was on purpose as it worked perfectly in conjunction with the moist fillings in each sandwich. The cucumber was thinly sliced and there was cream cheese on either side, not just on one (a bug bearer for any sandwich fan).
The egg and chive salad sandwich was similar. The filling was fluffy, moist, and just the right amount of saltiness. One thing to point out is that the middle part to each sandwich was complete with filling. There were no empty gaps which is exactly what you are looking for, especially when the sandwiches are small.
The smoked salmon and herb crepe roulade was again full of flavour and after one bite you just couldn’t put it back down on the plate, so it was gone in seconds. The salmon tasted fresh and there was no shortage of it either.
To round off the second tier we had the spice chicken and walnut sandwiches. Walnut was a great idea. Having that little crunch in each bite was a nice touch and the spice chicken was awesome. We had seemingly and unknowingly saved the best sandwich to last…HURRAH!
So, after two tiers, we were ready for the final one…dessert. It looked great. It tasted even better.
The vanilla macaroon, inspired by the White Rabbit’s pocket watch with a dark chocolate watch face on top, was our first choice to eat. This ‘meringue sandwich’ melted in the mouth as soon as you took a bite and was delicious.
We then decided to go for the mango curd tart. This tart was smooth and creamy. It was sweet but not too sweet, and oh so decadent. Again, the pastry was made to perfection and this was probably one of our favourite desserts.
The special sweet, only made for this event in the form of the Mad Hatter’s Hat, was the chocolate and blackberry vanilla mousse. The mousse was the top of the hat, and it was sitting on a circular shortbread biscuit. The mousse was gorgeous, and the shortbread was nice and buttery, very moreish indeed. Together both elements worked perfectly with the slight saltiness of the shortbread and the chocolatey sweetness of the mousse.
Finally we had the violet and cassis éclair, probably our least favourite. The choux dough was well made again, a standout theme for this sitting, but the centre wasn’t as soft and creamy as we would have liked. It was nice, just the standards of the other sweets meant this one fell down slightly in comparisons.
We asked the waiter (after a 15 minute break) to bring out the fresh scones. They came out hot and were very, very good. The only thing we might add – it would have been nice if there was some fresh butter to go with the scones and jam, especially as the scones were hot, the butter would have melted immediately and together with the jam would have been a great accompaniment. Instead there was cream. Some may prefer the cream though, so it is just a suggestion.
The sorbet was the finale, and it was nice and refreshing and certainly did help the palate (and the stomach) refresh after so much sweet goodness.
The Afternoon Tea was very well put together and the food was superb, particularly the pastry elements. At $65 a head we did question whether the whole meal was worth the price. It probably was a bit more on the expensive side.
The live characters made it quite an interesting and lively occasion, but the price would have been the same if we had picked a time the live characters weren’t around.
Very good quality of food, but for the quantity of food this experience is a little pricey. We would still recommend it as a one off experience. Especially for those who are still big kids at heart and want to follow Alice down the rabbit hole for a few hours!