Melbourne offers a high tea option for just about every sweet desire and The Westin Melbourne has just launched an afternoon tea service which pays homage to buttery, fluffy, choux pastry – it’s an Eclair Affair!
I was invited to sample Éclair Affair and settled myself into a fat leather chair one sunny afternoon while I watched the passing parade of Collins Street in the clubby feel of the Lobby Lounge.
Every season The Westin Melbourne changes its high tea menu and for autumn it’s all about these delicate Parisian treats. What you receive are eclairs as the sweet nibbles most of us are familiar with – but then you also have savoury fillings sandwiched the eclairs.- well, instead of sandwiches.
No high tea would be complete with scones. Here you receive two – one vanilla bean and one fruit – with cream and strawberry jam. All of it comes out beautifully presented in an Art Deco inspired three tiered stand.
The high tea comes with a choice of a glass of Domain Chandon, or a Vittoria coffee, hot chocolate or Jing tea. Having cycled to the venue (and had my bike valet parked!) I opted for a tall glass of ice tea sweetened with lychee, a refreshing counterpoint to the treats on offer with its delicate flavours.
Out of the five savoury eclairs my favourite were the more simple options – goats cheese with basil pesto and Ham, comte cheese, confit tomato and Dijon aioli – as I felt that they paired better with the delicate choux pastry.
As for the sweet options they ranged from a very sweet strawberry and lime to a delightfully bitter chocolate caramel and the almost savoury pistachio and fig.
The Éclair Affair High Tea at The Westin Melbourne is on until June 30. It’s a charming afternoon tea with a Parisian twist and if you like pastry this is the place to indulge!
Top Arts is arguably Victoria’s premier art accolade for young artists completing their VCE in Art or Studio Arts studies. For the last two decades years, a handful of entrants have been selected from across the state to exhibit their work in Victoria’s biggest and most prestigious gallery, the National Gallery of Victoria.
This year, in line with the 20th anniversary of Top Arts, the free exhibition has had a slight makeover and been renamed StArt Up: Top Arts 2014. Because not only is the exhibition about the top art you’ll find in high schools in Victoria, it’s about supporting young talent and giving them a start to pursue a career in the arts. Inside you’ll find photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, installation and video works selected from over 3000 submissions.
I visited the exhibition on its opening night and was really awed by some of the young talent on show. Here are some of my favourite works:
The intricate detail of the felt-tip pen drawings of Beyond the memories (Fushigina taken, futatsu no sekai) by Darcy Whitworth, a reflection of her time in Japan.
Hundreds of carved bamboo insects in Swarms by Madeleine McDonough.
Look closely and these blooms are actually made up of body parts of the female figure. Botanical anatomy 1 by Adelle Elksnis.
The beautiful clouds of folded paper in The subjectivity of interpretation by Adrian Del-Re.
The incredible detail in the tiny specks of sugar covering the girl’s face. Sugar by Stephanie Pidcock.
A range of talks and learning programs accompany StArt Up: Top Arts 2014 and you can view workbooks, folios and preparatory material to get an insight into the creative process.
StArt Up: Top Arts 2014 is an interesting collection of diverse works and it’s inspiring to see what the next generation of artists are working on now. Who knows, this year’s crop could become the Next Big Thing in the art world soon.
Hawthorn Common is a café that’s all about environmental sustainability and a complete wholefoods lifestyle.
If that’s too many buzzwords in one food philosophy for you, check out the work that’s going on Hawthorn Common first. The cafe were recently recognised in The Age’s Good Food Under $30 2014 where they took out the gong for ‘sustainable café champ’.
As you climb the stairs the place opens out into an expansive indoor-outdoor space. When I arrive early Saturday morning there’s a yoga class earnestly asana-ing on one corner of the outdoor deck that’s dotted with planters. (Yoga and coffee on the deck is $20 Saturdays 7:30am).
On a sunny day the deck is where you should be but rather than stare at bums in the air I chose to take a seat inside the banquette-lined dining area, facing the coffee counter while owner Danny Colls (ex Silo by Joost) pumped out coffees.
A row of laughing portraits face line the walls, a happy collection of family, friends, staff and suppliers that gives a clue as to the origin of the café’s ‘common’ moniker. Even Colls’ baby daughter gazes down from the wall, facing a large round communal table adorned by a large Coco Flip pendant lamp turned from Victorian ash.
Hawthorn Common needs to inhabit such an expansive space because they do a lot of things inhouse. They roast their own coffee, grow their own herbs, culture their yoghurt, ferment pickles and bottle preserves, mill the flour fresh every day for their house-baked bread and even hand roll the oats for your porridge fresh to order. Their café’s ethos is to form a closed loop – the menu says that all the produce is ”milled, rolled, fermented, baked, preserved, dried and roasted while organic waste composted and returned to grow again’.
The menu is small but evidently a lot of care has gone into the ingredients and the chef Stefano Rosi hails from Café Vue and Vue du Monde. To start (and to make up for not being at yoga class) I order a kale, apple, grapes, kiwi and almond milk smoothie ($7), a good way to absorb a hit of greenery to start the day.
Then onto a more substantial breakfast of house made baked beans with a spicy lamb sausage, two perfectly poached eggs and an oven roasted tomato ($20). It’s colourful and filling and the sausage provides a good hit of chilli.
The brunch menu starts at 11:30am and includes small snacks, salads, tasting plates (a platter of carrots anyone?) before moving into meals proper, such as the ox pie with pickles which caught my eye.
Hawthorn Common is an impressive undertaking. They espouse the term ‘sustainability’ in a practical way, not just mouthing the words on their menu, and they’ve built a community-minded space for Hawthorn locals. The food is virtuous without being smug and most importantly, it’s delicious.
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