Illawarra embraces the culture of high tea

Cucumber sandwiches, cupcakes and scones have taken over the Illawarra as ladies raise their pinkies in celebration of the ever increasing popularity of high tea.

Once the fodder of old ladies and royals, high tea has become the new go-to meal for hens' parties, celebrations and even kids' birthdays.

Restaurants across the region have been quick to jump on the bandwagon, offering high-tea events filled with vintage china, scrumptious scones and a touch of whimsy.

Wollongong's Seacliff Restaurant treats guests to a signature tea blend, a glass of champagne and a three-tiered stand, jammed with scones, sandwiches and sweet petit fours.

Marketing manager Jonni Nicolaou says the eatery has spent hours researching the history of high tea, in an attempt to authentically recreate its atmosphere.

"It's all about attention to detail for us ... we invested in expensive crockery and cutlery and we always have a harpist playing to really create that ambience," she says.

The high tea tradition kicked off in Britain in the mid-1700s.

A high tea platter at Seacliff Restaurant.

It started as an afternoon meal, usually served between 3pm and 4pm, when working men would stand up or sit on tall stools (thus, "high") to enjoy cakes, scones and even cheese on toast.

Over time, high tea developed into an important event on social calendars for the upper class who took advantage of the chance to have a snack before attending the theatre or playing cards.

Nicolaou believes the meal's resurgence is a direct result of it being far more than a simple afternoon tea.

'It's all about the overall experience," she says.

"People like that ambience and the tradition; it's really lovely to see them embracing the culture of high tea."

Seacliff started offering high tea nearly two years ago and often sees 200 people attend an event.

The venue's wedding and events manager Sharon Howson says high tea has broad appeal.

"We've had everything from bridal showers to baby showers to birthdays; it's really wide ranging," she says.

"There's nothing really quite like high tea, especially that elite high tea with fine china and good food."

Seacliff's sister eatery the Lagoon has also branched into the service - but focuses on a younger audience.

The venue has been hosting a bi-monthly "toddler high tea" since last March, building up a healthy clientele of mums, bubs - and some dads - looking for a tasty morning out.

Nicolaou says it offers a family-friendly place for parents and kids.

"We had so many mothers coming into the Lagoon for coffee that I felt it was something we could offer," she says.

The restaurant puts away any breakable crockery but parents still get a taste of high tea while the kids enjoy activities.

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