Fitzroyal-Tea @ Southpaw Bar

April 6, 2012

189 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

Alright, it appears that Easter has arrived and with it a brief respite from essays and lectures: I declare the blogging hiatus over! The Fitzroyal-Tea at Southpaw was my final MFWF event, which I attended with two friends from school, A and A (they’ve completed ruined my practice of quoting people by their first initial!) and their housemate T. I really should have written about this earlier but, as I’ve said before, life sometimes gets a bit hectic and compromises have to be made.

It had been a pleasant sort of day, and the late afternoon sun trickling through the trees made Gertrude Street seem particularly beautiful. Southpaw, in excellent Fitzroy style, was doing High Tea but without the pretence and without any snobbery. Southpaw is a cool venue, and the music developed from jazzy to hip hop as the afternoon wore on.

The menu had apparently been inspired by monarchies from around the world and throughout time – I was somewhat sceptical of how well some of the apparent inspirations translated into dishes, so perhaps it’s just better to say that the food strayed somewhat from the usual fare and that was all delicious.

I should note that one of the As in attendance was Alice, so some of these photos are hers. I really love her shots of the mis-matched teacups and the table’s flower arrangement; they have a beautiful golden glow.

First up, we decided on a pot of Marrakech tea – gunpowder green with zingy mint (I have my suspicions that it was T2). A brief word on the tea:
An afternoon tea, however modernised, should still be about the tea. I didn’t feel like that was the case here, and we were all slightly disappointed at the way the tea had been prepared. Firstly (and I understand this is more an issue of practicality and I’m nit-picking), the water was kept at 100C in an electric urn, which is bad for tea-making because the water looses its oxygen and the resulting tea tastes flat, which was disappointing. Plus, as A was more than keen to point out (“Brewing sacrilege!!”), different teas brew best at different temperatures, so having one uniform temperature for all teas is bad practice.

But enough about my pickiness with tea, how was the food, you ask? To start (and inspired by the conquistador influence in Spain), we were served scallop and kingfish ceviche, smoked tomato, chili and lime. Spanish? Yes. Conquistador-ian? Probably not, but feel free to correct me. I thought this was a nice fresh was to start the afternoon, although I found the lime a tad overpowering. Also, où est la tomate?

Next up was a rather impressively displayed dish of wild boar and venison terrine, arch maesters jelly, mead and mace pears and wood fired bread. Modelled on the medieval feasts of the Middle Ages, I am more prepared to accept this dish as inspired by that age, particularly given those sabre-like skewers!

The terrine was a universal favourite, but the highlight for me was the arch maesters jelly, which had a heady rosemary scent.

By this stage we’d moved on to black tea: half the table was having English Breakfast and the other half Yunnan (another T2 brew).

When our pair of three-tiered stands arrived (yes, that’s right, one of these is shared between only two people!), along with our plates and teacups and two large teapots, there really wasn’t enough room on the table to be comfortable. I think a small mouse would have had a tough time finding a place to sleep, that’s how crowded it was! Slightly poor practice to try and squeeze four people onto a table that only really had dining room for two, but I suppose it created a relaxed, intimate atmosphere, and sent us into giggles trying to rearrange things every time someone wanted the milk jug.

A note on the sandwiches. Firstly, I don’t like egg-filled sandwiches, so duck egg, lemon ricotta and chard didn’t appeal to me, although everyone else at the table loved it. The coronation chicken was really good, the cardamon and mango chutney combining to give a flavour that was tangy and slightly spiced.

However (and here again we see evidence of poor organisation), both our tiers contained one pair of the egg, and two pairs of the chicken. The poached prawn, tarragon aioli and watercress sandwiches promised to us on the menu were no where to be seen. For shame…

Next, scones. Yummy. Fluffy and light, I really enjoyed the zucchini and smoked cheddar ones with butter. But then who can go past a plain scone glazed with jam and slathered in cream?

By the time we’d progressed to the desserts tier, we were all feeling full. However, being the brave and experienced eaters that we are, we soldiered on! On the left are Lord Randall’s dark marmalade puddings, which were pleasantly sticky, but I didn’t like the taste simply because I’m not a fan of marmalade (something about orange rind…)
At the forefront are a pair of chocolate and pistachio tartlettes with vanilla creme. The filling was deliciously decadent but I felt the pastry needed more butter, it was a tad grainy. Finally, the Queen Mum’s strawberry parfait: lovely, light and my favourite of the three despite the fact that I dislike strawberries.
(Ok wow, there’s a lot of ‘disliking’ in this post. To first time readers – I am not normally a picky eater, it just so happened that egg sandwiches, marmalade and strawberries all cropped up in this meal!)

To finish, and as a sort of palate cleanser, a granita called Sultan’s Lust: white peach and arak with elderflower syrup. This had a slight liquorice taste from the arak but with a lovely underlying sweetness from the peach. A great way to finish the afternoon.

Completely stuffed full of scones and sandwiches and tea, we pretty much rolled out onto Gertrude Street. Despite some haphazard service and a tiny table, I really enjoyed the Fitzroyal-Tea and the people I shared it with, and am keen to head back to Southpaw, perhaps for a G&T or a Pimms. To finish, my favourite of Alice’s photos – enjoy!

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