What's on every foodie and traveller's bucket list
Having never had the extravagant high tea experience before, when I recently went to Tongariro National Park with 3 others as part of our 10-day road-trip around New Zealand's North Island, we thought we might as well tick another thing off our bucket list. Chateau Tongariro Hotel is the hotel that's omnipresent in photographs of this national park, as it's just nestled below the three mountains of Tongariro National Park with stunning mountain backdrops of Mount Ngauruhoe, Mount Tongariro and Mount Ruapehu.
Chateau Tongariro Hotel, with Mount Ruapehu in the background
Not only that, this hotel was constructed during the 'Roaring Twenties'. Just imagine what a house in The Great Gatsby might've looked like. Well, Cheteau Tongariro is exactly like what you'd imagine it to be - grand arched windows with mountain views, roaring open fires, chandeliers in their dining halls, and the list goes on.
Although we weren't staying inside this building, we stayed in a chalet just behind it and were still considered customers of this hotel. After receiving a flyer for high tea here, we realised that it was actually quite cheap compared to high tea back at home (only $25NZD per person). After a short inspection of the Lounge Bar, which was opposite the buffet-style restaurant, we immediately noticed that it had the perfect view of the three mountains, and just HAD to plan for an afternoon here.
Walking into the Lounge Bar, we realised there were already some people soaking up the heating, which was refreshing after the outside chill's temperature of below zero degrees Celsius. This was much to our surprise as it was already approaching 3pm, so we were expecting everyone to have already finished lunch. We chose a seat near the corner, which allowed us to have an almost-180-degree view. We could see green grass that went beyond the horizon without another building in sight. We could see Mount Ngauruhoe right in front of us. When we turned around, we saw the rustic yet charming interior of the lounge, watching people sitting back and relaxing.
I eventually went for a 'Strawberry Kiwi Fruit': "full of zesty flavours and brews a gorgeous crimson-red colour. A perfect blend of dried strawberry and kiwi fruit pieces with rosehips and hibiscus". Someone else went with a 'Lemon Herbal': "Lemongrass is the predominant aroma of this delightful infusion. The addition of lemon rind and lemon flavour make this a light, soothing and calming drink". My other companion went with a 'Paris Black': "A careful blend of black teas and a trifecta of goodness: creamy vanilla, caramel and currant. Elegant, sophisticated and very chic". My final companion went with a 'Green with Coconut Green': "Be transported to Thailand as you sip delicious handpicked green teas blended with coconut, lemongrass and ginger with a hint of vanilla".
As expected, the Lounge Bar offers more than just high-tea. In fact, there was about a fifty-fifty division of people enjoying high tea or just an afternoon tea on that lazy Tuesday afternoon of our visit.
Our teas were superb overall. I might sound a little biased, but after trying all 4 teas, my own fruit tea was still my favourite. It was also one of my companion's favourites. I also really enjoyed the unique combination of the lemongrass & coconut tea, and would be more than willing to try that again. Personally, I'm not a fan of black tea, so I probably shouldn't give my opinion on the Paris black tea. The lemon herbal tea was very aromatic, however, it tasted too bitter for my liking.
The high tea itself was superb to say the least. The selection of bite-size sandwiches were very well thought out. There was a diverse range of sandwich fillings including smoked salmon, eggs & mayonnaise, vegetarian and chicken & vegetables. The scones were cooked perfectly. You could smell the butter even before your initial bite, and we were also given just enough jam and cream. The combination in every bite was so sublime that we even wanted to 'double-dip'... Such high-class citizens, hey?
The selection of small cakes was not only aesthetically pleasing, but also all very appetising. It consisted of a chocolate brownie, creme brûlée, a piece of fudge, a delectable chocolate ball and what we thought was a cheesecake cupcake (?). It was a fusion of both classic and experimental desserts, which kept us guessing, and kept us enjoying every bite. However, at this point I needed to accompany each bite with my tea, as it simply got too sweet for me.
Overall, it was such an enjoyable experience. The staff were all very attentive and came from all corners of the world. In our short visit, we were served by staff from the UK, France, Israel and Brazil. All this with a direct view of Mount Ngauruhoe while sipping on our teas and munching on luscious food.
Enjoying the view of Mount Ngauruhoe while eating high tea
All in all, having high tea at Chateau Tongariro Hotel is an experience that all foodies or travellers should have on their bucket-list. After I'd uploaded a photo of my high tea on social media, at least 5 of my close friends immediately asked me where it was in order to put it on their bucket lists. Go figure!