I don't know about you, but when I go to high tea for the first time at a new place, I tend to ask the same questions:
Do I need to book in advance? Is it buffet or table service? Are large groups catered for? Do they serve coffee as well as tea? How much does it cost? Can I get some champagne? Will people be able to see my feet? Will my vegetarian friends be taken care of? Can I bring my children? Is the food good and plenty of it? Is it pretty?
So it was with these questions in mind I headed with a large group to The George, located at the west end of St Georges Terrace in the city. Street parking is at a minimum, and the nearby car parks are eye-wateringly expensive ($20 for 3 hours) so consider carpooling, walking or bussing it into town.
The George is located at the west end of the Terrace
During the week, The George is dark and brooding, feeding business-types expensive plates of protein and intriguing cocktails, but on weekend afternoons, between 1-5pm this is strictly a delicate affair. Not necessarily for ladies only, but gents, you will most certainly be in the minority.
Do I need to book in advance?
Absolutely. Like most places in Perth, The George requires booking in advance, well in advance if you are a large group like we were. As well as the three basic packages, they also offer a number of high tea 'special occasion packages' ($55-$65pp) which require a minimum of 10 people and can include extras such as cocktails, table decorations, cupcakes, and goody bags. Oh, and mocktails if it's a baby shower.
Is it table or buffet service?
Buffet service, where you get to wander around and select as many morsels as you like is not authentic, but then again, not much of what we call 'high tea' these days actually is. At the George, the service comes on three tiered stands, plus an extra plate for their iconic pink scones.
There are no second helpings, but the quantity you are given is very generous, and we had quite a bit left over at the end of our afternoon. Each stand catered for three people, so it was easy to reach your share of the food, and there wasn't much fighting over who got what.
Are large groups catered for?
As a group of 14, we were quite unwieldy, but they can cater for even larger groups up to 30, and there is a private dining room that is recommended for special occasions. We found that due to the sheer size of our group there was a bit of confusion with who ordered what, especially since there was quite a long wait between arriving and receiving our food. Half the group had moved around which didn't help the staff when they were trying to deliver our tea.
If you have a small group of six or less, ask to sit in the back part of the room, which is very pretty. Larger groups are placed in the front room, with a rather unattractive Will-Ferrel-looking-Greek bust and some curiously uncovered stone penises on the wall.
Do they serve coffee as well as tea?
I rarely drink coffee after midday but I really could have used one today. Alas, the George only offers tea: eight selections from T2 including the more common French Earl Grey and English Breakfast, plus the more unusual Choc Chip Chai and Gorgeous Geisha. Tea is served in a pot with a strainer and rest precariously balanced on top. We had to ask for milk but there were sugar cubes on the table. I am sure you could order a coffee if you wanted one, but they are not strictly part of the package.
How much does it cost?
There are three packages starting with the basic food and tea (Traditional $43), the Prestige ($48) which is the traditional with a glass of sparkling wine, and the Grand Cru ($55) which comes with a glass of French champagne (Veuve). Interestingly, there is a considerable difference in the size of the glass the sparkling wine and the champagne comes in… making the $5 sparkling very good value.
The champagne glass is smaller than the sparkling wine glass
Will people be able to see my feet?
That might seem like a weird question, but if you don't go out much because you have kids (or for any other reason), you often need to decide 'is it worth wearing a pair of pretty high heels?' In other words, you need to know if you will be sitting on couches, exposed to the gaze of your dining companions, or if you are safely tucked away behind a table.
At the George it's the latter, and I wish I had left my pretty but painful high heels at home. The vast majority of seating is ordinary tables and chairs, but there are few high bar tables and bar stools at the front (not comfortable for lounging) as well as the beautiful booths out the back.
Will my vegetarian friends be taken care of?
I'm not a vegetarian, but I am always interested in what my veggie friends are served. There are places in Perth that take their vegetables very seriously, and others that think offering a cherry tomato and a piece of lettuce counts as a meal. The George falls somewhere in between.
Simply put, I don't think the vegetarians were taken care of as well as the carnivores. For example where we were served a mini croissant with a creamy mix of chicken and sweet corn, the vegetarians were served a croissant with half a cold, cooked mushroom. No contest. While we were served a bagel quarter with smoked salmon and salad leaves, they had unseasoned avocado and a few salad leaves.
Can I bring my children?
You can, but I don't know why you would. Just kidding, children are welcome and there is even a $20 kids version of the high tea available. The George does not have high chairs though, so bring your pram and make sure you mention this when you book so they can assign you a table with enough space.
It's worth a visit just to try the raspberry, chilli and balsamic jam
Is the food good and plenty of it?
I enjoyed the food. It was certainly towards the top end of all the high teas I have partaken in over the years, but then again, I'm not a vegetarian and I'm not sure they shared my assessment.
There was plenty of food, and most people didn't actually finish everything: for our savoury dishes we received a finger sandwich, plus bruschetta, bagel, tart, pastry and croissant. For sweet there were two scones, a chocolate, a tart, a macaron and parfait. I thought the value was very good considering the amount of food.
The winners for me were the goats cheese tart with fig and walnut, plus the salted caramel, peanut and chocolate tart. The apple cider scones, soft and pink, came with a spanking raspberry, chilli and balsamic jam. There wasn't enough jam and cream for all the scones, a common enough problem, but it also could have been because the jam was so good we were layering it on an inch thick. The chilli chocolate caught a few people off guard, but I enjoyed it.
Is it pretty?
When I think of high tea, I think of delicate china cups, decorated with beautiful flowers, edged in gold and fancy fluted dishes. The George's tablewear is pedestrian by comparison, a good quality, but otherwise plain white affair. It was crying out for some beauty on the tables, some decoration, some bling, something. The food is lovely, but not a spectacle to behold.
Which leaves us with one last question …
I think I have pretty much answered all the questions now, except the glaringly obvious one. Penises. If you were a man going into battle, why would you bother wearing a helmet and boots and carry a large shield if you weren't going to wear pants?