Not having met a self-confessed "rose trollop" in all of my sixty-six years, I knew I was in for an interesting high tea at the Room with Roses Café on the top floor of the heritage listed Brisbane Arcade. After just a few short years as owner, Vicki Pitts is no ordinary café proprietor. She is incredibly passionate about her business, from both an historic as well as gastronomic point of view.
The café sits above what used to be the slaughterhouse for the infamous Patrick Mayne's (of The Mayne Inheritance fame) butcher shop. Its romantic interior belies its lurid past. Looking out the curtain-draped French doors and windows towards the leopard trees of Adelaide Street, it is hard to imagine stock milling nervously in fenced yards.
There are roses roses everywhere in a sanctuary from the noisy hubbub of Brisbane's CBD. Fifteen dozen fresh roses per week are used to decorate the rooms, some of which are from Vicki's garden, but are sourced from Mt Tamborine hothouses in the winter. Roses also feature on the comfortable cane furniture at the cosy tables for two, in the wallpaper and artwork, and on the lampshades.
A combination of gastronomic delights and décor has resulted in the girl from Miriamvale winning a swag of awards with her "nostalgia food" as opposed to "comfort food". In her words "God bless the CWA", as most of her kitchen's repertoire is taken from this culinary bible, "just like her mother used to make". She personally makes all the café's preserves, which I enjoyed on the delicious scones filled with crystallised ginger and fresh raspberries.
High tea consisted of ribbon sandwiches on fresh white bread, mini salmon cakes, a savoury tartlet (contents unknown but scrumptious), mini scones, and my very favourite, lemon curd tartlets. As an occasional baker myself, I did not need to be told that the pastries were made with real butter.
All of these goodies were freshly baked that day on the premises, as is the usual practice. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are also available, the latter in response to a girlfriend with a coeliac condition being offered rice crackers and ham at another venue. With all the butter used in the baking, vegans would be well advised to steer clear.
A dedicated tea drinker, I was initially taken aback by its taste, but four cups later…….. The unusual taste of Rose Grey Tea is the combination of Earl Grey with a hint of vanilla and rose petals. The result is a refreshing flavour which is not sickly sweet. It is second to the traditional English Breakfast as the most popular tea on offer.
As well as morning and afternoon teas, the café serves breakfast and lunch. Bookings are essential for Saturdays, and Wednesdays are also very busy. The Chandelier Room can be hired as a private function room and has been the venue for many marriages.
A wedding chapel can be set up on site and the venue is licensed. Prices for high tea begin at $42 per person, breakfast dishes range from $6.95 to $20.95, cakes from $4.00 to $14.95, and luncheon mains from $26.95 to $28.45. Gift baskets of goodies start at $14.95. The Nostalgic Winter Warmers menu of two courses costs $37.00.
Some of Vicki's awards are recognition by her peers of the café's food and service of which she is rightly proud. These awards are Top Four High Teas in Australia – InStyle 2013 Finalist: Best Cafe Restaurant in SE Queensland – Restaurant & Catering Assoc Awards for Excellence 2013 (Awards ceremony to be held in September) Finalist: Best Breakfast Restaurant in SE Queensland –Restaurant & Catering Assoc Awards for Excellence 2013 (Awards ceremony to be held in September) 5 of the Best High Teas in Australia – Vogue Living 2012 Winner: Best Breakfast Restaurant in SE Queensland –Restaurant & Catering Assoc Awards for Excellence 2012 National Finalist: Best Breakfast Restaurant in Australia - Restaurant & Catering Assoc Awards for Excellence 2012 Finalist: Best Cafe Restaurant in SE Queensland – Restaurant & Catering Assoc Awards for Excellence 2012 Best Cafes in Brisbane - Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide 2011 5 Stars for Excellent Food Safety - Brisbane City Council 2011, 2012, 2013 (the highest possible rating)
Vicki describes her business as Brisbane's best kept and worst kept secret. If you've never ventured above the ground floor of the Brisbane Arcade, take that lift or climb those stairs. You won't be disappointed by either the olde worlde ambience and attentive service or the food. The café is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 3.30pm.