Candlelight High Tea in historic Brisbane Arcade

It's 90 years old, reeks of olde world charm, and is a time capsule of Brisbane's memories.

Brisbane Arcade may be eclipsed in size and glamour by other newer and larger shopping destinations, but nothing can match the history within its walls.

Built in the 1920s by two of the children of one of Brisbane's most infamous forefathers, Patrick Mayne, the arcade runs between Queen and Adelaide Streets at the Edward Street end of the city.

Patrick Mayne allegedly confessed to murder on his deathbed which resulted in the shunning of the Mayne family and none of his six children ever married or had children.  However the children were active in other areas and as well as building the arcade, established a Trust which benefits medical research to the present day.

Designed by well known Brisbane architect Richard Gailey, the arcade has three levels and is a monument to terrazzo, polished wooden ballustrading, dado panelling and colourful leadlight glass panels.  It's a traditional arcade style that was developed in Europe in the late 18th century.

Heritage listed in 1992, the building has been restored to its current historical appearance.

A candlelight high tea held in the middle of the arcade was the perfect way to showcase the arcade's food prowess.  Guests revealed their Brisbane arcade memories - buying their first pointe shoes, hunting for vintage clothing, finding their first wedding dress and their second engagement ring, and mine, that my great grandfather, Charles Payne was a foreman for the Brisbane Arcade build.  I look around and wonder what he constructed here and treasure the dining table he made for my grandmother on her wedding, which has found its way into my home.

First to arrive on the table is a warm winter soup duo - pumpkin with a wonderful coriander accent and traditional pea and ham.  L's Espreso Bar is owned by David Lawler and Cate Swan (Bardon residents will fondly remember Cate from her days at Bardon Deli near Bardon State School.) and located at the Adelaide Street entrance to the arcade. Everything is made from scratch on site in their tiny kitchen.  Their cakes come highly recommended and the sultana scones are a must try.  The pea and ham soup is made to David's mother's recipe.

Next was a high tea selection from Keri Craig Emporium which included the most delightful sand crab finger sandwich. Peter Craig told us that the sand crabs come direct from the fisherman in a special arrangement and the sandwiches were certainly filled with the most fresh and flavoursome crab meat.  Keri Craig Emporium has been offering high tea since the early 90s.

Then it was time for tea!  Kim Torstensson from The Tea Centre talked the gathering through a selection of teas from India, China and Scandinavia.   My favourite was the Stockholm Blend, a mix delicately flavoured with orange peel, safflowers, calendula blossoms, rose petals and apricot. It was first blended in Stockholm and is one of the most popular teas in their range.

Room with Roses on the Arcade's top floor is a wonderful space filled with beautiful roses and the delightful aroma of comfort food.  Owner Vicki Pitts bakes or makes everything in house, including the preserves and uses real butter, cream and eggs.  It's very good old fashioned fare, just like your grandma made (or you wished she had made).

A chocolate tasting from Chocolate Moments finished the evening with a tour through Ecuador, Madagascar, Grenada, Ghana, Java, Mexico and more.  The small chocolate drops made it easy to compare and contrast the flavours - I think I'd like to visit Ghana and taste more of their chocolate!

Best tip:  This is part of Brisbane's heritage and should be explored by all.

Bottom line:  Expect good food at reasonable prices from the cafe and establishments.

Kerry Heaney

Disclaimer: Ed+bK was a guest of Brisbane Arcade