Thursday, 12 June 2014

Tea Salon, Myer and the Melbourne Emporium

You might say that it was love at first sight when I first spotted the Tea Salon.  When the new Melbourne Emporium shopping centre opened recently, I found myself going down an escalator.  I glanced down at the pretty fabrics and chinaware of the Tea Salon and it was like my life took on soft focus as I dreamed of sipping tea there, pinky in the air, wearing a suitably floaty Laura Ashley dress.

It wasn't long before I arranged to meet my mum there for morning tea.  My main problem was finding the Tea Salon again.  A few escalator rides up and down the Emporium and a visit to the information desk (once I found that) and I was yet again admiring the elegance of the place.  It sits oddly in a very modern minimalist shopping centre (more about that further down the post).  Once inside, you are transported to a world of Midsomer Murders and Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (without the murders of course)!

Not only did I like the look of the Tea Salon.  I was impressed by the range of scones.  The menu has a top ten list of scones.  There is something for everyone.  This is your place for rose or lavender scones, chocolate chips or cheddar, wheat or gluten free.  I was excited to be able to choose a savoury scone.  My rosemary leek and parmesan scone with herb butter was lovely.

My mum went for a sweet scone: date and orange with a chunky marmalade and cream.  I've never had marmalade on a scone before but this marmalade was great with melt in the mouth chunks of peel.  We both had a pot of tea with our scones.  My mum's floral tea pot and strainer had the elegance and charm that the decor led us to expect.  The Turkish apple sea was sold out.  Instead I chose a peppermint tea which came in a disappointingly plain silver teapot.

We had a great time and enjoyed the ambiance but I recommend the place with some reservations.  It is not cheap.  Two pots of tea and two scones cost us $23.  The meals look great but I am reluctant to pay $13.95 for a savoury scone with feta, relish, rocket and tomatoes or $39 for a high tea.  My mum found her tea to be too weak and I think one scone per person is a bit stingy.  Most places I go for a Devonshire tea serve two scones with tea.

I hope to be back but perhaps not as often as if the prices were lower.  After all the Tea Salon is inside a shopping centre that has other eating options.  I wont write about the top floor food hall today but I wanted to share some photos of the Emporium as work in progress.

I have managed to dredge up some old photos of the building works that transformed the old Myer Lonsdale Street building into the Melbourne Emporium.  Above is the old facade of the building on the Little Bourke Street side in April 2011 before it was demolished.

This Little Bourke Street facade photo was taken in July 2011.  It is being supported by girders.  I guess this was part of the demolition process.

This photo was taken year later in July 2012.  The Lonsdale Street facade was preserved but as you can see, not much of the Myer Lonsdale Street building was retained, including the Little Bourke Street facade.  I was both saddened by the loss and fascinated to see the building viewed in this way.

The facade in Lonsdale Street in September 2012.  A lot of support was need to keep the facade in place once the rest of the building started to go up.

The other side of the Lonsdale Street facade at the same time.  I think this was around the time of the Grocon industrial protests.  I will not go into detail about this but it left a bad taste in my mouth about the building. 

I then can't find any photos of note until February 2014, not long before the Emporium opened in April.  If you compare this to the photo of the old Little Bourke Street facade you will see that it is quite similar.  Same same but different!

And finally here is the new facade from the walkway between Melbourne Central and the Melbourne Emporium.  In the below photo you can see that the old Myer sign and clock have been kept on the old Lonsdale Street facade.

I like the way the facade has been preserved.  I like the colour in the new buildings.  However I am disappointed in the interior of the centre.  It is quite boring.  The shops don't interest me too much.  I think the Tea Salon is one of the best places in there.  Though I will hold off on judging the food hall until I had eaten there more than once.

If you look carefully, or just get horribly lost, you might see this small acknowledgement of the old Myer store that has been replaced.  There is a storyboard with some information about the history of the building.  According to this, the 1926 Myer building was innovative and grand.  It was such an icon in Melbourne that when someone was bold we might say they had "more front than Myer".  Redesigning the site should come with some responsibility to history.  Sadly some developers seem more interested in money than heritage.

The new Emporium lacks the grandeur and vision of the Myer building.  It is all a very boring grey with little of interesting in design and few shops to excite me.  My main excitement about its opening is that the walkways joining Melbourne Central and Myer are open again.  I suspect I will mostly just pass on through the Emporium, with the occasional stop at the Tea Salon when I want something special.

Tea Salon
Emporium Melbourne Level 2
295 Lonsdale St, Melbourne CBD
Tel: 03 8609 8188
http://theteasalon.com.au/

The Tea Salon on Urbanspoon

18 comments:

  1. $14 is indeed steep for one scone, though I guess you are paying partly for the ambience and service. Have you seen the chocolate store Chokolait, I think it would be far be worthy to spend that on a slice of their signature pavlova :) https://www.facebook.com/chokolaitfans

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    1. Thanks Felicia - yes you do pay for the ambiance and service. Chokolait looks interesting but chocolate is more indulgent than scones which is why I really liked the idea of a scone cafe - though at those prices they become an indulgence too :-)

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  2. Wow that is pricey! I keep meaning to take my mum in to the city, she stopped working (she was on Collins St) around 2004 and so I'd like to show her how Myer etc have changed. I don't think she has ever been in the GPO building, though I don't like it myself with all the shops and wished they'd kept the post office there! It seems like more big stores and shopping areas are popping up all the time.

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    1. Thanks Vegaopoulous - my dad worked at Myer as a young man so he loves to see how it has changed - must ask if he has seen the emporium and what he thinks - the GPO building was not too bad when it was a shopping centre but I really dislike how they have turned it into H&M - at least as a shopping centre I could enjoy walking through and looking at the building but I am less likely to do so when a large department store. Sob!

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  3. What a cute place. There is a similar café here in my town, but it's much smaller. I could swear they have the same china though.

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    1. Thanks Mihl - your cafe is probably much cheaper than this one - well I hope so - sound lovely

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  4. Those prices are crazy - even by Perth standards - but the height on those scones is quite amazing! What a great place for a treat, and I imagine it would be very easy to imagine yourself in a different era / life / style and settle back to enjoy it while you're there. Nice peaks into Melbourne too!

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    1. Thanks Kari - the height on the scones was great but I think the real challenge with scones in a cafe is having them fresh - which is shy they are so delicious at home straight out of the oven.

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  5. Hi Johanna,
    So sorry it took me so long to get here. I'm still slowly trying to catch up after my trip.

    It's too bad the Tea Salon didn't live up to your expectations. It does sound a bit pricy considering the disappointments. At least you got a chance to try it out and visit with your Mom too.

    It also gave you us a chance to have a peek into its history as another building which of course was most interesting. How lucky for you to be able to put the pictures into a timeline of sorts. Thanks so much for sharing, Johanna...

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    1. Thanks Louise - lovely to hear from you - I am a bit slow at getting about the blogosphere myself. Despite it not being perfect I had a really nice time with my mum and would go back but when I feel like a treat. I have been fascinated by what they have been doing to myer - sad about the lonsdale street building going but interested in new development too.

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  6. What a shame. I would have thought that such an iconic building would have been heritage listed and been preserved. I love the look of the Tea House but I agree the prices are high. I don't often enjoy high teas as I often walk out wondering what I got for the price I paid xx

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    1. Thanks Charlie - I would have thought so too - I don't know if keeping the fascade was a compromise - I think this has been a long drawn out process that I haven't followed - the problem is that department stores like Myer just aren't doing as well as they used to - in fact they have changed a lot over the last few years even without the loss of the Lonsdale Street building and I understand that modern building have different requirements from those built over a century ago but I don't know what happened to all the grand staircases in myer - just feel sad they are gone from that building. I think high teas are so much more about experience than the food - but the people who built the emporium seem more about commerce than experience.

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  7. i agree, a bit pricey, especially as scones are not that difficult to make :)

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    1. Thanks Cate - yes - I think it is the serving scones so they feel fresh and straight out of the oven is the challenge in a cafe

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  8. I think that I'd love the tea salon too - it is so pretty. I am yet to set foot in Emporium. For some reason, I have gone off shopping in shops and buy lots of things online.

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    1. Thanks Cakelaw - I do very little shopping online so I love a good shopping experience which ideally should include good food but doesn't always - esp when child in tow

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  9. My friend and I were attracted by the decor, the crockery and the whole presentation of the Tea Salon. However, we were very disappointed with the scones today! The cheese and herb scone was doughy and the date one was dry. They will definitely have to up their ante to create a return clientel. We will not be back.

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    1. Thanks Anon - sorry to hear the scones did not appeal - ours were lovely - but I prefer fresh scones to ones that are sitting in a display cabinet - I guess the logistics of this in a cafe is tricky - at least there are plenty of other places for you to eat nearby in the emporium and surrounds.

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