Hihou’s limited edition Japanese Afternoon tea represents all that I love about the food scene in Melbourne.
A hard-to-find, hidden situation (walk through Nama Nama from Spring Street or ring the doorbell on the unmarked black door on Flinders Lane). An urban location with a scenic view of one of Melbourne’s beloved green pockets. And the opportunity to relax on a weekend afternoon over tea and treats.
For three Saturdays in July (future dates are 13 July and 20 July) as part of City of Melbourne’s Look.Stop.Shop winter program, Hihou are offering Japanese afternoon tea with Lupicia teas or coffee from Market Lane in their beautiful bar. It’s possibly the best value afternoon tea you’ll find in the CBD as the 2 hours of indulgence will cost you only $25.
I’m not normally a fan of fruit flavoured teas but I’m in love with the Ume Vert – Japanese plum green tea – by Lupicia. It’s sweetness and clarity in a cup and I’m stocking up at Lupicia‘s QV store. I urge you to try some of the green teas on offer in the tea menu and eschew the boring Earl Grey/English breakfast/peppermint route.
Hihou’s riff on the traditional three tier afternoon tea tray means three courses of savoury and sweet bites. The first savoury course consists of a fat scallop siumai embedded in a whole fleshy shiitake mushroom and soy dipping sauce. A small laquered plate holds some panfried oyaki dumplings filled with chilli miso whole soy beans. The finger sandwiches are not your usual cucumber or smoked salmon – rather they are filled with nuggets of pork tonkatsu, some slithers of cabbage and mayo.
Next comes a laquered box which opens to reveal a gasp-inspiring selection of delicate sweets. Our favourite bite was the matcha and macadamia nut cookie, followed by two sweets which are currently appearing in Nama Nama’s winter picnic bento box – the chocolate shochu coconut truffle and sticky pistachio and peanut caramel shards. I quite like the bean paste texture and faint sweetness of wagashi but my friend wasn’t as much of a fan. And we both found the miso paper and sweet potato cigar curious, but not particularly appetising given its savoury notes and combination of slippery and mushy textures.
The third course is more sweets in the form of an almost savoury rectangle of black sesame cheesecake and a fluffy warm yuzu tofu cake covered with a white chocolate sauce. The plate came served with a matcha whisked tea, a large bowl of frothy powdered green tea of the kind that I don’t often see served in Australia and a lovely way to neutralise the palate after all that sweetness.
Hihou’s Japanese Afternoon tea is only available for a limited time so make sure you book and catch it while you can. I hope that they’ll extend the season for it as it’s a wonderfully unique experience for a city that loves its afternoon tea.
Remaining dates Saturday 13 July and Saturday 20 July, 3-5pm