Hello, I’m Rose Jackson, Creative Director from Glory Days and guest blogger for Miss Charlotte Cake’s High Tea Review.
I was lucky enough to sample the Devonshire Tea that was part of the Alberton House‘s annual Time For Tea event. It was a tough assignment to accept, but someone had to do it as MCC was stuck at work and stranded without a cake fork to help her out! For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Alberton House in the Auckland suburb of Mt Albert, it is one of the finest historic houses in New Zealand, with the most complete collection of one families possession still in situ. It used to sit in the middle of a huge estate owned by Allan Kerr-Taylor and his second wife Sophia who was an outspoken advocate for women’s suffrage (yes!) and their ten (!) children.
Alberton was the party house for Auckland’s 19th century élite and with a ballroom, stables, Indian inspired turrets and huge wrap-around verandahs circling the 18 room mansion, why wouldn’t you?!
Sophia ran the estate for 40 years after her husband’s death and then her three unmarried daughters ran it for a further 40 years. Now this is a bit of gossip and could just be hearsay but apparently the last Kerr-Taylor left at Alberton House one day overheard people from the neighbouring scientific research buildings wishing that she would hurry up and pop her clogs so they could get their hands on her land, which led her to gift it to the Historic Places Trust in 1972. Take that nasty neighbours!
I’m originally from the mean streets of MA and we had many a school trip to Alberton House, trudging up the hill to look at all the old things. I loved climbing up the stairs to the little attic rooms and imagining myself owning the empire!
Fast forward many years and I found myself styling a shoot that past Glory Days contributor, Carlos de Treend of The Juice Lab fame, photographed (above) which you can view here.
I don’t imagine the ballroom had ever seen that much beautiful flesh before! I also had the pleasure of celebrating the 150th anniversary of the house at a Victorian Ball a few years ago, that served traditional food and had dancing in the ballroom (that’s me above pictured near the stunning William Morris wallpaper that the house sports).
One last note: I need to qualify this review with a dear friend and I used to High Tea tour around many establishments in London – its spiritual home – including The Ritz pictured above, so I have rather high and exacting standards. Alberton House you have been warned! But enough history, on with the review…We arrived on Friday afternoon, walked through the grand wrought iron gates down past the stunning gardens in full bloom and were greeted at the door by some gorgeous little posies sitting in vintage china that were available to buy to raise funds for the house, it was such a sweet little idea!
For their 2016 Time For Tea sessions Alberton offered a High Tea for $40.00 per person which included freshly made sandwiches and savouries and dainty home-made cakes and biscuits.We sampled the Devonshire Tea Party option, which at $30.00 per person included freshly made sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and other sweet treats. There were also gluten-free options for those with a delicate constitution and all options included entry into the beautiful house.
The delightfully suitable Harney & Sons tea range was on offer, and once we were seated by the very helpful staff on the picturesque verandah under a string of pastel coloured bunting, we were offered the tea menu. I do love a high tea that offers a paper menu to choose tea from!
Me with my serious high tea judgement face on… The table was set beautifully with vintage bone china and each person received a goodie bag with a Harney & Sons tea sample, seeds from Alberton House and a postcard designed by Contour Creative Studio who we worked with on our Art Deco Colouring Book. I especially loved the cross stitched linen, an incredible amount of handwork goes into them and they are often hidden away in cupboards, so it was nice to see them proudly basking in the sunshine.
If I was being a very fussy reviewer, I would have preferred linen napkins rather than the thin paper ones that were provided, as it let the the table setting down when all the other elements were so beautiful. I ordered the Paris Harney & Sons tea which was divine and my companion Mr W had the Citron Green which he described as “lively and energising”.
On to the food! We were served two sandwiches each which were enough but I would have expected a few more savory elements to balance out all the sweetness on the bottom tier. I am however, pleased to report that the scones were excellent, and what can one really judge a high tea on but the quality of the scones! Perfect texture, good density and not too ‘baking powdery’.
Oh and a special shout out to the person who carved the individual balls of butter – you are a patient and wonderfully detail oriented hospitality representative! The other sweet treats were a deliciously crumbly ginger loaf, a not quite lemony enough tart and a tasty little fruit sponge. If we wanted to, we could have played a round of croquet on the beautiful grounds, but we were a touch too full so simply sat back, sipped our tea and discussed world domination.
It was such a lovely way to pass a Friday afternoon and the only thing missing was the company of MCC! I would thoroughly recommend attending the 2017 Time for Tea sessions and in the meantime you can visit Alberton House to view their irreplaceable collection of household items and stunning gardens from Wednesday – Sunday from 10.30am to 4.30pm.
Click here to find out further details and when you visit why not show your support by purchasing a few Alberton House plants for the garden.
Thanks for such a great review Rose, and if you haven’t checked out my latest photo shoot at Alberton House then have a look. I could look at pictures of this wonderful estate forever.