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By Heather• 18 Apr 2016
Can a girl ever have too many high teas? Not likely.
Because Mother’s Day is looming, and Hippopotamus were the first global winners of the Dilmah Real High Tea Challenge in 2015, I dug out my tiara and went along to chat to Laurent Loudeac (Executive Chef) and Camillle Furminieux (Assistant Restaurant Manager), before indulging in a wee spot of high tea.
Laurent and Camille believe high tea should be a soothing and relaxing experience with a hint of glamour and ceremony. Where you get together with friends and loved ones to catch up and celebrate. To enjoy good conversation. And step out of life’s hustle and bustle for a moment in time.
So Hippopotamus seems ideal then, given you’re surrounded by peacocks, fabulous art, lovely views over the harbour, and courteous, professional staff.
The high tea's here are French styled rather than the classic old English, so nary a scone in sight, and only one traditional sandwich. They can be enjoyed with tea, bubbly, a cocktail or French Champagne. Now we're talking!
We were lucky enough to be started with the award-winning Salmon Sashimi ‘My Way’ paired with Dilmah Ran Watte tea (you can read about the other Dilmah winning dishes here). A cube of salmon and a sliver of soy jelly are wrapped in a paper-thin slice of cucumber, topped with wasabi, wakame salad, caviar and sesame seeds, and completed with a drizzle of ginger syrup. The Ran Watte tea is considered to be the 'French champagne' of tea, and did in fact make the salmon creamier in the mouth as promised. Spectacular.
We then moved onto the tiered platter, with a range of strategies discussed and discarded– savoury then sweet?, larger then smaller? denser then lighter? – in the end we just made like magpies and headed for whatever caught our eye next.
The things that stood out repeatedly were the quality of the pastries (light, fresh, and mouth-wateringly tender), the effort gone into the presentation (imagine creating and plating 2000+ delicate wee items per week), and the overall lightness - I didn’t feel over-loaded or drowned in cream or sugar by the end.
There were three favourites for me - the lemon jelly on the salmon rillette totally taking it to another level, the caramel choux having fantastic textures and flavours from top to bottom, and the peanut and praline rocher being soft, silky and crunchily nutty at the same time. Very moorish.
The savoury items are changed now and then to mix it up (other than the one traditional cucumber sandwich), and the sweet are changed weekly.
Hippopotamus have used Dilmah since they began high teas approximately six years ago, due to their wide and interesting tea range, strong ethics and social conscience - Dilmah invest in a lot of community development in Sri Lanka, and provide free tea to all hospices in NZ, for example.
They also spend a lot of time training their customers in how to brew tea correctly, with the biggest issue being brew time. Their teas require between 2.5 and 4 minutes depending on the style, and both Laurent and Camille say learning to appreciate the full flavours achieved with correct brewing was a key factor in creating their award-winning food and tea matches last year.
There are some really interesting teas to choose from, and the staff continually return to top you up from beautiful china pots, so you’ll have about 4 cups worth of excuses to go and check out the glam toilets afterwards (just another part of the Hippo experience!).
What to watch out for in future? Laurent and Camille are both fans of tea taking its place alongside wine, coffee and craft beer in terms of flavour appreciation and food matching, and greater use in cocktails and cooking. So don’t be surprised to see more tea-based events, drinks and dishes appearing on the menus at Hippopotamus.
And themed events - a Wizard of Oz high tea is planned for the first week of May to coincide with the Royal New Zealand Ballet's world premiere of the Wizard of Oz. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for details.
Remember Mothers Day is May 8th, so you need to get booking now if you plan to take mum out for a treat. Or what the hell, just go yourself!
Wednesdays to Sundays 2pm – 4.30pm.