high tea

Dubai - up high! by Hannah Foster

An adult Disneyland with sand – Dubai is crazy, hot and crazy hot with a lot of things I expected (malls, air conditioning, middle eastern food, Lamborghinis, very tall buildings) and a few things I absolutely did not (brilliant brunch, French supermarkets, nightclubs and Starbucks)

London to Dubai is a relatively easy 7-hour daytime flight. I’m used to Dubai being an airport stopover, marking one leg of a fairly brutal 22 or so hour flight to Australia.  But when you get to get off and stay off the plane in Dubai, it is definitely much more civilised!

As we were staying with family (and meeting the newest member of it!) we had a brilliant time in Dubai and got to see a less touristy and more interesting side of this city on the Persian Gulf of the UAE .

We did manage to do a few touristy things though including…the world’s highest high tea! It is me we are talking about after all; I will wrangle eating cake into the itinerary of any trip.

The world’s highest high tea is served at Atmosphere, on level 122 of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. You really feel like a celebrity or fabulously wealthy oil baron from the moment you pass through the doors of the Armani hotel lobby on ground floor. Hostesses in floor-length black dresses greet guests, and lift access is guarded by discretely placed Armani suited security. The lift up to level 122 takes less than a minute, but there is a lot of ear popping and a slightly disconcerting wobble to the lift as you reach the higher floors.

Floor to ceiling windows, with an ocean-side view

Floor to ceiling windows, with an ocean-side view

Atmosphere has the wood paneled, crisp linen thing that many modern premier high tea venues have, but it also has an incredible panoramic view of Dubai and the desert beyond from almost half a kilometre up. There is glass from floor to ceiling in the dining area and there’s also an epic view from the bathrooms. Service is very attentive, bordering on gushing, and, on request, extends to enthusiastically taking twenty different photos of you having high tea from various angles.

High tea is served on a tiered stand (tick) and includes warm scones (tick) with jam and proper clotted cream (double tick), tiny fancy sandwiches and a selection of French style cakes.


There are a few subtle nods to the fact that you’re in the Middle East. The high tea starts with a glass of iced tea, which makes sense given it is typically over 40 degrees outside, and palate cleansing coconut milk mousse. The selection of gateaux also included a hot weather friendly coconut macaron and the scones were served with a tropical style passionfruit jam, as well as the traditional berry jam.

Lady Bracknell and I are both very fond of cucumber sandwiches, luckily for me there were some on hand at this high tea!

Lady Bracknell and I are both very fond of cucumber sandwiches, luckily for me there were some on hand at this high tea!

Particular standouts for me were the cucumber sandwiches, which were actually perfect slices of white bread with cream cheese layered in the middle, wrapped with very thin strips of cucumber. They looked quite striking and tasted delicious. I also loved the miniature chocolate brownies on the top tier, which were so decadent they were like eating pure chocolate fudge. A surprise favourite was the choux pastry, which, when you bit into it, was filled with a salted caramel custard. Winner!

Close up of the brownie...making me hungry all over again!

Close up of the brownie...making me hungry all over again!

There’s a traditional tea menu, served in large china teapots, and also a very extensive mocktails menu. You can opt for alcohol, but it is very expensive in Dubai and we found it was fairly unnecessary given how many other delicious drinks were on offer. The meal concludes with the female guests being given a small takeaway box of chocolates and the men being given the bill. Excellent. 

We took a few final shots of the view and left Atmosphere on a real, dare I say it...high!


But I'm the Princess of Shoreditch! - Weeks 3 and 4 in London by Hannah Foster

London and Melbourne are, in many ways, oddly similar. It is easy to forget when I wake up in the morning that I'm now living in the capital of England, a city of 9 million+ on the other side of the world to where I normally call home. The weather's not too dissimilar from Melbourne (until we hit Winter here!), there's no language barrier and the Cadbury's chocolate tastes largely the same.

But then, just occasionally, I'll be walking to work and I'll be distinctly reminded that I'm 'not in Kansas (or rather Melbourne) any more!' by something like a glimpse of the Shard or The Gherkin buildings in the city skyline, a squirrel hopping across the road between cars (eeek!) or from out of a rubbish bin, stopping to top up my Oyster card or a double decker red bus speeding past me.

Happily for this blog, London, like Melbourne, has a huge number of great places to eat. And there has been a lot of eating happening in London over the last couple of weeks. So much so that I'm going to do a separate post, which I'll update regularly, with names of 1) great places I've eaten in London and 2) a 'wishlist' of places I want to try in London. This may be more for my benefit than anyone else's, but hey, if you to head over to London, especially East London, hopefully you find it useful too. 

A couple of recent dining highlights though for now have been:

Dinner at The Princess of Shoreditch

First up, I love the name of this gastro pub. I totally want to be Princess of Shoreditch, which is the trendiest suburb in East London, absolute hipster central. It's also the suburb where there was a mini riot last week. A mob on Saturday night attacked The Killer Cereal Cafe, apparently as a protest against the gentrification of the area. Personally I don't think it's an overpriced individually run cereal cafe that they should have been targeting. I mean, if you don't want to pay exorbitant prices for coco pops, don't eat there. There real issue is the incredible rise in house prices in the area and the extreme lack of decent housing in London generally ...as I personally experienced when flat-hunting last month! Anyway, rant over. The Princess was brilliant, with a low-lit little restaurant up on a mezzanine above a buzzy pub. We went with a couple of Aussie friends who were travelling through London that weekend. I had a beautiful roast onion, leek and goat's cheese dish, followed by an absolutely stellar dessert. It was a bit like a blackberry Eaton Mess, made with malt flavoured meringue that kind of tasted like the inside of malteasers, combined with fresh blackberries, blackberry compote and a super-soft barley flavoured ice-cream. It wasn't too sweet, and it was a surprising flavour combination that worked really well. 

High tea at The Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair

I won't say too much about this awesome high tea experience because I'm writing a full review for highteasociety.com which should be out in a month or so. But it was very special and the food was, of course, amazing. Particular highlights included the large selection of perfect finger sandwiches with vegetarian fillings and the incredible Cornish clotted cream we had with scones. 

Breakfast at The Duck & Waffle

No prizes for guessing what they serve at this place! The waffles don't all come with duck though, I enjoyed a waffle with brûlée bananas, homemade Nutella and vanilla bean ice-cream. It's up on the 40th floor and we managed to pick a very clear morning (Ed's birthday) so we had a brilliant view while we ate breakfast. Open 24 hours every day, this place is also a popular place to finish a big night out, watch the sun rise, and either keep drinking at the bar or tuck in to a big recovery breakfast. 

A Carluccio's picnic at Hampstead Heath

This awesome birthday present from a good friend of mine was something Ed and I did on a sunny (I know, sunny in London!) Saturday afternoon. We picked up a vegetarian picnic from Carluccio's, complete with its own icepack in the cooler bag, and then jumped on the train to Hampstead Heath, which is a large park/lake/mini forrest in the middle of an inner London suburb. It's a huge space, filled with people walking their dogs, open grasslands, muddy forested areas and several lakes. We grabbed a spot on a lawn and tucked into ricotta, spinach and pine nut tarts, delicious roast vegetable and grain salads, seriously over-sized sea salt foccacias and, to finish, the most delicious strawberry cream tarts! Bliss!

Dinner at Shoreditch Bottega Prelibato 

This place is quite unassuming looking. We arrived for a 7pm dinner before a movie and there were only a few other tables of people sitting at plain wooden tables, checking out the menu boards. The menu changes daily and it's basically Italian antipasto plates to start to share, followed by a choice of six or seven fresh pasta dishes. I started to get excited about the place when our waiter came over with a board of fresh pasta types, and talked us through the menu indicating which pasta was used in each dish. Options ranged from fairly traditional veal tortellini with a cream and sage sauce, to the more unusual, like pasta filled with clotted cream and orange zest, served with courgettes and hazelnuts. Since it was the house specialty, I opted for the Bottega spaghetti, which did not disappoint. A huge bowl of springy-yet-perfectly-al-dente pasta arrived, covered in a rich tomato and pesto sauce, liberally dotted with chunks of fresh buffalo mozzarella. It was bliss. Ed's tortellini was also, according to him, one of the best pasta dishes he's ever eaten. We will definitely be coming back to this place, not least because I discovered it's also next door to a cat cafe where you can cuddle kittens pre or post dinner!

That's it for me for now. Next post is going to be a little more continental...covering the long weekend we just had in Amsterdam!

xox Hannah