The Hotel Intercontinental Wellington has always been a part of my life. Or to be more accurate, their scrumptious food has.
As a little girl - thinking as far back as I can remember - I would be brought here for special dinners by my parents when Dad was busy at work and wanted to treat us anyway (he worked in the upstairs building). As I got older and became a teenager I'd sometimes have a milkshake and fries in the Lobby with Mum, feeling very grown up on a Saturday after shopping together.
I can't quite put my finger on what it was that always made me feel very special here - maybe how the staff doffed their hat at you or the wide spinning doors at the entrance. Perhaps it was the huge mirror in the bathroom that reflected back and back and back on itself, seemingly to infinity. Maybe it was the idea of being a tourist in my own city, pretending to be someone sophisticated from a far off city, like London or Paris, mysteriously visiting Wellington. Whatever it was, I indulged the fantasy, like the books about Eloise at the Plaza in New York.
One Wednesday lunchtime, not long ago, my friend Megan and I returned to the Hotel Intercontinental and gorged ourselves on High Tea in the Lobby Lounge.
On arriving, we were warmly greeted by the Hotel personnel and swiftly shown to a table by the window in the elegant Lobby Lounge. We picked a tea (an Earl Grey variety) and waited for the food while perusing the menu (the Patisserie Chef, Marie Currie, looked like a formidable madam - we agreed that she was a woman we would aspire to be in our respective futures).
After not-very-long, but what felt like longer because we were so eager to eat, delectable sweets and savouries were presented for our greedy gobbling. We truly were AMAZED by the beautiful spread on the giant three-tier cake stand.
Smoked Salmon Bagels, Little Bacon Avocado Rolls, perfectly stuffed and held in place with a toothpick, buttercup yellow egg sandwiches, mini scones, cream and jam, rye biscuits and blue cheese, all seasonal and perfectly arranged made up the base layer.
Above these sat gooey lemon cheesecake, the lightest chocolate mousse gateau, red velvet cake, lemon meringue pie. And finally at the top were strawberry custard tarts (my favourite), little mouse chocolate sweets filled with soft molten mouse and a crispy light chocolate shell and a mini fruit salad. Can I get a Hallelujah?
We ate and we ate and we ate. Occasionally, we sipped our tea. Laughing jollily, Megan and I agreed that we were exactly where we were meant to be in the world.
For such tiny portions, the whole High Tea filled us hugely. We asked our waitress if people normally finish the whole lot. "Sometimes if it is a girl with a large boyfriend" she politely told us. We looked back at the suddenly very bare stand (we ate everything except the last lemon meringue pie). Stuffed to the brim, we sat back in our super comfortable chairs and watched the people of Wellington walk down Grey Street on their lunch break.
Having such a luxurious treat mid-week felt a bit naughty, like escaping for a spa, buying an expensive pair of shoes or magically sweeping off on some mini-break spontaneously - when actually we were just over the road from Queens Wharf. Everything, from the ea pots and cups to the saucers was of the highest quality. Megan and I agreed that the High Tea wasn't just one of the best - if not THE best - we had ever had, but it was great value as well (High Tea starts at $39 per head). On arriving back at work, someone announced it was time to have chocolate cake to celebrate a colleague's birthday. Megan and I looked at each other - "Yes" Megan said holding out her plate. I, on the other hand, couldn't fit another crumb. Sometimes, a girl's gotta know when she's beaten by a French Patisserie Chef.
Marie Currie, you got me good. Well played, Madam.
The Intercontinental serves High Tea from 12 - 3 Monday to Friday and 11:30am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday. You can find out more on the website for the Lobby Lounge.
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