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Review: High Tea at Hippo Co.

Beatrice Smith

As Spring settles into Canberra, the white tablecloths, fine china and finger sandwiches come out.

Many venues around Canberra are famous for their High Teas, but there are always new venues wanting to serve as the perfect location for that girls catch up, birthday celebration, hen’s afternoon or mother-daughter date.

Most recently, Garema Place’s highest of whiskey bars – Hippo Co. – has flung their (balcony) doors open to introduce their highest of High Teas.

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We recently worked with Hippo Co. to build a HerCanberra cocktail for inclusion in our imminent third magazine, so when Manager Dan Skeehan hinted that High Tea was on the horizon for Hippo, we knew we’d have to try it out.

Sauntering along to Hippo Co. on a weekday afternoon, the HerCanberra Team were greeted by both Dan and Kylie Bretag – Events and Marketing Manager for both Hippo Co. and Honkytonks.

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The Hippo Co. space is an interesting thing in the daylight. The wood panelled, dusky interior we’ve written about so many times was light and airy, with sunlight spilling in from wall of windows. The terrance bi-folds were pushed back and the balcony was empty except for three small tables draped in thick white tablecloths.

Kylie poured us Sparkling on arrival and we settled into our chairs, some signature pretzels already on the table.

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We could see the bar staff quietly working around the bar across the room, hand arranging the food on tea stands. There’s definitely an ‘after hours’ feel to being in a bar by yourself with a bunch of bartenders.

Perched high above Garema Place, there’s a spaciousness to the experience. The view was wonderful and it would be a lovely, shady spot to sit and people watch on a sunny afternoon.

Kylie advises me that the minimum for a booking is four and the maximum is “however many you can fit on the balcony.” We had six and felt very comfortable in the space.

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The afternoon tea soon arrived and Dan sat down to tell us a bit about it. Everything is made by Dan and the Honkytonks chefs (the scone recipe is Kylie’s own) fresh that morning downstairs.

We had Frangelico hazelnut tartlets, lemon tartlets, scones with jam and cream, chocolate dipped strawberries and a trio of finger sandwiches – smoked salmon with dill cream cheese, prosciutto and smashed pea and cucumber with herbed butter.

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The ‘Roller‘ booking system Hippo uses allows people to ‘build’ their own High Tea, which means that intolerances and allergies can be catered for.

The sweets were delightful – something like macarons or mini meringues would be a lovely addition – although admittedly I haven’t seen the whole menu yet.

The finger sandwiches were wonderful, with each flavour being the favourite of at least one of us.

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Served with the food was a gorgeous afternoon cocktail, a Rose Gin and Raspberry Tom Collins, served in vintage tea cups. It also came in a mocktail version, which was just as delicious and available.

At $55 a head, this might seem like an ambitious price considering Canberra’s best known High Tea (the Hyatt’s) is only $3 more, however there are advantages to Hippo’s model that will suit some customers far better.

It’s a quiet space, apart from the signature jazz soundtrack being played inside, which would better suit parties with babies or those wanting a calm, sophisticated environment for their celebration. It would also be one of the only High Teas you could convince some of your more macho male friends to attend, without them feeling overwhelmed by floral wallpaper and icing.

As previously mentioned, you can pre-select your food so intolerances or even just dislikes of particular foods can be taken care of. Guests could even have a say in the menu, and because the food is made fresh for each booking there’s no chance it’ll get caught up in the kitchen or someone’s order will be lost. These factors alone could make or break an event.

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In saying this, I’m excited to see what other alcoholic creations Hippo Co. will offer in addition to the delightful Rose Tom Collins for their High Teas.

The drinks list is where Hippo Co. has the opportunity to edge other venues out, as most High Teas only offer Sparkling or Champagne. Add a fresh alcoholic iced tea or a zesty Pimms Cup to the menu and I would move into Hippo Co. for the Summer.

As Dan probably isn’t keen sub-let the balcony to me, I’ll have to settle for revisiting their High Tea again.

the essentials 
What: High Tea at Hippo Co.
When: Saturday and Sunday from 2pm-5pm
Where: Garema Place, Civic
Bookings: via Roller
How much: $55 per head, minimum of four people per booking.

The HerCanberra team dined courtesy of Hippo Co., however, their opinions remain their own. 

All photography by Ashley St George. 

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Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Editorial Coordinator involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise you’ll find her at the movies, ordering a cheese board or ordering a cheese board at the movies. More about the Author

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