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Down the rabbit hole, with Pialligo Estate’s Mad Hatter’s High Tea

Jane Speechley 16 July 2019 1

Exquisite attention to theme detail at Pialligo Estate’s Mad Hatter’s High Tea. Photos: Jane Speechley. 

We may have just found the perfect way to spend a fresh winter’s afternoon in Canberra with your friends, workmates, or – like me – catching up with your mum.

Throughout July, August and September, the team at Pialligo Estate is putting on a series of Sunday high teas, and I was fortunate enough to be invited along as a guest for the first one.

So with a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party theme from Alice in Wonderland, it was down the rabbit hole we gladly went …

Pialligo Estate entry - Tuscan farm meets English courtyard, right here in Canberra.

Pialligo Estate’s grand entry – Tuscan farm meets English courtyard, right here in Canberra.

There are a couple of things worth highlighting about Pialligo Estate. First, it’s incredible that you can be literally a short walk from our city’s main airport, but feel like you’re a million miles from anywhere.

While you can look over the orchards and vineyards directly to see Parliament House, the sense of peace and quiet is absolutely tangible. So if you feel like you need to get away from the city, but don’t have the time or funds for a weekend road trip, I’d really recommend you consider spending an afternoon out at the Estate.

Second, it’s worth acknowledging how clever the Pialligo Estate team has been in the way they’ve designed their function spaces across the site as well. Over time, they’ve built a diverse variety of individual venues; from the smaller Garden Pavilions, to larger rooms like the grand new Glasshouse where our High Tea is being held.

The splendid new Glasshouse function space.

The splendid new Glasshouse function space.

The eclectic table decorations work beautifully.

There’s room for small and large groups.

Tables set for an elegant afternoon.

Tables set for an elegant afternoon.

This allows both large and small groups to celebrate in relative privacy. On the day we visit, there are clearly several different parties going on, but each group has their own space.

Given that the team tells me they’ve got around 80 upcoming weddings booked in, sometimes running three or four parties concurrently (while each group feels like they have the place to themselves), it’s a smart strategy that seems to be paying off for the business as well as for their guests.

I am also impressed with the thought and attention that’s been put into the theme for our Mad Hatter’s High Tea. I’ve seen themed events done very well, and very badly, and it’s so disappointing when you’re sold on a vision for your little get-together that ends up being limp and half-hearted in reality.

Small touches that make all the difference.

A feathered friend on the photo wall.

Clever props that reference the Alice in Wonderland theme are everywhere.

From a brightly-decorated flower wall with accessories for the perfect Insta pose to the eclectic and deliberately mismatched china. Different and unique arrangements of props and decorations on each table, to cute little Alice in Wonderland quotes and messages on cards scattered throughout, and glass chandeliers hanging from the ceiling – the effort that’s been put in here is very much apparent.

And of course, the food is absolutely delightful. High Tea is served buffet style, so you can pick and choose what (and how much!) you’d like.

It’s difficult to pick a favourite from the three finger sandwich varieties available. The Tweedledee Pialligo Estate Award-Winning Salmon and Dill Mayonnaise and Tweedledum Ham and Cheddar are equally fresh and delicious, but there’s something in the mix of the Cheshire Cat Cucumber Sandwiches that really lifts this standard option to a whole new level. Yum!

No High Tea is complete without a selection of finger sandwiches.

No High Tea is complete without a selection of finger sandwiches.

Whether it’s true or not, there’s an enduring myth that all the best chefs are bad-tempered. If that’s true, then Ravi in the kitchen – who’s responsible for the sweet fare today – must be very grumpy indeed.

Sweet treats are a work of art at the Mad Hatter's High Tea.

Sweet treats are a work of art at the Mad Hatter’s High Tea.

Clockwise from left: chocolate and vanilla macarons, raspberry tarts, carrot cake, apple and walnut scone, caramel cup cakes, peach jam and whipped cream, gold-dusted chocolate truffles.

Clockwise from left: chocolate and vanilla macarons, raspberry tarts, carrot cake, apple and walnut scone, caramel cupcake, peach jam and whipped cream, and gold-dusted chocolate truffles.

His Alice’s Apple and Walnut Scones are light and crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, and they’re served with fresh whipped cream alongside jam made from peaches sourced from the orchard just a couple of hundred metres away.

The view from the Glasshouse, looking towards the fruit orchards that supplied the jam for our High Tea!

The view from the Glasshouse, looking towards the fruit orchards that supplied the jam for our High Tea!

The Tick Tock Cup Cakes also deserve special mention. The simple base of a vanilla butter cake is perfect, with a choice of a rich and decadent frosting in either chocolate, strawberry or caramel. Some are topped with fondant clocks or keys, again linking back to the theme.

Caramel Tick Tock Cup Cakes.

Other treats include the Queen of Hearts Raspberry Jam Tarts, White Rabbit Carrot Cakes (rabbits, carrots, of course!), plus macarons in seemingly every colour of the rainbow.

Save room to finish up with one of two of the delectably-rich Mad Hatter’s Favourite – rich dark chocolate truffles dusted in gold!

Queen of Hearts Raspberry Tarts.

Macarons in a wide variety of flavours and colours.

White Rabbit Carrot Cakes.

You’ll receive a glass of bubbly on arrival, with the option to buy more or another alcoholic drink if you like.

There are plenty of intriguing choices on the tea and coffee menus too. I opted for a pot of the Pure Pialligo tea blend, which I just loved, with smokey hints of stone fruits and apple. My darling Mum enjoyed her pot of classic Earl Grey so much, she had two!

We’ve only been here for about an hour and a half when we wander back out to the winter afternoon sunshine, through the courtyard, and back to real life. But it feels much longer, and we’re blissfully happy and full to the brim with delicious food.

It really is the ideal way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon this winter and spring (and maybe earn a few Good Daughter points at the same time …). Best get your group sorted and get in while there are tickets still available!

The next Mad Hatter’s Tea Parties are scheduled to take place on Sunday 11 August and Sunday 8 September, $60 per person with seatings at 11 am and 2 pm. To find out more or make a booking, visit the website here.


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One Response to Down the rabbit hole, with Pialligo Estate’s Mad Hatter’s High Tea
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DodgyBoys DodgyBoys 8:26 am 16 Jul 19

I have been to Pialligo Estate for the Mad Hatter High Tea and its nice but way too much sweet stuff and not enough savoury. There were only the finger sandwiches – which were lovely – but no where near enough of them. Lovely location but be prepared for a sugar headache afterwards.

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