Category: Reviews | Post by: Andrea Wong
I had a few hours free from my busy eating schedule during Visa Wellington On A Plate. So what did I do? ... I went to high tea with a friend at Martha's Pantry! What better way to spend the few hours between lunch and dinner, than having a nice chat with a friend over a cuppa tea and little dainty treats. (Needless to say, I hit the gym once I got back to Auckland!)
As I walked the length of Cuba Street, I discovered a whole area that I hadn't been to before. Even though I have been to Wellington many many times, I don't think that I've walked up the far end of Cuba Street before. It's a very cool area that I need to explore more on my next trip to Wellington.
But back to Martha's Pantry. I almost walked straight past it, as it is tucked around the corner just off the far end of Cuba Street on the new bypass. If it wasn't for the little sign swinging in the Wellington breeze and pot plants outside, I would have missed it altogether. But it is a bit of an institution, so even if I did get lost, I knew that anyone I asked could point me in the right direction.
From this understated street presence, once you walk in the door you are hit with an incredible place filled with pink, soft femininity. Looking around, I saw tables of well-dressed girls of all ages, sitting straight-backed and sipping cups of tea from fine bone china tea cups and nibbling treats from tiered cake stands.
My first reactions were "wow, incredible! So feminine. Very pretty." I did experience an odd feeling for a split second, as pink girly things really isn't my style and it felt like I had been shrunk and put into one of my primary school friend's doll houses. But I shook off that feeling and quickly got into the spirit of Martha's Pantry and loved the girly experience.
I like the way that the owners, sisters Anita and Ondine, have given Martha's Pantry a look, a concept and doused very aspect of their cafe with it. All the little details reinforce their theme, right down to the staff's aprons and makeup. They took an idea and embraced it, immersed themselves in it, owned it. And it works.
This is a place where you definitely have to book during the weekends. When I arrived at 3pm on a Sunday, it was almost full and by the time we started eating, the place was completely full and they had to turn away some walk-in customers.
The tables are set with fine-bone china trios (cup, saucer and plate), collectible spoons and dinky little sugar pots. The list of teas that we could choose from was a decent one - I settled on the vanilla rooibos while Ms K went for the lemon ginger kawa. Like everything else at Martha's, the tea came out with a little charming twist - each tea pot had its own hand knitted tea cosy and tea bag charm.
Not long after, the tiered cake stand came out of the kitchen and it really did look a delight. Cute, dainty looking sweets and delicate sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, and little hot savoury bites filled the three layers.
Ms K and I had a wonderful catch up, our conversations paused every now and then by the important decision of what to eat next (sweet or savoury?). The sandwiches were simple but well made, the little savouries of chicken pizzas and feta tarts were delicious little flavour-packed bites. I quite like the way that you can choose to have a savoury, then a little sweet bite, then back to savoury. It makes the high tea feel more like a discovery, rather than a linear journey.
But being a real sweet tooth, the high light for me is always going to be the sweet things. My favourite things were the double chocolate brownie and melting moment, followed closely by the mini chicken pizza.
I thoroughly enjoyed the high tea at Martha's Pantry. It is not only the delicious food that Anita and Ondine serve up but also the warm, homely, feminine feeling that they have created. It is an experience that almost any girl (or guy) would appreciate - even a non-girly-girl like myself.
High tea: $25 (bookings recommended)
276 Cuba Street
Tuesday to Friday 9.00am - 5.00pm
Saturday and Sunday 10.00am - 5.00pm
Phone: (04) 385 7228
Thanks to Postively Wellington Tourism for hosting me for the opening weekend of Visa Wellington On A Plate.