Friday, October 9, 2009

Madame Brussels, Melbourne

I came across Madame Brussels late one evening.  I was doing an online search for places to visit for afternoon tea.  Suddenly, Madame Brussels popped up on my screen and I was immediately hooked. 

So the very next day, my fellow foodie and I felt compelled to pay this infamous Melbourne Madame a visit. 

It's located on Bourke Street in the CBD and having completely missed the doorway entrance, we had to pop into a nearby cafe to ask the owner for directions.  As we wondered back down the street, we came across an unimaginative office doorway leading into a murky brown tiled stairway.

We decided to ignore the lift and take the stairs.  We were there to eat cake after all! 

As we breathlessly climbed to the top of the stairs to the third floor, our eyes lit up as we saw what I can only describe as a sort of Old English country garden wonderland.  Complete with astroturf, a short winding brick path (not too far off from the Yellow Brick Road in the Land of Oz) leading to the trellis bar and a delightful roof terrace; any thoughts of apprehension were immediately dispelled.

We made our way to the roof terrace and took our pew at one of the duck egg blue garden tables, with white Provence garden chairs. 

A waiter (dressed as though he had just walked off a Fred Perry photo shoot), came to open out our carousel so as to shade us from the beating mid-afternoon sun.  He then proceeded to bring us two pretty pink hardback menus.

Inside, there is a brief bio of the lady Madame Brussels herself.  It makes for an interesting read and she was certainly no shrinking violet.  Then there is a list of thirst quenching cocktails from the 'Iron Fister' to the 'Horned Beast' to the 'Undress Me Sloely.'  I suspect they all taste mesmerisingly fabulous.  For those who fancy a light lunch, there is a snack menu of savoury treats such as housemade dips and bread, sandwiches, French cheese plate, Mother of Pearl sausage rolls and a few other deliciously sounding choices.

Nevertheless, we stuck to our afternoon tea theme and Miss Pearls (the glamourous proprietor and hostess with the mostess) was on hand to put in our order of a pot of tea accompanied by two lemon sponges with pink butter icing (at just $5 each).

Glancing around, I noticed a few other groups of ladies sharing an afternoon tipple and even a group of gentleman enjoying a glass of wine.  Despite its tranquil charm and quaint feminine surroundings (which are probably more at home with the ladies), this place obviously knows how to draw in both genders.  Another group of gentlemen arrived shortly after we had sat down and took their place in the corner of the sunny roof terrace.

As we relaxed in the afternoon sun, it wasn't too long before another Fred Perry-clad looking waiter arrived with our tray of tea and lemon sponges.  The knitted tea cosy was a cutesy pink and white in colour.  But on turning the tea pot around to face us, we were suddenly being stared at by a rather eerie looking doll face.  I imagined it coming from somewhere like a Stephen King movie set...

proclaimed to the passing Miss Pearls what an intriguing tea cosy she had.  As she returned a cheeky smile, we became counsel to the story behind the doll faced tea cosies.

We learnt that everyone seemed to want a piece of Madame Brussels and in doing so, staff kept finding missing tea cosies, blankets and even menus!  In order to put an end to this light-fingered behaviour, Miss Pearls had asked her mother to buy the 'ugliest tea cosies' that she could find.

Her mother did not disappoint and came back with these doll faced knitted tea cosies, confiding in Miss Pearls that "these were the ugliest tea cosies that I could find!"  I have to say, I rather agree with her and I certainly wouldn't want to pinch one of these!

Moving on, the lemon sponges were divinely topped with lightly whipped pink butter icing and lovingly sprinkled with hundreds-and-thousands.  They sat serenely atop white paper doilies on little china saucers.  The hot pink paper napkins topped it all off rather beautifully.  It was a typical Victoria sponge (like mother used to bake), and with the butter icing and colourful sprinkles on top, I felt like I had gone back in time. 

Miss Pearls certainly pays attention to all the finer little details.  The staff are super polite and ensure that everyone is well attended to.  When the sun goes down and the cold air picks up, there are even blankets should you get a little chilly on the terrace.  However, with lots of outdoor patio heaters, I am sure no one is allowed to get too cold.  With these cute little touches and the quaint English garden décor, it all makes for a delightful and enjoyable time at Madame Brussels. 

There is even a function room at the back which is aptly named 'The Parlour', of which we were given a little preview.  It is wonderfully decorated in a fashionably frou-frou manner.  And in the spoken words of Miss Pearls, it is "The parlour, up the rear of Madame Brussels."  Of which it literally is!

What also makes this room even more special is that regular patrons can choose to purchase the sole use of one of the crystal decanters which are kept locked inside a wooden glass fronted cabinet.  In addition, owners can personalise their decanter by attaching individual charms to them if they wish to do so.  I'll leave you to guess who owns the one with the ivory pearl necklace.

It's all made to appear rather lavish here and Miss Pearls along with her staff make you feel very much at home.  Apart from the contrasting terrace views of the modern architecture outside, this place feels like a dreamy world away from the metropolis that surrounds it. 

 I simply cannot wait to go back for a spot of lunch!

Level 3, 59-63 Bourke Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Tel: +61 (0)3 9662 2775

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