The Waiting Room

The afternoon tea set from The Waiting Room at Crown Hotel.
The afternoon tea set from The Waiting Room at Crown Hotel. Photo: Eddie Jim

Crown Casino Complex, 8 Whiteman Street Southbank, VIC 3006

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8679 1800
Opening hours Daily, noon-late

WHERE AND WHAT

In the most prosaic terms, The Waiting Room - TWR to its friends - is the lobby bar for Crown Towers, the hotel at the casino complex. It's also chef Neil Perry's third Melbourne outfit, after his flagship Rockpool and modern Chinese restaurant Spice Temple. A cocktail bar with a Perry-worthy snack menu, The Waiting Room is a glamorous pit stop that has recently introduced a weekend afternoon tea.

WHERE TO SIT

For crowd watching, pick one of the tables that border the hotel's lobby, a cavernous space where well-heeled guests (and the odd baseball cap) trot through on the way to the suites or gaming tables. Further into the inner sanctum, it's all art deco styling with old-world glamour, mirrored surfaces and cosy nooks in which to hide.

WHEN TO GO

TWR is open daily from noon until late but afternoon tea ($42 a head) is served only on Saturday and Sunday from noon-5pm, with plans to expand to weekdays as well. Bookings are recommended.

DRINK

Afternoon tea means tea (loose-leaf black, green or herbal, by Jing - or coffee, if that way inclined) but alcohol is by no means discouraged. For $55 a head, afternoon tea will also include a glass of 2006 Chandon Blanc de Blancs; for $65, it's upgraded to a glass of NV Duval-Leroy Brut.

EAT

The everyday menu ranges from classic drinking food (American cheeseburger; fried chicken wings with hot sauce) to a decidedly Iberian slant with chicken mole, kingfish ceviche and beef and boiled-egg empanada. Afternoon tea - as opposed to high tea, which was a heartier meal for the masses and sadly did not involve scones - begins at The Waiting Room with the arrival of a triple-tiered silver stand bearing an array of savoury and sweet snacks. There are the obligatory finger sandwiches, of course (salmon, cream cheese and dill; cucumber and chive butter; and chicken, walnut and celery cream) and their savoury bedfellows of anchovy pastry twists and parmesan biscuits. Head pastry chef Catherine Adams has devised the pretty range of petits gateaus, including tiny caramelised apple tarts, passionfruit miroirs (with layered custard and jelly) and peanut, caramel and chocolate ganache tarts. And no self-respecting afternoon tea would be complete without scones - these vanilla-orange with strawberry jam and Chantilly cream.

WHO'S THERE

Hotel guests; friends meeting friends; high-end shoppers refuelling between onslaughts at Louis Vuitton and Gucci.

WHY BOTHER?

Because afternoon tea is a tradition that deserves to be revived.

The Waiting Room, Crown Towers lobby, Southbank, phone 8679 1800.