Lincoln’s Table: The World Tour – Victorian High Tea at Moxie (Old England)

Herald reporter and foodie Lincoln Tan takes you to some of Auckland’s eating places that make you feel like you’re in another country.

We all love having a weekend cuppa, catching up with friends at cafes that serve up beautiful brunches where cool people flock to.

But with the pandemic dragging on and borders still closed, we need more than just a strong cuppa tea. We need an escape – and even better if that escape takes us to a different place and time.

Now there’s a little place on Auckland’s North Shore that let’s you do that.

Called Moxie, an eatery housed in a restored villa on Hinemoa Street in Birkenhead offers a high tea escape takes you back to Victorian times.

Helmed by James and Amy Bratton, you may be familiar with them from My Kitchen Rules, but the person behind the monthly Victorian high tea offering is actually James’ mother Diane Bratton.

“You can say Moxie’s Victorian high tea is born out of my mother-in-law’s shopping addiction at second hand shops and collecting vintage tea ware, silver ware and crystal,” Amy says.

What started out as a pastime they did together has now become a regular event people looked forward to and often sold out months in advance.

Tea has always been a popular beverage with the English and in the 19th century, tea to a great many Englishwomen is what coffee is to many of us today.

Amy says hours are spent before each high tea event on decorations and little touches to give diners that “old English feel”.

“From vintage china and elegant silverware, floral linen, tiered cake stands, everything just has to be just right,” she said.

Treats include homemade scones with fresh cream and preserve, mini-cupcakes, quiches and a selection of selection of sandwiches and finger rolls – accompanied by fine teas of course with options for bubbles.

It is said that the seventh Duchess of Bedford, Anna Maria Russell, invented afternoon tea sometime around 1840.

At a time when industrialisation and urbanisation was on the rise, the evening meal became later and later for many in the English wealthier classes.

The Duchess, one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, described a ‘sinking feeling’ at about 5pm, and would requested that some tea, bread and butter and cake was brought to her room in the late afternoon.

With that, a new ritual was born and soon became a fashionable custom among the upper classes across Britain.

Moxie has been running the Victorian high tea for more than two years now on the last Sunday of the month, where the interior of the restaurant gets decked up with vintage apparel, flowers, teacups, pearls, candles and teapots.

“Our high teas are served in vintage tea-ware and every small detail adds to the experience, even down to the silver teaspoons, sugar tongs, crystal cream pots and jam jars,” Amy said.

“It’s just a great way to get people together, especially the lovely ladies and celebrate women in general. But we do welcome men at the high teas, but it is predominantly a ladies’ event.”

Now, you can’t be having Victorian high tea without following some etiquette.

These include never to start eating until everyone’s served. The napkin should be folded along the diagonal and placed on your lap and avoid picking items from the cake tower with your fingers.

Stirring the tea should be done in a back and forth motion and a light flick of the teaspoon above the cup when finished to shake off the drips is right, but tapping the spoon on the side of the cup is not.

Amy said it was a “massive job” putting the high tea together, and nearly had to stop running them last year when thieves broke in and stole all their silverware.

“We just had to restart from scratch and it was through my mother-in-law’s sheer determination that we managed to get it going again,” she said.

“Both James and I have got British heritage, so high tea is something that we’ve done in the past with our English parents and quite passionate about sharing the experience.

“High tea is just one of those classic, beautiful, sophisticated ways to spend an afternoon and also great for little kids as well – to get them to practice their manners and learn etiquette.”

* Moxie is at 82 Hinemoa Street, Birkenhead Point

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