The last Austen book club?

It has been far too long since I have blogged, and there’s probably an apology in this somewhere. Similarly, it has been over eight months since book club. Potentially the worst, and the best, book club this side of the world I’m willing to admit that my own new job (raise your teacups to getting paid to write!) combined with juggling other commitments has not made me the most easy person to organise around for a book club with four other busy ladies. As this has been the case, Persuasion, the book of so much emotion, has been kept very much overdue. Which almost seems fitting considering the long estrangement of our heroine and hero.

Firstly, while Persuasion is no Pride and Prejudice, I must proclaim my love for it. I have a great adoration for every Jane product (with, perhaps, an avoidance of Mansfield Park) and this reading of Persuasion touched my heart as it told of individuality and independence, such that Lizzy would be proud of, even after being wrongfully swayed by others. I think everyone can relate to some time in their life when those around them have changed their mind- even if they were unable to change their heart. I do envy people that say their love, or their emotions, cannot be altered by others… but I daresay they are proclaiming falsehoods as everyone is fallible in this respect.

Unfortunately, Persuasion was not touched upon at this meeting. With one member sick, I having been ill previously, we decided to wait until we were all together for the final Austen. We did, however, meet at an Austen-appropriate venue. Having spent the night at my best friend Pauline’s house, watching the gorgeous 2007 BBC Persuasion adaptation, in the morning we took the train from Seven Hills to King’s Cross. Our ultimate location was The Victoria Room, Darlinghurst. Stepping in, the dark mood lighting and overall hush of the place has this really romantic atmosphere. With gorgeous lamps, tea cups, tea strainers and richly decorated wallpaper, the restaurant is described as “British-Raj” style and it is absolutely perfect for an Austen-themed meal.

Particularly when that meal is high tea ($45) and the menu includes: Tea (comes in a gorgeous tea pot, with a little jug of milk, and refills are included in the price) of which you can choose from an extensive list or coffee. Sandwiches (whch come cut up in gorgeous tiny triangles). An assortment of sweets/pastries/cheesecakes and, the most lovely part, scones with lovely jam and cream. All on tiered plates.

They provided me with a wonderful vegan alternative too- my sandwiches had avocado and tomato bruschetta in two triangles, and vegannaise with buk choy in another. I had two “chocolate” type brownies and two heart-shaped shortbread cookies, as well as two vegan scones and jam. They also provided soy milk for my tea, of which I chose China Sencha- a lovely light flavoured tea that reminded me of white vanilla tea.

While the food, the company and the conversation was all lovely- and it was terrific to have a catch up, the service was a little over the top and just too-friendly for my liking. However, that’s a small qualm and it was nice to just be able to relax and eat, and enjoy the atmosphere. You can see from the photos how gorgeous it was! I think I spent much of the first twenty minutes coo-ing over the different finishings.

It’s in the details. From brown and white sugar cubes that are naturally shaped and not cubes at all to matching saucers and teaspoons, it’s beautiful. Similarly, the light fittings- chandeliers inside material lamp shades- were stunning. Even the bill comes on a nice plate with flowers and potpourri scattered on top of it.

I have to say, this is definitely a girly day out. Reserve it for someone special, and remember that high tea is served between midday and 5pm and you should always lift your saucer with your teacup.

We have resolved to continue with book club after Persuasion, and to read Bronte, Gaskell and all our other favourites. Have you ever had high tea? And who do you recommend for next reading?

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Filed under Book Review, Discussion, Other Review

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