Afternoon delights at Fancy Nance

Fancy Nance is part of the Adrian Zumbo empire, a temple devoted to the consumption of tasty tidbits, both sweet and savoury. They call Fancy Nance a high tea salon but if we want to be historically correct it is an afternoon tea salon as traditionally high tea was the term given to the meal served by the working classes as soon as Dad came home from the factory or the mines, around 6 o’clock. High tea usually consisted of a mug of tea, cheese, vegetables, bread and sometimes meat.  In contrast, afternoon tea was enjoyed by the more well to do, and was created as a hunger stopper between lunch and the later evening meal, and invariably consisted of sweet and savoury snacks, with a pot of tea.

But, high tea in today’s world promises so much more than the simple sounding afternoon tea – and Fancy Nance certainly delivers anticipation on a plate.

Fancy Nance, and its adjoining cafe Little Frankie, is tucked at the very end of Daly Street in South Yarra. It is a rather odd space, a cross between Alice in Wonderland via the vibrant wall murals (shown below) and a chic industrial bunker – vibes that are somewhat at odds with each other. But, on the plus side, you can hear each other speak, hurrah! An increasingly rare phenomena in today’s dining scene.

There are two main menu options, the I’m so Fancy ($65) and the smaller “Pretty Flamingo” menu ($45), which is the one we opt for ( also available are gluten free and vegetarian options).  As well as tea (from an interesting selection) we order a bottle of bubbles, to celebrate the occasion.

We had heard that the sweet things were served before the savouries, so expected the food to come out in the menu order. However, the production line in the kitchen must have been working overtime as the pots of tea and the sparkling wine turned up at the same time, and then the food arrived shortly afterwards in a swarm of activity – no sooner was the pudding placed in front of us than the scones, chouxmaca and the savoury puff pastry appeared, to be followed by the ice cream sandwich not too much longer. This was somewhat overwhelming, and disconcerting – do we sip the tea as we drink the bubbles? What order do we attack the food in? 

Once drinks were poured and food examined, we sorted out an order of procedure, however a more restrained and sequential serving of the items would have made the experience more enjoyable – an unfolding of the delights to come rather than full exposure. And, I would have liked to have enjoyed my tea after my bubbles rather than simultaneously.

This quibble aside, we enjoyed the food immensely and this is how the four of us attacked it:

Spiced cherry pudding ( which tasted like a gingerbread pudding)

Ice cream sandwich ( which tasted like salted caramel ice cream with some small pieces of marshmallow in it):

The chouxmaca, which is a choux pastry base, in this case filled with a liquid mandarin jelly, topped with mandarin chantilly cream and on top of that was half a lime macaron:

Scone with two jams – one turned out to be a sweet fruit jam to have with cream, the other was a capsicum jam to have with a creamy feta type cheese ( which provides the bridge into the savoury part of the menu):

Puffed pastry with candied olives and smoked ricotta – tiny morsels but delectable:

Having demolished the plethora of food covering the table there was quite a wait until the final two dishes arrived (luckily they were not adhering to their edict that we had to vacate the table at 4.55 pm as it was now 4.45pm, having arrived at 3.30 – the bookings are made at 90 minute intervals, with 5pm being the last sitting).

Grilled octopus:

And the final dish, chicken ciabattino, which seemed to be a fried bun with a creamy chicken filling:

The four of us left at around 5.30 – happily satiated with an array of different tastes and textures. Highly recommended for a treat ( in our case it was a birthday celebration).

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