No visit or life in Brisbane should be attempted without a visit to The Shingle Inn, the iconic 1936 walnut panelled cafe bakery beloved by generations of Brisbane dwellers. For not only is it an exquisite place to dine and take tea but its story adds an interesting layer to the experience. After its removal from its original location in Edward St in 2002 to make way for Queens Plaza, it was thought to have gone the way of so many Brisbane icons and be destined to be nothing but a faded memory. Instead it spent years in storage before being been fully restored and resurrected in a fitting location in a room on the City Hall's ground floor. It so happened both were designed by the same architects – Hall and Phillips.
Today patrons can relive or experience for the first time morning or afternoon tea (including the Devonshire variety), breakfast, lunch or high tea in what is essentially the original Shingle Inn – the stained glass windows, walnut panelled booths with individual carvings, wall-mounted lamps, the chandelier that once hung over the cake display in the front window, the glass-windowed shop front and revolving cake displays, the shingled upper walls, peak-capped waitresses and even the sugar bowls that are turned to signify whether a table is served or not.
China is hand-painted to replicate the original crockery, much of which disappeared when word got around that the Shingle Inn was to close. All bakery items are baked on site as they were back when, only this time there is no trapdoor leading to the basement kitchen, that would open to pass up the cake orders. Signature items throughout the ages have remained on the menu too – the breakfast waffles with butterscotch sauce and lemon meringue pies much loved by the American troops in World War II, Welsh Rarebit (1940s), Chicken Maryland (1950s), English Trifle (1960s) and Pecan Pie (1980s).
Today the kitchen is in the capable hands of chef Jamie Purce from the Stumps Hotel and diners can expect to find breakfast choices like Eggs Benedict or the indulgent Banana Deluxe, lunch options ranging from traditional sandwiches to asparagus, fetta and prosciutto quiche or prime rib fillet, (with a beer or Australian or NZ wine as this Shingle Inn is licensed), and the piece de resistance – the high tea.
High teas are available every afternoon and start with a traditional ($40pp) – fresh ribbon sandwiches, fresh baked scones with clotted cream and jam and decadent sweet treats such as macarons, crème caramel, mini mud cake tower and fruit tartlets – and ramping up with the addition of sparkling wines to vintage champagnes. For special occasions there is a Celebration High Tea which includes the Traditional High Tea with choice of birthday cake brought to the table. All of these include coffee or one of the carefully selected loose leaf teas or a chai tea.
And those looking for a special occasion with children can opt for the Teddy Bear Afternoon Tea, a little three tiered stand of ham and cheese sandwiches, gourmet sausage roll, mini quiche, fairy bread, patty cake and choc dipped marshmallow with the choice of milk shake, babycino or juice.
Need to know: there are special children's items for breakfast or lunch, all freshly prepared as well. Gluten free high teas are available (as are vegetarian) but need 24 hours' notice and a firm booking.
Disclaimer: Must Do Brisbane was a guest of Shingle Inn this time however we have dined anonymously many times in the original incarnation.