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Tea Rooms unveil new-look home at historic building

By Brendan Rees

One of Melbourne’s oldest tea rooms and cake shop hopes to give its new home in the CBD a makeover under plans to be considered by City of Melbourne.   

Owners of the Hopetoun Tea Rooms at 421 Bourke St want to spruce up the historic building to serve as a business for the “coming decades”.

The revamp plans come as the tea rooms recently moved from the Block Arcade after their 128-year lease came to an end.

An application by Ratio Consultants on behalf of the owners seeks a permit to undertake partial demolition and alterations of the heritage-listed building as well as install a new side entry door, new signage, and new dome window awnings at the front of Bourke St/McKillop St shopfront. 

Also proposed is a retractable window awning for a laneway and a new outdoor dining alfresco space.

The existing building was previously occupied by a jewellery store, studio and gallery with the owners now seeking approval to paint the exterior a pale green colour “to complement the heritage elements of the building”.

Other features in the plan include a green marble floor on the first and ground floors, brass fixtures and fittings, white porcelain marble on the second-floor bathroom walls, and a gold glass mirror inside the arches of the ground floor counter.

Artist’s impressions of the plans show the final look which the submission stated will be a “respectful and of responsive design that will have little impact upon the heritage significance of the building itself”.

“The business has survived the last pandemic, World Wars and is now working hard to survive this current pandemic so that this Melbourne icon can stay to serve the next generation and contribute to the ‘foodie’ culture and laneway character of the city,” the submission said.

“The proposal will support the activation of its street frontages, encourage laneway connections and look to support the future strengthening of shared areas and pedestrianisation in line with the relevant objectives of built forms policy and controls.”

According to Hopetoun Tea Rooms’ website, the tea rooms’ iconic cake display window will be retained. 

City of Melbourne Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said the tea rooms “have been an iconic part of Melbourne since 1892” and “we’re excited this city institution has found a new home on Bourke Street in another heritage building”.

“This application will be carefully considered by council, with the application assessed on its merits,” he said.

“Melbourne businesses have been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and council is always looking for ways we can encourage businesses to remain and expand their presence in the city.” 

The tea rooms were first opened in 1892 as the Ladies Association of Victoria by Lady Hopetoun, wife of the Victorian governor and Australia’s first governor-general. 

It was then renamed as the Hopetoun Tea Rooms in 1907 and is known as the oldest afternoon tea service in Melbourne after the Windsor Hotel and the oldest cake shop since the 1910s •

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