Red Monkey Tea House
To many who are uninitiated, the area around Victoria Street, North Melbourne means just one thing – the Victoria Market. Venture a little further and you will find a charming, if a little tarnished by time, character-filled haunt with a hint an era bygone.
Lovely old shop fronts contain odd-bod boutiques, knick-knack shops and cafes, including that of the Red Monkey Tea House. With a name like that, it’s refreshing to find that it’s not in Chinatown, rather, a little taste of oriental eccentricity in North Melbourne. Naturally, tea is a central focus here. With some 40 different varietals on offer, it’s easy to imagine yourself ‘taking tea’ with friends on a regular basis. But when is a tea party not a tea party? When it’s a high tea party, that’s when! Red Monkey turns into party monkey when the cocktail shaker comes out to concoct exotic libations such as sake infused with gunpowder tea, orange pekoe infused vodka or a jasmine gin martini. To accompany this orgy of rare swills are pizza, tapas and sweets including san choi bao and semolina pudding, all under $10.
The décor is not strictly tea house either. The requisite dimly-lit lanterns and tealight candles are in place, but so is a mismatched collection of ephemera that recall student share house experiences that are scattered all over North Melbourne. As this would suggest, it’s chilled, man.
Brenton Geyer, April 2010