hopetoun tea room
(Image: Flavours of Melbourne)

When news came through on Tuesday that Melbourne's iconic Hopetoun Tea Rooms had gone into administration, the most pained reaction I saw was, separately, from three actual Marxists -- grizzled veterans of the demonstration and the trestle table.

I recalled taking tea there with one, decades ago, when the place was still just an old, old cafe. We argued about Kronstadt or something as lavender-haired ladies rehearsed tennis club gossip from the '50s at nearby tables, and the cakes floated by on three-tiered silver trays.

By the end of the morning we were both essentially stoned on sugar, like nuns at a once-yearly convent high tea.