Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sydney Weekender 2 - Sparkling High Tea at The Tea Room

The Tea Room, QVB

A friend of Kat's recommended high tea at The Tea Room for us to try while we were in Sydney. I was extremely happy to oblige since I've been somewhat high tea deprived in 2012. I don't care how practically pointless it is to have miniature foods stacked on a tier, it just oozes appeal to me. Call it a female thing.

The Tea Room takes up most of the top level of the Queen Victoria Building, accessible by lifts or up a curvy set of stairs. It is indeed one room but it's a huge room at that. The intricate high ceilings were far above our heads and the opposite wall was distant.

The place was busy with minimal vacant tables in site but it was a refined busy. Everyone was chatting but unlike pubs or even very noisy restaurants, there was no need to raise voices to converse. The majority of customers were ladies in pretty outfits gossiping over their tea and sugary trinkets.

There are several options of high tea available in the afternoon, varying what type of beverage is included. You can opt for tea only or include sparkling wine, a cocktail or champaign. We went for the sparkling high tea option.


Our sparkling wine was brought out first. There is something very girly and celebratory about bubbles rising in a flute glass. Kat and I toasted each other to a great start to our Sydney getaway.

The food arrived shortly after. Not only were there the standard 3 tiers, there was also a plate on the side. Usually (from my experience), high tea comprises of a tier of savory, one of neutral (scones) and one of sweet. This stack had 2 tiers of sweet with scones and pastries on the separate plate.

Scones and spinach and feta pastries

I believe that it's convention to start at the savories but Kat and I both went for the scones first. They were huge (I'm used to seeing baby scones at high tea) but had a perfect texture. We loved the clotted cream and preserve.

Close-up of scone

In my mind no fancy dessert can exceed the simple combination of scones with jam and cream for enjoyment. I tried the spinach and feta pastries next. The pastry was flaky and gently topped with sesame seeds. Both the pastry and filling were delicious.

Savory tier with finger sandwiches and pastry spoons

I moved onto the savory tier at this point. There were 4 finger sandwiches, each with a different filling, so we split them 1/2 ways to try all the flavors. My favorite was the ham and rocket. There was also tuna, chicken and egg salad. Each one was delicate and the bread, extremely soft and fresh. On the same tier was a mini pastry spoon with some kind of filling (not sure what); Kat didn't enjoy it but I thought the flavor was unreal.

First dessert tier

The first of the dessert tiers contained passionfruit shortbread, ginger macarons and mini lemon meringue floats. Each one was delicious. I often avoid the miniature desserts at high tea because they look better than they taste and are usually too sweet. These were great. I don't even like passionfruit and I still enjoyed the passionfruit mousse sandwiched in the shortbread. Kat lost her macaron virginity on the ginger macaron and said it was "the most amazing thing ever".

Second dessert tier

The final tier of desserts contained a mini opera gateau, fresh fruit tart and sticky citrus cake. Again, I loved and devoured each item. The opera gateau had a boozy quality that reminded me of tiramisu (without the coffee). Fruit tart isn't something I normally like but the creamy custard and fresh fruit was just delightful in the tiny shortcrust casing. I was least fond of the citrus cake. It was moist and sticky but slightly too sweet for me. The thing is, if I had eaten that at any cafe, I would have loved it. At The Tea Room, I was being overloaded with outstanding desserts so I became pickier.

Our tea was brought out once we finished our sparkling wine. I can see the logic in that since we weren't expected to drink both hot and cold beverages at once, but it would've been nice to sip tea while eating the desserts. I find tea to be a better compliment for cutting the sweetness than wine. Maybe we should have just finished our wine faster!

Orange pekoe tea

The tea I chose was the orange pekoe, whilst Kat went for the vanilla. They were served in cute metal pots. It's difficult not to feel ladylike pouring tea out of a tiny pot into a tiny cup. My orange pekoe had the most lovely red, golden tint.

We ended up spending close to 2 hours at The Tea Room. That's the thing with high tea. It's nice to be able to slow down, nibble at things, sip tea and just chat away and enjoy life. The service was fast and professional. The ambiance was classy without being snobbish. I thought the food was outstanding and that this is a great example of how high tea can exceed at a taste level, rather than just be a novelty. Overall, a memorable experience!
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