Just when you thought you’d ticked off every high tea in Sydney, up jumps another one. Ho Jiak have launched a Nyonya High Tea running daily between 2.30pm and 5pm at their Haymarket restaurant.
Nyonya are the descendants of the Chinese immigrants who settled in the Malay Archipelago. In Malacca, on the southwest coast of the Malay Peninsula, the Nyonya are particularly well known for their kueh, or traditional bite-sized cakes. One of the most famous kueh is ang ku kueh, or red tortoise cake. Shaped like a turtle, these brightly coloured steamed cakes are just one of the items you’ll find on your colourful, three-tiered platter. The flat red cakes are made from glutinous rice flour wrapped around mung bean paste. They are generally eaten to celebrate the first month of a newborn baby’s life, or at birthdays of the elderly; but here at Ho Jiak you get to enjoy them for afternoon tea.
Ho Jiak's Nyonya High Tea is served one of two ways. You can either opt to take it with Bottomless Coffee or Tea ($25/head) or you can level up with House Bubbles ($40/head). Unable to decide between oolong tea and the house pour – a McWilliam’s Markview NV Cuvée - we opt to have both.
The sparkling wine is crisp, with a creamy, yeast characters, making it quite easy to drink. Our colourful three-tiered platter arrives hot on its heels, and we're quickly underway.
The little bowl of Chai Tau Kueh – crisp radish cakes with chilli and peanuts – make for good bubbles-drinking fodder. Also on the savoury tier you’ll find lively little Kueh Pie Tee crisp tart shells filled with vegetables; and curried potato Kari Pap (curry puffs) in lovely short pastry crescents with neatly crimped edges.
Understandably, the first thing my dining companion reached for was the bright pink Kueh Lapis. It's a nine-layer steamed rice flour and coconut cake that's gentle to eat, and, being vividly pink, visually spectacular. While this was her first time eating Malaysian sweets, there were very few she didn't enjoy. She was a bit suspicious about the Pulut Tai Tai, Nyonya steamed blue glutinous rice, coloured with the famous butterfly blue pea flowers. They’re a traditional Nyonya wedding speciality, set off by a dab of kaya, caramel coconut jam. In terms of flavour though, this tier was all about the lime green pandan flavoured crepes, Kueh Dadar Gulung. Filled with chewy grated coconut and palm sugar, these soft green parcels were a sticky-sweet coconut caramel delight.
The simple Kueh Bingka, moist Nyonya cassava cake, is fragrant, slightly chewy and perfect with a cup of oolong tea. It’s joined on the third and final tier of our platter by another steamed layer cake – Seri Muka. It’s significant because it is one of Malaysia’s hundred heritage foods and drinks. You’ll find three layers in this version, as Ho Jiak have added in a blue layer, coloured with that same butterfly blue pea flower, though they’re usually just white sticky rice topped with sweet green custard made using pandan juice. The last items on this tier are the Ang Ku Kueh red tortoise cakes I mentioned at the start of this review, though here they look decidedly pink.
So gather your girlfriends and give Sydney's newest high tea a whirl - you won't be disappointed!
NOTE: You can see a review of Ho Jiak's regular menu HERE.
92 Hay Street, Haymarket
Ph: (02) 8040 0252