If you’re willing to brave the Queen Victoria Building this holiday season, The Tea Room, continues to represent an oasis of refinement and calm. The Festive High Tea ($55/head) gives a slight seasonal twist to their usual three-tiered high tea offering; and buys you an hour or two in a comfortable velvety chair to rest your aching feet.
Service is formal but friendly when you can catch their eye – which, despite a half-full dining room, was pretty hard to do. Once you’re underway though, things move relatively quickly, allowing you to spend the bulk of your time eating cakes and gossiping with your girlfriend(s). From the list of green teas, Wokou Garden is gentle and enjoyable, taking just two or three minutes to steep.
Each diner is presented with a savoury plate. My eyes are instantly drawn to the tiniest pig in a blanket I’ve ever seen resting on a pinch of pickled red cabbage. The cocktail frankfurt is wrapped in finely shaved bacon, and quick to devour. I’m also impressed with the even more petite poached Yamba prawn (pieces) on avocado and dark rye. The warm spinach and Gruyere pastry wanted for a bit of seasoning.
Golden brown scones in fruit and plain are competent, but not C.W.A. exceptional, served with little jars of cream and jam.
On the platter proper, The Tea Room do a good job with portioning.
Only the finger sandwich tier requires a bit of negotiation, as you and your dining companion must decide who’s taking cheese and chutney, and who would prefer to eat egg salad, cucumber, or chicken and mayonnaise. Unlike many other high teas I've eaten, the softness of the crustless bread shows they were made close to when they were served.
Glinting on the highest tier, gleaming morello cherry balances the cherry’s tartness with white chocolate and a tiny teardrop meringue. There’s too much chocolate on the creamy almond topped truffle to get much of the dulce de leche. The best thing I put in my mouth was the Scottish Ecclefechan tart that has the texture of a pecan pie. Under a tiny quenelle of brandy cream flecked with vanilla bean, it tastes of raisins, cinnamon and peel. The espresso and hazelnut layer cake defeated me, but overall, I was impressed with the portioning.
The amount of food has clearly been well honed across the eight years since my last visit (almost to the day) where it was too heavily weighted on sweets. While nothing blew me away, everything I ate was executed competently, making this one of the most reliable high teas in town.
The Tea Room
Level 3, North End, Queen Victoria Building
455 George Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9283 7279