Blu Bar on 36 had me screaming 'shut up and take my money already', when I saw that 'free-flowing cocktails' come with their weekend high tea! Along with a gaggle of ladies all dressed in pink, I arrived on time for the 1.45pm kick off to their Blu Bar High Tea Buffet ($95/person). On this particular Sunday, our attendance was dedicated to celebrating my very good friend being breast cancer-free for three years. It was a cause for celebration, and we were eager to begin; so the ten minutes we were left standing in the corridor dodging frantic kitchen staff still stocking the high tea buffet were torturous.
The promised Champagne on arrival took another fifteen minutes to hit our table, so, somewhat parched, but eager to begin our experience, we hit up the buffet instead.
Compared with some of the photos I’ve seen circulating on the Internet, our high tea buffet lacked the visual impact I’ve come to expect from Anna Polyviou and her team.
Savoury eats were separated into hot and cold, with the cold dishes performing better that the lamb croquettes and selection of quiches that didn’t seem to move throughout my two hour visit.
Updated classics, like egg sandwiches turned into egg shots with creamy egg and mayonnaise, crustless bread and watercress, and cucumber sangas presented as layered cream cheese and cucumber ribbon open-faced affairs, were my highlights.
While I appreciated seeing them using local cultured butter from Pepe Saya, I wasn’t quite sure what we were expected to do with the lewd yellow pat, sitting right next to a wheel of bland cheese and some cold, charred sourdough to eat it on.
Beetroot cured salmon arranged with capers on rounds of brown bread, and cold chicken and salad sliders helped round out the buffet's savoury selections.
With the free-flowing cocktails in distinct absence, one of my fellow high tea attendees popped up to the makeshift bar to get us a pair. She was redirected back to the table with the news that they were an all-or-nothing, full table affair. Built over whole glasses of crushed ice, the tequila cocktail lacked the fluffy pink Mohawk of Persian fairy floss the online photos had me expecting, and drank like tequila and orange juice. The gin cocktail fared slightly better against pink grapefruit, but could have been filled up completely considering how long we had already had to wait.
While I recognise the need for cocktails that can be made quickly, I have to say I was disappointed with both cocktails being acidic, juice-based, single spirit, one-note affairs that really didn’t live up to Blu Bar’s brand promise. And don't even get me started on how long it took to get another one, or the fact that we had to ask for them each time. Clearing the tables of used plates without it being necessary to make a request was another sore point.
Okay, let’s distract ourselves with cake...
For something contemporary, ‘popping’, was my highlight, decked out with caramel, popcorn and chocolate with a gooey, Mars Bar-like centre.
Polyviou’s twist on the classic orange and poppy seed was another eye-catching curvaceous winner, though everyone else at my table seemed more taken with well-presented shot glasses of berry panna cotta.
Buttermilk and tea-raisin scones, served with two jams and clotted cream, lacked the lightness I’ve come to expect from the beauties I’ve eaten courtesy of the Country Women’s Association.
With last drinks called at 3.15pm (thirty minutes before our allotted two hours ended) and food cleared with most guests still in the bar at 3.30pm, I can’t say I felt like I received good value for my nearly hundred dollar spend.
Staff would do well to remember that when replenishing the buffet, they’re entering a dining room and on display to guests. Dirty tea towels dangling from waists and restocking from plastic tubs with use-by dates on display (rather than white plates), detract from the five star hotel experience. I’ve seen this venue perform better.
Blu Bar on 36
Level 36, Shangri-La Sydney, 176 Cumberland Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9250 6000
NOTE: See a previous review for this venue HERE.