Darling, darling! Is there anything more feminine and ritzy than afternoon tea? This British tradition has certainly popularised in the last few years faster than you can say ‘pass the clotted cream’ but forget the Victorian ponce and snobbery. These days it’s everybody from the young and the trendy to families sipping tea or champagne while gossiping over scones and mini sandwiches.
Despite the trend, I have never actually experienced afternoon tea in Sydney so what a perfect setting to pop my Darjeeling cherry than a girly catch up with three Sydney food bloggers – chocolatesuze, Not Quite Nigella and Reem.
But first, a quick educational pit stop. I know the common term is High Tea however this misnomer irks the English part of me. High Tea is traditionally a dinner with meats and breads served at about 6pm. Afternoon tea/Low Tea, as it should be called, is the small meal taken in the afternoon and its purpose was to tide one’s appetite over until dinner. The practice of inviting friends for afternoon tea turned into the social trend in the 19th century. It’s only a minor issue but that’s the academic in me being pedantic.
Lesson over! Sydney is not short of afternoon tea venues but this time we took advantage of the We ♥ Sydney deal at Lobby Lounge in Shangri La where you order one Champagne High Tea and get one free. At a saving of $45 per couple it’s an irresistible excuse to catch up with the girls!
The probational driver in me had to decline the sparkling wine, which is a good thing really, as the effects of bubblies are akin to a head pounding! Fortunately you also get unlimited tea and coffee so my drink of choice is ye olde English breakfast. It’s safe and oh so unadventurous but I’m a stickler for the English tradition!
Table service only came in the form of a platter of sandwiches, which were looking a little uneven and like they came from the bottom of my school bag!. My cucumber sandwich even came complete with the knuckle imprints of whomever was preparing them! To be bluntly honest, the sandwiches looked like the schoolyard lunches that the Mother used to make (not that I’m criticising her sandwich-preparation abilities!). Clearly not the dainty mini sandwiches that I’ve grown accustom to at tea time! I found the fillings to be a little tasteless particularly the cucumber (oddly accompanied with cottage cheese that I intelligently thought was egg!). However big thumbs up for the thick slices of smoked salmon in my sandwich!
We actually sat for a while after the sandwiches wondering where the rest of the food was without knowing that the desserts and sweets were actually available as a buffet! We weren’t informed of the buffet at all and I believe it wasn’t mentioned on their website.
The buffet table was quite small and the ‘romance’ and atmosphere of high tea was marred with the odd placement of a LCD TV behind the buffet table. Somehow a plate of dainty sweets and scones didn’t marry well with the image of Jim Belushi on the screen!
The delicate and pretty macarons caught the immediate attention of macaron aficionado chocolatesuze who unashamedly (and with my encouragement) grabbed every single last one.
Personally I’m not a fan of macarons but these were fabulous! The pink/raspberry tasted of Arnotts Monte Carlo; the yellow tasted of lemon shortbread; orange was…uh…orange cream while the beige tasted of coconut! The purple, however pretty, unfortunately tasted of marzipan. Luckily Suze and I didn’t resort to a catfight and shared like good little girls…almost.
Unfortunately the other desserts didn’t rate as well. The madeleines, though nicely flavoured were dense and hard. There were comments on the odd saltiness of the mini lemon meringue pies while the other treats were pretty standard fare. It must be noted that the High Tea staple, scones, were a huge disappointment! Dense, dry, doughy, flat and they looked like they weren’t even properly baked through – a travesty to the Pom in me, and all that jam wasted and unused!
The caramel slice tasted of ultra sweet dulce de leche and chewy caramel lollies. My cavities throbbed with just a mere nibble! Suze accosted them all and much to my awe, finished it all off with glee.
I think the consensus is clear that this is not one of the better offerings of High Tea in Sydney although accolades must be given for those macarons and it presented great value with the We ♥ Sydney deal. However I missed the experience of table service and ‘High Tea’ just isn’t the same without the pretty China, the gorgeous tiered cake stands and dainty finger sandwiches. But since this is my first Sydney high tea experience, it can only get better from now on.
All in all, it was a gorgeous day and a lovely way to spend an afternoon (thank you ladies!). Be sure to check in on your favourite Sydney food blogs chocolatesuze, Not Quite Nigella and Tummy Rumble for their posts!
We Love Sydney available until 28 February 2009. Be sure to check their website for other food and wine deals.
Ground Floor, 176 Cumberland St
The Rocks, NSW 2000
(02) 9250 6144
Website: Shangri-La Sydney
8:00am to late (Mon to Sat), 9:30am to late (Sun)