I'm an English literature and media student living in Sydney.
Published July 30th 2011
There seems no better place to indulge in the quaint, refined pastime of High Tea than the Tea Rooms in the Queen Victoria Building.
For the uninitiated, High Tea is a morning or afternoon tea affair (though the QVB Tea Rooms also has a restaurant with a lunch menu). You sit at a table laid with beautiful fine bone china, order a flavour of tea, which is brought to you along with a tier of different foods – a selection of small sandwiches, pastries, scones, friands, tarts and the like. The food is wonderful, though I would not recommend arriving for High Tea hungry, for such an array of small treats lends itself to dainty sampling, rather than feasting. The kindly wait staff will refill your teapot with boiling water as many times as you like, as you sit and chat and feel like a person of leisure. It is, on the whole, a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Located on the top floor of the QVB, the Tea Rooms are outfitted with plush velvet armchairs, high ornate ceilings, art deco chandeliers and beautiful table settings. The effect is quite striking. The decor combines to give you the feeling that you have stepped back in time to a refined and colonial age, which is only appropriate given who the building is named after.
The beautiful aesthetic makes you want to act in a fittingly genteel way – to sit up straighter, speak more softly, and make sure you don't spill your tea. At one point a woman at the next table to mine pulled out a camera and began photographing her meal. The room and the food are so lovely that the impulse to take photos is understandable. However, the experience is such a refined one, that her oversized, plastic, kitsch camera did feel a little out of place. Make no mistake, this is an elegant establishment.
Almost all of those in the room were women, and it does seem to be a popular destination for female bonding – I went with my grandmother, for instance, as she said it was a "grandmotherly" place to take me. However, a note to the romantically inclined man: this is an excellent date location. It's an expensive outing, but High Tea at the QVB Tea Rooms is beautiful; the food, while not abundant, is excellent, and the whole experience will make you and your lady friend feel just a little bit special.