Attempting to juggle the blog (The Afterimage), sketchbook, camera and a small forest's worth of university readings around Sydney.
Published May 13th 2013
All's fair in the great high tea debate
Two high tea experiences can vary quite a bit, even if there is only a small stretch of Town Hall area in between the venues.
No matter the venue, if you do find yourself with an invite, it's a great time to break out the dress shirts, 'special occasion' outfits, and get a little bit fancy. After all, half of the enjoyment of high tea is dressing up for the escapism.
The Tea Room, in Sydney's iconic Queen Victoria Building, is the place for your quintessential English high tea experience, though unfortunately with a rather high price tag of $43 a head for a Traditional Afternoon Tea on the weekend.
The magic is in the details of the venue: the high ceiling, ornate chandeliers and interior décor; the polite, impeccably dressed waiters and waitresses; the traditional silver teapot and cutlery; the heavy white tablecloths and velvet chairs.
The tea is the star of the event, as you might expect. There is an incredible range of international flavours to choose from. Unfortunately, it appears that you are to pick one and stick with it (unless you have obliging tea-sharing friends).
High tea is probably not enough to completely substitute lunch, but they are surprisingly filling, for something so tiny.
The QVB highlights were the scones (with fresh berry jam and cream), the passionfruit cream shortbread and the chicken sandwiches, with lovely mayonnaise and pieces of walnut for some textural variety. I wasn't a fan of the orange and poppyseed mini muffin, which was rather dry.
High tea at Bayside Lounge in the equally iconic Darling Harbour is a slightly less pricey affair, at $29 a head. The airy, light venue is certainly more relaxed and modern.
There was a wider selection of beverages, from soft drink to fruit juice and champagne.
While not as delicately made as the confections of The Tea Room, the stand-outs at Bayside Lounge, like the duck confit pie with eschalots and merlot jus and sticky date and espresso crème brûlée, were definite competitors in flavour and texture.
The least impressive, for me, would have to be the mint (toothpaste-tasting) macarons and the serrano ham and peach chutney finger sandwich, which simply did not have enough filling for the bread.