Although high tea is a very British tradition and I’ve lived in London for more than seven years now, I’d never actually been. I ended up popping that particular cherry when I was back in Sydney recently…
I’ve always wanted to “do” high tea. There’s something about dainty sandwiches and bite-sized cakes served with fancy teas that just seems so delightfully decadent.
Funnily enough, the tradition was in fact started by the working classes back in the 18th Century. Not able to afford the extravagance of an afternoon (or “low”) tea that the upper classes enjoyed, they instead combined sweet dishes with an early evening meal to replace dinner which became known as high tea.Gradually the lines between low and high tea blurred and it became more of a social event.
Nowadays, high tea generally consists of both sweet and savoury items all served in adorable teensy portions on delicate chinaware. Hotels and restaurants sometimes offer it as a novelty or for special occasions. And thus, my mum, sister and I ended up at The Tea Room to celebrate my big Three Oh in style.
The Tea Room is situated in one of my favourite buildings in Sydney – the historic Queen Victoria Building (QVB). With its domed ceiling, stained glass windows, and ornate interiors, the QVB is a stunning piece of 19th Century architecture.
Especially when decked out for Christmas (in November…).
Much larger than I expected, The Tea Room is on the top floor of the QVB. The high ceilings are adorned with intricate gold carvings and hung with impressive chandeliers. High tea is served in plush, quilted high-backed chairs. Even the bar was quilted…
We felt pretty damn fancy.
What about the food, you ask?
Well… It. Was. Incredible.
I had an entirely vegan high tea. None of those lazy vegan alternatives (fruit salad and sorbet was offered at another establishment) but a complete, three-tiered tray of finger sandwiches, tiny cakes and fresh scones, plus a plate of cooked savoury delights.
Here’s a drool-worthy closer look at what I had:
As you can see below, the vegan plate (left) was just as varied, just as pretty, and just as tasty as the standard plates. (The plates on the right – shared by my mum and sister – were also accompanied by non-vegan scones.)
For each little treat, there was a vegan equivalent. My mum and sister had a berry jelly cake, I had raw berry cheesecake. They had chocolate mousse, I had a raw chocolate brownie slice. They had a fruit tartlet, I had a mini carrot cake with lemon icing (my absolute favourite of the day!).
I didn’t feel at all like a hassle for having dietary requirements. Although we’d called ahead to advise of the vegan request, they actually have the vegan alternatives on offer every day (as well as a gluten-free afternoon tea). Impressed.
The tea menu was almost overwhelming but in the end, my tea of choice was chai with steamed soy milk.
Our teapots were topped up throughout our meal so we never ran dry.
A couple of hours later, we practically rolled out of the Tea Room. We finished off most of our goodies; at around $50 a head, we didn’t want anything to go to waste and thought it may be frowned upon to request a doggy bag…
If you’re in Sydney and want to treat someone for a special occasion, or you’re just feeling a tad fancy, then I highly recommend The Tea House. Just don’t eat lunch beforehand.