I have been a big fan of high tea for some time now. I don’t know what it is that I like so much. Maybe it is the delicious, miniature morsels of food that you get that are comprised of both savoury and sweet delicacies. Maybe it is the fact that I normally choose the champagne option. I’m not a massive fan of tea so that’s certainly not what draws me to high tea, ironic I know. Perhaps it’s the atmosphere of each of the places, normally classy, in beautiful locations and/ or with magnificent views. The whole experience is just so civil and lovely. Everyone is always happy at high tea.
This post introduces you to afternoon tea at four different establishments around the world. It shows you how even though they essentially have the same essence and underlying premise of including scones with jam and cream, sandwiches and other savoury delights as well as sweet pleasures, high teas can also be very individual.
Park Hyatt, Sydney (Australia)
Before I start with the Park Hyatt Sydney I must warn you that I am biased with all things Sydney related since it is my home town and still one of my favourite, if not the favourite, place in the world.
The Park Hyatt is the most expensive hotel to stay in when visiting Sydney, it is where all the rich and famous stay so you may even be able to do some celebrity spotting while here. You certainly can’t get better views than having a window seat with the Sydney Opera House directly opposite you and The Rocks to one side.
I was a little bit dubious before we went there as I thought it might be rather snobby and pretentious. How wrong I was. The staff were so accommodating and friendly. Firstly, we had not booked and arrived just before the scheduled end of high tea but they were happy to accept us and the maitre d’ even went out of her way to get us a window seat.
Secondly, when she asked if there were any food allergies or intolerances and David mentioned that he is lactose and gluten intolerant (yes he is one of those 🙂 ) we were greeted with a, “no problem”. Thirdly we were given a little bit of extra champagne but don’t tell the waitress’ boss.
When the food arrived we each had our own cake stand filled with mouth-watering goodies. I have to admit David’s looked as good as mine despite it lacking lactose and gluten and apparently tasted great too.
We were treated to the traditional finger sandwiches, miniature sweet goodies, classic scones with jam and cream and of course tea and champagne (for me this is a given with any high tea). Check out their menu here. We chose the champagne option which cost $65 AUS (standard high tea is $49)
High tea has become quite the fashionable thing to do now in Sydney so most high-end hotels offer it, as well as some more intimate cafes and then there is the traditional tea room in the QVB (Queen Victoria Building), so it shouldn’t be hard to find a place right for you.
Mad Hatters High Tea at The Sanderson, London (England)
As we walked up to the unobtrusive facade of the Sanderson hotel we felt a little disappointed until we stepped inside and saw the modern, funky designed decor. We were then directed to the afternoon tea area where we were transported to a magical land of fairy tales and the unexpected.
High tea at The Sanderson is like no other high tea, far from the English tradition that was introduced in the early part of the nineteenth century. Even the space in which you eat breaks with tradition with its water features and low-lit lanterns strung from the ceilings. The way the food looks and tastes is all a surprise.
Everything is presented with an Alice in Wonderland theme. From the menu that is pasted into an antique-looking book, to the choice of teas being presented in small potion bottles, to the originally designed crockery to the intriguing pastries and green sandwiches. We were never sure what was edible or not because nothing was “normal”.
The only part that followed with tradition was that we had a tier of savoury, a tier of sweet and of course scones with jam and clotted cream. The impressively created cakes and treats ranged from green caterpillars to sugary mushrooms to lady bugs. To finish it off we were given a flower pot of delectable ice-cream which of course was not your standard serving of icecream.
What was quite surprising was that after every “course” (the savoury and sweet came out at different times) we were asked if we wanted more before continuing with the next exquisite surprise. This has never happened to me before. Not that I have ever left high-tea feeling like I didn’t eat enough. It is very deceiving like that. At first glance you think there won’t be enough food but believe me, those mini bites of goodness will fill you up and normally leave you not needing dinner.
If you are looking for something a little bit different next time you are in London then try the Mad Hatters High Tea. You can check out the menu here. We chose the Mad Hatters Champagne Afternoon Tea which cost £58 (standard high tea is £48).
The Pump Room, Bath (England)
Now this is the epitome of traditional English afternoon tea. The elegant dining room with the high ceilings, chandeliers and the trio of musicians (or the pianist) gently playing away in the background, really take you back to the days of Jane Austen. You could imagine yourself transported back to Georgian times where afternoon tea was a very important item on ones social calendar, especially if you were single. It’s where a lot of match making and checking out of the opposite sex happened, in this very room!
As for the afternoon tea itself, heavenly! No surprises that the basic structure followed with traditions (cucumber sandwiches to scones) but with little twists here and there (cheddar scones with tomato and chive cream cheese to macaroons). Of course they offered the champagne additional option which of course we took. Have you realised that I enjoy a glass of bubbles yet? You can see the different options they offer here. We paid £40 for the high tea with champagne (standard high tea is £22).
The Mandarin Oriental, Munich (Germany)
One lazy Sunday afternoon I was trawling the internet for nothing in particular and stumbled upon The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Munich and its afternoon tea package. Afternoon tea is not really a thing in Germany so I was curious to see what their afternoon tea might be like. I had been to a lovely café that offers afternoon tea packages and as nice as it was it wasn’t the real deal. So, could the luxurious Mandarin Oriental live up to the test?
The answer is, yes!
This afternoon tea was far from traditional but every mouthful was filled with surprising and unexpected flavours. Every morsel that we ate tantalised our taste buds. It was inspired by the Jimmy Choo Autumn 2016 collection and was a unique and sensational experience. Like the standard high tea, it contained sandwiches, savoury and sweet goodies as well as the traditional scones. That is where the similarities stop.
As always, we opted for the additional champagne option. At the Mandarin Oriental they have several options when it comes to including bubbles in the package. In terms of the tea, we both chose one of the cold infusion options since it was a rare warm summer’s day in Munich. Both the fancy Sencha and the blackcurrant and hibiscus teas turned out to be decidedly refreshing and thirst quenching. To accompany our teas I was presented with a small ball of Japanese lemon sorbet and David a ball of strawberry cheesecake ice-cream. Delicious! This was just the beginning of the delights that were to come.
When our three-tiered cake stand appeared in front of us we started salivating and wanted to dive right in but were trying to be demure and sophisticated since we were in a five-star hotel. We started with the sandwiches and then attacked, I mean slowly savoured the next tier of savoury delights containing delights such as foie gras balls and beetroot merengue with mint.
Finally we relished the sweetness of mini scones with home-made jam and clotted cream, as well as melon stones covered in chocolate, salted caramel macaroon and shoe-shaped shortbread to name but a few.
To obtain some basic information on afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental in Munich click here. We chose the Perrier Jouët which was €10 extra on top of the €35 for the “fashion high tea classic”
Before David met me I don’t think he even knew what high tea was. Now he is a convert, he loves it as much as I do so don’t think it is only for the ladies. Don’t get me wrong, afternoon tea with a bunch of girlfriends, in a lovely setting, is a fantastic way to spend time catching up on gossip with the girls. Throw in some bubbles and it’s perfect!
As you can see going to afternoon tea is not cheap and not something we do on a regular basis but it is a splendid way to spend an afternoon to rest the weary feet while travelling or as part of a stay-cation with friends or that special someone.
Many up-market hotels, cafés and restaurants throughout the world offer high tea. Let us know about your favourite haunts in the comments section, we would love to try some out next time we are travelling.
Disclaimer: We were not paid for any of these reviews, all opinions are our own as always.
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