Thursday, October 21, 2004

An Elegant Life: Two English Ladies in the Making

My dearest dearest friend whom I met on my second day of commerce school is back in town! It has been about six month since I last saw her. Boy, do I miss her! Thanks to the very advanced IT that we have here and one that I definitely cannot live without: msn messenger, we kept in touch almost everyday. But alas, chatting on msn is definitely very different from chatting in person. The latter is so much more fun plus we can nibbles and drinks during our chat session.

Of course we met up for some girls-only bonding session. We were going to go to one of the good food month events but the idea was scrapped not only because of the bad rainy weather Sydney has been having from last weekend but also we were a little worried about getting home late at night. It's not that safe in Sydney, if you really want to know.

We decided to have tea but what kind of tea? Last time we turned into asian 'si lai' (a cantonese term refering to middle-aged women) and indulged in a long chatty session over yumcha in chinatown. The thought of this doesnt sound that...exotic and elegant, eh? It sounded like we were some san ba po (literary three eight women, meaning very nosy women who like to listen and spread rumours). So this time we decided we want to be elegant. We want to be graceful. We want to be chic.

Let's go and indulge ourselves in a traditional english afternoon tea!

tabemashita on 19 Oct 2004
tabemashita @: the tea room, QVB
Our Tea: Earl Grey for Jess and Chai for pinkcocoa
♥ Earl Grey for Jess and Chai for Pinkcocoa
Right, did I say we were going to afternoon tea? I think I did. I hope i didnt mention that I was going to go for high tea because high tea and afternoon tea are two different thing. Afternoon tea is also known as 'low tea' with light refreshments consumed between 3 to 5pm. High tea, on the other hand, served after 6pm is on the heavier side. This is usually taken as dinner by the English.

Well, we didnt actually have a very traditional afternoon tea. It's more like we had lunch tea or an early afternoon tea. We started our tea at 11.30am. So much for being traditional! We selected the tea room up on level 3 in Queen Victoria Building (QVB) because pinkcocoa long wanted to try their afternoon tea after reading about it in a newspaper articles. We made a booking at 11am, this is when their afternoon tea starts. We ran a little late and arrived at about 11.30am and found ourselves their first table of customers!

Sitting underneath the tall pale-white original Victorian ornate ceilings, classic chandeliers (not made of glass or crystal!), relaxing over a cup of gourmet tea, Jess and pinkcocoa had indeed transformed into graceful and elegant english ladies on the spot!

Jess was very non-adventurous and went for earl grey after consulting our table steward on the japanese green tea (cant remember the name). Anyway the reason she chose earl grey was because it goes with milk. Afternoon tea has just got to be tea with milk. Green tea? Nawwww. I went for Chai tea, not very english I guess but I love the aromatic spices in this Indian tea. My Chai tea cames with warm frothy milk. Jess' earl grey came with normal milk.

Three Tier Delights!
♥ the delightful three-tier stand
Soon after some giggles over our hot tea, we were enchanted by the arrival of this lovely three-tier stand full of scrumptious yummies! We did a few whooo and aaahhhh, snapped a few pictures before we managed to stop our very un-ladylike behaviours. *Oops*

I was a little doubtful with the order of the type of food in this particular three-tier stand. If my memory hadnt failed me, I remembered the order of the tier would be:
top: sweets
middle: scones with cream and preserves
bottom: finger sandwiches
*Jess, I forgot to mention this to you when we were eating. :p

You start from the bottom tier and work your way up to the top. I didnt remember this rule of thumb at the tea room. It just didnt occur to me that we should start from the bottom because the savouries were placed on the top tier. Naturally, we thought we should start from top to bottom and this was the order we had our afternoon tea.

It was a little odd though with our order. You start with savouries then move on to sweets and then end with something plain and rather filling. But if you start from bottom to top, it would be a little odd as well. Plain taste to sweets to savouries. Perhaps someone out there could enlighten me on the order?

Top Tier - Savouries
♥ top tier: savouries
on the top tier, we had 2 type of finger sandwiches with baby watercress and 2 very cute filo pastry cups.

Middle Tier - Sweets
♥ middle tier: sweets
The sweets caught our eyes first. We were joyous when we saw the two dark chunks. *yippeee* chocolate cake!

Bottom Tier - Scones and Pastries
♥ bottom tier: pastries and scones
On the bottom one, we had two pastries and two different types of scones. We couldnt tell what kind of puff we were going to have. Oh, the scones were served with clotted cream and preserves. We havent seen clotted cream before and we thought it was butter. The preserves I think was strawberry.

Alrightey! Let's start our palatable journey into the great kingdom :-)

Ham sandwich with Apple Chutney
♥ fingers sandwich: ham and apple chutney
This particular sandwich was made with brown bread. I didnt notice the apple chutney until my last bite when I bit into a large apple chunk. Very nice! I only wish there was more apply chutney in there.

Jess had a tiny bite on this sandwich. She's vegetarian so the ham sandwich was out for her. Me? I am half-and-half. I dont mind having some bits of meat here and there once in a while.

Fingers Sandwich: Tomato and Red Onion
♥ fingers sandwich: tomato and red onion
This is a vegetarian sandwich using white bread. We picked out the red onion. We dont want to catch onion breath! *yuck*

Tomato Salsa in Filo Pastry with Guacomole
♥ tomato and herb salsa in cute filo pastry cups, served with avocado dip
Is there a particular name for this cute little filo pastry cup? The tomato salsa (is it a salsa i wonder) was very appetizing. The tomato chunks were well-dressed with flavours and herbs (we couldnt work out what herbs but thought that it was something similar to parsley or coriander). The greenish cream is actually guacamole (avocado dip). It didnt taste that avocado-ish and was quite full of flavour (salty!). The filo pastry was alright though I wish it could be a little crispier.

Chocolate Mud Cake
♥ chocolate mud cake
And then we moved on to my favourite tier: sweets! I couldnt help but start out with this black beauty: chocolate mud cake. It was moist and soft. The sweetness was well balanced between the very sweet chocolate ganache and the bitter-sweet dark chocolate cake.

One more piece of this? hm. no thanks. It was too rich!

Orange and Almond Cake with Lemon Curd
♥ orange and almond cake with lemon curd
This is a very typical english afternoon tea cake. I like the lemon curd. It was sour but sweet enough not to burn your throat and mouth with the lemony acidity. I couldnt remember much about this cake however. (Jess, do you remember?) The lemon curd has such strong flavour that the flavours of orange and almond in the cake were concealed.

Passionfruit Shortbread
♥ passionfruit shortbread
This is bite sized pieces. It's very passionfruit-ful! The cream in the middle is enhanced with passionfruit flavours. I just love the combination of sweet and sour. Yum~

Strawberry Boat
♥ strawberry boat
It's marinated strawberries cubes on a shortcrust boat lined with cream. This was okay. The shortcrust was a little soft and plain. Not the crunchy tart-crust I was expecting. But it's strawberries, takara pinkcocoa tabemashita!

Sweet Onion Pastries
♥ our little devil: caramelised onion pastries
We couldnt tell from the outside what's inside this pastry nor could we smell anything.

jess: what is this puff?
pinkcocoa: hmm. It looks like curry puff. I hope it's not curry puff
jess: If it is curry puff then it isnt that imaginative!
pinkcocoa: come we would have curry puff in english afternoon tea? weird~
jess: oh. maybe it's indian-influenced? you know, there are a lot of indians there.
pinkcocoa: er....
jess: hmmm...
...silence...both girls stared at the puff
pinkcocoa: let's cut open and find out!

I cut the puff in half and still couldnt figure out what's inside. There was very little filling in there. So I did something very unladylike again. I used my tea-spoon to poke open the puff and tried to spoon out the fillings. Yes, I know this is bad table manner but who's there to watch right? Beside you are supposed to be comfortable with the food you are eating and the way you eat. You are supposed to enjoy food.

Turned out that it was caramelised onion in there. We couldnt taste much of the caramelised onion. The pastry crust was thick compared to the amount of onion inside.

Scone with clotted cream and preserve
♥ plain scone with clotted cream and preserve
We were getting very full by the time we reached the bottom tier. I reckon it was the sweets that made us feel full faster. We shared the two scones so we got to taste a bit of both.

jess: is that butter? (pointing at the clotted cream)
pinkcocoa: i dont think so. i think it is cream
jess: but it looks like butter.
pinkcocoa: i thought we usually have cream and jam with scones?
jess: let me try then.
*jess scoop and spread then munch munch*
jess: the texture feels and tasted like butter but a little sour. I dont think it is cream. Not soft enough and look at the yellowish colour. isnt cream supposed to be white?
pinkcocoa: yeah. i think it said clotted cream on the menu. let me try
*pinkcocoa scoop and spread then munch munch*
pinkcocoa: i think it is cream...clotted cream....
jess: what kind of a name is clotted cream...

Raisin scone
♥ Raisin Scone with clotted cream and preserves
This is raisin scone. See the black little bits in the scones. These are raisins. I like the raisin scone better than the plain one. The plain scone had a tit bit of savoury taste whereas the raisin one was sweeter. It was also a tad bit more moist.

For two and a half hours, Madame jess and madame pinkcocoa sat under the beautiful Victorian ornate ceilings at a table with views (yes, we could catch a tiny slice of darling harbour from the tiny windows), indulging in good food, good tea and a good lengthy girl bonding session!

The tea room is definitely a good place for a small get-together. It is rather quiet. There is a sense of tranquile floating in the air and we felt comfortable sitting there for a long time. We would have sat longer if we could but the tea room was becoming very busy and we felt the need to leave so as to make room for more customers.

We are definitely going to come back here again. It's a very good place to catch up with long-time-no-see friend. Next time, we would have to try out their lunch. We noticed a large bowl of dainty looking fries on the table next us. hmmmm. Comfort food on a cold rainy day!

We felt very full by the time we reached the bottom tier. Nonetheless, we tried to finish up the scones (no, the mission was not accomplished). Odd enough, even though we were very full from the afternoon tea, there was no sense of the bulging-feeling from over-eating. We were just feeling full but not overly full. Our palatable tastebuds were delightly satisfied.

level 3, the northern end
queen victoria building
455 george st
sydney 2000
tel: (02) 9283 7279
fax: (02) 9283 7276

afternoon tea $20pp