When five foxxy females seek to celebrate four November birthdays, a High Tea affair offers the perfect combination of sophistication, conversation and self-indulgent deserved gluttony.
Our chosen destination was The Observatory Hotel, a member of the Orient-Express family which, although only built in 1993, attempts to look as if it has been there ever since 1893.
The olde world charm is apparent in its heavy lounge settings, mahogany furniture and trail of ornamental keepsakes dispersed throughout the downstairs lobby. There's a plaque marked Drawing Room and I feel an irrepressible urge to request a pipe, smoking gown and perhaps a monocle on a chain as well.
High tea takes place in the Globe Bar. The patrons inside are dignified and speak in muted tones. I do my best to trudge in elegantly, and as I sink into a padded textured velvet sofa, a solemn-looking staff member is quick to offer a pot of tea.
A silver tray floats across the floor before it is lowered majestically on a nearby sidetable. A slender but heavy silver tea pot is lifted mid-air, a tea strainer readied, and then the pot is tilted gracefully forward for the cascade of steaming hot tea which flows delicately into my white china tea cup.
Bowb then appears, and soon after Saffron, S and A as well. Excitement is mounting as we prepare ourselves for an afternoon of tasty decadence.
Champagne arrives and we chit chat as we wait for our soon-to-arrive tier of goodies.
We wait and we wait and during a series of nervous glances at our watches, we realise that over forty minutes have passed and no food has arrived. Girly talk is all very well, but it cannot be sustained without sugar and cream and sustenance in general.
We cast pained looks of jealousy at the other smaller tables which seem to have their tiers arrive in next to no time. We are perplexed at the delay as we had made a booking weeks before. Surely they knew that five ravenous girls would be ready and waiting for the highlight of their week?
Finally, finally our tier beholden with goodness arrives. The staff member sweeps in and out with barely a word and we all shift about in our seats peering at the arrival with none-too-elegant finger pointing and curious musings out loud.
We begin with scones which are pleasant but perhaps a little doughy. Any shortcomings are quickly forgiven though with a thick splodge of strawberry jam--dense with whole strawberries-- and an even bigger spoonful of heavy and heavenly ivory cream.
Sandwiches are a source of much discussion: there is ham and cheese; cucumber and watercress; smoked salmon and capers; and the crowd favourite of soft curried egg.
The final dessert stage is again fraught with decisions. Feedback is sought from the first taste adventurers, as discussion culminates on how to personally ensure "the last perfect mouthful".
The mini chocolate friand is rich and almost squidgy in texture. It is moist and buttery like a dense chocolate brownie and topped with a trio of pistachio, walnut and almond.
A fragile fruit tart is almost crushed by eager fingers, set sail by slivers of mango and strawberry, with blueberry and raspberry anchors at the ready.
My chosen finale is the almond slice, a sticky square reminiscent of a florentine with camarel-set flaked almonds, sunny flashes of candied peel and atop a crisp buttery biscuit base sandwiched with jam.
I am forlorn for my long-empty and stone cold tea pot which has neither been refilled nor replaced at any stage during our two-and-a-half hour visit. Although we have had much fun and frivolity in a room lending to gloom, we are a little disappointed with our group's apparent invisibility.
A trip to the bathroom offers some consolation. A bottle of complimentary mouthwash is utilised for post-tea refreshment and the genuine cotton hand towels are appreciated for our soft, delicate milky white hands.
We exit onto the street all smiles and laughter for there has been sugar and cream and good company all-round.
The Observatory Hotel
89-113 Kent Street, Millers Point, Sydney, Australia
Tel: +61 (02) 9256 2222
High Tea at the Globe Bar is held daily 2.30pm-5.00pm
$29.00 for a three-tier high tea
$39.00 with a glass of champagne
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11/28/2005 11:56:00 p.m.