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Monday, July 20, 2009

High tea at The Loft, King Street Wharf, Sydney

Is high tea just for the gals?

This thought crossed my mind as seven female food bloggers assembled at The Loft on King Street Wharf for their Christmas in July high tea. Whilst a sweet tooth seems to strike more women than men, I've known more than a few blokes who secretly wanted to join a baby shower or hen's day just so they could partake in high tea and indulge.

On Saturday it was women only, a camera-happy crew that included Betty, Karen, Lorraine, Stephcookie and Suze, organised by the lovely Lisa.

One of the key differences with high tea at The Loft is the inclusion of cocktails. An extra $10 pays for a glass of sparkling wine at most establishments, but here there's also the option of selecting a fancy fruity cocktail, infused with tea and mixed with spirits. In keeping with lady-like decorum, the cocktails are presented in teapots filled with ice cubes. Sure it's a gimmick but oh it's cute and indulgently fanciful.

Santa's Little Helper teapot cocktail
Fresh berries crushed with cranberry juice, bourbon and fruit liquers
balanced with a hint of citrus topped off with red fruits tea

The obliging Betty agrees to be our hand model for the day and patiently pours all our cocktails for a camera-clicking frenzy of "money shots".

Santa's Little Helper is the most alcoholic of the day with many describing it as almost medicinal in taste. I'd probably have preferred a little more sweetness and a touch less alcohol.

Rudolph's Nose teapot cocktail
Fresh rhubarb puree and fresh cherry shaken with bison grass vodka
and a hint of citrus finished with Turkish apple tea

Rudolph's Nose is the cocktail I had my eye on from the menu. It's the most popular on the day, with the flavour of rhubarb really coming through.

Silent Night teapot cocktail
Chocolate liquer combined with Martel VS and a touch of chilled espresso,
rounded off with peppermint tea

I hadn't been too keen on the idea of the Silent Night and find it tastes like a cold and slightly alcoholic diluted espresso. I don't detect much peppermint flavour although Suze (a peppermint-phobe) is none too keen. The chocolate liquer isn't as noticeable as I'd hoped, and part of me thinks that chocolate liquer is preferably paired with milk.

Sencha Quince Fizz teapot cocktail
Lillet shaken with a hint of vanilla, fresh passionfruit pulp,
pink grapefruit and chilled T2's Sencha Quince tea

We order the Sencha Quince Fizz on recommendation of others who'd had high tea here only the week before. This one is a narrow second-favourite, intense with passionfruit flavour, rounded out with the pink grapefruit, sencha quince tea and touch of vanilla. Lillet is a French aperitif made from a blend of 85% wine and citrus liquers.

Teapot cocktails meet and greet

Tea-infused cocktails [L-R]:
Silent Night chocolate espresso and peppermint tea;
Santa's Little Helper cranberry and bourbon with red fruits tea; and
Rudolph's Nose rhubarb, cherry and Turkish apple tea

Christmas high tea with a twist $45pp incl teapot cocktail

Oh, did you heart just flutter with excitement like ours did when these arrived?

With eager efficiency, we shuffle teapots, glasses, plates and menus aside to make room for the triple-tiered stands. We had had one late cancellation and faced with a 50% cancellation fee, decide to go ahead and pay for another high tea anyway.

Sandwiches: baby prawn mayo with sprouts; honey-roasted leg ham
with mustard pickle; and turkey and cranberry
served with chicken and pistachio galantine; ham and roast onion frittata;
and baby red peppers stuffed with goat's cheese

Our selection of sandwiches include turkey and cranberry, honey-roasted leg ham with mustard pickle, and baby prawn with mayonnaise and sprouts. I confess I'm a little disappointed with the sandwiches, expecting thick cut sourdough bread not supermarket-style slices. I'm also secretly pining for the delicacy of cucumber sandwiches or the simple nourishment of egg and lettuce.

The chicken and pistachio galantine is an odd disc of springy protein and whilst the frittata is almost a neon yellow, the square itself is soft and sweet. The red onion slices within have turned a strange shade of blue. I'm quite a fan of the mini red peppers stuffed with goat's cheese, a mild mouthful with a faint afterheat of chilli.

Scones with jam and cream and white Christmas rum ball truffle

White Christmas rum ball truffles have a hint of rum although serving them on a spoon seems a touch sterile (perhaps a mini red or green foil patty pan would've added more festivity).

Scones with jam and cream

The scones are soft and fluffy, not overly sweet from the addition of sultanas, although I find the strawberry jam a touch sugary.

Macadamia nut brownie, traditional mince pies
and baked custard tarts with cherry compote
(the jam in the middle is for the scone below)

A trio of petit fours concludes the sweets. The baked custard tart with cherry compote is quite sweet with a dangerous drip factor. Macadamia nut brownie is rich and chocolatey, the interior still dark and barely set. To my surprise I quite enjoy the traditional mince pie, not being the biggest fan of the mincemeat. There's only a mere scraping of mincemeat and the shortcrust pastry is buttery and baked to a crisp, almost like a shortbread.

T2 teas [clockwise from bottom-left]: French Earl Grey, Chai,
English breakfast, Buddha's tears (jasmine), and Turkish apple

Our teas arrive toward the end of our afternoon tea, their delivery pegged according to the consumption of our teapot cocktails (slow and meandering, as the bar staff consistently discover).

Despite our earlier intentions, we're all completely full by the time we've eaten our portions, the extra serving remaining largely untouched (except the scone which is eagerly swooped on).

There's an element of city sophistication as we sip, sup and chill to the tinkle of ivories by the in-house pianist. The afternoon sun streams through the floor-to-ceiling glass and every now and then a loud and urgent horn blasts from the boats at the wharf below.

In-house pianist

I wouldn't call the food the drawcard here, but those looking for fun cocktails with live music and a water view will sip to their heart's content.

High tea and teapot cocktails

High tea at The Loft lounge

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Loft on Urbanspoon

High tea at The Loft
3 Lime Street, King Street Wharf, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9299 4770

High tea available Saturdays and Sundays 12pm-3pm - Bookings essential

Traditional high tea with tea or coffee $35 per person
High tea with a twist (includes teapot cocktail or glass of sparkling) $45 per person

The Christmas in July high tea finishes on the weekend of July 25-26, 2009

Related Grab Your Fork posts
High tea at the Swissotel Crossroads Bar (Jan09), (Nov06)
, (Jun06) and (Oct05)
High tea at the Observatory Hotel, Globe Bar
High tea at the Sofitel Wentworth (Sep08) and (Dec06)
High tea at the Victoria Room, Darlinghurst
18 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/20/2009 01:43:00 am


  • At 7/20/2009 8:46 am, Blogger Jenny said…

    The high tea looks amazing, especially the petit four selection. And who could say no to a teapot filled with cocktails?!

    Part of the reason sliced white is used for the sandwiches is historical. Before bread "factories" were invented, fluffy white bread was the most expensive and coveted type of bread. The darker and rougher your bread, the poorer you were! I guess it became tradition that such an indulgence as high tea should be served with the rarest type of bread.

    Having said that, I don't think people 200 years ago had chicken and pistacio galantines!

  • At 7/20/2009 10:10 am, Blogger Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    Seriously, that horn was so startling! I actually quite liked the sandwiches :) It was great catching up with you, nothing better than a girly high tea on a lazy saturday!

  • At 7/20/2009 12:30 pm, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    Isn't it great that everyone gets their own tower of sandwiches and cakes? And they have buddha's tears - my absolute favorite tea. Love your photos as well, they capture the girliness so well!

  • At 7/20/2009 12:42 pm, Anonymous GreenTimes said…

    Wow, this looks amazing!! I can't believe this weekend will be the last weekend for it. The price isn't bad either given the location. I must check it out. I am so happy I came across this blog post.

  • At 7/20/2009 12:53 pm, Blogger LoveFeast Table said…

    Dazzling cocktails poured from dainty teapots! That's a pleasant surprise and a great way to avoid a "stuffy tea"!

  • At 7/20/2009 2:20 pm, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    Believe me, the boys secretly fantasise gathering the guys together for High Tea! Though the chances of them actually fulfilling that fantasy are slim.

    Was a lovely afternoon to spend with you all :) Though I wished the place was a bit more festive looking? A few carols wouldn't have hurt either lol

  • At 7/20/2009 6:24 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    hee pretty teapots! and too bad no santa...

  • At 7/20/2009 7:40 pm, Anonymous Yas said…

    This is such a cool high teaaaaa! and I certainly don't mind sipping the *tea* with my pinky up. ;p

  • At 7/20/2009 7:50 pm, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    I completely agree with you on all points, ooh you got a shot of the piano man! If only he had been playing christmas carols to add to the festivities :) It was awesome to chat and spend a girly afternoon with you!

  • At 7/20/2009 8:13 pm, Blogger K said…

    Pig flying recently made his own scones and served it up with cherry jam from Mrs Oldbucks (bought during your Truffle hunting trip I think). It. Was. Fantastic. We should get Piggy to host High Tea sometime? :D
    If you were to recommend/pick ONE of the High Tea you've been to in Sydney, which one would it be, and why?

  • At 7/20/2009 8:25 pm, Anonymous Tina said…

    Love the teapot meet!
    I think high tea is a girly thing - I don't know too many boys who are keen on tea and dainty finger food... :)

  • At 7/20/2009 10:02 pm, Blogger YaYa said…

    Pity the sandwiches weren't the best but everything else looks great, especially the teapots and double especially that each person gets their own tier of goodies, hate having to share a stand and keeping an eye on the other person without looking like a pig!

  • At 7/21/2009 12:38 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Jenny - I don't mind sliced white, but personally I was hoping for a thicker sturdier bread, not the squishy kind you pack for the kids lunches. Or otherwise real leg ham or shredded chicken. And haha, I don't think galantines would've been that popular back in the day either!

    Hi Betty - The horn was funny. I had to stop myself from jumping out of my skin! Oh maybe I am too picky with my sandwiches, but I do really really adore good chewy bread :)

    Was lovely to chat with you. So much easier to talk in a small group than a room of 30! lol

    Hi Belle - We were actually sharing a tower between 2, altho' personally I could quite easily have polished off two scones!

    I do like jasmine pearls (my favourite) but I always feel sad when they're called Buddha's tears. lol.

    Hi GreenTimes - Glad you enjoyed the post, and do make sure you book early if you want to enjoy the final Christmas in July high tea.

    Hi LoveFeast Table - It's certainly the modern high tea I've been to! The idea of cocktails in teapots is very cleverly marketed.

    Hi Karen - Haha, we've had a few blokes join us before for high tea but it's been small casual gatherings. I say why should boys miss out on all the fun!

    I agree, it would've been nice if there was more festivity to the plac. A token curl of tinsel and a mince tart does not a Christmas make!

    Hi chocolatesuze - And ha, I can just imagine you sitting on Santa's knee. lol

    Hi Yas - Ooh I think you should definitely come to the next one!

    Hi Stephcookie - Had much fun, and it was great to catch up with you over a leisurely afternoon tea. I was hoping for a little Xmas tree on our table at least, and maybe a Xmas cracker or too :)

    Hi K - Oh you can't beat a freshly baked scone! I remember him buying the cherry jam too!

    I always get asked this question - lol, and of the ones I've tried, I recommend Swissotel for value and large groups (people can come and go as they please since it's buffet) or Sofitel Wentworth for the truly decadent. The desserts are exquisite and unlike anything you'll get at any other high tea. It's designed for chocoholics though so make sure everyone has a super sweet tooth!

    And yes we should do a home-style afternoon tea!

    Hi Tina - Suze insisted on allowing the teapots a chance to get to know one another. lol. And I know a few boys who quite like tea and sweets!

    Hi YaYa - We did have to share stands but there was no need to worry about monitoring - there was one of everything for each person, and besides, we can trust one another!

  • At 7/21/2009 6:17 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    To the girls who commented that afternoon tea is a 'girly' affair; that's just the way it has been marketed here in Sydney. Which is a ridiculous notion, given that ultimately its all about food and drink! I am fortunate enough to have been to afternoon tea in places like HK, Spore and good ol' London town where there are no such tunnel-visioned prejudices. I must also say that I am not a fan of the tag 'high tea' - its actually oxymoronic, given that the term comes from the days when to say high tea indicates its the main meal of the day which in turn indicates one's social standing, ie the upper echelon would have afternoon tea followed by dinner, whereas those who have high tea will only be having a light supper before beddy byes. Gobsmack'd

  • At 7/21/2009 9:50 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    To Anonymous - yes 'High Tea' has been marketed as a girly affair in Australia but that's because culturally speaking, Australian men are more inclined to beer and sports, not tea and sandwiches.

    Of course there'd be exceptions and this is just a generalisation but that's just the way it is in Sydney. Perhaps it's more of an accepted idea that guys go for tea in HK, Singapore or London? I can't comment because I'm not aware of what their cultural expectations are in their countries but here in Sydney, the general consensus is that Tea is largely female orientated.

    I don't understand why you are so worked up about it? Just because it has been marketed this way doesn't mean that there are any prejudices! Nobody's stopping you if you want to experience Afternoon Tea (presumably you're a bloke?). Nobody's going to raise a eyebrow if you and the boys want to join in the fun. It's marketed this way because speaking in terms of advertising and business, it's obviously a lot more profitable and smarter to steer the idea of High Tea to women in Australia. It's not sexual prejudice. It's good business sense. So why the grudge?

    And another thing, a lot of people (including the bloggers) are aware of the difference between High Tea and Afternoon Tea. But again, because it's been marketed as 'High Tea', a lot of them will stick with the term. Again it's a cultural consensus however technically wrong.

    One more thing. The technical meaning of High Tea and Afternoon Tea stems from a culture in the Victorian Era, which obviously has no more place in our modern times. The use of high tea in this context might be incorrect according to that era but in our modern age, who's to say that it's wrong given that the technical practice of High Tea doesn't even exist anymore? Language and social culture evolves all the time so maybe we should to and move on instead of getting so anal about a misuse of a term whose definition only exists in the context of its present culture.

    Just my two cents. Sorry it's so long!

    You're doing a great job Helen. I love girly High Teas myself!

  • At 7/22/2009 1:46 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Gobsmack'd - I agree, the high tea phrase is not historically accurate, but given that most people naturally prefer the sound of a "high tea" as opposed to a "low tea" I don't think the terminology, not matter how inaccurate, is going to change anytime soon.

    I do think it's interesting how afternoon tea has been marketed toward women, just as racing has been pitched a a "sport for princesses". I don't know that I'd call it a tunnel-visioned prejudice - maybe just a persistent (and determined) marketing angle?

    Hi Anon - Thanks for your detailed comment! I don't think men are excluded from high teas here either, but it is interesting to see how it's continually marketed toward women. I suppose one could say the same for paintball - it's not exclusively for men but the marketing campaigns certainly concentrate on men as their most likely customers!

    I think the notion of a "high tea" will always have public favour with its connotation of "high society", no matter the inaccuracy. Will someone mount a public information campaign to correct this glaring anomaly? If anyone has the passion to do it, I think it might be Gobsmack'd :)

  • At 7/22/2009 6:13 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Helen, Thanks for your continued ability to read beyond the knee jerk reaction. To "Anon" - my so called tirade was not a personal attack; which Helen obviously understood. However, a continued and prolonged marketing ploy will in the long run make it a norm; and that's when it does become a prejudice. If the media and business concerns continue to label an item/activity as feminine, it will engender (ha ha) such a mindset. And yes, Helen; I have been on the warpath with business concerns about their continual targeting the female market with the afternoon tea concept as ultimately it only narrows their takings. Slowly slowly, I guess. Gobsmack'd

  • At 7/23/2009 6:41 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Gobsmack'd - I've never quite clarified whether you're male or female? Does this matter - not sure, but I love the mental image I have of you organising a huge picket line across the thresholds of high tea establishments all over Sydney!


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