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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Palace Tea Room, QVB, Sydney

Scone with jam and cream at The Palace Tea Room, QVB, Sydney

It's an age old question: which goes first on the scone? The jam or the cream? Sure you need good lashings of both - but the order in which you dress a scone inevitably crops up at every afternoon tea. All it takes is a raised eyebrow and a pointed look to spark a heated discussion that rarely leads to people switching sides.

Gallery seating at The Palace Tea Room, QVB, Sydney
Gallery seating 

The popularity of afternoon teas (often incorrectly called high teas) seemed to hit its peak a couple of years ago, but the ritual of cakes, tea and elegant china will never completely fall from favour.

Last year I received a media gift box sent out from the QVB. In among the package of chocolates, tea and hot cross buns was an Afternoon Tea for Two gift voucher to The Palace Tea Room.

Seating inside at The Palace Tea Room, QVB, Sydney
Dining room seating

Perched on level one, the elegant cafe includes a large dining area as well as external seating that runs along the QVB gallery. Thick drapes, heavy chandeliers and Victorian grandfather chairs create an air of old world opulence. Victorian grandfather in style. The main service counter is lined with a rainbow of pastel teapots and gleaming tea canisters.

Spanish omelette at The Palace Tea Room, QVB, Sydney
Spanish omelette $21

We're celebrating Miss Nine's birthday early but everyone else is in search of more savoury options. The breakfast menu runs all day, including a Spanish omelette that is heftier in size than we expect considering it's listed under the snack section. It's impressively fuffy, cooked to a golden brown on the outside and filled with chunks of potato, chorizo, roasted cherry tomatoes and feta.

Tomato, avocado, feta and smoked salmon on sourdough at The Palace Tea Room, QVB, Sydney
Tomato, avocado, feta and basil on a soy and linseed toasted sourdough $14
with smoked salmon $5

The tomato, avocado, feta and basil toast is simple but delicious. We boost it with an extra side order of smoked salmon.

The breakfast menu also includes eggs benedict ($18), granola ($14) and bircher muesli ($12) but it's the buttermilk pancakes ($19), French toast ($16) and a croque monsieur ($17) that all catch my eye.

Smoked salmon open sandwich at The Palace Tea Room, QVB, Sydney
Smoked salmon open sandwich $25 

There's a wide selection of open sandwiches on the lunch menu. We get the smoked salmon - generous if a little on the salty side - that comes with salad and a poached egg. There's a hefty layer of cream cheese spread onto the toasted sourdough.

You can also order open sandwiches with chicken, pulled pork, steak or grilled vegetables. More substantial options include potato gnocchi ($26), prawn linguini ($29) and a wagyu beef burger ($28).

Wedgwood fine china tea set at The Palace Tea Room, QVB, Sydney
Wedgwood fine china tea set

About a third of diners today are partaking in some form of afternoon tea and almost all of them are female. You can order sandwiches, scones and cakes on their own with tea, or combine them into a classic afternoon tea served on a tiered cake stand.

Afternoon tea plate and sugar bowl at The Palace Tea Room, QVB, Sydney
Afternoon tea plate and sugar bowl

The arrival of fancy crockery sets the scene. Who wants chopping boards and slate where you could be eating off gold rimmed fine china?

Traditional afternoon tea for two at The Palace Tea Room, QVB, Sydney
Traditional afternoon tea for two $80 ($40 per person)
Petit pastries, finger sandwiches, scones and tea or coffee

The traditional afternoon tea for two will set you back $80, not a cheap undertaking but then luxury always comes at a price. Although you can order coffee, it seems wrong not to sip from a pot of tea.

The tea list racks up 26 different choices. There's everything from darjeeling to dragon pearls to pomegranate oolong tea. Between us we try the Japanese sencha and the chocolate tea. The latter is the winner, a black tea heavily scented with dark chocolate that gives a sense of rich sweetness.

Scone, crab cornet and finger sandwiches at The Palace Tea Room, QVB, Sydney
Scone, crab cornet, finger sandwiches and cheese shortbread

We start at the bottom. Surprisingly there isn't a standard doubling of every option. Although there are two chicken caesar finger sandwiches, there's only one each of the tuna and the egg salad.

The cheddar shortbread biscuit is short and buttery, sandwiched with red capsicum paste. There's a lovely sense of whimsy with the crab cornet, filleted with plenty of flaked crab but it's served without any mayonnaise dressing. On the upside it means our cone doesn't go soggy.

Cakes and tarts at The Palace Tea Room, QVB, Sydney
Cakes and tarts

The top two tiers afford an assortment of dainty cakes, slices and tarts. We end up sharing our cakes with the entire table, after dabbling in tastings of everyone's savoury dishes earlier. The white chocolate, raspberry and mango slice is light and tangy, and the meringue tart leaves everyone with a guilty trail of evidence across their lips.

Salted caramel macaron at The Palace Tea Room, QVB, Sydney
Salted caramel maracon

A coconut-dusted chocolate slice has echoes of lamington about it and the salted caramel macaron is quite a beauty, filled with a thick layer of soft and salty caramel buttercream.

Scone with jam and cream at The Palace Tea Room, QVB, Sydney
Scone with jam and cream

The scone is undoubtedly the highlight. One plain scone and one fruit scone necessitates rapid dibs or democratic sharing. These are spectacular specimens, baked so a gentle crust has formed on the outside without compromising its fluffy and pillow-like core.

I'm a keen advocate of jam first as evidenced above, maintaining it's much easier to spread jam on the base and then dollop on a thick layer of cream than attempting it the other way around. You can also surreptitiously add extra cream halfway through, because really, scones are just an excuse to indulge in bucketloads of cream.

Shops inside the QVB, Sydney
Inside the Queen Victoria Building

What we do appreciate about the Palace Tea Room is the sense of peace and serenity. Although the dining room is large, there aren't a lot of tables inside, and most patrons are quiet and subdued in their conversation. It's an oasis of calm before we rejoin the weekend shoppers, blending into the crowd before the clock chimes above.

The Palace Tea Room menus and the QVB clock, Sydney

Grab Your Fork redeemed a complimentary gift voucher received from the QVB for an Afternoon Tea for Two. All other dishes on this visit were independently paid for. This visit was anonymous and unannounced.

The Palace Tea Room QVB on Urbanspoon

The Palace Tea Room
Level 1, Shop L1 20-22
Queen Victoria Building, George Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9283 2222

Opening hours:
Open daily 8am-6pm
14 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 3/25/2015 06:05:00 pm


  • At 3/25/2015 6:11 pm, Anonymous Chris (Chew Your Chow) said…

    I really liked their Spanish Omelette!

    Last time, I went I was the only guy there, haha.

  • At 3/25/2015 7:56 pm, Blogger Julie said…

    Hi Helen, thanks for this review! I'm a big fan of the afternoon tea at the Tea Room QVB so I am definitely keen to try The Palace. The food does look beautiful! As for the jam vs. cream first debate, I think it depends on the type of cream you use - if it's clotted cream that's thick like butter, I think that should go on first, but if it's more fluffy then it should be dolloped on after!

  • At 3/26/2015 3:38 am, Blogger CQUEK said…

    I will grab the Spanish omelette. It looks so good n healthy.

  • At 3/26/2015 7:45 am, Anonymous Nagi@RecipeTin Eats said…

    It looks like they've modernised their menu! It has been years since I've been and didn't think to go back but now I will! Great idea for a girls afternoon catch up followed by blowing up our credit cards :)

    Age old question re: jam or cream first? WHO on earth would put jam on top? And WHY?? Completely illogical! It's like putting vegemite on toast before butter! He he!!

  • At 3/26/2015 8:58 am, Anonymous Racy_staci said…

    Newton's law of universal gravitation, which postulates that the gravitational force of two bodies of mass is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. So cream on top! ke ke

  • At 3/26/2015 9:11 am, Blogger francesca said…

    Love that fine china and decor!

  • At 3/26/2015 9:32 am, Anonymous Bianca@forfoodssake said…

    I've never experienced an 'authentic' high tea, I've done two but they were both at home catering jobs for kitchen tea's. There really isn't anything better than a fresh scone warm out of the oven!

  • At 3/26/2015 10:10 am, Anonymous Berny @ I Only Eat Desserts said…

    This high tea looks gorgeous and set in such a lovely place. Old Australian architecture is so pretty :)

  • At 3/26/2015 12:15 pm, Anonymous Hotly Spiced said…

    I do love the QVB. Isn't it gorgeous! I do love a high tea as well and like you, I always put the jam on the scone first. What an elegant way to spend an afternoon xx

  • At 3/26/2015 1:12 pm, Anonymous Jucy_lucy said…

    Team cream on top all the way!!!!

  • At 3/26/2015 3:05 pm, Anonymous Odette said…

    Those desserts look so good. Must visit soon.

  • At 3/27/2015 9:58 pm, Blogger Cassie | Journey From Within said…

    Totally agree that scones really is an excuse to indulge on cream! Whenever one does not want to be judged for eating cream would be to eat it with a scone!

  • At 3/28/2015 4:27 pm, Anonymous Amanda @lambsearsandhoney said…

    Really, there is no reason for any discussion - jam first, then plenty of cream. Jam is denser than whipped cream, so if you do it the other way around the cream will splodge and fall off. Simple physics.
    I adore their chine - it's sooo purty!

  • At 4/22/2015 5:48 pm, Anonymous Amanda @ Gourmanda said…

    I agree with you on jam first - the structural integrity of the scone is much better that way! I love a good afternoon tea. :)


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