The Tea Room at the Queen Victoria Building

As I will be out in the bush, and so away from the internet, for the next week, I thought I would post a quick review before I get back to having the time to add some more recipes. The pictures with this one make it look pretty impressive, which I must admit it is. However, it ended up being a mixed experience.

There is a nice kind of irony in the fact that since being back in Sydney (my home city) most of the people I have seen are not people I met in Sydney, but overseas. In fact my friend Nandi, whom I met up with for tea just before Christmas, is actually someone I see a bit of in New York (where we both live now). The Tea Room at the Queen Victoria Building is somewhere I would go occasionally as a special treat when I was a teenager, so I took Nandi there partly because I wanted to relive some of my childhood memories, and partly because I was really craving little sandwiches.

The Queen Victoria Building, for those who don’t know it, is a beautiful shopping building in the middle of the city. The Tea Room on the 3rd floor has vaulted ceilings, huge arched windows, white table-clothes, decedent china, and serves your food on those wonderful tower trays that are reserved for little cakes and finger-sandwiches. The food is also fantastic – scones, strawberry macarons, egg and cress sandwiches, fruit tarts, tiny orange and poppy seed muffins… In fact, there was far more than we could possibly eat. However, while the Tea Room clearly makes an effort to be as posh as they can, they appeared to have made a couple of big errors – posh places have some restrictions, but they tend to make every effort to please the customer (who is, after all, paying a lot of money for their food). The Tea Rooms do have the high prices, but the number of policies and restrictions they imposed were rather ridiculous and came across as rather stingy. While I was sitting out the front, for example, waiting for Nandi to arrive, I witnessed a man who was buying several gift cards as Christmas presents. Despite buying over $500 worth of Tea Room gift cards, he was told that they were also going to have to charge him an additional $10 fee per card they made up, which came across as completely unnecessary.

You are also not allowed to split the $40 afternoon tea between two people (you must each buy one that comes combined on the tray), even though there is so much food it would be impossible for you to finish it all off. Furthermore, they have no way for you to take your left-over cakes, sandwiches and tartlets away with you when you leave. This means that you wont be able to try one of everything on the stand, which is a shame.

Over all, it is a beautiful place, but with an attitude that leaves a lot to be desired. On a completely unrelated note, it is also full of women, and only women. It was full when we were there and I must have seen, at most, three men. I just found that amusing for some reason. I wonder if it is true of tea rooms the world over…

The Tea Rooms, Queen Victoria Building, 455 George Street. (Sydney, Australia)


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