After driving down the short and slightly winding Suakin Drive, we found ourselves perched atop Georges Heights looking out across expansive views of Sydney Harbour. It is Mistress’ birthday and she has requested our presence for a bit of glamour and romance at The Tea Room Gunners’ Barracks. After frequenting The Tea Room at Queen Victoria Building for quite a few years and loving everything about their very English-style afternoon teas, I now understood why Gunners’ Barracks was also such a popular choice for weddings.
We are seated at our reserved table in the beautifully wallpapered (I have since read that they are Florence Broadhurst) and chandeliered dining room, after having foregone a reservation on the covered terrace for fear of cold weather. It is autumn in Sydney after all, and it can get bitterly windy near the harbour. Water is brought to our table along with the menus and we pore over the contents, even though I long-knew before arriving that I’d be having the afternoon tea! I’m quite taken by the design of the menu cover with its engraved pattern, as it is different from what I had previously seen at The Tea Room Queen Victoria Building.
Mistress and I both order a sparkling afternoon tea each, whereas Batman decides on a lunch option. While waiting for our orders we’re presented with an amuse bouche of parmesan crisps with semi-dried tomato, anchovy and basil which are salty and pungent.
Batman has her meal brought out first which, from memory (apologies for lack of photos), is grilled lamb loin with braised faggots on kumara purée topped with celeriac chips and drizzled with a jus. We had all had a bit of a giggle at the menu description and were intrigued by what food a faggot could be! The lamb is a medium pink in the middle but there is no sign of anything on the plate that we could not identify and deduce as being a faggot. The purée is smooth and the celeriac chips well-drained and crispy. Unfortunately our non-foodie friend Batman leaves the latter two untouched and a gentleman, who we assume to be the maître d', comes over to enquire if there are any problems with the meal upon spotting half the dish untouched. I’m impressed by this as I’m always appreciative of attentive service which, in the end, is what sways my decision in how much to tip.
Mistress and I are brought our glasses of sparkling white wine prior to our afternoon tea which arrives on a classic, silver, three-tiered tray along with jam and cream. We ooh and ahh over the cute bite-sized, colourful morsels before clinking our glasses together in a mini-celebratory toast.
We start off with the warm items first – there are spinach pasties as well as tomato and fetta tartlets cupped by multiple layers of filo casing – before moving onto the classic, crustless finger sandwiches of creamy egg salad topped with cress, and smoked salmon with capers. Then it’s onto the sweet stuff! There are fruit tartlets, passionfruit shortbread sandwiches, raspberry mousse cake-bites, mini-almond cakes, mini-gâteaux opera (Mistress’ favourite) and – the pièce de résistance – scones with jam and cream. The scones are beautifully crumbly and the little cakes all pack a flavour punch despite their diminutive stature.
Before we make it through all the cakes, a staff member approaches us to ask what teas we would like to finish off our meal. I opt for the Assam tea while Mistress chooses English Breakfast. If mashed potato is the comfort food of choice for most, then tea would have to be the comfort drink of choice for me. And with our respective pots of tea we continue with our conversation of the past ten years that is ever-changing in topic, ever-evolving but never-ending.
End of Suakin Drive, Georges Heights NSW
Tel: (02) 8962 5900
Opening Hours: 7 days 11am-5pm (lunch menu 12pm-3pm only)