I'm yet to meet a High Tea I haven't liked so it's with interest, and a keen stomach, that I head on over to Radisson Blu Hotel in Sydney's CDB to try their Gluten Free High Tea. I'm not gluten intolerant myself, but hey! it's high tea so I'm up for it!
With so many people nowadays suffering from Coeliac Disease or having a gluten intolerance it's nice to see restaurants taking these dietary requirements into account. I'm sure all the gluten intolerant sweet tooths out there are doing a little happy dance knowing they can now enjoy a high tea along with the gluten endowed like myself.
The Radisson Blu dining room (aka "Bistro Fax") is light, bright, and airy with high ceilings and HUGE arched windows. The sofas are plush and comfy and they perfectly accommodate my ever-expanding food blogger's derrière. This seems like the perfect place to sit and enjoy a traditional British style high tea and while away a few hours on a Saturday afternoon.
Our high tea kicks off with bubbles, as all good high teas should, and our bottle of Marquis de la Tour (from France thank you very much) disappears all too quickly. It's a crisp, clean drop that has a slight fruitiness to it (I hope that sentence makes it sound like I know a little about wine)?
Is there anything more squeal inducing than the sight of a three teird high tea stand? I think not! It's definitely a pretty sight - all the little sandwiches + cakes lined up just waiting to be elegantly devoured.
Personally, I like to start my high tea experience at the bottom tier - with the sandwiches. I then work my way upwards through the various sweet layers and finally end the day in a mild sugar coma. Half way through afternoon tea I glance over and spy a couple who have turned my high tea world upside by starting at the top and finishing with the sandwiches at the end!!! It's a radical move that I've never contemplated myself -- but I think it's something to bear in mind for the future.
I adored the chicken wrap on the sandwich tier - the chicken was moist, tender and well flavoured. The gluten free wrap was really similar to a thin, spongy crepe in texture. I would happily eat quite a few of these.
Now, I'm not going to lie. I'm pretty sure we all know that gluten free bread is...not like "real" bread. It's never going to be as soft, fluffy or pillowy as it's gluten laden cousin. The trick seems to be in the fillings -- a moist, flavoursome filling like this beef with caramelized onion and horseradish goes along way in making the bread more moist and less dense in texture. I'm pleased to see high tea staples like smoked salmon with cream cheese, dill and + capers and cucumber with cream cheese making an appearance - it wouldn't be a high tea without them there.
Most high tea's have scones lurking about on their second tier...but the things with scones is that they are big fat bundles of gluten...so out they go. I'm actually really happy about that as I LOVED the sweet, crumbly shortbread biscuit (made with a mix of rice and potato flour) that had a perfect divot on top to hold a good dollop of luscious cream and jam. This was probably my most favourite morsel from the high tea (along with the chicken wrap). It was sweet -- but not overly so, and crumbly like all good shortbread should be, but not too crumbly. It was...perfect. I'm wondering if I can go back for a few more of these...
The top tier of the high tea is actually the same as the regular high tea...it's a total gluten-free zone and as pretty as a picture. The mini chocolate + lemon curd cups were delightfully petite - a perfect mouthful of zingy lemon curd cupped by a thin, sweet shell of chocolate that shattered as I bit into it. Passionfruit is one of my favourite things so I really enjoyed the little glass of tart passionfruit jelly and the airy mini pavlova was over all too soon. The coconut macaroon has been reshaped into a little slice of crumbly heaven and is a tad more dense and substantial than its traditional namesake. We finish the afternoon with a little walnut slice and head back out into the real world...sadly.
High Tea is available each day from 10am - 6pm. The gluten free high tea is $50pp (regular high tea is $40pp). Our bottle of bubbles would set you back $90.
Bistro Fax at Radisson Blu can be found at the "corner" of Pitt, Hunter + O'Connell Streets.