High tea. The cakes, the scones, the sandwiches… the tea! It’s the best way to spend time with your friends and eat delicious things too. That all changed for me about two weeks ago. It’s not that high tea is bad, it’s just it’s not as good as… wait for it… high coffee!
It’s the new look to the old way, and for coffee lovers, it’s a revelation. I walked into Sydney’s five-star InterContinental Hotel to be welcomed by the promise of that rich smell of freshly roasted coffee and the thought of sweet, sweet delights. On this occasion I was dining with a large group in a private room upstairs in Café Opera. I finally found my table and my friends, and made ready for food.
But so much food. My lord! When you see the size of those delicate petit fours and miniature sandwiches, it’s easy to underestimate the feast you are about to consume. High coffee at the InterCon is a marathon, not a sprint.
Service starts with a delectable espresso martini and the top tier of our cake stand mountain, which held three types of petite sandwiches – smoked salmon, wagyu beef and roasted chicken.
Sandwiches dispatched, it was on to the next chapter. The now empty top level was replaced with ‘warm savouries’ – delicious little beef burgundy pies, prosciutto and asparagus quichettes, and moist feta and olive mini muffins.
The pies, quichettes and muffins were accompanied by a perfectly chilled caffè freddo, which worked well with the warm food and was a great transition as our eating built up speed. We attacked the side plate of chocolate and espresso crepes, Belgian waffles and their sidekicks cinnamon sugar, delicious coffee ganache, lemon wedges and a piping bag bulging with warm chocolate sauce.
Before our swelling bellies could tell us to stop, we ploughed into the scones on the second level of the cake stand. Using the double cream and exquisite homemade strawberry jam from what was left of the condiments, we constructed cream teas. And then we tried to breathe – but that wasn’t nearly as much fun!
Instead of breathing, we ate a green apple sorbet. Its sharp tang and cool, icy crystals cleansed our palates better than any breath of fresh air could.
This was all in view of the end game: level three of our edible Everest – the now monolithic cake stand. Our final challenge was a platter of sweets that were matched to their perfect coffee counterpart. The choices were as follows:
Opera slices with Espresso di Manfredi and chocolate ganache and gold leaf (with an espresso or doppio espresso), infused cinnamon and ginger chocolate crème brûlée (with a mocha), salted caramel and espresso bavarois cream éclairs (with a caffè ristretto), wattleseed macarons with Valrhona-coffee curd (with a caffè macchiato), or meringues with Bailey’s cream and candy macadamia (with a flat white).
Epic. Or, if you wanted to push the boat out (call me a sailor), you could have a caffè corretto – an espresso with a shot of very fine grappa.
By the end of it, it was all I could do to take a small, Alice in Wonderland bite from each cake and let it fall from my fingers. Unlike Alice, I couldn’t find the one that made me smaller! As we struggled out of the hotel, even the smell of the giant chocolate fountain in the InterCon’s Café Opera restaurant held only the slightest appeal. The fear of drowning moved me on through to the exit.
See the full High Coffee Menu here.
The InterContinental Hotel
117 Macquarie Street, Sydney
Cost: $55 per person
High Coffee is served from 11 am to 7 pm daily. Bookings are recommended and allow around two hours to relax and enjoy the feast. Don’t feel bad if you can’t finish, most people don’t.