High tea is one of my favourite experiences: selecting the blend of tea, starting with a number of sandwiches with cold cuts, salad and cheese, fluffy scones slathered with jam and light-as-clouds whipped cream, and an assortment of delicate pastries – whether they be miniature buttery shortcrust tarts, silky handmade chocolates filled with oozy caramel, or tiny slices of cake layered with jelly, dacquoise and mousse.
Embarrassingly, I actually attended this high tea back in October last year – I have a plethora of photos in both desktop albums and still on my SLR of meals eaten out which I have not had the opportunity to blog about yet, thanks to a combination of enjoying the balmy summer days too much and a severe case of writer’s block.
I first heard about this high tea through my attendance at the event Deconstructing Sweetness – a multi-course dessert dinner featuring Sweetness the Patisserie’s classic sweets. At the event we were introduced to Andre Sandison who is good friends with Sweetness’ founder – Gena Karpf – and assisted with the creative genius behind each of the courses we had the pleasure of tasting on the evening. Andre Sandison is the Head Teacher of Patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu Sydney, and during a spirited chat with him after our excellent dessert dinner he said that the North Ryde campus of Le Cordon Bleu was holding a Flaming High Tea for October’s Good Food Month.
I looked into it with my friend Kulinary Adventures of Kath, and the high tea was a surprisingly low price of $40 per person. The high tea is cooked, presented and served by students of the Le Cordon Bleu school in the dining room at the Ryde Campus, and there’s a generous amount of on-site parking for visitors. I wandered into the dining room to see the students in their chef uniforms cooking crepes and flambé on portable stovetops, while I was seated at a table overlooking the campus grounds and the surrounding suburbs with a tall glass of chilled moscato.
The menu was printed in a slightly confusing manner where sweets rubbed shoulders with savoury items, and at first I couldn’t see where the “flaming” aspect came into the whole thing, until I remembered the students making Crepes Suzette upon our entry. We were each presented with two silky crepes swimming in a rich sauce of citrus and Cointreau, with a dollop of whipped cream. It was presented in a more rustic style, but then it is hard to present Crepes Suzette in a fine-dining plating style as it is in essence an old-fashioned dish. It made up in flavour, texture and punch, but it made me curious as to how the high tea would proceed as we had started with a sweet dish.
Turns out we didn’t need to be concerned; our reservations were unfounded when a beautiful tier arrived, vine leaves twined around the top of the frame with Singaporean orchids.
The sandwiches were filled with mixtures of ham, cheese and salad, grilled capsicum strips with pesto and mozzarella, and ricotta with tomato slices and fresh sprouts. I was stunned at the vast selection of sweets, which included mini caramel eclairs, panna cotta, meringue nests, choux pastry baubles with violet icing, brandy custard cups, cupcakes, and chocolate mousse tarts lined with chocolate waffle balls. Unfortunately its been over three months since I tasted all of this, but I remember vividly that it was one of – if not – the most impressive high teas I have ever experienced; the amount of skill shown by the young chefs who are still learning makes you wonder just exactly what amazing things they will be capable of when they graduate!
At the conclusion of the high tea the students were brought out for us to congratulate and applaud; and one of the Le Cordon Bleu staff said that in Le Cordon Bleu tradition, there was a game where those seated with labels on the back of their chairs would receive a complimentary box of chocolates handmade by the students.
It was a high tea of phenomenal value and skill, and I would definitely recommend attending a meal at the Le Cordon Bleu campus. It was an amazing opportunity to catch a glimpse of the students that go into the most prestigious training institution in gastronomy, cookery, hospitality and patisserie, who will emerge with their talents honed into the greatest chefs of their generation.
NB: Le Cordon Bleu campuses also regularly run free events and demonstrations, so keep your eyes peeled! 😉
Le Cordon Bleu, Sydney
250 Blaxland Road,
Ryde NSW 2112
1800 064 802