The name, The Palace Tea Room, in itself conjures an image of opulence and grandeur: the dainty sipping of tea with an air of royal splendour and nibbling of dainty finger sandwiches and petite cakes. Traditions upheld by sophisticated ladies gathering for an afternoon delight around delicate, matching bone china tea sets in all sorts of floral patterns.
The Palace Tea Room, located on the first level of the historic Queen Victoria Building, is owned by the same group as the lavish Tea Room QVB, a popular restaurant and function venue which sits on the third level of the same building. Here, you can indulge in the same Victorian tea-sipping glamour in a more casual setting, catering for a wider variety of groups of all ages.
Tea is served in charming Wedgwood Harlequin tea sets alongside matching serving plates and cake stands from aptly named collections such as ‘Butterfly Bloom’ and ‘Cuckoo’. Such beautiful china adds to the atmosphere of indulgence and pleasure provided by the ornate décor and rich, mahogany and pale rose interior. As the name suggests, it’s the tea here that’s the real focus – the Palace Tea Room offers an extensive tea list comprising over 25 different teas which range from classics such as English Breakfast and Ceylon to exotically named varieties like Dragon Pearls, Pomegranate Oolong and Gunpowder.
With the main draw being the traditional afternoon tea, served elegantly on two-tiered stands, the menu here is more casual and café-focussed than the restaurant’s bigger-sister venues. Breakfast is offered all day, as well as a ‘tea time’ section – dedicated wholly to tea, cakes and the ubiquitous afternoon tea – and smaller snacks, open sandwiches, pastas and larger items come lunch time.
Chocolate Tea ($7)
While we’re told that their most popular teas are the Paris Vanilla Tea and Rose Tea, the chocolate tea is chosen as it is one of the more unusual flavours offered. I’m not quite sure what colour we were expecting it to be (brown, perhaps?), but the tea turns out to be a light, orange blend which holds the distinct aroma of dark chocolate. It’s an interesting, warming flavour, but a little unusual for us.
Clarity – Citrus Green with Gingko Tea ($7)
Gingko tea is made from the leaves of the gingko tree, prepared in the same way as other green teas. This citrus tea is a cleansing pale yellow-green, with grassy notes and undertones of green tea.
Watermelon and pineapple juice, pineapple and orange juice and pineapple, ginger and lime juice ($8)
Juices are freshly squeezed, with the fun ability to be able to pick and choose whatever combination you like. All juices come in a tall milkshake-style glass with ice, which makes them cool and refreshing. A watermelon and apple juice is icy and has the perfect balance of the two fruits, while a pineapple, ginger and lime juice has warming notes of ginger at the end of each sip.
Salad of baked salmon, seasonal vegetables, horseradish & hazelnut dressing ($29)
We’re informed that the Baked Salmon Salad is on the menu at all of the restaurant’s affiliate venues, which must be an indication of its good reception. He’s right; a mouth-watering fillet of salmon flakes onto a full-bodied salad, brought together by a balanced dressing which is creamy and light. The hazelnut and horseradish flavours are very subtle. It’s a vegetable frenzy of grilled squash, eggplant, capsicum and corn, baby beetroot, blanched snow peas and fresh salad greens; as well as a whole half of sliced, creamy avocado.
Chicken & mushroom tortellini with English spinach, pumpkin and aged parmesan ($28)
Tortellini filled with a delicate chicken and mushroom filling are strewn in amongst a leafy mix of baby spinach, rocket and torn cos lettuce in a cream sauce. The unconventional addition of salad greens lightens the dish, which is an innovative touch that steers away from the stereotypical heaviness of other pastas. Sweet, roasted pumpkin hiding underneath all the foliage is wonderful when paired with the gentle flavour tortellini and umami of the aged parmesan; pumpkin seeds add crunch and texture.
Spiced Pulled Pork Open Sandwich ($25)
A generous piling of pulled pork is almost paste-like in texture, layered on top of melted gruyere on toasted rye sourdough and underneath a nest of iceberg lettuce and bright pickled red cabbage. The pork has a flurry of Indian flavours, particularly cumin, although it is a little too sweet for our palates. Twice cooked chips are a glorious hybrid of potato wedge and crunchy chip, with the skin still on and fluffy innards.
Classic hot chocolate ($6)
There are three hot chocolate choices on the menu – classic, French and Mexican. The classic hot chocolate is made with pure chocolate syrup in place of chocolate powder which gathers on the bottom; this makes for a smoother, richer hot chocolate that isn’t overly sweet.
SUMO – Kaffir lime parfait, sesame crisp, lime granita, Japanese flavour ($15)
This Japanese-inspired dessert is a composition of professional patisserie finesse. An ice cream ‘sandwich’ of kaffir lime parfait is frozen between two flaky sesame crisps and dusted in crushed wasabi peas. On top of this balances a white chocolate half-dome enveloping a snowy pile of lime granita.
The best way to enjoy it all is to smash it so that all the elements become one and are easily scooped up. The punchy parfait is two toned, with the subtle heat of the wasabi pea flakes complementing its cool, intensely fresh kaffir lime flavour, while tongue-twistingly sour granita cuts through the creaminess.
The sesame crisp has multiple layers, and all the components eaten in one delicious mouthful meld together to form a fantastic sour, sweet, creamy and crunchy dessert that screams out the flavours of Japan. This quickly becomes our favourite of the day.
Selection of afternoon tea cakes ($18)
If you don’t want to go all out on the traditional afternoon tea but still feel like sampling something just as sweet and delicate, the cake plate features four bite-sized petit fours from the Palace Tea Room’s the afternoon tea stand – allowing for a little indulgence without too much guilt.
The selection comprises a mango and passionfruit cheesecake, lime marshmallow, raspberry and blueberry cream macaron and an intriguing chocolate, avocado and vegemite slice. The macaron is filled with fresh berries and a mascarpone cream, making it beautifully light and more like a mini ispahan than a macaron; the marshmallow is tangy, stretchy and sticky.
The chocolate and vegemite slice is the most interesting: a dark chocolate cake base plays with the salty flavour that only vegemite can achieve, which leaves that tell-tale yeasty aftertaste. It’s a whimsical play on the classic combination of avocado and vegemite, with a creamy, mouse-like avocado layer slicked with a lick of shiny chocolate ganache to top it all off.
The Palace Tea Room is a secluded, Victorian oasis; a perfect escape to get away from the hustle and bustle of crowds in the QVB. Perfect for a friendly catch-up, celebration, or just to stop for a relaxing cup of tea and scones.
The Palace Tea Room
Contributed by Maddie, who dined as a guest on behalf of 2 Hungry Guys