I have decided that my favoured method of getting to get to know my new city better is going to be by trying as many gluten free afternoon teas as I can. Then, because I enjoy nothing more than applying a bit of analysis to daily life, I’ll score them from best to worst. Hopefully over time this will form a Gluten Free Afternoon Tea League of sorts, and then I can recommend to you all the best gluten free afternoon tea in Sydney. In my opinion.
I decided the best time to kick of proceedings would be to celebrate my birthday. So, the weekend just after I turned 31, we headed out to Park Hyatt to see how their offering measured up. Here’s what happened, and how they scored.
I’ll just leave this here, shall I?
Yes, this is the view we enjoyed from The Dining Room whilst eating our afternoon tea. You don’t get much more of a classic view of the Opera House than this.
And if you look the other way…
Not too shabby either.
Practicality wise, The Dining Room is all indoors so it’s perfect for cooler or wetter weather. If you were going in summer, it might be a shame to miss out on the weather, but I feel like so much of Sydney is geared to good weather that it’s actually quite good to find somewhere to go when it’s not great out. 10/10
The atmosphere was a bit buzzy but also quite laid back, and generally very pleasant. You could dress up or down and not feel out of place either way, which I liked. It wasn’t too noisy or too hushed, overall just right.
Unfortunately there were a couple of small things that didn’t impress me much. The first table we were shown to had lots of crumbs and hair still left on the bench seat, which given it was a cream leather seat should have been spotted and dealt with before we sat down. As it was I asked to move anyway, because despite having booked quite far in advance, we still weren’t given a seat near the window (apparently they’re allocated based on booking date). We did get moved to a table nearer the window, and it was actually clean, which for the price is really the bare minimum you’d expect if you ask me.
As for the decor, it was nice enough and nothing too in your face; understated minimalism. Nothing wrong with that, but if you’re after an Instagram paradise this isn’t the place for you. 5/10 mostly because of the crumbs and hair. Eew.
Service, honestly, was mixed. Some servers were excellent, checking on us and bringing anything we requested very quickly. On the other hand, we had to wait for our food and drink to arrive for a little while after being seated, which when you’ve pre-booked an allocated time slot doesn’t make much sense to me.
Also, the server who brought us our stands of food didn’t explain at all what anything was, leaving us to a lucky dip type situation. Of course, they’d whipped away the menus early on and my gluten free items were different to the normal menu anyway. Obviously this isn’t the worst thing in the world, but we saw others having their teas explained to them so I’d have hoped for consistency across the board. I’ve heard of others with complaints about service too, especially for those ordering teas with special dietary requirements. 5/10
There were some tea options, as you’d expect, a glass of fizz if you wanted, and for fussy people like me there was the option of hot or cold chocolate.
For the purposes of review I tried both. Here’s the cold:
and here’s the hot:
Whilst both were very good, I personally recommend the cold chocolate. It would have been nice to see some fruit juices on the menu but that’s a small quibble. 8.5/10
The tea was served on your classic three-tier stand, which (sidenote) was condensed and cleared away extremely efficiently.
On my three tier stand I had one plate of sandwiches, with two open sandwiches (one sliced tomato and avocado, one sliced tomato and mozzarella with pesto) and two traditional sandwiches (one smoked salmon, one cucumber).
The bread was great but the traditional sandwiches were a bit skimpy on the filling. These were essentially the only savoury items on the plate, and they were tiny, so I was still starving after inhaling them.
On the next tier I had two scones, which were the flattest scones I’ve ever seen that I didn’t make myself.
They were served with cream and strawberry jam; because I’m a heathen I asked for butter instead of cream and this was brought to me very swiftly. I was highly sceptical about the scones but they turned out to be delicious – see more below.
The final tier was the best, obviously, as it contained the cakes. I was really impressed at the look of the plate, even though I had no idea what anything was.
There was a chocolate brownie with a nutty topping (I’m not a big fan of nuts so tried my best to scrape off most of it, however would have appreciated a heads up). There was also a raspberry cube which turned out to be the most intricately layered of things, all raspberry flavour, all delicious.
Then there was a pistachio macaron, again I wish I’d been warned as pistachio is not my favourite (S had a passionfruit one, I was jealous) and the final cake was my favourite, an expertly done profiterole decorated with a beautiful white chocolate disc.
Whilst some of the cakes weren’t quite to my taste, you have to admire the skill and care that went in to putting together a plate of cakes this pretty.
In summary, I thought the quality of the food was excellent and I was very impressed at the effort the pastry chefs had gone to with the cakes in particular. I am marking it down from a 10 however because I wish there had been more of it – I did ask if I may have some more scones and they said I could, but I’d have to pay for it! The cheek. 7/10
And now I have a couple of specific tests that I will be judging each tea by:
Panna Cotta Quotient
Personally I think giving coeliacs panna cotta or variants thereof (crema catalana, crème caramel, crème brûlée) for afternoon tea is a bit of a cheat. One of the above is ok, but when you have a three-tier stand full entirely of set creams and maybe one fruit jelly while all your friends tuck into delicious looking cakes I start to feel a bit hard done by. So this test is for how many set cream desserts are included in the selection. In this case, there were zero! 10/10
Kelly’s Patented Scone Test
I’ve totally pinched this one from Kelly, I hope she doesn’t mind. Her benchmark of a good gluten free scone is:
- Easy to cut into: Nope. They were so thin it was an exercise in precision to bisect these skinny things.
- Don’t break a tooth: All my teeth are intact. The texture of these was just right.
- Yummy: These were delicious, with sugar crystals on top for those of us with a super sweet tooth (me). The flavour was excellent.
These scones would have passed with flying colours had they not been so flat! Also, I wanted more than two. Just saying. 8/10
This one is expensive at $61 per person. I’ve just noticed the list price is $55, so I’m not sure whether that’s ex tax or whether we were charged for a second round of drinks – which I think is a bit cheeky. The setting was pretty amazing but given we left feeling we could have eaten more, I’m not giving this a great score for value for money. 6/10.
59.5 / 80
- Park Hyatt is also a hotel, so if you felt so inclined you could book a room here to retreat to after your tea. The rooms look gorgeous and if it’s good enough for Pippa…
- Book as far in advance as you can and stipulate you’d like a window seat, otherwise you may end up missing out on the iconic view
- For more information see the Park Hyatt website, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book directly. Make sure to specify any dietary requirements – as well as gluten free they cater for nut free and dairy/soy free, and may well do more besides if you enquired
- The serving size is not huge. This could either be a positive or a negative depending on your particular situation, but something to bear in mind
- After your afternoon tea you are excellently placed to go for a nice stroll and pose for some photos in front of this iconic Opera House view:
Which I did alongside a couple having their wedding photos taken. I felt very underdressed.
Do you have any gluten free afternoon tea recommendations in Sydney? Any volunteers for co-testers?