Victorian mansion ... heritage listed Boronia House is now home to the Boronia Tea Room. Photo: Fiona Morris
Sydneysiders are no strangers to queueing for restaurants.
Weekend yum cha, yes. A certain Malaysian restaurant in Chinatown most nights of the week, sure. But for high tea? That's a new one (at least for me).
The Boronia Tea Room is set in a historic home in Mosman. Built in 1885, it is now owned by the local council and was reopened earlier this year, after refurbishment, as a weekend tearoom and function centre.
High tea ... classical treats and some unexpected sweets. Photo: Robert Pearce
High tea is booked in sittings and, arriving for the 3pm serving, we are stuck at the end of a queue of about 30 people for 20 minutes before being seated. The reason? Discount deal-of-the-day coupon fever.
The tearooms are packed. And with high ceilings and wooden floors, it gets pretty noisy in there.
The building is light and airy. It is surrounded by a large verandah at ground level; upstairs, where a function is being held, is a covered balcony. The surrounding garden is filled with flowering plants and, out the back, the grounds open into a small park.
Grandeur ... Boronia Tea Room's imposing setting is one of its selling points. Photo: Fiona Morris
The house is one of two almost identical Victorian filigree-style mansions built side by side by brothers John and James Kearey. The other has long since disappeared, converted into a more modern building.
The brothers did not own the properties long. According to Boronia's heritage listing, the carriage builders were hit hard by the 1890s depression and had to sell up. The property was owned by another prominent Mosman family when it was bought by the council in 1952. It has been a library, offices and restaurant since then.
Yet the grand old home's past is not explained anywhere inside, not even on the menu, as far as we can see, so we use our smartphone to research a historical overview while we're waiting for our scones. Such an imposing setting deserves some context, since it is one of the venue's selling points.
The current incarnation is run by the Toast Group and its offshoot, Belinda Franks Catering, which has other high-tea venues around the city. Keen tea drinkers have a good range of T2 green, black and herbal loose-leaf teas to choose from, as well as organic options. For something stronger, there is sparkling wine, a cocktail or champagne.
High tea arrives on a three-tiered stand. The lemonade scones, freshly baked and still warm, are lovely and crusty on the outside and soft inside but have a strange aftertaste. They come with sweet strawberry jam and whipped cream, not clotted cream as promised on the website menu.
The savoury bites include a flavour-packed mushroom pastry and an ocean trout tartlet. We get one narrow smoked salmon finger sandwich each, which is a shame, as they are delicious. Chicken or waldorf salad on a small slider-esque roll is a nod to Sydney's dude-food trend.
Some of the sweet treats are unexpected - a bright-green disc of apple jelly wobbles so much it is hard to pick up but tastes better than it looks, while a rather dull cream puff has sliced banana inside. I don't associate brandy snaps with high tea, but they are crunchily good.
Arriving to a queue raises our expectations, and while the Boronia Tea Room doesn't quite live up to them on the food front, the setting makes it pleasant. Despite being only metres from busy Military Road, we forget the hustle and bustle of city life for a few hours.
High tea and Devonshire tea in a heritage building.
Finger sandwiches, mushroom pithivier pastry, scones, strawberry mousse on a sable biscuit, brandy snaps, tea.
3 stars (out of five)
- 02 9968 3311
- Prices - High tea $39 to $56, Devonshire tea $19, little ladies tea $24
- Features - Accepts bookings, Family friendly, Gluten-free options
- Opening Hours - Fri-Sun, sittings at 10am, 12.30pm and 3pm
- Author - Sarah McInerney