I Was a High Tea Hater, Now I’m a High Tea Simp — This Is My Story

Since my genesis, I’ve always thought that high teas were mid. I thought they were a sad collection of cucumber sandwiches. I thought they were overpriced leaves and insufferable chats about Brexit.

However, when the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth invited me to their Archibald High Tea, I was intrigued. This is because the Archibald Prize is one of my fave art events of the year.

How could one capture the spirit, colours, and creativity of the Archibald in such a traditional experience? How would this event even work?

So, with these questions bouncing around my noggin, I accepted Sofitel’s invitation. Here’s a review of their tea.

Sofitel Sydney Wentworth’s High Tea

It was July 1, and I was leaning on a pole next to the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth. The guest I invited to this shindig, Katie Marre, was running 20 minutes late. When Katie arrived, we hugged, and she apologised for her tardiness. She also apologised for being deeply, deeply hungover. 

Folks, things were not off to a great start.

Fortunately, though, this is where the drama ended. ‘Cause as we entered the Sofitel’s high tea room, my frustrations disintegrated. The space was calm, the windows were massive, and the staff kept saying, bonjour. What more could one possibly want from this place?

Katie Marre
Image: Joel Burrows

After roasting Katie for her life choices, a waiter provided us with some green tea and champagne. Which honestly is a winning combination. The green tea was warm and rejuvenating. The champagne: A delightful slap to the senses. Sipping up both was like jumping between a sauna and an ice bath.

Joel Burrows
Image: Katie Marre

The tea leaves I brewed didn’t feel overpriced. They instead helped me get into the spirit of things.

What’s more, the food that succeeded these sips was incredible. This is because we’re talking about a three-tiered charcuterie tray. It was filled to the brim with pastries, desserts, and some more desserts.

According to the Sofitel, this food was inspired by Andrea Huelin’s portrait of Cal Wilson, Clown Jewels. This portrait’s in Archibald Prize 2023 and won the Packing Room Prize.

Andrea Huelin’s Clown Jewels
Artwork: Andrea Huelin

Now, if Sofitel didn’t stick this landing, I would brutally sledge them. However, they honestly made an exquisite Clown Jewels menu. 

The gold on Cal’s headpiece matched the gold flakes on each lime meringue tart. The pink shade of Cal’s hair matched the smoked salmon blinis.

Sofitel Sydney Wentworth’s Archibald High Tea
Image: Sofitel Sydney Wentworth

More importantly, Andrea’s Clown Jewels is a decadent work of art. It’s the antithesis of sad cucumber sandwiches. The same thing can be said of this Sydney high tea experience.

My favourite snack was the wasabi pea petit choux and caviar. The freshness of the peas mixed with the saltiness of the caviar was phenomenal. This dish made me feel like I was vibing in a seaside forest during spring.

Wasabi pea petit choux and caviar
Image: Joel Burrows

However, for Katie, her favourite dish was a tie between two of the desserts. She couldn’t decide if she liked Sofitel’s violet macaron or raspberry religieuse more.

“As someone obsessed with European culture, I froth for a macaron,” said Katie, reflecting on her experience. “It’s the perfect crunch of biscuit with that slightly-too-sweet crème. The Sofitel got it right in making it a fruit flavour, so it didn’t feel overpowering.”

Sofitel Sydney Wentworth’s Archibald High Tea desserts
Image: Joel Burrows

“But that raspberry puff tower thing? Art! Living for it! Perfection! The puff was the perfect holder of deliciousness! The raspberry was mouth-watering! The tower effect made me weep and sing the French National Anthem! Mwah!”

Raspberry religieuse
Image: Joel Burrows

Overall, Katie and I’s Archibald High Tea was pure mint.

The Art Gallery of NSW’s Archibald Prize

As a part of our Sydney high tea package, Katie and I received two tickets to the Archibald. So after smashing the dregs of our champagne, we headed there. 

Like always, the Archibald debuts at the Art Gallery of NSW. Which was fantastic for us. ‘Cause this venue is only a short walk from the Sofitel. We were able to get there while not succumbing to the temptation of napping in the warm, winter sun. 

Once at the Archibald, Katie and I leapt straight into the fray. We reviewed every artwork. We basked in the glory of Andrea’s Clown Jewels. We even tried to take some selfies in an artwork which contained some mirrors. On that last front, we didn’t have that much success. 

My favourite work was Sarah McCloskey’s Social Distancing. This portrait features the visual artist Omar Musa and Sarah FaceTiming during a COVID lockdown. The idea of recreating a COVID call with oils is pure brilliance. 

Sarah McCloskey’s Social Distancing
Image: Sarah McCloskey

Meanwhile, Katie’s fave artwork was Cooking My Famous Indulkana Soup. This work is a self-portrait by Kaylene Whiskey. Katie loved the vibes of what Kaylene was putting down. She really wanted this piece in her house.

Kaylene Whiskey’s Cooking My Famous Indulkana Soup
Image: Kaylene Whiskey

If you also want to review Sofitel’s high tea and the Archibald Prize, then you can click the fancy link here. Enjoy.

Related: The Best High Tea In Melbourne

Related: An Honest Review of Avalanche Bubble Tea

Read more stories from The Latch and subscribe to our email newsletter.