There we were, the five of us crammed in the Night Nurse's car. We were dressed in our Sunday best, hats on, skirt hems stiff and ironed shirts having waved Mr NQN goodbye for the afternoon. Where were we headed? To the eastern part of the eastern suburbs Vaucluse where we were going to make the most of this blissfully beautiful Sydney day and take afternoon tea.
Afternoon tea at Vaucluse House was a find from Queen Viv - she had loved the fact that for $35 a person, one received afternoon tea, a glass of sparkling wine and a pot of tea or a cup of coffee. However, she was most besotted by the gardens and the look of Vaucluse house so she assembled Miss America, Night Nurse (an old friend from 20 years ago) and his partner The Great Dane for a lovely afternoon in the sun.
Afternoon tea must be ordered ahead of time and our table awaits in the centre of the courtyard. Inside the building it looks to be a function and in the driveway proudly sits a row of gleaming vintage cars.
Service is friendly if a bit absent at times and we make our way to our table where there are the non afternoon tea offerings (two courses for $30 and 3 for $45). There is a two piece classical ensemble playing and things look very garden party and we can't help but think that this would be a great place to take your mother for mother's day.
The maitre'd comes over and sorts things out and within minutes they are pouring sparkling wine. Queen Viv comments that it is a sparkling wine that she is unfamiliar with but it's quite a nice one. A few minutes later our three tier stands arrive. Everyone is patient while the Great Dane and I take photos although everyone has prepared for this afternoon's feast by eating light or skipping breakfast and lunch.
We start on the crustless sandwiches on the bottom tier and we all particularly like the chicken sandwiches with their pressed sides. They are cut in half and filled generously with a fresh chicken and tarragon filling. There is also smoked salmon and baby spinach which is also good and a spinach and feta pie with a lovely short shortcrust pastry. The delicious shortness of the pastry is commented on by everyone at the table.
The scones are next and they smelled wonderful coming to the table and the aroma of them was what had everyone fidgeting while patiently waiting for us to take photos-myself included! ;) They're soft and light and served with what looks to be a home made strawberry jam - quite runny and one really has to pour it on but the flavour is good (it's a bit 3 day strawberry jam-ish) and an excellent thick clotted cream.
The sweets tier was a bit of a mixed bag. The pink macaron wasn't very macaron-like as it was really a cross between a meringue and a macaron but rough in texture. Oddly the buttercream centre was a pink coloured butter - not sweet and spread just like butter and when I tried it by itself it tastes like butter-odd! The brownie cube wasn't bad and tasted very cocoa-ey. The lemon tart was served in a dark baked crispy pastry crust with a very tart lemon curd and a blueberry on top.
Our tea comes out last and there's a choice of loose leaf teas to choose from. I order my usual: Earl Grey and Queen Viv goes for the gunpowder green (nothing too explosive, more a full flavoured green tea) while everyone else orders coffee.
"Shall we settle the bill and go for a walk?" Queen Viv asks and we all agree. Vaucluse House is next to the tearooms in a separate building and we peer through the windows. We see full dining tables set and it beautifully preserved. We visit the gift shop (good for unusual gifts, particularly quirky or botanical themed ones) and then pay the $8 admission to visit the house.
Queen Viv walks ahead and we can hear her coos of "how delightful!" and "ooh look at this!"
Note the steps up to the bed!
It's a fascinating glimpse into what life would have been like from the "Princess and the Pea" bed to horsehair covered chaises lounges, tiny beds and sumptuously appointed sitting rooms.
There is also a vegetable garden where the produce is used by the tearoom as well as the neighbours, It has an interesting and varied range of fruit and vegetables including tobacco flower which actually smells beautifully fresh and is used in perfumes. There is asparagus, large pumpkins, heirloom squash varieties and even pineapples!
After wandering around and wishing that Vaucluse House was our home and that we could have afternoon tea in the tea rooms or chat to cook in cook's corner we head back to real life...
So tell me Dear Reader, do you like looking at other people's houses? And if you could grow anything in your garden what would it be?
Vaucluse House Tearooms
Vaucluse House Wentworth Rd Vaucluse NSW 2030
Tel: +61 (02) 9388 8188