I've always said that if I ever get sick of having afternoon tea, then I really need to get a grip on myself. Even though I've been to so many, there's something so exciting and new as no afternoon tea is ever the same. Each tea has its own stamp or personality to it and you never really know what they will be like until the tiered stand is brought to you. If it's done well, there is an involuntary reaction- your eyes widen and there may be a squeal of delight and I've known to clap my hands excitedly too. It's a pretend tea party but for adults-except unlike when you had teddy and your toys as guests, you actually get to eat the food.
A get together between Celia, Charlie & Tania was scheduled a few weeks prior and our destination was Little Darling Diner, a cute little place which sits on a corner of Darling Street. I arrive early and park on the adjacent street Elliott Street (tip: there is unlimited parking on this street in this restriction aplenty suburb).
There are several places to sit in Little Darling Diner from the front window seat with Moët cushions and a pretty couch to more conventional tables. Walking through further and downstairs the space opens up to house a large table with two Chesterfield couches. There are bird cages, ornate patterned wallpaper and a garden courtyard which is where most people seem to be soaking up the spring sunshine.
Afternoon tea or high tea as its called here is a very reasonable $37 a person here and comes complete with a glass of Chandon sparkling wine. Everything but the bread is made on the premises using the one oven and I watch as the display fills gradually with fresh pastries made from the oven and chef Melinda slides a tray of bright pink macaron shells in the oven.
A glass of Chandon is poured and we sink into the comfortable couches and they bring us our stands. They've organised a dairy free high tea for Celia and she looks very pleased with her selection. The front tier is of the selection for the remaining three of us.
There is no menu as items change daily and purists might comment on the lack of scones but you know I didn't actually notice that there weren't any scones because there was really just so much food on these tiers. Service from Nour and the staff is wonderful and attentive.
Celia's dairy free afternoon tea stand
We started with the savoury tier (does anyone start with the sweet tier?) and I start with the quiche with a lovely shortcrust pastry. There are two varieties: three cheese and walnut and a tomato, onion, leek and mushroom. The sandwiches are generously portioned and there are two types: smoked ham and garlic aioli with mustard which was my favourite and smoked salmon and sour cream on a brioche bread. There was a little dryness on the sandwiches on top from being exposed to air so we took them from the bottom.
Onto the middle sweets layer and there's quite a variety of sweet items. I start with a moist petite almond cake with flaked almonds on top, choux puffs with chantilly cream where the pastry remains nice and dry even with the cream inside. There's a lovely lemon tart with a smooth meringue hat. Another favourite was a simple vanilla custard tart with a glazed strawberry on top. Finally there is a dacquiose square with a chocolate bottom topped with a dollop of chocolate orange mousse.
The top layer holds a treasure trove of gilded goodies including the gold dusted Cointreau truffle made with Valrhona chocolate and a pretty passionfruit curd tart with a surprising bottom layer of raspberry gel which really packs a tangy punch. There were also three types of macarons - the pink was a salted caramel which had a middle filling layer of salted caramel. Celia remarked that it was a bit chewy and I agreed, but this may be because it was straight caramel and not whisked or a buttercream form. The yellow macaron was a tangy gorgeous passionfruit chocolate macaron and the green a nutty pistachio.
The best pairing with these sweets was a cup of tea and here they use Tea Drop teas. I order an Earl Grey and it comes in a glass teapot with a gorgeous cup and saucer set. Just like you would have perhaps dreamed of in your childhood tea parties.
So tell me Dear Reader, did you play tea parties when you were young? And do you eat the savouries before the sweets at afternoon tea?
Little Darling Diner
485A Darling Street Balmain NSW 2041, Australia
Tel: +61 (02) 9810 5255