There's a new 5 star hotel in town and with it is a new place for afternoon tea. There are three afternoon offerings at the Art Deco Primus Hotel and if you think it's more a past time for women then you might be wrong because there's also a gentleman's version. And don't bypass the cocktails too - they come out with a flourish!
You wouldn't know it was there really, which is one of those really strange little things about the Primus Hotel in Sydney. For a 5 star hotel the launch has been a relatively quiet one. A few bits and pieces in the media every now and then but little grand fan fare. And when my car pulls up in front of the hotel, I look around wondering where it is. It's only when the friendly doorman opens the car door and welcomes me to the Primus Hotel that I know that I have arrived.
The location on Pitt Street was formerly the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board and it's a stunning Art Deco building. Although the hotel resembles another hotel chain, it's actually the first Australian based hotel from Chinese hotelier group Greenland International Hotels Group who predominantly own hotels in China. The lobby has a glass atrium roof with pink and cream marble and pink and crimson velvet couches. And every afternoon from 3pm-5pm afternoon tea is held in the lobby lounge on the ground floor.
From Mondays to Wednesdays people there is also an afternoon tea deal through the High Tea Society where you can get two afternoon teas for the price of one (details here). There are three different kinds: the first kind is the Wilmot High Tea, a traditional afternoon tea while the second is a Zen high tea or an Asian themed afternoon tea. And the gents aren't forgotten with a G 'N' T or Gentleman's afternoon tea. You can either have any of these with the food and tea for $45. Or if you want to upgrade it, the food, tea and a glass of sparkling or beer is $55 or there's one further grade up with the tea and a cocktail or a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne for $65.
One of the things that stands out at the hotel is the service. It's straight from when service really mattered - nothing is ever too much trouble and the answer to any of our questions is "Of course," or "Absolutely". It's wonderful to visit a place where staff seem to genuinely care about customer satisfaction. Sadly it doesn't happen enough here in Australia.
Secrets cocktail (included in $65 afternoon tea)
It's Monday but hey what's a cocktail or two to start the week (and who is to say that you should save cocktails for the end of the week?). I order a "Blushing Monroe" cocktail. It's one of their signature cocktails while Alyson orders a "Godfather" and Belinda and Cheryl order a "Secrets" cocktail.
The Godfather cocktail (included in $65 afternoon tea)
These cocktails are presented with a flourish. My Blushing Monroe is house infused rum, strawberry, raspberries, cherry liqueur and it comes underneath a glass cloche which is removed and the chamomile smoke disperses. Once this is gone it's a gorgeously balanced cocktail. Alyson adores her Godfather cocktail with Amaretto and American whisky while Belinda and Cheryl's choice is a cocktail called "Secrets". I don't want to give away too much about the presentation of this but perhaps it's best to have a camera ready to capture how it is presented. It is made with Kahlua, tequila, rosewater and strawberry ice cream and they too really enjoy it.
The afternoon teas take about 15 minutes to prepare and we are happy to wait as we are too busy chatting about rather inappropriate topics because that's how we roll. On the upside too, this means that everything is prepared to order.
Gentleman's high tea (two serves)
Ironically all of us four women really love the gentleman's high tea. I find that afternoon tea is usually a bit too sweet whereas I like sandwiches and savouries and the gentleman's high tea is an entirely savoury selection. This comes out on a wooden board with fabulous oysters Kilpatrick (I'm not normally a fan of kilpatrick oysters), wagyu sliders, pork bao, a tumble of salt and pepper squid on chilli aioli, a soft lamb shoulder croquette with celeriac remoulade, a crunchy deep fried chicken wing with chilli aioli, a beef and burgundy pie (this could have been warmer with a bit more filling) and a petite but tasty ham and cheese toastie.
Wilmot and Zen Afternoon Tea with the Blushing Monroe cocktail
The Wilmot and Zen Afternoon Teas come out on a stand together. They tell us that the stands were specially chosen to reflect the lines of the Art Deco building. We start with the savoury layers and The Wilmot or traditional afternoon tea has folds of smoked salmon & cream fraiche and lemon on grilled brioche, curried egg and cucumber on multigrain slice, a cute little pork and fennel sausage roll and a fantastic pumpkin tart that has a lovely crisp texture to it.
The scones could be a bit warmer when they come out but they come with a vanilla cream and a rhubarb compote which is actually a nice change from jam. It's sweet enough with a hint of citrus but isn't as sweet as a jam. Yet it goes well with the scones.
The sweets layer on the Wilmot afternoon tea has a passion fruit praline and popcorn mousse cake as well as a fruit tart and a delicate mini wagon wheel (miles better than the original) and a moreish square of salted caramel fudge. There is supposed to be a vanilla cheese cake with charred pineapple but we didn't get this, instead there is a small glass filled with an apple cheesecake crumble that reminds us of an apple pie.
The Zen afternoon tea has an Asian themed selection of savouries from a Peking duck pancake, a pork bao, a full flavoured Thai beef salad in a spoon and our favourite, a seafood salad on a wonton crisp which we could have a whole platter of. There is also a steamer with a steamed plain bun with a smooth and aromatic pandan coconut custard.
The Zen sweets layer includes a very delicate and light green tea and raspberry mousse cake, mango and coconut sago (a doppelganger of the Weiss bar), a fruit tart, a chocolate and jasmine delice that I didn't get to try and a salty and mysterious miso caramel fudge. Miso adds so much more flavour to a caramel than just plain salt.
They ask us to let them know when we would like the teas and the teas arrive promptly. The selection of loose leaf teas are by Tea Forte and they come in adorable gold infusers with matching stands. My lemongrass and ginger is warming and delicious.
We're all having such a good time and the staff are very attentive switching our plates and cutlery over for when we start the sweets without us even asking. "Do you know what would make today even more perfect?" says Belinda. "Fries!" she says and we urge her to order a serve of them. She orders a serve of French fries and then twice cooked hand cut chips and then Cheryl interjects that she'd love a bowl of gravy to dip them into. Nothing is ever a problem and they come out soon after. The hand cut chips are the clear winner, all uniformly perfectly cooked, crispy and golden - and yes dipping them into the sticky roast gravy is the perfect addition to what you need to transform what could have been a dreary, cold Monday into a spectacular one.
"Do you know what would make this even better? If we stayed the night!" I add.
So tell me Dear Reader, which afternoon tea appealed to you the most? Do you ever order anything else after a high tea? And how important is service to you and do you always notice good (or bad) service? Do you think that service is generally good in the city or town where you live?
These meals were independently paid for.
339 Pitt St, Sydney NSW 2000
Phone:(02) 8027 8000