High Tea at The Calyx, Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens

Photographer: Joshua Pike
High Tea at Calyx - supplied image
High Tea at Calyx - supplied image

Located in the south-west corner of the Gardens, the Calyx is a relatively new enclosure (built in 2016) and if you’re an avid gardener, its a spectacular location for a high tea.

An integrated mix of indoor and outdoor areas, the Calyx plays host to different exhibitions throughout the year. The current display is called Pollination, so as I’m sure you can imagine, it’s brimming with flowering plants and giant bee structures. The curators told us that the plants on display were chosen to showcase the role colour plays in pollination.

The venue’s main breathtaking feature is that it boasts being Australia’s largest green wall – and oh boy have they packed it full to bursting with beautiful plants. Take a seat at your table when you arrive and you’re surrounded on one side by the amazing towering exhibit. The other side is equally as lovely, with a few across the water feature and down into the Gardens in general.

On arrival, the tables were all set with bright and cheery yellow table settings – a nod to pollen perhaps? Shown to our seats we were offered a glass of sparkling wine. You can also upgrade to champagne if you so choose. There’s an option for unlimited champagne or sparkling throughout the 2-hour session.

The stand arrives shortly after we’re seated and it’s mostly an assortment of the usual high tea menu.

I really enjoy a good egg sandwich, and this one didn’t disappoint. Lots of eggy goodness sandwiched between fresh white bread – yum. The smoked salmon sandwiches were quite enjoyable too. I thought that the mini turkey roles were a bit heavy on the bread side, they could have done with more filling to balance them out. Or you could do what I did and eat them as an open sandwich instead.

The sundried tomato arancini balls were a great cocktail size so the rice didn’t get too gluggy like it can with larger versions. The sausage rolls were nice and flaky and the tomato chutney served with them was great dolloped on all 3 warm savoury elements. Unfortunately the quiche base was still quite soft, it could have done with some extra time in the oven to finish cooking through properly.

You’ll want to make sure that you eat the scones while they’re still warm. Once they start to cool down they seem to become quite firm. If you find that happens, just slather on extra jam and cream. There’s also a little pot of delicious lemon curd too, if you prefer tang over the sweetness of jam.

The same lemon curd is also served on the sweets plate in the form of a little lemon tart. The pastry cases on these were much better than the quiche bottoms, so you don’t need to fret, you won’t end up with curd down your chin!

I think I need to get over my problem of being served mini cupcakes at high tea. Almost every single tea we’ve done of late has them. Am I missing something? I just don’t get it! This one was exactly the same as all the others, vanilla and crumbly with a dollop of sugary icing on top. Great if you like mini cupcakes, but pretty boring if you know just how many other amazing cake recipes there are out there to choose from.

The cherry ripe brownies more than made up for the cupcakes though. A rich dark chocolate base with coconut and dried cranberries. Not too sweet with the texture of a cherry ripe in cake form. I really enjoyed it with my pot of T2 tea.

So overall there are some quite enjoyable parts to this high tea, with only a few little let downs. Make sure you arrive early as parking can be a little tricky and you want to give yourself enough time to wander through the rest of the gardens too. It’s always amazing just how removed from the city a walk through the gardens can make you feel – even though if you really listen closely, you can hear the hum of the CBD just off in the distance.


Melanie Pike

Melanie Pike is one of our Sydney contributors. In her life outside of champagne, tiered cake stands and fine bone china, she’s the Editor of the Fernwood Magazine. After a long week of writing about sugar-free diets and the latest gym sessions to get her readers in shape, she sneaks away to sample the delights of some of the best high tea venues in Sydney. She’s covered from Katoomba to Kiama and almost everywhere in between.

Articles by Melanie