High Tea at the Gunners Barracks - an unbeatable location where Sydney Harbour takes centre stage.
Many times, I’ve ambled along the bush track that hugs the edge of the rocky coastline between Bradleys Head and Balmoral Beach, on Sydney’s north shore, with the heady scent of angophoras, eucalypts and banksias. But this time, I visited for a relaxing afternoon, to enjoy High Tea at the Gunners Barracks, sited on a clifftop 65 metres above the water’s edge, with views of the city skyline, ferries criss-crossing, of billowing sails, and bushland that surrounded us.
Built in 1873 from locally quarried sandstone, the Gunners Barracks was formerly an officers’ mess, forming part of the fortifications at Georges Heights built for the defence of Sydney, now beautifully restored.
Led to my table, I was taken through the main dining room with lofty ceilings adorned with beautiful Waterford crystal chandeliers, and a colour palette of grey and silver hand printed wallpaper on a feature wall, offset with grey velvet upholstered chairs, wooden floorboards, and sandstone walls, interiors that succeed in combining modern features, while preserving the heritage integrity of the building.
As the winter’s day of my visit was sunny, I was seated at a table on the broad timber deck, suitably protected from the elements and well heated. Tables are covered with damask table cloths and set with pretty “Country Roses” Royal Albert bone china. To begin with, I was served a glass of Angove Chalk Hill Blue Bubbles NV, before High Tea was presented on an elegant plated tiered stand.
With a menu that is revised fortnightly, on the day of my visit, I opted for the vegetarian Traditional High Tea. Bite sized savoury delights included a moist falafel, mildly spiced, and an arancini ball of finely sliced mushrooms and rice with a pleasing creamy texture. Finely cut brown bread finger sandwiches were filled with chargrilled capsicum, hummus and rocket; dill, cucumber and pumpkin, and hummus, rocket and tomato. The still warm scone, served with thick clotted cream and berry jam had a soft centre and was crisp on the outside, but the stars of the show were the selection of petit desserts. All were bite size and equally delicious. The ricotta cheesecake decorated with flowers, the opera slice that was strongly flavoured with coffee and chocolate, the peaches and cream cake, the pecan tart with a dollop of coffee cream and buttery pastry, and the choux pastry ball filled with Thai milk was an innovative highlight. This is a high tea that caters well for special diets.
For those preferring meat sandwiches, fillings include smoked salmon and cucumber, chicken, mayonnaise and lettuce, corned beef or egg and lettuce, with savoury offerings, an arancini ball and frittata slice of capsicum and zucchini.
The range of premium teas is extensive from Ronnefeldt, including a choice of herbal teas, green teas, black teas sourced from Sri Lanka, India and China, and white tea or Lavazza coffee.
The Gunners Barracks is perfect for those who would prefer a quieter venue, with the soothing tones of non-intrusive music in the background, ideal for catching up with family and friends. Patrons on the day of my visit were a mix of generations that could well have visited many times before. Some regulars have been coming here since the tearooms opened in 2005.
Spacious, light filled with pleasing decor and ample space between tables to accommodate social distancing, it’s a great place to come to, to escape the city and to be surrounded by bushland and to enjoy spectacular views of Sydney Harbour.
Bubbly: A choice of Angove Chalk Hill Blue Bubbles NV, French champagne or cocktails including Cosmopolitan and the amazing looking Pimms Twist, mixed with mint, cucumber and chunky fresh fruit pieces.