Review by Melanie Pike, photography by Joshua Pike from Pike’s Palate
Not everyone is a teetotaller, some of us are coffee addicts. So it’s a good thing that there’s something for everyone in The Cortile at Sydney’s InterContinental hotel. Traditionalists can indulge in a well-stocked high tea buffet, while those who think outside of the teacup can relish in a decadent high coffee experience instead.
We did this review over two visits – such is the size of the menu on offer between the two. Take a read through the menus (below) and you’ll see what we mean – across the two experiences there’s over 30 different elements to nibble your way through. We love a packed stand of treats, but even we have limits!
Our first visit was for the High Coffee.
Seated in high-backed lounges, a spiced espresso martini was the opening act. If you’ve never had one before, you better like your coffee strong, because – while still sweet – it definitely packs a wallop! Served ice-cold with a good level of spice, it was gone all too soon and left us wanting another.
After that the first stand was served – that’s right, there’s multiple parts to this event. Speaking to the pastry chef, Youssef Aderdour, he told us he designed the menu to take you on a journey. Beginning with the cold savouries, you move on to the warm savouries, then to the warm sweets, followed by the cold sweets, and finally an affogato to finish. Are you full just reading that? You should be!
After the savouries are finished, we start on the warm sweets. Waffles, crepes and scones with a selection of mix and match accompaniments. Don’t feel bad if you only eat half of them though, there’s still a long way to go in this high coffee journey. The waffle with chocolate sauce and chantilly was quite delicious though, and hard not to polish off.
At this stage a little glass arrives with a quenelle of the most refreshing green apple sorbet contained within. The palate cleanser is here! It signifies the main part of the experience is finished with, and it’s time to order another coffee and prepare for the last sweet tier.
Everything is made in house, with the attention to detail that really shows the pastry team love what they do. The menu is well thought out, with interesting, original pairings without anything being too over the top. Watch out for the ‘surprise crunchy ball’ though. Without spoiling the surprise, it’s definitely an eat whole sweet, try biting it in half at your own peril (and a trip to the dry cleaners).
If you’ve made it this far, you’re doing well! To finish the experience is an affogato. A scoop of vanilla icecream with a shot of espresso poured over the top. It’s the third coffee to grace the menu, all of which are Vittoria beans.
The High Coffee is a great experience designed to leisurely graze over a few hours.
High Coffee Menu
Espresso Martini on arrival
Chicken and sweet corn, mayonnaise, rocket, German Laugen bread; Mini croissant, smoked salmon, preserved lemon, radish; Organic quinoa salad, heirloom tomato, basil, garden pea, smoked mozzarella
Moroccan vegetable roll, garlic aioli; Asparagus ricotta quiche; Beef and Guinness pie
Buttermilk vanilla scones, orange ginger marmalade; Belgium waffles, chocolate spread; Orange crepes
Palate Cleanser – Green apple sorbet
Popping candy peanut butter chocolate bar; Macaron, passionfruit, chocolate; Caramelised almond vanilla magnum; Basil lemon pavlova, Valrhona Opalys chocolate; Pistachio amarena cherry slice; Surprise crunchy ball
To Finish – Affogato – coffee poured over vanilla bean ice-cream.
The following weekend we returned for the Valrhona High Tea Buffet.
Valrhona is a French chocolate house established in 1922 and pastry chef Youseff has used its chocolates as the core ingredient for the buffet menu – and it’s quite an extensive menu at that.
Upon arrival we were greeted with a fully stocked buffet. Plates of delicate little cakes, savouries, slices and of course, chocolates. This is definitely a buffet designed for a little over-indulgence, but then what high tea isn’t? Make sure you make a few return trips to the buffet so you can sample as many of the treats on offer as possible.
The attention to detail on the buffet is also to the same high standard as the high coffee experience from the previous week. The staff busily restock the display throughout each sitting, while also ensuring all guests are well looked after with cups of tea and glasses of champagne.
Both experiences are served daily in The Cortile on the ground floor of the hotel. It’s a light filled indoor courtyard that was once part of the Treasury Building which was built in 1851. Make sure you take time to look up at the beautiful sandstone surrounds while you’re enjoying your visit to get a real feel for the history of the place.
Overall it’s hard to say which we enjoyed more. Being able to hand pick our own selection from the buffet in a choose-our-own high tea adventure was fun. But the high coffee is definitely a shake up on the traditional high tea, which is just as much fun too!
The decision is all yours, just make sure you arrive hungry!
Valrhona High Tea Buffet Weekday Menu:
Savoury selection: Moroccan vegetable roll with garlic aioli; Beef and Guinness pie.
Sandwich selection: Chicken, celery, tarragon and mayonnaise on carrot bread; Rare roast beef, sauerfraut, chipotle and aioli; Spiced Thai prawn, coriander and avocado.
Dessert selection: Sacher orange Guanaja chocolate cake; Heilala vanilla pannacotta with light caramel; Peanut butter Valrhona chocolate bar; Caramelia crunchy pearls; Valrhona Manjari chocolate financier, macadamia, candied orange; Snickers French macaron; Spiced dark chocolate crème brûlée.
Extras: Traditional buttermilk scones served with whipped cream and condiments.
Valrhona High Tea Buffet Weekend Menu:
Savoury selection: Moroccan vegetable roll, garlic aioli; Asparagus ricotta quiche; Beef and Guinness pie.
Sandwich selection: Chicken and pesto; Cream cheese and salmon roll; Egg and cucumber; Seasonal salad.
Dessert selection: Sacher orange Guanaja chocolate cake; Heilala vanilla pannacotta with light caramel; Yuzu Caraibe chocolate flourless slice; Wintery chocolate-orange drink; Peanut butter Valrhona chocolate bar; Caramelia crunchy pearls; Valrhona Manjari chocolate financier macadamia, candied orange; Passionfruit Jivara milk chocolate tart; Yummy chocolate chip cookies; Tim Tam, Valrhona dark chocolate & Snickers French macaron; Spiced dark chocolate crème brûlée; Milk & dark chocolate block with nuts and dry fruits.
Extras: Buttermilk style scones; orange crêpes; Belgium waffles with Condiments: strawberry jam, Chantilly cream, nutella, lemon, refined raw brown sugar; Caramelia, Dulcey, dark Varhona chocolate pearl bar; Fruit plate; Australian and International cheese with Lavash, crackers, and dry fruit & nuts.
High Coffee and Valrhona High Tea Buffet at the InterContinental Sydney
117 Macquarie Street, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Call: 02 9240 1396
When: weekdays 11am-5pm; weekends 1pm – 2:30pm or 3pm – 4:30pm
Cost: $55 – $75 per person depending on package
Prices are correct at the time of publishing, but are subject to change. Please contact the venue for further details.