Boronia Tea Room, Mosman – A High Tea Review

Recently Boronia House has become Boronia Tea Room and the former function centre is now a place to enjoy that wonderful British tradition, a high tea.

Boronia Tea Room circa 1885

Boronia Tea Room circa 1885

The site of Boronia was originally part of a Crown Grant of four acres of land but was later sold to brothers, James and John Kearey for £1,700 pounds in 1885.

The front garden that leads to Military Road where there's six lanes of continuous traffic.

The front garden that leads to Military Road where today, there’s six lanes of continuous traffic.

James and John had a successful coach building business in the city that saw their fortunes improve significantly.  On the land they built two almost identical Victorian mansions, Boronia and Telopea.  The two houses were designed as grand villas with extensive gardens.

This is what Telopea looks like today.  Such a shame.

This is what Telopea looks like today. Such a shame.

What used to be the front garden of Telopea, now a car wash.  Some people would call this 'progress'.

What used to be the front garden of Telopea, is now a car wash. Some people would call this ‘progress’.

George Willis Godwin purchased Boronia in 1896 where it appears his family lived in continuous occupation until the early 1950’s. In 1952 the property was purchased by Mosman Council for £15,750.  It was first used as a library, then as an art gallery and more recently as a function centre.  In 2012 the Council completed a major refurbishment for the purposes of using the House for high teas and functions.

The garden in the backyard that's now a public park

The garden in the backyard that’s now a public park

I had very much been looking forward to experiencing a high tea at Boronia as the Victorian era of the home certainly creates the perfect setting for finger sandwiches and pots of tea.  The catering is organised by Belinda Franks Catering that has a good reputation however I once went to a wedding where Ms Franks did the catering and although the food was good, there just wasn’t enough of it.

A beautiful corner of the verandah

A beautiful corner of the verandah

I neglected to make a booking however we went on a weekday so the Tea Room wasn’t busy.  At first we sat outside and enjoyed looking at the beautiful garden however the wind picked up to where I was almost blown off the verandah so we moved inside to what I imagine would have been the original formal living room.

Sitting outside on the verandah on a very pleasant day

Sitting outside on the verandah on a very pleasant day

The table setting is quite lovely with pretty tea cups in a variety of colours and little jars of flowers picked from the property and bentwood chairs from a bygone era.

Beautiful tea cups

Beautiful tea cups

The high tea is advertised as being a selection of ribbon sandwiches, sophisticated savoury bites, housemade scones with double cream and market jam, delightful desserts and cakes with a choice of T2 tea or coffee for $39pp.

There's a gorgeous giraffe on the stairs!

There’s a gorgeous giraffe on the stairs!

I asked if they had a gluten-free option and they said they did so I ordered it with the sparkling wine package that included a glass of Chandon Brut for $47.00.  Carl, being a good Aussie boy, went for the regular high tea with a beer!

Beautiful stained-glass feature window halfway up the staircase

Beautiful stained-glass feature window halfway up the staircase

The service was a little slow which was surprising considering there was only one other party in the tea room but eventually our drinks arrived followed by another slight delay and then the high tea arrived.

A glass of Chandon Brut and I think jars with flowers from the property is a lovely touch

A glass of Chandon Brut and I think jars with flowers from the property is a lovely touch

When the high tea was put in front of us and after the waiter had walked away, Carl, who doesn’t consider he’s been fed unless he’s eaten the back-end of a cow, looked at me and asked, ‘Is this all there is?’

Boronia Tea Room high tea $39.00pp

Boronia Tea Room high tea $39.00pp

I did think the food looked tiny and very sparse on the three-tiered platter.  The Tea Room does state that the high tea is ’12 bites per person’ and that is apparently exactly what you get – 12 mouthfuls and not one more.

The top layer of sandwiches and an egg slice

The top layer of sandwiches and an egg slice

On the top tier was a shot glass with chopped avocado and tomato in it; nothing else so I found this underwhelming.  There were also sandwiches that had been described as ribbon sandwiches so I thought there would be two fillings between three slices of bread but these were regular sandwiches. We were told the sandwiches were tuna, chicken and egg.  I would have to say these were the most miserable looking sandwiches I have ever seen.  The filling was scant, being spread only a little more thickly than butter.  There was no colour to the sandwiches; even a chopped chive would have given a little colour to the egg sandwich but there was no greenery of any description. As for the gluten-free bread, it was stale, hard and dry.  So dry that when I tried to bend it, it snapped like a cracker.  With almost no filling in the sandwich and the bread being so hard and dry, I couldn’t eat any of my three ‘ribbon sandwiches’ and left them to one side. There were two tiny egg slices that looked like frittata but couldn’t have been because these were only a few millimetres or so thick and frittata usually has a lot more height.  We were able to eat these but it was such a tiny offering it wasn’t even a mouthful.

The two gluten-free scones are flatter and smaller

The two gluten-free scones are flatter and smaller

And not to be outdone, Carl (who normally has no complaints), said his sandwich bread was dry and stale like it had been left out in the elements for far too long.  Now there’s a supermarket and a bakery just across the road so why the bread had to be so stale is inexcusable.

The scones were warm and there were two gluten-free and two regular.  Carl enjoyed his scones but alas, the gluten-free scones looked good but when I tried to pick them up they collapsed and crumbled in my hands.  I was unable to eat them as when I tried to spread some jam and cream on them they shattered into a thousand crumbs.

The scones that kept falling apart.

The scones that kept falling apart.

The bottom layer was a selection of tiny ‘bites’.  The macaron was pretty and very good and this was the one highlight of everything that was presented.  The gluten-free tiny square of orange cake was lovely and moist with a wonderful orange flavour and the very small coconut cake was also moist however the teeny lemon meringue tart had an unpleasant taste to it.

Miniature bites

Miniature bites

At the end of the high tea I said to Carl, ‘I don’t think I’ve eaten anything’.  He said, ‘I’m thinking about where I might get a burger’, and off he hurried.

The house has many marble fireplaces

The house has many marble fireplaces

I was left to pay the bill which came in at $92.00.  I don’t like to complain but I felt quite strongly that given the circumstances something needed to be said.  I told the waiter I had been unable to eat any of the sandwiches and described them to him and I also let him know about the shattering scones.  He looked at me totally confused like I was speaking in tongues and after a bit of angst asked me if I would like a discount.  I said, ‘Yes thanks, that would be good’.  I kid you not, he then gave me a bill for $84.00.  Clearly I need to sharpen my negotiation skills if my best efforts only result to an $8.00 discount.

A part of the original backyard that's now a public park

A part of the original backyard that’s now a public park

I would really love to be able to recommend Boronia Tea Room because it’s a magnificent building of historical significance and you truly couldn’t be in a more beautiful setting.  However, this high tea has to be the most disappointing I have ever experienced.  There just isn’t enough to eat.  The sandwiches are ordinary and lack filling.  The ‘bites’ are ridiculously small.  If that’s the best they can do with gluten-free, they should take that option off the menu.  And overall, there’s just a feeling of a lack of generosity. Verdict:  I think it’s best summed up by Carl’s parting words, ‘Please don’t do this to me ever again’.

Boronia Tea Room

Boronia Tea House

Boronia Tea House:  624 Military Road, Mosman Ph:  9968 3311


  1. What a shame! I visited (and blogged) for their high tea almost exactly one year ago and it seems like the standard of their high tea has dropped… Sad because its such a stunning building to have high tea in!

  2. OMG Seriously – that is awful. I have always wanted to try there but it is definitely off the wish list now. What a rip off! 🙁 x

  3. ‘Please don’t do this to me ever again’. This is hilarious. That’s something that CPoo would say! What a let down on the high tea front though. Especially from a place that only does High Teas. I think those are the tiniest scones I’ve ever seen, and poor form on them for the $8 discount. Ridiculous!

  4. How disappointing to pay so much and them get a burger on the way home! No wonder the place was not busy.

  5. Oh Carl! A beer with high tea, too funny! Shame about the high tea, $92 is a lot to pay when you have to leave with an empty tummy..

  6. Thanks Charlie for the memory of Boronia House. Yes I used to visit the Library every Sat. Morning. It was quite an enchanted cottage then. What a pity about your food when the atmosphere could be so good!

  7. You’d think if they only offer one thing on the menu they would do it well. What a total rip off. Sometimes you are best just staying home and getting fish & chips!!

  8. I think we should all give up on high teas,.. they are just a license to print money . I have a vision of Carl running off to buy a burger. Poor man

  9. Good to know. Sometimes candour is very important and high tea is one of those times. Dermot and I have had about 20 different High Teas all over the world. At the Empress in Victoria, BC, the sandwiches supply is bottomless. At the Hotel Vancouver, the scones have pumpkin (like Flo’s!) and are divine. At Raffles in Singapore you get spring rolls and curry puffs on the side. But one of the best is at the recently refurbished Savoy in London. Meanwhile, we will give the Baronia a very wide berth. Good to know.

  10. I remember telling my husband, on a visit to a tea room (not the same bad food experience, but not really an eatery where guys dine), that “I will never do this to you again.”

  11. $8?!? Please tell me you’re kidding!?! Goodness sakes! It is a beautiful spot, though… sigh xo

  12. Charlie, that’s not even 10%!! Ok, I’m done… Maybe…

  13. Well, at least the teacups were pretty.

  14. That’s a very well done review Charlie, your reasons are qualified and the photos speak a thousand words. You’re absolutely right about removing gluten free from the menu, in fact, they should do that with everything they are unable to do well. What a shame too, being so terribly expensive. I suspect they will not be able to continue at the rate. It’s also too bad that the waiter was so inept in handling negative feedback, they could have/should have turned your experience right around!
    I wonder if you could go there for just a glass of wine in the afternoon, because it does look lovely.

  15. What beautiful teacups!

  16. I’m not into high teas, as so often they’re more style than substance, but please nick those teacups for me. x

  17. The high tea looks lovely, but I would go just to drink tea out of that lovely, lovely tea cup. Thanks, Charlie, for your kind words of condolences about my dog. Tenderly received and much appreciated.

  18. Wow, what an awful experience! And to be stuck with an $84 bill… I think I might have just walked out. How disappointing!

  19. The location was lovely and the tea cup made me want it so much but the food … goodness what a disappointment.

  20. Oh, how disappointing…and expensive!!! I know tea rooms up their prices for the atmosphere and details, but that was a truly disappointing experience. I think I now know why there were not many guests…one trip is all it takes to not want to return!!

  21. Such a shame!
    The building and the whole setting is so beautiful and has an interesting history and then the first impression is spoiled by a disappointing high tea!
    Anyhow, thank you for this interesting review Charlie!

  22. What a disappointment! The view and space was so pretty, but then to have such poor food! I have to say though, I’m with Carl, I’m not keen on High Tea ever – I always think it’s a rip off!

  23. How disappointing! The scones look to be a strange texture (how do you get scones so crumbly?) and it all looks very underwhelming. A shame because the setting is so lovely.

  24. Oh boy.. You should send them the link to this post. Although it will hurt, I think they need to hear this feed back. When I began to read, I was going to suggest we meet there. Now I am feeling it is a bad idea.

    My husband’s best friend renovated the house to turn it into it’s first version of a wedding reception venue in the 1980″s. He and his wife did brilliantly out of it, but I don’t think any of the other hospitality businesses, have had any great success there since. Proof that you cannot rely on a beautiful setting alone and if you are going to charge like a wounded bull you need to deliver the goods.


  25. What a shame Charlie! It really seems so hard for venues to get a high tea right. Come and visit me and I’ll make us a spectacular high tea indeed- I’ve been waiting for an excuse to get motivated 🙂 xox

  26. I hope Carl got his burger, Charlie! That’s an enormous price to pay for what you got. I think you accurately described it with “lack of generosity” and today I think most places go out of their way in at least presenting an ample portion. A formal tea should delight you with a wide variety of pretty tastes! The $8.00 discount is rather proof they don’t get it. Too bad.

  27. What a terrible shame! This could have been so lovely with the beautiful setting, and after their efforts at restoring the house, it seems awful not to follow-up with a tea to suit. I do find high teas are generally not good value, but at least with the good ones you enjoy the food. This sounds poor all around. Hopefully the $8 you saved went towards that emergency burger 😛

  28. Bugger dont you just hate that, especially at those prices.

  29. Being a Texan, I’ve never had high tea.

  30. I remember having lovely meals here long ago.. and think I may have gone for a dinner there in last few years. It is a lovely setting. I do think you need to send the link and offer a bit of a right of reply or even better return. With gluten free it’s probably always better to book ahead as gf bread so hard to do well.

  31. I’m sorry it didn’t turn out so well my friend that is quite unfortunate, the prettiness being the only consolation!

    Choc Chip Uru

  32. Hahaha Carl you’re hilarious! So disappointing. I had a high tea recently where I was invited by the hotel and afterwards I had to email them and tell them how awful it was and that I’d write about it if they wished but it wouldn’t be a good report!
    It’s really not that hard is it?

  33. What a disappointment Charlie and at prices like that just adds insult to injury.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  34. I guess a pretty looking plate doesn’t fill the tummy though! That is a poor excuse of a tea! And I don’t understand why “teas” are such a rip off. I don’t know the conversion rate, but $92.00 or even $84.00 is a lot to pay for tea. It’s the same here though, the minute it becomes a “tea” it becomes ridiculously expensive.
    Sorry about the bad experience!


  35. Experiences like that always seem doubly disappointing. Such a shame that restaurants can’t do better than that with gluten free in this day and age. Things have moved on and gluten free is a regular request. Not a great discount, but better than nothing at all. GG

  36. What a terrible experience!!
    Its a shame because as you say, the surroundings are beautiful.

  37. What a shame, Charlie! I’ve no experience with teas, high or otherwise, and was looking forward to your description of a fantastic experience. I should have realized that the wind on the veranda was an omen. There really is no excuse for such ill-prepared food. Perhaps that’s why there was only one other couple in the tea room.

  38. After reading the entire post and your descriptions of the items, the first thought that came to my mind was: you were served weekend leftovers. After your complain, you’d think the wait staff would fetch the manager or whoever was in charge at the time and offer to make amends. You were very kind to describe the event as “lack of generosity”, I would use stronger language.

  39. I would have demanded to speak to a manager or someone from the kitchen! They should know such service is inexcusable!

  40. How disappointing for you and Carl, I started to read the blog with much anticipation after seeing the loveliness of the setting, and reading a little history too..agree, such a shame about Talopea..however, I would have felt similar feelings to you that would have brought out feelings of anxiety with such a poor high tea, stale bread? Appalling!

  41. 92 dollars for THAT??!! What a rip off. I love the high tea that you Australians keep writing about and I would love to participate in one some day…but if this is the result…I hope Carl’s burger was more satisfying. Beautiful place though.

  42. Excellent review. Someone can do a bang up business opening a restaurant right outside the gates – someplace where people can actually get something to eat after their tea.

  43. Looks like a very pretty place, but quite disappointed to dish out so much money for food and drink and then having to stop for a burger on the way home. Hell, I have more than 12 bites while I’m cooking a meal. 🙂

  44. Carl is hilarious! Tony would have been the exact same way. He says he doesn’t like “fancy” food because there’s never enough of it. That’s too bad that the high tea was such a disappointment! Makes me wonder if that’s why the tea room was so empty, even on a week day.

    Now you need to seek out an excellent tea room for high tea so I can see what a good one is supposed to look like! 🙂

  45. LOL That’s the same thing Ricky says to me when we go and have High Tea that he doesn’t feel like he’s had any food lately but it’s not true! Having said that I do agree that this high tea doesn’t look substantial at all and I would be quite disappointed with the sandwiches if they had barely any filling.

    Good attempt for them to serve GF scones but they’ve gotta test the recipes a few more times to ensure that they stay the same shape and not crumble in customers hands 🙁 and that is seriously not good enough $8 discount… a shame because it looks like a great place for high tea!

  46. What a disappointment…the bill for the food was ridiculous. I am sure they never get complaints because most people have the “Emperor’s New Clothes” Syndrome; It’s beautiful and it’s expensive so it must be great!

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