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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?’
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 House: 624 Military Road, Mosman Ph: 9968 3311