I recently spent nearly a week in Sydney for a conference at the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth. During my stay I was quite bound to the hotel for the conference and was pleased to find that they had a lot to experience while ducking out of meetings and speeches. I’ve partaken in my fair share of afternoon tea experiences during my travels, and I was excited to see that this Sofitel in the centre of the Sydney CBD offered multiple afternoon tea options. I was lucky enough to indulge in both their Gin High Tea and their Vegan Afternoon Tea during my week in Sydney.

Both tea offerings are light-years ahead of the traditional British afternoon tea your grandparents were used to, one offering an “ingenious” gin infused afternoon delight that will tantalize those taste-buds in ways you would have never expected. Their somewhat newish Vegan Afternoon Tea was also a bit of a shock to me, and I mean that in the best possible way. Not being a vegan myself, I was not too sure what to expect, which makes it even more fun when you have your world turned upside down a bit. I will happily get into just how and why both high tea times are pushing the boundaries of this time honored tradition to new realms that will delight and indulge the senses.

I first booked the Gin High Tea for a group of new friends I had made at the conference, initially drawn in by the prospect of having a gin cocktail or two. I was hooked by the name of it alone, but what I didn’t expect was that Chef Boris Cuzon would take things to the next level with his playful gin infused food pairings for both the teas and cocktails. The reason for this interesting pairing of beverages was thanks to a partnership with Archie Rose Distilling Co,. They are an Australian standard for high end gin that has quickly become one of my favorites. There’s no incentive from their company for me to write this, I was just pleasantly surprised at the smoothness and flavours coming from their craft gin.

The high tea experience itself started with a bang as we each ordered one of the curated gin cocktails on offer. There were quite a few to choose from so we weren’t short of options. We just got our lovely tea going and then the food came. Oh my did my eyes light up as I saw that three tiered tea tree make its way on over to our table. The visual delights looked as good as they tasted; and if you’re one for counting calories, forget it because you’re going to certainly want to taste it all.

What I remember the most was the lime tartlet with gin jelly and the soft cookie with gin cream, which went down so nice with that hot tea. There are hints of the quintessential British tea experience in here with your cucumber and cream cheese and warm-on-order scones which of course had their own slight twists. The menu continued down the gin path with a very smart Beetroot and gin cured Tasmanian salmon on a charcoal brioche. Back to those scones for a minute… they were elevated with a touch of plum vodka and gin jam. All in all, if you’re in Sydney within the next month and a half you’re definitely going to want to make your reservation and enjoy this experience before October 22nd.

Two days later we were yet again in need of a meeting with a small group. After the first tea had impressed on so many levels, I happily booked us in for a vegan afternoon tea time. As I stated above, I am not a vegan myself, but we had a couple of vegetarians in the group so it made perfect sense to see what might be served with only vegan ingredients being presented. Executive Chef Boris Cuzon and his team honestly outdid themselves again here with a very delicious and smart menu that I honestly would have never guessed it to be entirely vegan.

The unique feature here is the Chef’s innovative cooking technique to give locally sourced plant-based ingredients a creative makeover. The spinach, mushroom and tofu quiche was a delicious and filling bite. The chocolate cake went down smoothly afterwards, and I honestly don’t know how they made it taste better than 99% of the non-vegan cakes I’ve had in my time. My two favorite dishes on that three-tiered platter, however, were the very moist lemon cake and the very delightful avocado, banana and coconut cream, which I still lust after to this day.

There whole experience was only $59 per person and there certainly is a lot more to the menu than I described so be sure to check it out if you’re interested.