The Picasso exhibition is on at the Art Gallery of NSW now until 25th of March 2012 and they have an option to do High Tea before or after your viewing of the Picasso artworks which you book in timeslots from 2pm-4pm. The restaurant is located on the ground floor of the gallery and is a modern cafe with polished wooden decor and a beautiful view of the Woolloomooloo finger wharves through its full length glass windows.
It is very busy on the rainy day that we go and while we had booked for 2.30pm, we didn’t actually get to eat the food until close to an hour later. Bit of a nightmare with the staff struggling to cope with the influx of High Tea diners and our poor rumbling tummies sat through a full 25 minutes before our tea even came out. Fortunately, the tea was quite decent – I had the black vanilla which was fragrant and sweet, great with some sugar and milk. The boy had the earl grey which was also more flowery tasting than usual.
Our stomachs were temporarily bloated from the tea and we watched enviously as other diners slowly received their food, but judging by their unimpressed faces, they had been waiting awhile too. But anyway, after those excruciating 50 minutes our High Tea platter finally comes out and we are so ravenous that we take only one quick snap for you all, before digging in.
The High Tea is Spanish themed, a reference to the nationality of Picasso and the first layer has 4 finger sandwiches – 2 each of the jamon serano and manchego cheese and also spanish roast vegetable with romesco. Maybe it was because we were so famished, but both sandwiches tasted pretty damn good. The jamon is Spanish ham, delicately thin like prosciutto and full of saltiness and the cheese was creamy too. The vegetarian sandwich was also surprisingly tasty. I’m such a carnivore that I usually find the vego options a bit too bland but the spicy tomatoey sauce gave the eggplant filling quite a good kick of flavour.
Next up were a few more savoury treats – the long fried pastry sticks are called bacalao cigars and are filled with cod mince and some hints of garlic. It was very moreish and we quickly nibbled to the end of the sticks, which remind me of Western versions of spring rolls but thinner. That was the highlight of the 2nd plate anyway – I don’t eat olives and there was a whole little dish of fennel and orange marinated olives which the boy ate one of (“salty” was the verdict) before abandoning it for the 2 little shotglasses of gazpacho, a chilled tangy tomato soup with herbs and spices. I love anything in a shotglass (er I don’t mean that in an alcoholic way…) because it makes everything look more classy but unfortunately the gazpacho was much too sour and I had to down it all in one gulp. Not a fan.
Last but not least, we come to the final plate of sweet treats – we have the magdalenas which are little puffs of lemon tea cake, turron (Spanish nougat) and churros with melted chocolate sauce, which aren’t visible from our photo. The churros were cute, miniature sized and generously dusted with cinnamon sugar but weren’t particularly warm or tasty by this stage and while the chocolate sauce was quite nice and smooth, it didn’t do much to salvage the churros overall. The lemon tea cake was similarly very ordinary and tasted exactly as it sounds, an airy sponge puff with hints of lemon. Neither of us were a fan of the nougat with some pieces of pistachio or some other nut encased in it – it was hard, difficult to chew and got stuck in our teeth.
All in all, the Art Gallery is very beautiful and centrally located just down the road from Hyde Park. It has plenty of regular exhibitions apart from Picasso which are free to explore (especially the Asian collection, the works from ancient times were amazingly well preserved), but the Restaurant is not particularly efficient and it would be best if you ate in the city before you go to the Art Gallery. The High Tea was decent tasting but not good value and took way too long to make its way to us - we spent almost 5 times the amount of time waiting for our meal than we spent actually eating it. Not impressed.
The Restaurant @ Art Gallery of NSW
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Ground Level, Art Gallery Road
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 9225 1819