They are almost too gorgeous to eat – almost.
The tray of sweet delicacies in front of me at The Nutcracker High Tea at five-star hotel InterContinental Sydney is a picture-perfect assortment of baby-pink treats, carefully positioned on a high tea tower of Noritake fine bone china.
The InterContinental has partnered with The Australian Ballet to create a ballet-themed high tea in celebration of Peter Wright’s 2019 season of The Nutcracker, launching at the Sydney Opera House on 30 November.
I visit on a Saturday afternoon with my own little ballerina, my avid ballet-dancing daughter; and my mother, as we’re also celebrating an upcoming birthday for said ballerina.
Remarking that high tea is surely one of the most enduring, refined and timeless activities for people of all ages, I take in the genteel surrounds of The Cortile – a dining area in the hotel’s light-filled central atrium.
Glancing upwards, the original sandstone façade of the Treasury Building, built in 1849, frames The Cortile; while an original vintage iron pull-door elevator provides endless fascination to my daughter. The lift is actually the oldest heritage lift in the southern hemisphere, dating to the 1800s.
A pianist sits at the grand piano, singing ‘Nothing is as Sweet as You’ (cute); and ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’. Families and small groups of friends occupy nearby settings.
On our table, small nutcracker decorations set the tone and our menu features a pair of ballet pointe shoes on its front cover.
The food has been created by the head of pastry at InterContinental Sydney, Eric Menard who was inspired by Clara, the main character for the famous ballet story, and her adventures on Christmas Eve. The hotel is expecting to attract theatre-goers to a pre- or post-show high tea treat – yet, you don’t have to be attending the ballet to take advantage of this ballet-themed culinary experience.
My mum and I enjoy a glass of Mumm NV Champagne, while my daughter is invited to select a mocktail from a list that includes a Sydneypolitan, Spiced Apple Spritz, Country Garden, Popcorn Shake, Lemon Iced Tea and Ice Cream Float.
All the expected touches of finery from a five-star establishment are here: glasses of water positioned on linen coasters; leafed La Maison du Thé artisan teas served in individual teapots; cloth fabric napery; and sugar cubes served with silver tongues from the porcelain sugar bowl.
The menu is designed to reflect the ballet performance, divided into Act One, Act Two and The Grand Finale.
Act One consists of ribbon sandwiches made with festive flavours, including turkey, cranberry and parsley; and salmon and salmon mousse. Next up, Act Two follows with fluffy and warm buttermilk scones served with clotted cream and thick, luscious raspberry jam.
Now here’s the part that’s ‘almost’ too good to eat – The Grand Finale. The final layer consists of a collection of pretty pink morsels, including a sugar plum guava fairy floss tartlet; Clara’s berry choux (pasty coated in a pink chocolate ganache); a raspberry yuzu cup; a delicious lemon meringue macaron which has a male and female ballerina on the icing; and the vanilla bean cupcake topped with pale pink chocolate ballerina slippers – we all sigh in appreciation at the artistry and mum literally refuses to eat the slippers, saying they are just way too adorable!
I’m sipping the last of my ginger and lemon tea and we’re all talking about the food and how anyone who likes ballet will love this high tea when the pianist starts playing and singing Happy Birthday. I look around, wondering whose birthday it is, when I notice our waiter is headed straight for my mini ballerina with yet another cake – this time a rosewater-flavoured pink cake with a single candle flickering on top. She turns almost as pink as the icing and fellow diners in the room clap. Maybe we have a little more room in our bellies after all.
The Nutcracker High Tea will be served until Saturday 4 January, with a special petite version for children under 12. The Nutcracker High Tea is a classic three-tier stand priced at $89 per adult with a glass of French Champagne (including tea or coffee); or $79 per adult with a glass of sparkling wine or non-alcoholic beverage (including tea or coffee). Younger guests (12 years and under) will be offered a petite version of The Nutcracker High Tea for $39 each.
InterContinental Sydney is offering a special Christmas competition. The winner will receive a one nights’ stay at InterContinental Sydney with access to Oceania’s Leading Executive Club Lounge, including twilight drinks and canapés, gourmet deluxe breakfast for two, a Nutcracker High Tea experience for two, two tickets to The Nutcracker by The Australian Ballet at the Sydney Opera House on Friday, 13 December, and a pair of signed authentic pointe ballet shoes. Entries close by noon on 4 December can be made here: icsydney.com.au/nutcracker-competition
To book The Nutcracker High Tea at InterContinental Sydney visit: