Sunday, 20 January 2013

Shingle Inn, Chatswood Westfield

Shingle Inn is a chain of cafes, of which I had heard nothing about until the Chatswood branch opened about half a year ago. Since then, I've been curious about their $24.50 (per head) high tea, and I finally gave it a try earlier this month.

Shingle Inn is situated on the same level as Coffee Club and Dymocks (one level above IGA and the Miracle Asian supermarket, and one level below the food court and Roy Young chemist). It's not hard to miss, as the signage is prominent and the layout is quite distinct.

Upon entry, we were invited to seat ourselves and informed that we would have to order and pay at the counter, after which we were provided a number. It seems to be after this stage where table service at Shingle Inn commences.

We sat ourselves at one of the cushy booths and waited for our food. There was a bit of confusion over whether the high tea came with both the mint julep (a minty spider) and either tea or coffee, as the menu was worded to include both a cold and hot drink and contained a photo of the high tea stand with coffee and a mint julep. The owner promised to clarify this with the head office and got back to us promptly. He told us that this was a typo but that he would provide us with both the tea and the julep, which sufficiently pacified us - and goes to show how important it is to proofread!

Rose mint julep
I decided to have a rose mint julep (as opposed to a lime julep), which was fizzy, refreshing and sweet, but contained more mint than rose.

Green tea
For my hot drink, I opted for green tea and it came in a small ceramic pot. It was pretty nice - not too weak but not that strong either.

High tea stand
The high tea stand had two tiers - one level per person. The general contents of each item was the same but they alternated between flavours of items such as the tarts and patty cakes, which meant that there were plenty of things to cut in half!

As with all high teas, you want to start off with the savoury treats. I commenced the affair with the bite-sized ham and cheese sandwiches. They were nothing outstanding, but the bread was multi-grain and I felt pretty healthy after eating it - though this feeling shortly faded away.

The beetroot tartlet was... interesting. I'm personally a fan of beetroots, but it was strange eating warm cubes of it. The feta was sprinkled on top and inside the tartlet, introducing the texture of minced meat. There was perhaps too much beetroot and not enough feta (or some sort of meat/ filler). It wasn't too bad as the tartlet was quite tiny so the pastry helped to balance out the beetroot.

Beetroot and feta tartlet
Next, I tried the salmon potato rosti, which was around the size of the tartlet. It was alright with the salmon and single caper plonked on top, but it mostly tasted and felt like a hash brown with a bit of carrot grated in. It also lacked the crunch that rostis should possess - and you can see from the lack of brown in the photo that it isn't crisp.

Salmon rosti
Shingle Inn's Peking duck pancake is... different. Toasted tortilla is used instead of the traditional pancake, there is a distinct lack of Hoisin sauce, and instead of cucumber and shallots, chopped carrots are used instead. Needless to say, I didn't enjoy it - particularly as it was quite dry.

Peking duck pancake
So that was the last of the savouries. On to the sweets. The best thing out of the high tea would have to be the scones - they were large but tasty with a fine, crumbly texture. The way scones are made vary from place to place, but most of the time they're crunchy and biscuit-like, or just really dense and bready. Despite the sliced fruits situated on top, these ones are actually pretty conventional. Not bad - the next time I have afternoon tea at Shingle Inn, I'll probably just order the scones.

The chocolate caramel slice tasted alright as well, though it was very sugary. It was a good thing the slice was so small.

Chocolate caramel slice
 I will address the last two of the sweets as a whole, because they weren't standouts either. The patty cakes (cupcakes, really) tasted like pre-mix and were extremely filling. The lemon curd tart was quite sour, which my lunch companion quite enjoyed, though the chocolate caramel alternative (as seen below) was more sugary. The tart pastry was mediocre.

Chocolate caramel tart

Overall, for $24.50 the high tea is a bargain. The portions are generous and the scones are delicious. However, not all of it is tasty and the sweet to savoury ratio is skewed in favour of sugar, which for me is a negative because I like my high teas to be more balanced. Also, you get what you pay for - it lacks the sophistication of the afternoon teas you find in the big luxury hotel chains. Nevertheless, we were feeling pretty bloated at the end, the service is friendly, and it's a good impromptu way to spend the afternoon.

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