The Den @ the Ivy, Sydney CBD

Sydney International Food Festival Post!

Can someone tell me why the name was changed from Good Food Month? The new name is a bit of a mouthful.

Anyway, my friend Slinky was in town and we decided to do a luxurious high tea. Out of all of the high tea choices, the Den was chosen for its catchy tag of 'High Tea with an Asian Twist'.

From the SIFF site, it said

Forget boring old finger sandwiches. Dive into an Asian-inspired take on “high tea” at ivy, where you and a friend can relax in The Den over a tower of delicacies from the Teppanyaki kitchen

Hm. HMMM. That sounds good, doesn't it? During this post, I will point out the misleading flaws in that description.

The SIFF High Teas are all $45 per person.

The Ivy is a confusing complex. I had a brainwave suggestion that they should put little road signposts, pointing the way to their various restaurants. It would fit in with the whole Alice in Wonderland feel that they have going on, and would be very helpful.

The Den is located on the second level of the Ivy, on the side that is not where the outdoor bar is.... if you have been before, you would be able to make sense of my poor directions.

The decor is very plush. It is done in shades of teal and black, with the occasional splash of bright yellow from the cutlery.

Our low table with plush armchairs

Lots of natural light

The Bar in the room (wasn't in service)

Subtly pimping their Melbourne Cup day events

High Tea menu

So we started with a glass of Chandon NV Sparkling.

And not before long, our savoury 'tasting plate' arrived.

Teppan tasting plate

Hmm.....Let me refer you back to their description which states that you will receive "a tower of delicacies".

This is not a tower. By any stretch of the imagination.

That disappointment aside, I will break down what is on the tasting plate because the flavours were actually quite nice.

Apologies in advance for the blurry photos, these portions were very small and my camera does poor close up shots.

Chicken skewers (two cubes of chicken on one skewer each)

These were delicious, resting in a small pool of soy sauce that I eagerly used to coat my chicken.

Crab leaves

The server had informed us that we could eat the betel leaf so I wrapped up my piece and popped it into my mouth. It was very refreshing, with some lemon zingy flavours but it wasn't spectacular.


Another light, refreshing dressing on the oysters. There was some flying fish roe scattered on top.

Mini wagyu beef burgers

Is anyone else sick of mini burgers? The novelty wore off about six months ago and now they just make me frustrated because the mini burger just makes me want a regular size burger!

Also, if you enlarged the high tea menu, you will see that this has replaced the balmain bug wontons. Which was a shame, I would have liked to try the wontons.

And how exactly do mini-wagyu beef burgers fall in with the 'asian twist'? I have previously attended a function at the Den where they served platters and platters of the mini burgers as hor d'oeuvres and can't help but feel that there were no wontons so they just decided to plop the burgers onto the plate with no consideration given to the asian theme.

Pork and Prawn Gyoza

This was nice but the same as what you would find in your run-of-the-mill chinese dumpling restaurant.

So after the Teppan tasting plate, Slinky and I discussed what we had just ate. We concluded that it was nice, but so far, was not worth the $45 pp bill. Hence we studied the dessert tasting plate menu and built up excitement for ourselves for what was surely to be a spectacular finish to this 'high tea with an asian-twist'.

I had previously expressed concern to Slinky that the written menu gave the option of tea OR sparkling. This distressed me because how can you have a high tea without tea?

But the server came around before dessert and asked if we would like some tea to go with it. Of course we answered in the affirmative and chose the brown rice tea.


Cup of tea

I was a bit disappointed by the tea selection as well. On offer was

- green tea
- brown rice tea
- peppermint
- jasmine

Boring!!! Just because you are attempting to create an asian themed high tea (and falling short) does not mean that you have to limit the tea choices. There are a lot of asian teas which have lovely rose flavours, chrysanthenum infusions, oh and then you have your black many possibilities; a great injustice occurred here.

One of the highlights of visiting a high tea is selecting from a vast range of exotic teas. I do not want to choose from the types of tea that I drink as an accompaniment at sushi train.

Quickly after the tea arrived, our 'dessert tasting plate' came to the table.

Dessert tasting plate

Even looking at that photo now is making me frustrated. Half of that plate is taken up by fruit - which does not have an asian twist at all!!!!! The 'selection of seasonal fruit' included:

  • two strawberries sliced in half
  • two slices of watermelon
  • half a small kiwi fruit
  • some pineapple chunks
  • about four small pieces of papaya
  • some grapes

I guess you're wondering what else is on the 'dessert tasting plate' (which, by the way, is a stupid name because half of that plate is fruit and I have tasted that many, many times before in my lifetime. And don't get me started on the false promise of a 'tower of delicacies again').

Does the plate look better from another angle? No.

The other portion of the plate was 'banana tempura with chocolate sake fondue' and 'green tea cheesecake'.

Let's start with the first. Can you see that tiny saucer of chocolate sauce at the top of the photo?

That is not a fondue. And I could not taste any sake in it at all. And the banana tempura? That was half a banana fritter each.

And lastly....the green tea cheesecake.

I have never tasted anything less like a cheesecake that claimed to be a cheese cake!

Cheesecakes are dense and moreish, with a crumb base that satisfyingly breaks apart when you press your fork down to the plate.

This was a sponge cake. The bottom half of the cake was sponge.

The top of the cake was light and almost fluffy. If I strained my tastebuds really hard, I could almost detect a green tea flavour. But not really. Did the pastry chef put any matcha in this at all???

At the end of the 'high tea', I felt unsatisfied. I also felt annoyed at the misdescription of what was contained in the high tea. I wish that we had chosen to visit another SIFF high tea instead of the Ivy.


We have been writing about food in Sydney since 2009. No place is too far or too wide for us to travel to visit. We always give an honest opinion and love to hear your comments too. Here's to an ever-growing society of foodies!


  1. I feel annoyed for you.
    At least the decor was fab.

  2. sounds like a rip off... how were the waitresses dressed?

  3. Lol $45 =[ "tower of delicacies" indeed

  4. I have to say that I have had enough disappointments from the merivale restaurants that I swear I will never ever go to one ever again. Ash street cellar is the ONLY exception. I had a fairly nice experience there.

  5. Hi Mobblees: Yes, I do agree that the interior design was quite lovely.

    Hi Jathon: They were dressed like any other waiter, in black and white. Nothing out of the ordinary.

    Hi Yudd: There was no tower to be seen.

    Hi Anonymous: I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who thinks the Merivale group is not all it's cracked up to be. I did attend a few of the Merivale Winter Feasts which were nice, but I have also read of other people's experiences which were not up to standard.

  6. Oh no! What a disappointment!

    Especially as there are so many lovely high tea options out there

  7. Hi missklicious: I know, so disappointing! Oh the wasted opportunity cost of other SIFF high teas!