It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Sydney’s Shangri-La Hotel. Executive Pastry Chef, Anna Polyviou and her team of elves have outdone themselves this year with a life-sized gingerbread house full of lolly decorations on display, as well as a Christmas-themed carousel. The introduction of these annual decorations have transformed the atmosphere in the hotel’s famously lavish lobby, so it’s only right that they offer a few yuletide specials to celebrate.
For those not already aware, you might remember Polyviou from her appearances on MasterChef Australia and her decadent, Anna’s Mess dessert. Polyviou is like a rock-star chef but she’s also one who is fond of the traditional gingerbread house. The Shangri-La Hotel’s lobby has been home to a large gingerbread house for the past few Christmases but this year Polyviou and her team have taken things to a whole new level. The delectable Christmas offering also boasts a gorgeous carousel of horses to rival that magical scene in Mary Poppins and it’s also one that will make you wish you could hop on board and ride along yourself.
These life-size pieces of gingerbread finery took no less than 32 people working together around the clock in order to fashion and execute. The individuals included Polyviou’s team of pastry chefs as well as 20 members of the Australian Cake Decorating Network. Gingerbread houses are not always easy for people to put together so it’s a structural wonder to see this staggering house and carousel made of 2000kg of gingerbread bricks, 800kg of lollies, 100kg of fondant, 200 lollipops and oodles of icing. The whole thing makes you want to scream, “Oh my!”
Polyviou remembers her childhood fondly. She recalls the thrill and enjoyment she had when buying and eating lollies from the local milk bars and tuck shops as a kid. This Christmas display is a celebration of all those fun days from your childhood. Polyviou says, “I love that people think we’re crazy with creations like this, and I love that adults often get more excited than the kids once they see it.”
For those individuals wanting to take home a little piece of this merriment, the hotel have a number of wonderful festive treats for sale. These include: gingerbread lollybag houses ($55), a family of ginger ninjas (aka a 4 pack of gingerbread men for $9.50), white Christmas nougat ($5.50), fruit mince star tarts ($12 for 6 pies), Christmas pudding (individual $6 and large ones serving four people for $18), mix ‘n’ match rocky road $6.50), the pastry chef’s Christmas stocking ($35) and strawberry candy cane and caramel gingerbread macarons (9 pack for $12).
The Shangri-La are renowned for their delicious high teas; at other points in the year they offer both a traditional one and a sumptuous chocolate one. For Christmas, customers can enjoy a festive high tea ($55 per adult and $27.50 per child) where Polyviou specifically tackles holiday fun with her desserts. On the menu is a sweet cherry pie, a white Ozzy berry Christmas Pavlova, Santa hat domes filled with lip-smacking berry mouse and your traditional afternoon tea scones with jam.
The high-tea includes a number of savoury options and these flavours align with the fact the owners of the hotel are originally from Asia. These include a caramelised onion and goat cheese tart, a new take on the prawn cocktail and a turkey sandwich. These are all accompanied by a vast range of teas or alternatively sparkling wine and champagne can be added for an additional charge.
Polyviou has also added an extra piece of Christmas joy to the high tea experience. This feature is a special miniature Christmas tree adornment decorated with tiny baubles and gingerbread men dressed like little ninjas and it also comes with some “presents” underneath it. These are tasty pieces of white chocolate, cranberry and pistachio nougat, jelly lollies and two kinds of chocolate including one praline variety and the other a soft-centred caramel.
Shangri-La Hotel Sydney
Address: 176 Cumberland St, Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 9250 6000