It’s a local secret. But the best time to visit Petal Met Sugar in Woolloomooloo is the last month of the season. It’s when Elsa Li and Angela Wong, the duo behind the combination florist and bakery on Sir John Young Crescent, are testing cakes for their next seasonal high tea.
“The lawyers from around the corner will pop their heads in and say, ‘Anything today?’” says Wong. But it’s the hairdresser one block over that most often wins the spoils. Petal Met Sugar’s cakes are made in large slabs, so when sliced up there are always off-cuts. Wong takes a box over to EDO Hair Design on Cathedral Street to share with them and their customers.
Wong runs the florist side of the business, Li the patisserie. It’s an astonishingly pretty shop. In one corner a timber desk is surrounded by a pastel rainbow of flowers. A logo in white neon hangs above it. Next to it is a white coffee counter with a selection of cakes on display. At the other end is a large kitchen with glass-panel walls, so you can see the bakers roll, stretch and stir.
The most popular order here is an example of how the floral elements genuinely enhance the food. It’s a cake with vanilla sponge and raspberry-rose buttercream that’s topped with freeze-dried raspberries and edible flowers. Li and Wong design each cake together, starting with what fruit is in season, a tea flavour (they use Lupicia from Japan) or a flower. Sometimes Li will make up to 20 versions before they settle on the final flavour.
Petal Met Sugar has been here in Woolloomooloo for two years and it’s become part of the fabric of the neighbourhood. Many on the strip and in the apartments upstairs come in for coffee, and Li and Wong supply flowers to the offices in the neighbourhood as well as croissants to cafe John Montagu. “There are residents in the building we’re really close to,” says Wong. “I gave a girl who lost her job a free coffee the other day and she burst into tears. We make sure our staff chat to everyone – they start their days off with us, so it’s important.” Petal Met Sugar has also been tasked with making wedding cakes for many locals.
Petal Met Sugar’s regular high tea is a great way to pick your new favourite cake. Twelve mini cakes come in a Perspex stand in the shape of a book shelf and can include a scone with house-made blueberry-lavender jam; a matcha cronut; or a baby waffle with citrus rhubarb, rose cream and lemon balm.
This kind of in-house curation makes Petal Met Sugar a destination unto itself. Next time you want to treat a friend or find the right gift for a special occasion, skip flowers and go for the breakfast box. Imagine someone knocking on your door with croissants; banana bread with honeyed mascarpone and espresso butter; and a tart in hand. For $20 you can add a mini posy. Happy days.