One of my book group buddies shares her birthday with John and my dad (yay, December 27th), and she suggested a Girls' Day Out in Cambridge for afternoon tea.
We were recommended the Hilton by another friend who had been there for a party a few months before, so off we went, on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year.
I knew I'd be cranky if I went all the way to 3pm with no food, so Anna Karenina (on my Kindle) and I went for brisket udon just before noon.
The first thing we noticed when we rolled up at our appointed hour was how EMPTY it was. Granted, the weekend between Christmas and New Year isn't going to be their top weekend of the year, but Cambridge itself was packed with people. There were two other tables (and about 4 staff).
First, it took them about 10 minutes to figure out where to seat us. Why, I have no idea. But whatever.
Then, it took at least another 10 for them to ask us if we wanted tea or coffee. I said that we did, but that I had read online that there was a full "tea menu." The waitress looked surprised, then thought for a few moments, and then wandered off and returned with the tea menus, as per teh interwebs. I had a darjeeling, and the other two had Russian Caravan (apparently didn't taste of either Russians or Caravans, which was probably a good thing) and Earl Grey. The tea was lovely, and was in rather snazzy pots that held the leaves in a funny little basket. Only drawback with the tea was that you couldn't remove the leaves to adjust the strength - it got rather stewed by the end.
After about half an hour, the platter below arrived:
On the bottom, sandwiches: salmon, egg & cress, and cucumber & cream cheese. Slightly stale bread (they tasted like they'd been made that morning or the previous day), but otherwise fine.
For the middle tier, the scones were excellent - warm, with very tasty jam and clotted cream.
On the top, a selection of cakes: slices of fruitcake, a chocolate square thingy with raspberry mousse, mince pies, and a cake/cream concoction with a gilded blackberry on top. It was all rather pretty, but I thought that the cakes were too sweet (and the mince pies DEFINITELY came from a factory).
Um, we ate it all.
Overall, I would give the service 2 out of 10, the scones 8 out of 10, and the rest of the food 6 out of 10. We were right next to the window, on very comfy couches, which made the terminally disinterested waitstaff less of an issue. I think there are plenty of other places to eat in Cambridge, where our £14.95 would have produced less food (it was WAY too much), but of higher quality.
The Cambridge Hilton have a great location and good facilities, but it was let down by indifferent service and mediocre food. I would HATE to be there on a busy weekend in the summer (unless possibly we were the victims of "all the normal staff are on vacation." If anyone else has had a different experience, let me know!