Of all the places to get afternoon tea in Leeds, Doubletree by Hilton seems like one of the most luxurious – but what did our reviewer make of it?
It was a gorgeous, sunny Tuesday when we rocked up to DoubleTree by Hilton, so as you can imagine, we were keen to sit outside – and they were more than happy to oblige. We made ourselves known at reception (we’d already booked ahead as you have to give them 24 hours notice) and found a seat out on the terrace.
It’s the perfect place for a spot of afternoon tea. The sun shone down on us while boats floated by on the waters of the River Aire, and by the time the waiter came to see what we wanted to drink, we were happy as could be. On this occasion, the afternoon tea felt indulgent enough, so we skipped the champers that would’ve cost an extra £8 and jumped straight to the main event. Well, sort of.
The tea was served within five minutes, but the food was some way behind. Five minutes, then ten, then twenty passed as we polished off cup after cup of tea – they weren’t particularly busy inside, so we assumed the wait meant they were making everything fresh.
And then it arrived. It doesn’t look like your usual afternoon tea. Instead of a tiered stand, you get two platters – one for savoury and one for sweet. The portion sizes here are generous to say the least, and it was clear from the get-go that we were going to get our money’s worth. But while there was a lot to love here, there was also a lot that didn’t cut the mustard.
The savoury platter was a little different to the menu, so don’t take it as gospel. We had two types of sandwich, with chicken, bacon and mayo alongside ham and tomato. The fillings in both were fresh and tasty, but the bread had seen better days – it had the texture of sandpaper, no doubt caused by the fact that the sandwiches had been prepared way ahead of time. It’s not the quality you expect from a place like DoubleTree.
The traditional sandwiches were accompanied by an odd little wrap, filled with smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber and more lettuce than was really necessary. The result was underwhelming, we found ourselves picking out the lettuce which was detracting from flavours that otherwise went well together.
But even that couldn’t compete with the downright weirdness of the skewers. Now, I like a nice skewer, and it was barbecue weather, so I was actually quite looking forward to this bit of the meal, but what we got was mind-boggling. Chicken and pepperoni, stuck on (but not cooked on) a skewer, served cold and smothered in your bog-standard sweet chilli sauce.
It was a very strange set-up and to be honest, it didn’t really work. The pepperoni didn’t go with the sauce, and even though the chicken was cooked well, it didn’t feel worthy of the setting. The savoury tart, however, did. It was delicious, filled with an eggy, cheesy mix that really hit the spot – it was served cold, but it tasted like it had been baked the same day. If only everything had been up to this standard, we might have been in a happier place.
But we were only half way through the experience and arguably the sweet aspect of afternoon tea is better than the savoury, so we were still optimistic, and excited to tuck into the array of cakes and desserts in front of us.
We started with the lemon tart, and it was exceptional, with the perfect balance of sweet and sour – this became our favourite part of the DoubleTree’s afternoon tea. We skipped past the chocolate shot, which was more like a short than a shot, for practical reasons – we didn’t have any spoons and there was no one in sight to give us any.
And so, we delved into a deconstructed Eton mess. Wondering what the hell that is? Well it’s a little tart base, filled with a sweet, thick cream and strawberry sauce, with two fresh strawberry halves on top. It was tasty but a bit messy to eat, and we would have preferred it if they’d cut the green leaves off the strawberry, because they were tricky to remove once they’d been dipped in the sauce.
At this point, we found ourselves with a dilemma. We had no spoons for the chocolate pudding and no jam for the scones – but there was still no one in sight. So my partner in crime had to head off into the restaurant to see if he could find someone to help. He came back shortly after with two spoons and three mini jars of jam – one raspberry and two blackcurrant.
Neither of us fancied the blackcurrant, so we decided to share the strawberry, which was more suited to one than it was to two. The serving of clotted cream was much more generous, and coupled with the scones, which were small but incredible tasty, it made for a nice treat. Having tried more than my fair share of afternoon teas, I can safely say that these were some of the nicest scones around, not too dry, easy to cut and filled with plump sultanas, which aren’t my cup of tea, but pleased my dining partner to no end.
Finally, we came to the chocolate pots, although by this time we were full to bursting. They were extremely rich, with a smooth silky texture, contrasted against the soft gooey muffin-ball hiding within. We really enjoyed them, but there was no way we were getting to the end of the pot – it was just too rich after everything else we’d eaten.
The whole thing came to £30, and we got a whole lot of food for our money, but it’s fair to say that there is room for improvement here – in terms of the quality, the service and even the menu itself.
At times, we felt forgotten, with no staff in sight and problems with our order – yes, we were outside, but surely if you allow people to sit outside, you have to maintain a certain level of service. Freshness too, was an issue, and this feels like a very basic requirement – and then there were the downright odd additions to the menu. Despite the abundance of food, it wasn’t the luxurious experience I was expecting and that makes me question whether I would come again.
City Cafe, DoubleTree by Hilton, Granary Wharf, 2 Wharf Approach, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 4BR.