Browns v Gonville – A tale of two Afternoon Teas

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am always on the look out for the best value traditional Afternoon Tea in Cambridge and beyond. On this quest over the last 13 months I have experienced the good, the bad, and the indifferent! In the last couple of weeks I’ve sampled Afternoon Tea with friends at Browns Brasserie, and at The Gonville Hotel (both in Cambridge). I have to say that neither lived up to my expectations, so I am going to review them critically, but both Afternoon Teas had some good points and saving graces too.

The Afternoon Tea at Browns was £12 per person

Browns Traditional Afternoon Tea is available from 2.30 to 5pm daily

£12 per person (minimum two people)

Note: Booking may be required for parties of 8 or more during busy periods 

We ate finger sandwiches with fillings of smoked salmon, cream cheese and chives, and egg mayonnaise. To follow we enjoyed home baked cheese and fruit scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, and a selection of mini desserts and cakes, including salted caramel profiteroles, red velvet cake, white chocolate pot and lemon tart.  A choice of teas or coffee was available.

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Afternoon Tea was served on a stylish contemporary 3 tier cake stand which I admired

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The presentation was colourful and rather splendid, and the fresh blackberries and mint garnish were an unusual touch

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The top tier consisted of cheese and fruit mini-scones, which were warm and freshly baked

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The second tier comprised of a vibrant selection of cakes and mini-desserts

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Unfortunately there weren’t enough finger sandwiches, – just three each with sparse fillings

Afternoon Tea at The Gonville Hotel was £28.50 for two people

The Gonville Afternoon Tea for Two was £28.50 (available at £14.50 for one)

Served from 2.30-5pm daily

This Afternoon Tea included a bottle of still or sparkling water, and a choice of teas or coffee with free replenishment. Finger sandwiches with a choice of fillings, fruit or plain scones served with strawberry jam and Cornish clotted cream, and a selection of mini-cakes completed the spread.

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We loved the colours, style and furnishings at The Gonville
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Granny Apples says ‘Shall I be Mum?”
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The Gonville Afternoon Tea was attractively presented on the traditional three tiered cake stand
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The fruit scones were baked crisp and ate like a biscuit, and accompanied by pots of jam and clotted cream which were rather oddly dressed with cress, as were the mini cakes
gonville 2 (3)
We had four finger sandwiches each which were generously filled with egg and cress, ham and mustard, and smoked salmon and cream cheese


Browns – the good points…..

We were invited to sit where we liked, and we were offered a jug of water when we were seated at the table. The napkins were linen, and I admired the stylish modern cake stand and the presentation of the Afternoon Tea. A choice of teas or a pot of coffee was available. The scones were warm, light and freshly baked. I thought that the addition of fresh blackberries to the white chocolate pot dessert was inspired, and the mint garnish was a lovely touch.

And the not so good points were…..

The tea was served in basic white earthenware crockery. The sandwiches did not seem freshly made, there weren’t enough of them, and the fillings were sparse. No butter was offered to accompany the cheese scone, and we had to share the pot of jam and cream. We found the lemon tart too sharp and the white chocolate dessert too rich for our taste.

My conclusion – at £12 a head Browns Afternoon Tea is reasonable value and it’s a lovely, elegant setting with efficient service.

The Gonville – the good points….

We were delighted to be offered a complimentary bottle of still or sparkling water on arrival, which was served ice cold. The tea was served (as it should be) in china crockery. The napkins were starched white linen, and the cutlery was silver. A choice of teas or a pot of coffee was available. We were offered another bottle of water and a fresh pot of tea at no additional charge, which is always most welcome. There was a choice of sandwich fillings, and a choice of plain or fruit scones. The sandwiches were freshly made and generous with delicious fillings. Our Afternoon Tea was served in the opulent but contemporary bar and lounge area, the service was exceptional, and we felt valued and looked after.

And the not so good points….

The top two tiers of the cake stand contained the scones and cakes and surprisingly both were ‘dressed’ with wilting cress. I had to pick a whole bunch of cress out of the jam pot! Again there was only one pot of jam and cream to share between us. We chose fruit scones, but these were either not freshly baked and reheated or just overcooked, but they were dry and too hard to eat, with the texture of a biscuit.

My conclusion is that at £28.50 for two the experience, service, and setting were all excellent, but The Gonville Afternoon Tea was let down by the poor quality scones and the wilted cress garnish.

Browns Brasserie is located at 23 Trumpington St, Cambridge CB2 1QA   Phone:01223 461655

The Gonville Hotel is located at Gonville Place, Cambridge CB1 1LY   Phone:01223 366611





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