Hilton London Cinnamon Restaurant
Canary Wharf, South Quay, Marsh Wall, London E14 9SH
Afternoon tea £19.00*
Served 12:00 – 16:00 Monday to Friday
Served 13:00 – 16:00 Saturday & Sunday
Happy Sunday folks! My report today comes from the mini Mahattan that is Canary Wharf, the glass and steel and metal metropolis of bankers, journalists and others who turn up as the lead story on the news for doing something dubious. I don’t get on with Canary Wharf. Essentially it is a large Meccano set which shows no signs of ever being completed, or to recycle an observation from Karl Pilkington “a massive game of Jenga that has got out of hand.” This remark may not have been directed at Canary Wharf but it still possesses all the architectural merit of a Ikea bookcase being thrown into a skip. It improves at night. Taking the Emirates cable car from Royal Victoria to North Greenwich after dark shows these glittering edifices to their best advantage, and is even better for the fact that you are looking across at it as opposed to walking around it, which makes me feel like Emmet going to work in Bricksburg in The Lego Movie.
But everything here is not awesome. Things are average at best, and so we come to afternoon tea at the Cinnamon Restaurant, Hilton London. Now it should be noted that I wasn’t in the best mood to begin with. I was wearing shoes that were rubbing my heels, I got lost when the Sat Nav on my phone mistook my for Jesus and plotted me as standing in the middle of the Thames, I was boiling hot and I couldn’t get through to the hotel to tell them I might be late and not to give away my table (unlikely as both guests and staff could have all gone home in the same G-Wiz). Already on the back foot, I was looking forward to being overwhelmed with gorgeous food created with the upmost care and attention. After all, its The Hilton! They’re a world-beating brand synonymous with style and quality, right?
Then I remembered ‘Hilton’ is often proceeded by ‘Paris’, and it went steadily downhill from there.
Now, techically there is nothing wrong with this tea. The restaurant itself is bright and clean with bland mood music playing in the background that no one listens to or is even vaguely entertained by. The layout offers stunning views of the D8 bus stop and the underside of the DLR track. The staff are friendly (when you can find them) and accomodated my request for no egg mayonnaise to be served, showing they are happy to tailor the tea to fit with customers preferences. There is free Wi-Fi which the hostess happily supplied the log-in details for, my pot of Twinnings Green tea was on the table within two minutes of me placing my order (though milk was served with it, suggesting they might not know much about the tea experience they are selling) and the tableware was spotless. Then came the food, which was uninspiring to say the least.
To say the sandwiches are underwhelming is a understatement. A collection of ham & cheese, salmon and… er, strawberry jam and cheese (I tasted cranberries and thought a cheese slice had been mistakenly added instead of turkey, but no, this was the taste explosion they were going for), the bread was dry, the cheese had a distinct Kraft texture to it (i.e. plastic with no flavour) and the latter combination of jam and cheese made me feel slightly queasy. I don’t know if this was made last minute to substitue for the egg I didn’t want, but there is both a Subway and a Tesco right next door. If you have run out of ingredients just pop in there, buy a BLT and cut it into quarter’s. I’m not that fussy. Don’t make something a mother wouldn’t put in a toddlers lunch box and think you’re providing a gastronomic treat. You’re not Heston Blumenthal, and to be honest I’d rather eat calf brain custard. At least some thought went into that.
The large fruit scone is served warm with strawberry perserve and cream, a use for jam that actually does work and doesn’t stick out like a nun in a brothel. It’s nice and filling, and after the tasteless savories is much appreciated, but it is still all very by-the-numbers and dull.
Then comes the desserts. Many years ago I wrote a not-particularly glowing review of Mason Blanc, Chiswick (now defunct. I hope my review didn’t contribute to its downfall, though given the food I’m not altogether surprised). In it I complained about the slapdash nature of the tea, saying that their collection of sweet treats were simply small chunks of cake cut off a larger cake with a blunt knife and a lack of imagination. To me this was a cheap way of filling a plate and showed that no special thought or effort had gone into making the tea special. The Cinnamon Restaurant tea is yet another example of lazy catering, only here the chunks of cake have shrunk into slivers.
Comprising of poppy seed cake, almond slices, chocolate walnut brownies and fruit cake, they are all quite nice but very, very ordinary. There is no great display of colour or creativity. It is workman-like and basic and ultimately quite boring. However, the panacotta with summer berry compote is a delight and definitely the highlight of this very disappointing experience, made all the worse by the hostess telling me that I can’t take any of the remaining cakes home as they have no boxes or bags to put them in. Again, this shows a complete lack of thought or planning, and fills me with the determination to sit here stubbornly demanding extra water for my tea as they set up every other table except mine for the dinner service. I will finish what I paid for whilst enjoying the view of the Crossharbour buses passing by. Looking out for them has been far more interesting than looking at this tea.
Verdict: In the dictionary under ho-hum there is a picture of this tea. Bland and utterly forgettable. 2/5 teacups (half of that score is purely for the panacotta)
*Prices correct as of 12.05.19
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