The Sconnoisseur Strikes

MAYA HAMBRO checks out Bill’s, Fitzbillies and Harriet’s to find the best scones in Cambridge.

bill's clotted cream cream Fitzbillies hambto harriets jam maya maya hambro scones tea

The title of sconnoisseur (a connoisseur of scones) is not one I take lightly.

Thus, when entrusted by the Tab to try and find the best scones in Cambridge, I approached the task with gusto. (Because, let’s be honest, I’m all about getting to eat at nice places for free!)  Scones are, I think, a pretty key part of the Cambridge experience: at one time or another you’re going to have your parents/grandparents/godparents/friends(?) down, and they’re likely going to ask you if you know a nice place for tea. This is where I come in. I decided to try the three key teahouses in town and judge which of those has the best scones. My chosen haunts: Bill’s, Fitzbillies and Harriet’s.

Bills

image (1)

All scone.

My first stop was Bill’s: a favourite amongst Cantabs for nice meals out on those token parental visits. My friend and I were quickly seated and presented with our scones, (2, fairly small ones) which had a lovely brown top and (extra points for this) were served warm. Accompanied by a smallish pot of clotted cream and strawberry jam (which was unfortunately sweet and cloying) we monopolised on Bill’s extra jams, which are free and include a delightfully tangy lemon curd and a spicy rhubarb and ginger. The scones themselves were delicious: well flavoured, with a good spread of sultanas and a texture perfectly set between cake and bread. This was a strong start and left a lot for Fitzbillies and Harriet’s to live up to.

Scones: 4/5

Fitzbillies

Jammin

Jammin

Fitzbillies was next. My friend’s delay meant I got some dirty looks from the waiter for taking up a whole table, followed by a look of confusion once I brought out my pad of paper and began taking notes (some would say I took this article a tad too seriously.) When he arrived we ordered the requisite scones, which were pleasing to the eye: quite large with a nice colour and lots of fruit. However we were quickly left disappointed. The scone was served cold, and was quite dry; one might almost go as far as to say stale. The jam however was a step up from Bill’s, but not good enough to make up for the poor quality scone.  All in all we were left with the distinct feeling that when it comes to cakes, at Fitzbillies you’re best off sticking to a Chelsea bun.

Scones: 2/5 

Harriet’s

Didn't go dough-eyed over these

Didn’t go dough-eyed over these

I finally completed my marathon of scone eating at Harriet’s. Although a fairly new institution in the Cambridge tea scene, my companion and I considered that a promising start; given the lack of variety in Cambridge restaurants, a new opening is almost always cause for some sort of celebration. The tearoom itself looks as though it’s been decorated by my 65 year old aunt, and the scones we unfortunately equally disappointing. Once again served cold they were very unpleasant and would no doubt have elicited a scathing response from Mary Berry, being under-baked in the centre, leaving a nasty doughy texture not even bettered by the addition of a thick layer of cream and jam.  Add to that the confusion of the waitress meaning we got charged for 3 extra teas, it seems fair to say my first venture into Harriet’s was not successful.

Scones: 2/5

It would appear then that Bill’s is indeed the place to go if you’re looking to get your teatime fix. However if spending a fiver on a scone isn’t for you I do suggest trying the Sainsbury’s scones.

Mamma Sains knows best

Mamma Sains knows best

At £1 you can’t go far wrong and they can be heated up in the toaster before being spread with copious amounts of whatever takes your fancy. Upon offering to a discerning audience of taste-testers (my housemates) I can only say that their almost instant disappearance from the kitchen is likely a good thing.