The last couple of weeks have been pretty hectic at work, so we decided to treat ourselves to something special this weekend. The treat we picked was afternoon tea at Hillman’s Tea Room on Wood Street. Neither of us had been to Hillman’s before, but we had both heard very good things about it so it seemed like the perfect place to spend a Saturday afternoon. The tea room is housed in the Georgian Village, a small collection of shops and pop up market stalls at 100 Wood Street. I would describe the Georgian Village as a 1970’s re-imagining of the Shambles in York, a narrow alley way lined with doors that open up into even narrower shops. The doorway that leads to Hillman’s is as normal as a door can get, a small sign hanging outside informs visitors that afternoon tea is served daily. The outside of the tea room, and its ordinary wooden door give no indication of the splendour that is found within.
The shop is divided in to two rooms, and is real feast for the eyes. Tables draped in embroidered table cloths and set with the finest bone china. Chandeliers hang from the ceiling, shelves groan under the weight of giant china tea pots, and a small black and white TV silently plays old movies in the back room. If you had to draw a picture of what a tea room should look like, that picture would look like Hillman’s. It evoked memories of being in Scarborough, visiting tea rooms with my gran that had been lovingly cared for by the same owner for years. Jason, the owner of Hillman’s, greeted us when we walked in and showed us to our perfectly laid table. Jason seems to fit the tea room, he is immaculately turned out with polished shoes and equally polished manners. I’m trying not to be too gushing, but good service is sometimes hard to find, thankfully it’s safe to say that’s not the case in this little shop.
We took our seats, picked our loose leaf tea and watched as Jason and his assistant, Alice, set to work creating our afternoon tea. They took down a tiered cake stand from the shelf and started loading it with food. Sandwiches lined the bottom, a collection of cakes on the middle tier and scones sat on the top. All three of us struggled to resist the urge to drool as we watched the cake stand fill up. Actually I don’t think the dog resisted the urge at all, he sat rooted to the spot watching every move, willing a cake to fall to the floor. Sadly for him, all he got was a bowl of water, but it was a china bowl so he got to enjoy the tea room experience as well. Before long a serving trolley was bought over and the cake stand and teapots placed on top, it was truly a site to behold. The afternoon tea costs £16.00 per person, and is worth every single penny.
The sandwiches included cucumber, egg and cress and smoked salmon and we started with those first. We then worked our way through the cakes, filling our plates with slices of battenberg, chocolate cake and raspberry tart. Sipping tea from the small china cups as we ate, we finished with the scones, the cream and jam served in two small china cups. The music of times gone by filled the tea room, the voice of Vera Lyn singing about the white cliffs of Dover, and a gentle version of roll out the barrel were amongst the songs we heard whilst enjoying our food. Jason topped up our tea pots with hot water, and we lost our selves in the atmosphere of the tea room. Hillman’s is almost magical, a tiny two room shop full of china and china cabinets that transports customers to another era. It’s lovely, that’s the word I would use to describe it, simply lovely.
We eventually extracted our selves from the magical world of Hillman’s, left the cliff top tea room of my childhood, walked back up the narrow alley of the Georgian Village and returned to modern day Walthamstow. Our visit was as much a treat for the soul as it was a treat for the stomach, and we very much look to returning again soon. To find out more about Hillman’s, check their web site.