Once upon a time, about twenty-odd years ago, I used to pick my children up from school and for an occasional treat we would drive to Kew and have tea in The Original Maids of Honour tea rooms. Since I began the blog – nearly 7 years ago – we have been saying that ‘we must go back to The Maids of Honour’ for tea sometime. I’m not sure why it’s taken so long; we all regularly go to Kew Gardens just down the road from the tea rooms. It took a birthday. Nicola and Rachael were coming down from Worcestershire for the weekend to celebrate my birthday and amongst the discussion of ‘what we could do’, Nicola said she’d like to go for a walk in Kew Gardens and why didn’t we have tea at The Maids of Honour afterwards. Thus the plan was set.
The Maids of Honour is very traditionally British when it comes to tea. I hadn’t been there for about 20 years but it looked just the same. The same furniture; the same pink walls; the waiting staff dressed in traditional black and white dress. It boasts a wonderful history for it is said that the little Maids of Honour tarts – a speciality here – were loved by Henry VIII. Apparently he discovered these tarts when he met Anne Boleyn and the Maids of Honour attending the Queen were eating the tarts off a silver plate. He loved the melt-in-the-mouth sensation of eating them and – the story goes! – demanded the recipe which was then kept in a locked iron box at Richmond Palace. The recipe is still a secret!
It was a beautiful sunny day and after working up an appetite walking round Kew Gardens, we walked along Kew Road to the tea rooms. We were quite early for tea; lunch was just finishing but a friendly waiter told us they served tea anytime. We were shown to a table by a window and the menu brought.
There are a number of choices of set teas including High Tea (£15 per person), Savoury High Tea (£17pp), Champagne High Tea (variable according to number – from £50 for 1 to £110 for 4). We settled on High Tea:
Pot of Tea or filter coffee
Traditional Tea Sandwiches (5 quarters)
Two Scones Plain or Fruit
Clotted Cream (or English Butter) & Preserve
Your choice from Today’s Patisserie or Maids of Honour Tart
It was all beautifully presented on a stand; the little Maids of Honour tarts, which are always served warm from the oven, on a silver plate (just as Henry VIII enjoyed them). We all decided we had to have these as our cake choice. We asked about the sandwich fillings and our friendly waiter offered to swap ham for another non-meat choice.
The tea came first: a pot each and traditional Willow Pattern china. The little sandwiches were delicious. The crusts cut off, traditional style. There was smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise, cheese and – of course! – cucumber sandwiches. They tasted freshly made and we enjoyed them a lot.
Next we tucked into our scones. Two had sounded a lot but they were quite small; not as small as ‘bite sized’ but a perfect size – as Goldilocks might have said. There was a generous helping of clotted cream and jam. They were good scones: light and fluffy.
Then the Maids of Honour. We’d long been debating whether they were like Pasteis di Nata for they look similar.
The custard was in some flaky and very light pastry. The ‘custard’ isn’t as creamy as Pasteis di Nata and has a slight cheesy – cheesecake – flavour. They were served warm and were very tasty and delicious.
It was a lovely tea; eaten slowly at leisure, just as a traditional tea should be. The staff were so friendly and helpful too, which always makes a big difference to one’s enjoyment. It was a great way to spend the afternoon and a nice treat. On the way out we stopped to look at the bakery-shop at the front.
Rachael bought a few things to take back for her parents.
Meanwhile, as a local, I really mustn’t wait another 20 years to go back!
7 thoughts on “The Original Maids of Honour”
I’ve only been once – and it was delightful, back in 2014 when I went to visit my Uncle James who lived not too far away. In fact, I think it was YOU who told me all about it and that’s why I went. Thank you so much Kay!
It’s stuck in a bit of a time warp but wonderful for it. A true English tea room! I’m glad you got there and enjoyed 🙂
Just saw identical tarts in the Portuguese shop in Chalon-sur-Saone – Anne Boleyn may have had Portuguese relatives perhaps or maybe one of the maids hailed from there?.
Isn’t it a shame that there is no longer any space in modern life for a proper tea-time? I love old fashioned sandwiches particularly cucumber, but also egg and cress and marmite and watercress. Followed by scones, strawberry jam and clotted cream and then maybe a slice of Victoria sponge or Dundee cake with proper tea poured from a proper pot. How did we manage all that – I don’t remember? So a lovely blog, Kay, full of sweet nostalgia for a time long passed.
Long may Newens remain.
Thank you, Di! I’m pleased you enjoyed the post. I wasn’t sure when I read about Anne Boleyn (on the tea room website) if Henry tasted the tarts when she was queen or a maid to Queen Katherine (which is when he ‘discovered’ her), who of course came from Aragon in Spain, so there could perhaps be a connection to Portugal there?? I enjoyed the little tarts but do perhaps prefer the Portuguese variety that have a deeper custard filling, though the ‘cheese’ touch of the Maids was nice too.
Thank you for posting this which I have been waiting for! I must go back to Kew to try their Maids of Honour!!
There’s nowhere better for the traditional English tea experience. It’s a bit like going back in time 🙂 I don’t think their scones are the best but they’re good.