Review of Afternoon Tea at The Original Maids of Honour

The Maids of Honour tearoom and bakery is on the main Kew Road, a short distance from the Victoria Gate entrance to Kew Gardens. It’s a short walk from Kew Gardens tube station and there is a bus stop almost outside, with buses running from Richmond station.

maids externalThe tearoom is in a building dating from 1850 built for baker Alfred Newens, who was continuing the business originally set up by his father in Richmond. The famous tarts were supposedly named after Anne Boleyn’s maidservants, who loved the delicious treats. When Henry VIII came on the scene, he wanted the recipe for himself and forbade anyone else to make them. Over the years, the secret recipe for the Maids of Honour tarts must have been leaked, as now it is in the possession of the bakery and has been in the family for years. The building was badly bombed during the war, reducing it to a pile of rubble. But the Newens family rallied round and soon after the war, were back in business.

The tearoom: Leading off from the retail area, the cosy tearoom with open fireplace has mullioned windows, patterned carpet, wooden plate racks circling the walls, round wooden tables and traditional ladder-back chairs. Waitresses wear smart short sleeve black dresses with white cuffs. No music is played at all; it’s blissfully peaceful.

The tea: A reasonable selection of good quality Drury tea is served. There are herbal tea and decaffeinated black tea options, as well as coffee.

The food: The food is the highlight here, especially the baked goods, made on the premises. My high tea was served on a three-tier rack

Price: Afternoon High Tea is £15 per head.

Other options: Champagne afternoon tea is £60 for two (1/2 bottle); £87 for three and £100 for four people (full bottle).

Dietary requests: With 24-hour notice, gluten-free and dairy-free diets can be catered for.

Times: 2.45pm to 6pm seven days a week

MaidsThe detail: High Tea consists of five quarters of assorted sandwiches, a pot of tea, two scones – sultana or plain – with jam and clotted cream and a choice of pastry from the sweet counter. I chose the Maids of Honour that I’ve not tried before.

My tea was served on a rack. Hardly anyone has this tea on their own, so my single Billy-No-Mates tea picture looks a bit bare. Teapots are stainless steel with willow pattern plate china. I’m vegetarian and was served cucumber and cheddar cheese. Other options would normally be smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise and ham. I found the sandwiches a bit ordinary.* The tea (Earl Grey) was fine. I was asked frequently if I wanted more hot water. My plain scone was dusted with icing sugar, which I always find unnecessary. It was served with excellent strawberry preserve and quality clotted cream. These were both served in small china pots with rounds of greaseproof on top with the company logo. The scone was lovely and obviously freshly baked. The highlight of course was the Maid of Honour that I had left until last. It’s similar to those Portuguese tarts, with the same melt in the mouth effect. Service was friendly, if a bit slow. I didn’t mind, as afternoon tea should never be rushed. I’d definitely come back here. It was by far the best value afternoon tea I tested.

It’s impossible to leave without buying something from the shop, crammed with delicious fresh baked goodies. It had to be the Maids of Honour tarts, of course.

*I spoke with Kimberly who has been running the business with her partner Dean since 2010. They have inherited a number of loyal, regular customers, who are not keen on change. Kimberly knows the sandwiches are ‘plain’ but that’s how her customers like them. However, she has plans for additional options soon, she told me, with a twinkle in her eye.

More info about The Original Maids of Honour.