10. The Original Maids of Honour
Although we live in an age of cool cafés with sleek surfaces, minimal decor, and delicious but downplayed cake, there is still a place for the unchanged, unapologetically and charmingly chintzy tea room done with panache and very good cakes.
The Original Maids of Honour Cafe opposite Kew Gardens is one such place. Named after the historical local speciality - a small custardy, flaky pastry tart (£2.80, worth tasting even though they disappear in two or, at most, three bites) which dates back to King Henry VIII’s time - it is a marvellous cafe-cum-bakery which flaunts its olde worlde style with dark wooden furniture, swirling carpets, rose-patterned curtains, copper kettles, and plenty of knick-knacks.
Customers come here for the showy cakes and treats they might have read about in books starring Billy Bunter and William Brown, or perhaps dreamed of eating while on a strict diet. There are cream buns, cream slices, cream horns, éclairs, fruit tarts, meringues, and plenty of cakes by the slice (coffee and walnut, orange, lemon, chocolate, fruit), all of which are made on the premises and have a good, old-fashioned taste and solidity. The waitresses' black and white uniforms, and the indestructible, sturdy metal Kardomah/Lyon’s Corner House-style tea and coffee pots tell you that this place isn’t planning on change.
The customers are a mixed bunch of locals and tourists, young and old, and it’s all rather genteel and pleasant. It is deservedly popular at weekends when the very good value, ‘full English’ breakfasts are served. The only gripe is with the very steep mark-ups; the price difference on cakes and food sold in the bakery section and served in the cafe may make some visitors think twice before eating in. This is a shame, as there is nowhere else in Kew/Richmond with such character, history, and huge cream buns, but of course you can always take a big box of cakes home with you.
Cake: £2.80 - £3.95 (eat in)
Cup of tea: £2.00 (pot £3.20)
Coffee: £2.00 (pot £3.20)
Afternoon tea: from £6.95 per person for a Cream Tea
288 Kew Road
Tel: 0208 940 2752
Open: Mon to Fri 9 – 6, Sat and Sun 8.30 – 6
And a slice of culture: the cafe is opposite Kew Gardens. It is not far from Tikki, and is pretty close to London Welsh rugby ground in one direction and Kew Bridge Steam Museum in the other. Richmond, with its park, riverside, cinemas, theatre, and Virginia Woolf connections, is a short bus ride away.