Saturday, 18 June 2011

Newens Maids of Honour Tea Rooms, Kew Gardens

Whenever I come across an old fashioned, attractive tea shop with reasonable prices, pleasant ambience, mature staff and genuinely home made food, I always feel a bit worried that they are just about to change. It does happen, often. I suppose the old ladies who run such tea shops die off, or perhaps they hand the tea-shop on to a younger, brasher generation. 

When the teashop is associated with a well known delicacy, there is a third risk - that it will become a tourist trap, charging crazy prices for the special bun or pastry, and not bothering about the rest of the food.  

Well, so far none of these criticisms applies to Newens Original Maids of Honour Tea Shop on the far Southwestern outskirts of London. This interesting and very traditional English tea-shop stands just outside one of the main gates of the magnificent Royal Botanic Gardens - Kew Gardens - and is a short walk from Kew railway station.  It does lunches, teas and high teas, and it bakes bread and pastries on the premises. 

You enter through the shop, which sells pies, filled rolls, etc. to take away, as well as excellent traditionally baked loaves (you may just be able to see them in the background on a shelf beneath those pink lights).

The restaurant is all little oak tables and windsor chairs, with cottage ornaments.  It does proper sit-down cooked lunches with vegetables or salads and all the trimmings, and, not surprisingly, seems to have a number of "regulars" who eat there frequently.   We arrived rather late but were still in time to get some home made soup and very fresh salad, which we ate while looking out at a little garden.  
What makes Newens special is that It sells the original Maids of Honour pastries, as supplied to King Henry VIII.   The maids of honour business has been going for at least a couple of hundred years, and Newens has been going since 1887. It has  been about 80 years in the current premises.

Below is a picture of the facade you see when you are standing outside in Kew Road.  Students of architecture may spot that this is an early 19th century building with the tiled bays added around the 1920s.   The car dates from the 1930s and is still used for deliveries.

I don't often pass that way, so it was strange to go there again last week. I  must have been in my teens the last time. I remembered how divine the pastries were.  They are are still wonderful, although these days I do wonder if they are ... well ... entirely good for you. Something about the sinful feeling of that melt in the mouth middle bit ... hmmm......   

I was curious about what exactly IS in those tarts. So when I got home, I went to my very ancient copy of "Mrs. Beeton" which is over 100 years old.  Unlike the later, modernised editions, it can be relied upon to have recipes for most traditional English dishes, among other things. 

I thought some of you might like to try the recipe Mrs. Beeton gave in my book.   It's not that hard to follow, although since the recipes assume you are cooking on a coal range, you do need to know roughly what you set your oven at to be "moderate". As for "tartlet moulds" - who knows?  Newens' tarts were about 4 inches across, but I'd think muffin moulds would do. I cheated and made one big tart which I cut into slices. 
Although my tart was very good it wasn't as good the ones at Newens - perhaps it's lacking some secret ingredient which is what so entranced Henry VIII.    


Puff pastry
4 ounces (oz) Castor sugar
2 oz Jordan Almonds
Half an ounce of fine plain flour.
2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons of cream
1 tablespoon of orange-flower water.

Blanch and dry the almonds and pound them in a mortar with the sugar until they are fine. Add the egg yolks one at a time, and mix in the flour, cream and orange flower water. Line 8 or 9 small tartlet moulds with paste, fill them with the mixture, and bake in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes.


  1. I love seeing pictures of London and tea shops!

  2. YUM! If you cycled there, you definitely deserve one.

  3. The Mr and I both love English tearooms, like you, we often find the most interesting ones are over-priced, touristy usually. Still nice though.

    We'll keep this one in mind, neither of us can recall if we've been to Kew Gardens.

  4. Scrummy - I love almondy things so I am sure to like these. Something me and Henry VIII have in common, obviously!

  5. Sounds good, especially with almonds and orange flower water as ingredients. xo

  6. Having tea is very British. Tea with moreish pies or tarts for reasonable price, a lovely little garden in front, early 19th traditional architecture at perfect location.... where else could be perfect place for tea other than this? Oak tables and Windsor chairs would be lovely. If I could have chance to visit Britain, I won’t miss it together with Kew Gardens. Thank you, jennie wolf.

  7. Thanks for stopping and commenting at my place. Love your blog and am now your newest follower.

  8. Yes, they are worth the trouble of making if you're not handy for Kew and Richmond. @stardust: I certainly hope you get the chance to visit Kew and eat a maid of Honour tart one day! @Jill. Thank you, and welcome! @Monica - Kew is not to be missed, it's amazing! but choose a nice day because it's HUUUGE and despite all the glasshouses it's still better not to be stuck there in the rain

  9. I believe that "Jordan almonds" is an old fashioned name for almonds in their skins


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