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It is hard to think of anything more enjoyable on a warm summer’s day than walking through one of London’s great parks in anticipation of afternoon tea. In fact being peckish in the afternoon is nothing new. The whole thing started with the Duchess of Bedford in 1840’s. When visiting Belvoir Castle she became peckish between luncheon and supper and started a secret ceremony for her cohorts, which involved loose-leaf tea, scones and sandwiches. The rest, as they say is history.
And history plays quite a part in taking tea at The Orangery. Queen Anne’s 18th Baroque building graces the edge of Kensington Gardens and is quite resplendent. It may seem a contradiction but although enormous and fantastically grand as it is, in a way, it feels quite understated. The walls are pale grey, all the detailing, panelling, cornicing plays understudy to the space itself by not dominating the overall visual impression. It is gigantic inside, just the right type of room to take tea on a warm afternoon, the cool interior a perfect antidote to the stifling outdoors. Metal chairs sit around good sized square tables, which have room to breath throughout the stone floored room.
The menu is limited in that it offers a couple of versions of afternoon tea. Good, just what we wanted. I went for the full works ‘Royal Afternoon Tea’. A wide choice of teas is on offer we elected to drink Lady Grey. While waiting for our teapot I tasted a rather excellent glass of highly chilled Champagne that had been delivered by our superb waiter Fawzy. Fawzy is what can make or break this kind of experience he was attentive, super quick and charming. He made this experience a good one.
The tier of sandwiches looked enticing a selection of salmon, ham, egg and cress and my favourite, cucumber with mint. The mint really lifts this sandwich to a refreshing, cooling savoury. Well done The Orangery. The scones came in two flavours, fruit and orange scented. I couldn’t detect any orange scent in the plain ones but the fruit laden scones were fabulous. Fresh and light these came with jam and Cornish clotted cream.
The top tier beckoned and had a few little delights. The thin slices of Victoria sponge had to be the lightest I’ve ever tried, really delicious. A few little chocolate cakes and a stand out mini tart au citron complete the picture.
The charming Fawzy who smiled and poured whatever we asked for, whenever we asked for it without hesitation looked after us with genuine care. The whole experience was really very gratifying as well as refreshing. I think as least once during summer everyone should take afternoon tea as a remedy to life’s stresses and strains. At £32.50 a head or £22.65 without fizz it represents good value, not only for an insight to a slice of history but also a slice of that delightful Victoria sponge.