High Tea at The Original Maids of Honor

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During my holiday trip to London I fulfilled a long held desire to take a genuine high tea. My English friends obliged with an invitation to one of the most genuine tea rooms: The Original Maids of Honor at the edge of London in Kew Gardens. I was told to skip lunch. I ended up skipping dinner as well. We arrived at 3:30 and managed to squeeze through a long line of waiting customers. You can book a table only if you’re ordering the complete high tea, so we felt like royalty going to the head of the queue. When the multi-level tray arrived I felt as if I’d entered an episode of Downton Abbey. A variety of delicate crustless sandwiches occupied the bottom tray, filled with smoked salmon, cucumber, egg salad and ham and cheese. The second tray featured a selection of scones as light as air and tubs of cream as thick as butter. Finally, we arrived at the sweet pastries on top, including the original Maids of Honor, a custardy confection which, legend has it, was served when Henry VIII met Ann Boleyn. He liked it so much he confiscated the recipe and kept it locked in an iron box at Richmond Palace. If he hadn’t fallen for the pastry, perhaps he wouldn’t have fallen for Ann and, who knows, the English Reformation might never have occurred.

We stumbled out of The Original Maids of Honor in a state of high tea induced intoxication. Unfortunately our chauffeur was not waiting demurely at the curb to take us to Downton. Oh well. At least the show has started up again, so we’ll get our vicarious fix of English nostalgia for the next few months on Masterpiece Theater.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to duplicate those lighter than air scones in my own kitchen. If I manage it I’ll be sure to post the recipe.

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