Only moments away from Kew Botanical Gardens, The Original Maids of Honour has been an extremely popular attraction for decades. As the legend goes, everything started with the cakes – called maids of honour – after which the bakery is named.
One day, Henry VIII tasted the cakes that Anne Boleyn was having and enjoyed them so much that he ‘confiscated’ the recipe and decided to keep it hidden in an iron box inside Richmond Palace. Only years later, in the beginning of the 18th century, Robert Newens – who was an apprentice at the first Original Maids of Honour shop on Hill Street – found the recipe and decided to open his own shop to make and sell the Maids of Honour cakes.
Today’s shop has been rebuilt after the WWII bombing and now belongs to another owner but nothing else has really changed. The shop front has been the same since the reconstruction and the interiors are characterised by quirky features, English china, and old pictures. The main room is cosy and warm and it’s made even more welcoming by a fireplace. Thanks to the 1930s Austin van parked right outside the shop front, customers know – even before stepping inside – that they are about to step back in time.
Apart from the signature Maids of Honour cakes, the menu offers a variety of homemade cakes and pastries as well as savoury options and cream teas. Their plain scones are probably one of the best ones you will ever taste – deliciously soft and sweet, but the list of amazing cakes is almost endless.
It’s a real pity that, at times, the great atmosphere is spoiled by the not-overly-friendly service. The all-female staff is – with almost no exception – not a big fan of smiles and small talk. Things get even worse during the busiest times, customers have to wait quite a long time to get the staff’s attention and to be served. But don’t let this put you off, the venue is worth at least a visit and the pastries will immediately bring your smile back.