Last Saturday, we found ourselves in Kew and I dragged us over to Newens on Kew Road (just a short walk from the main entrance of Kew Gardens), keen to revisit this quaint little cafe after a long while. It really is quite an adorable little place; the building is only about 120 years old but the business was around for a little longer and then there are the Tudor origins of their most famous treats: maids of honour. The cafe is always packed at lunchtimes on the weekends (I’ve never visited on a weekday) with locals and tourists out west to visit the Gardens but it’s easy to nab a table after 2 or 3pm, just after the rush.
It’s impossible to visit a place like this and not have tea; we chose a pot of assam and then got to work choosing from the lovely treats on display.
After admiring the range of meat and vegetable pies in the display case, we opted for a slice of their chicken and ham pie. Our very patient waitress realised we were sharing and kindly gave us two smaller slices instead of the usual thick one. Big chunks of chicken and ham sit in a mosaic held together by a savoury jelly in a thick shortcrust pastry – a good start to this tea.
I was awed by the look of the sugar bun, a big choux puff filled with very lightly sweetened coffee cream and topped with coffee icing. I think I ate my cream quota for the year in my half of this bun and it was actually very very good that the cream was hardly sweetened at all. It had the right balance of sweet and creamy and puffiness – a good choice.
Finally, a maid of honour. Actually, make that two. These little sweet tarts are the bakery’s most famous product with even a plaque outside commemorating them. I may be incredibly wrong about this but they appear to have puff pastry bases, a layer of curd and then a final topping of cheese (that’s what the textures feel like). It’s easy to see the Tudor history (or at least influence) of these little treats in the combination of sweet and almost savoury (the cheese is reminiscent of cheddar); they are incredibly moreish and worth the trip there. Their fame is deserved!
I couldn’t help myself and also had two hot cross buns and a loaf of fruit cake packed up to take away. The hot cross buns were packed full of fruit (always a win in my book!) and excellent, though a little denser than what I’m used to. The fruit cake was much lighter than we expected and again packed full of fruit and topped with sliced almonds. And it was absolutely beautiful – one of the best fruity cakes (hard to compare it to a traditional fruitcake) I’ve had.
Everything (takeaway things included) came to a total of about £20. Service was fabulous – we were even thrilled to catch a glimpse of the current owner, John Newens, the 5th generation of Newens to run the place. Why didn’t I come back sooner?! I love this place! All their menus are available on their website but you’ll have to visit to see all their cakes.
Newens – The Original Maids of Honour
288 Kew Road
Surrey TW9 3DU