London is officially the most popular tourist destination in the world but with so much history packed into such a small area, some of the most beautiful buildings in the world and an action-packed cultural calendar it’s no great surprise. For a leisurely Sunday afternoon we headed to Kensington for a walk around the Spring-time gardens and a civilised late lunch in The Orangery restaurant. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, the Orangery is London’s only royal palace to serve afternoon tea so you can see the appeal to tourists.
New? One of London’s most iconic historical buildings, The Orangery at Kensington Palace was built for Queen Anne’s court entertainment in 1704 but now operates as a restaurant as well as being available for private events.
Where? Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens, Kensington, W8 4PX
On the menu: Concise selection of British breakfast and lunch classics, but most people go for afternoon tea – a huge choice of teas all served on iconic royal crockery. Lunch menu includes Sheperd’s pie, roast duck breast and pea and mint risotto and for breakfast; eggs royale, full English and freshly baked croissants.
First Impressions: You can’t fail to be wowed by the entrance, through Kensington Gardens, up the steps and through a huge doorway. Staff on the door were instantly welcoming and led us to our table, facing the window and surrounded by relaxed groups having afternoon tea. A huge vase of fresh red flowers sat on the bar by the door, by a florist with the royal seal of approval.
The Look: High ceilings and traditional features help you imagine the building when it was used for courting. Fresh white paint makes the space airy and an easily customisable backdrop for high-end weddings and parties.
What We Ate: I had beetroot salad with feta and walnuts to start and actually it was such a huge portion, it would’ve been fine for a main. Rolls of grilled aubergine stuffed with peppers were an imaginative addition but once they were gone it was really just a pile of leaves. My guest went retro with prawn cocktail – a generous mound of prawns with classic marie rose sauce in an individual glass. For main; pan fried red snapper with samphire, baby clams and new potatoes in a lemon butter sauce. The fish was a bit overcooked, as was the samphire – it seemed as if it had been kept warm for a while but since we didn’t spend particularly long on our starters I think it may’ve just been slightly bad timing. Although I wouldn’t mind having it again it confirmed to us that the main draw to dining here is for afternoon tea. Egg and cress mayonnaise, Coronation chicken and cucumber and mint sandwiches make up the traditional tea along with scones and clotted cream, pastries and the full range of loose teas, tisanes (herbal teas) and coffee.
What We Drank: Although they took our drinks order fairly swiftly, it took a long time for any drinks to be brought over so we had to chase glasses of water. After a little wait it was Sauvignon Blanc for me and Pinot Grigio for my guest, although had we not been having lunch we would’ve sampled the teas! A Royal London Blend, Palace Breakfast and Afternoon at the Palace all contribute to the black teas menu, with imaginative herbal teas including eucalyptus zest.
Go With: I took my mother, the week after Mother’s Day. There were all types of people; mainly families of tourists but also girly groups and older couples.
Final Word: A great place for afternoon tea after a walk around the gardens, especially now the weather is getting warmer.