I've known about the Orangery for years and years, and knew that I'd have to get over there for Afternoon Tea someday. You'd think I would have found a way to make time for such a visit, but there was always some reason or other for not being able to make it. I wouldn't say lack of funds - I specifically budget for tea breaks wherever I go. When you get down to it, though, I'd say that it was just too close to the Muffin Man, and while you can't go to both places in one day (you can't!), it's also not feasible to "do" Kensington twice in one trip.
Amazing what a little determination will do...
The Orangery is a separate building, but part of Kensington Palace; a tea room derived from a former orangery. I wish I knew where they got the name from...
For those of you who are into the Royal thing, Queen Victoria grew up in Kensington Palace, and Princess Diana lived there. The Orangery was designed for Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart monarchs. A very Queenly place - even Freddie Mercury worked a few blocks down from there! It made sense to go there directly after a morning in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
They were doing renovations in the palace, but in other sections of the edifice there was an Enchanted Palace attraction set up. I'm sure it was lovely. Personally, I thought the little pathways from the palace to the tea room had their own enchantments...
From the outside, my first thought was ORANGE...though I didn't exactly feel like I'd stumbled into Florida - even if the weather was still perfectly mild. Upon entering, we were simply drenched in white...everything's white...it's almost too pristine. It's a good thing there's no dress code, or it would be kind of intimidating. I mean, I enjoy dressing up for tea, and I wouldn't want to look sloppy or anything, but perfection has its limits in these situations.
Bonnie had the Signature Orange Tea, while I opted for the Enchanted Palace Tea. Looking back, I'd say Bonnie made the better choice. You get about the same amount of food, but the desserts are different. She had an eclair and a tart, and I had a shortbread and a rich chocolate cake. My choice was an extra three pounds, and the only real difference was my digestion crisis on the bus a half hour later. But that's the only negative I'm going to say about our experience. Contrasted with the tea at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which in terms of ambiance was the closest comparison, the Orangery actually leaves you satisfied. We managed to bop around a bit later on before actually feeling signs of hunger, whereas after the Met Tea we were ravenous before we left the museum. The staff were friendly - our waiter was from Togo; I don't think I'd ever met anyone from Togo before. The scones were delightful, the sandwiches plentiful, and the desserts were all just wonderful. No complaints about the Darjeeling, either.
I'd go back.
Blue skies! Still can't get over it.
Three months later, I'm almost done with my London 2010 coverage. I plan to include clips from the camcorder that died halfway through the trip, and The Orangery will definitely be featured.