“Qu’ils Mangent de la Brioche!” or perhaps, “Let them eat their tea cakes!”, as Anne Boleyn actually mouthed before she was given ‘Le Chop’. The “eating brioche’ part was actually said by someone else and mistakenly attributed to Anne Boleyn. You read it here first, through lots of dubious research, I have uncovered a famous quote lost to history just until now*.
As fascinatingly brutal as that era was, we can be grateful that Henry VIII’s and Anne Boleyn’s brief pairing gave birth to this delicious tea cake called a ‘Maid of Honour’. The best place, according to marketing hype, to eat this is at Newens at Kew Gardens in Richmond, London.
According to folklore, Henry VIII first met Anne Boleyn when she was a Maid of Honour. This historical event took place at his Richmond Palace, and he fell in love with her eating this dainty little pastry. Love never tasted so sweet, and if this story has a romantic ring of regality to it, there is also a dark story attached, if you believe the myth (As printed on Newen’s website). However, it would not be surprising if this story was true, considering Henry VIII’s reputation.
Now Henry VIII’s key achievements were plenty, not excluding breaking away from the Catholic Church, beheading 2 of his wives, of which one had a younger sister who was his mistress prior and executing tens of thousands of people (72,000+ according to a less than trustable internet source*). His daughter, Queen Mary 1, is credited with burning around 300 Protestants to their deaths and thus, earning the nickname, ‘Bloody Mary’, to whom bar-goers and bartenders around the world pay homage to with a shake of the jigger*. Back to the dark story……
King Henry VIII was so enamoured by Anne Boleyn and these tea cakes (He died a disgustingly obese man with a 60″ waistline), that he named them the ‘Maids of Honour’ and had the recipes AND the maid who invented them, locked up at Richmond Palace. This creation was to be only created for himself and the royal family, presumably to be munched on whilst lounging in his backyard jacuzzi.
In a case of royal espionage almost on par with the British stealing tea secrets from the Chinese, this recipe was leaked to a Bakery at which the founder of Newens was an apprentice. A century or so later, bada bing bada boom, we have Newen’s Maids of Honours, touting themselves to be making ‘em from the original recipe. Fantastic!
Dusted with icing sugar and baked in a hot oven, I have to say that these little tea cakes are absolutely scrumptious, if a tad too sweet. The buttery pastry and creamy curd custard so waist expandingly good, it makes you wonder how British food got its bad reputation.
This being England, and it being tea time, it is only fitting that an order of scones with raisins should grace our table. I can never ever get bored of English clotted cream, jam and scones, NEVER. The only sad thing is that we were served bottled jam, not a house-made one, which would have made all the difference. This was good nonetheless, but not overwhelmingly so.
In the end, everyone should plan a day out to Kew Gardens for their magnificent foliage and make a short trip to Newens for lunch or tea. I’ve been told that their chicken pie is particularly delicious. Newens is definitely a destination place for any foodie who finds themselves in London for if I had a Newens here, I’d defo be a regular!
Nearest Tube/Train Station: Kew Gardens
Directions from Station: Cross the bridge over the station, follow the directions to Kew Gardens. At the T-junction with Kew Gardens in front of you turn right and keep walking about 5 minutes. You will pass Newens on the right.
*If the journalists of today can make up facts and figures and take sides to sensationalize news, so can I in fabricating stories.