This is a very memorable meal from the past, waaaay back in 2009, when I was living around 30mins walk away from St John Bread and Wine in London. However, this is at the main, St John restaurant, where we tucked ourselves into one of the most memorable meals of my life.
The simple surroundings, bare, white walls with simple wooden chairs and tables, spoke volumes on how St John went about its food. Its unfussy, but downright brilliant in its simplicity. Not many chefs or restaurants in the world can make the kind of food that we ate that night, and I have never eaten anything similar since.
“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……
When people think of London, they think London Eye, Big Ben and all your other normal touristy joints. When I think of London, I think of Whitechapel, amongst one of the dodgiest areas in London (Thats what people tell me!) that has played host to the most famous Whitechapeler of all, Jack the Ripper.
Perhaps this luminary cemented Whitechapel’s place as a ‘special’ part of town, but really, it is a diverse, multi-ethnic area of London where you have congregations of immigrants from all over the world. Yes, the streets are dangerous at night (Drunkards, drug addicts and pushers), but you could say that of any other street in the UK. Well, we lived in front of Sainsbury, right next to the IdeaStore and along the stretch of the famous Whitechapel ethnic day market across Royal London Hospital. Therefore, you could say it was in the safer part of WC that we went about our daily lives.
Besides having been the CENTRE of Britain’s H1N1 epidemic, this is also the home to the Bell Foundry, where Big Ben came from. These historical streets have seen everything from serial killers to mob hits and more recently, Chinese people touting pirated DVDs.
Brick Lane happens to be just down the road (20 mins walk) from Aldgate Station and is home to the famous Brick Lane market and the interesting shops that throng the area. I’d avoid the ‘curry mile’ of Indian restaurants serving up lip-smacking portions of ‘Chicken Diarrhea’, and head straight for them Beigels.