There’s a time when we must all return to a place that we thought we’d moved on from once and for all. The old school girls’ catch up, to be precise. I love the people I went to school with a lot but any attempt to gather us together in one room feels like an organised ‘reunion’ and quite simply, that puts the heebie jeebies into me. It is hard to reunite us all, one person now lives in Australia with a husband and a baby bump, two others live in Hong Kong, some people are at work all day and others work nights so we manage to escape ‘reunions’ fairly often but when Candice came back to the UK last week for work, she thoughtfully organised for us all to catch up. So far, so good. And then someone went and used the word ‘reunion’ and I got goosebumps. I don’t know why it fills me with fear so much; I suppose I loathe the ‘what are you doing now?’ conversation (to the point of hiding at parents’ parties) and I also hate answering it! I have a fairly structureless existence at the moment and it doesn’t make for fascinating listening. Secondly, I think we’re the oddest of ourselves when crammed into one room with memories of 10 years ago. Some of us haven’t changed, some of us have very different lives now and some have had some very life-defining experiences in the last couple of years but regardless, step into a room with one another and the time between 2002 and now melts away and we’re not very far from the same people we were then.
And it’s a strange experience, spending time with people you used to see every day but now see every couple of years, if that. It brings out rivalries and friendships that you had forgotten. For instance, I knew one of my friends was funny, she’s a comic you see, but I didn’t remember until yesterday that she can make me laugh until tears are streaming down my face and I’d also forgotten that another of my friends kept a yoghurt on the windowsill for a week until it had gone off so she could eat it and sue the school and that the comedy friend was actually, and strangely, the person who taught me to apply make up when I was 16.
But then, you also see the changes brought to friendships. I realise I’m hugely lucky in that my best friends are, with the exception of a few later additions, people I have been friends with since school, and that we may have changed but we have always got along and we, I’m pretty certain, always will. Other friendships haven’t survived so well and it’s days like yesterday that remind you of this. You see, I think it’s pretty hard to remain friends with someone when lives change so much. I don’t think it’s the ‘norm’ at all and it requires such a huge amount of compromise, hard work and patience. It doesn’t just happen, it happens because you want it to. It is always desperately sad when people don’t get along as they used to but as with ‘reunions’ (and not lovely get togethers over afternoon tea with old friends!) some things are best left in the past and moved on from. It’s not easy but I truly believe that people mustn’t waste time worrying over what has passed but put everything into what is to come. People change and lives change and often for a good reason, moving onwards is the strongest, bravest thing to do.
What nearly brought about the end of a friendship was the search for Kensington Palace from Notting Hill Gate. Jackie and I knew where we were aimed and we were headed in the right direction but we actually ended up backtracking several times and nearly missed the park gates on a couple of occasions. We passed all the embassies, playing ‘guess the flag’ and then rounded into the gardens via the back gate and around the palace. The palace is closed at the moment for refurbishment but there’s a lovely looking exhibition on which I would like to get back to at some point. http://www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/stories/Palacehighlights/EnchantedPalaceintroduction
We were meeting at the Orangery which was pretty busy on a Sunday afternoon but a lovely building with great white walls and small orange trees on the table and where Queen Anne used to hand out Maundy money and partake in a strange activity called ‘Touching the King’s Evil’ where the monarch cured the diseased by touching them, lovely!
You stand in front of the impressive cake display as you’re queueing which doesn’t help with growing hunger but they found us a table for seven and we sat down. People ordered various cakes and coffees and teas but I had my eye on the afternoon tea, The Enchanted Palace Tea (£18.35); this involves an Enchanted Palace chocolate ganache tartlet and raspberry shortbread, signature orange scented scone with Cornish clotted cream and strawberry preserve, and an assortment of finger sandwiches. Served with your choice of tea or coffee. I went for the fruit tea which was delicious, fruity and syrupy and not remotely like the nice-smelling but water-tasting herbal teas you often meet.
My little cake stand appeared and it was pretty and nicely laid out. The top layer contained the tartlet and shortbread, the second held the scone and the lower layer contained the finger sandwiches. Now there could have been more food on the plates for the price but this is London and it is a palace and afternoon tea is based on the dainty side and not on the filling side, and I wasn’t left hungry by any measure.
The scones were particularly delicious, orange scented in keeping with their location and served with whipped double cream and strawberry jam, they were light and fluffy and really very good.
The chocolate ganache cake was lovely and the top had a picture of the princess from the Enchanted Palace exhibition on the top which was seriously pretty. The layers of cake were spongy and delicious and the ganache refreshing and light. The shortbread was a little soggy (possibly from being kept in the fridge with the cream and fruit already added) but it was light and crispy and had the right ratio of cream, fruit and biscuit.
Lastly, the sandwiches, which are always my favourite bit. There was a lovely smoked salmon sandwich with a cream cheese and chive layer, nice thick and soft bread, a lovely ham sandwich with a mustard mayo which kept it refreshing and light and an egg mayo sandwich with lots of cress. It was completely delicious.
While probably not the best afternoon tea in the whole of London, it was perfectly lovely. You could add a glass of champagne for another £2.50 or have a more complicated and deluxe tea for a little bit more. It’s a great stop if you’re in the West End or spent the day wandering the markets at Notting Hill Gate, it’s not even very far to walk from the Science, Natural History or V&A museums and the Palace itself is beautiful and steeped in history.