Pavilion Tea House
There is always something a bit “corporate” about tea houses in parks – whether council-run or, as in this case, by Royal Parks. And within that format you’re never really going to get anything truly cosy and unique, but within its limited remit, The Pavilion Tea House up by the Observatory does pretty well.
It helps that it’s not only got a great situation – right at the top of the hill, within designated grounds of its own which can afford fantastic views from between the gaps in pretty, leafy shrubbery, but also a sweet, traditional building that feels very ‘park-like.’ I can’t find out how old it is, but I’m guessing the early years of the 20th Century or maybe 1920s (does anyone know?) It’s very pretty and inviting.
Inside it’s bright and light and clean, and having been made ‘accessible’ has nice wide aisles easy to manoeuvre around on all but the busiest days. There aren’t that many seats inside – presumably they’re working on most people only going to the park on good days; I suppose with a historic building they don’t have much of an option anyway. The service is friendly.
They make an effort in sourcing the food they sell – fair trade and organic where possible (it gets double points for serving the fabulous Union Coffee Roasters coffee.)I’ve not tried the premises-cooked food, which I guess I should, as its clearly where all the effort goes in. The menus seem interesting – maybe someone here can comment upon it; I have only ever had the tea/coffee and buns.
There’s ye olde tea-bag-in-a-mug problem, of which I disapprove – how hard is it to supply a few teapots – and on my most recent visit, there was only one kind of milk at the serve-yourself milk and sugar table. The buns are bog-standard – chocolate fudge/scones/rock cakes and the usual Burts crisps. Nothing to complain about, nothing to get excited about, but a general all-round ok option in the middle of the park.
It’s recently been re-landscaped and it’s got a much bigger garden now, surrounded by chestnut trees, yew hedges and big tubs of splendidly blousy blooms. The tables are solid and come with big parasols (handy, given the weather we have just now) and plenty of opportunistic birdlife.
They advertise Weddings and functions there – anyone been to one? It feels a bit ‘public’ to me, even cordonned off, but you can’t knock the views…
If you’re really after individual, make your way down to Royal Teas or Buenos Aires, but if you’re already in the park and want to enjoy a reasonable cup of tea and a bun in a pretty garden, then the Pavilion Tea House is really rather nice…