By way of Grantchester Meadows, we walked to The Orchard Tea Garden for a leisurely brunch after our outing to London the previous day. The Orchard is practically a right of passage to all Cambridge students and rightly so.
Famous visitors include:
- Stephen Hawking (portrayed by Eddie Redmayne in The Theory ofEverything),
- Alan Turing (portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game),
- Virginia Woolf (“What Was Virginia Woolf Wearing?”),
- Sylvia Plath (“Will a Fig Last in the Icebox?”),
- A A Milne (portrayed by Domnhall Gleeson in Goodbye Christopher Robin),
- King George VI (portrayed by Colin Firth in The King’s Speech),
- Prince Charles,
- Hugh Laurie (best known for House),
- Tim Rice (Academy Award, Golden Globe, Tony, and Grammy-winning lyricist for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, & Aida),
- and the immortal Emma Thompson (Trelawney in Harry Potter, Elinor in Sense & Sensibility, P. L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks, Queen Elinor in Brave, Nanny McPhee, the heartbroken wife in Love Actually, Captain Amelia in Treasure Planet, Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, and Mrs. Potts in Beauty & the Beast).
It’s a little hard to find a table at first–especially for larger parties, like ours–during the busy times (common meal times, particularly on the weekend). But sitting beneath a blossoming apple tree is totally worth the wait and the walk.
We planned to stay a while (a visitor habit that contributes to the chair scarcity) so we ordered lunch along with the quintessential tea & scones.
To place an order, you head through a take-away line where you pick up your scones, cakes, choice of jams, bottled drinks, teacup & saucer, etc. At the end you place your order for a pot of tea and/or lunch menu items.
After paying, you pick up your order from the kitchen’s outdoor shelf when it’s ready.
I had English breakfast tea (mostly because I was a tea novice but I still stand by this selection now) with shortbread biscuits and a raisin scone with clotted cream & strawberry jam to start. I can’t begin to describe how amazing this was. The only place better to have a tea-time spread is probably Michaelhouse Cafe, but the scenery is more than half the charm of The Orchard.
For lunch, I had “Sicilian lemonade & English elderflower with crushed juniper” and a ham & apple chutney jacket potato with greens. (A jacket potato is just a baked potato with fillings and the ‘jacket’/skin still on.) The mixture of apple, potato, and meat reminded me of my family’s latkes and corned beef at Chanukah.
There’s light fare available too. Emeline ordered tomato soup and toast, which was perfect for the lightly cloudy weather.
Bonus tip: If you’re not in the mood to make the trek back to town/campus, consider hiring a punt to pick you up at the Orchard and take a moonlit river cruise down the Granta and back onto the Cam. (Warning–It costs round trip even if you’re not in the punt, but I’ve heard it’s worth every pence.)