If you’re feeling peckish at Kew Gardens, and didn’t bring your own picnic, chances are you’ll end up eating at Peyton & Byrne as this chain has the monopoly on cafés at the Royal Botanic Gardens.
The most recent addition to their four previous outlets is this ice cream parlour. They serve 22 flavours of Oddono’s ices that can be topped with various goodies, so that ice cream fans can create their own fanciful concoctions. The café even has a cold stone – a chilled granite slab – on which flavours and toppings can be squished together to become a sort-of McFlurry.
The ice cream café replaces a satellite kiosk next to the children’s playground. Previously, this sold sensible child-sized portions of lunch and cream teas. In plain sight of the many small and perpetually alert whippersnappers, the new parlour tempts little customers with inviting pastel lollipop signs proclaiming words that children learn early: ice cream, popcorn, doughnuts.
On our visit, the queue was long. Children of all ages pressed their eager faces against the cool glass windows, in anticipation of the joys to come. It would take a stern guardian to turn them down.
We spent the wait dreaming up exciting flavour combinations. When our turn was up, the lady flatly refused to create anything other than the four prescribed sundae offerings on the board at £6.50 each.
One, a 'Kew mess', was a play on the classic Etonian strawberry, meringue and ice cream mash. The others (usual chocolatey, toffee banana combos etc) seemed fairly pedestrian after the combinations we'd been anticipating. We were told we could choose toppings to sprinkle on our ice cream such as crushed honeycomb, brownies, sprinkles and nuts (kept separately in jars to prevent cross-contamination), but they couldn’t mix it into the ice cream. Call me petty, but if ingredients and the coldstone are there, why not?
Milkshakes were also only available in four flavours, the expected vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and toffee.Tiny popcorn cones and a broken doughnut machine didn’t improve matters. We walked away with a small pot of a smooth mango sorbet (£2.50) and a malted milk milkshake (the most interesting flavour), that tasted good but was barely thickened by a meagre scoop of ice cream.