If you live in Fulham, there’s no doubt you’ll have visited Fulham Palace, it would certainly be an entry in my ‘little black book’. It’s no surprise then that this hidden gem, tucked away next to Bishops Park on the banks of the Thames was once the summer residence and home of the Bishop of London. The property is now a museum and an art gallery and entry is free.
I’ve been invited to try the breakfast in the Drawing Room Cafe (served from 9am until noon) and it’s here you can also have lunch and afternoon tea between 9am and 5pm.
We book for 10.30am on a Saturday morning and the weather is glorious. Couples, families and singletons hoping to catch some rays begin to fill up the Palace grounds.
The catering here is by The Food Show and I was wowed by their fabulous, inventive and superbly tasty canapés at a private function at the Palace weeks earlier. I wanted to know if their food at their only venue would be just as good. I chose the full English breakfast which was delicious (£9.95). The plate arrived full and as you can see a hearty choice of fat Cumberland pork sausage, well grilled earthy field mushroom, two rashers of crispy smoked bacon, two perfectly spherical fried eggs with golden yolks and beans, although the flash-grilled tomato was just a little too hard to enjoy (shame).
A toast rack containing two slices of granary bread arrived, along with three small pats of foil-wrapped catering butter which lost the race to keep its shape in the heat.
The large coffees (£2.20/£2.60) were tasty and arrived with our special requests having been met, cappuccino without chocolate and an Americano with a separate jug of hot milk. There are herbal teas, coffees any which way you fancy and freshly squeezed juices (£3.50). There’s even a spicy Bloody Mary on offer for those who fancy something a little naughty (£7.50). The waiting staff are attentive and plentiful and we didn’t have to wait too long to be served or for our food and drinks to arrive.
Mr chose the boiled eggs and buttered soldiers and they didn’t disappoint either (£4.25). Once ‘topped ‘the eggs offered oozing orange centres which were scooped out with the toasted soldier fingers. A slice of bacon was ordered as an extra (£1.95) was perfect for those who don’t have the appetite for a full English but didn’t want to miss out on taste. There are plenty of other choices too just a few include; mushrooms and tomatoes on toast (£4.25); fried egg and bacon bap (£4.25); eggs Florentine, Benedict or Royale (£7.95) or you can have simply some toast or a French pastry.
There are large water jugs filled with mint, lime and lemon and these are given to each table which is a great alternative to the humble tap.
Large shaded tables on the terrace are to share on a first-come-first-served basis so if it’s a sunny day, set out early to avoid disappointment. That said, the tables inside the bright Drawing Room are as charming, especially those by the sash windows, raised to make the most of the sun and gentle breeze.
Afternoon tea is a big hit here and there’s an option to take it with bubbles too. Great looking freshly baked cakes are already laid out on the counter top but more begin to arrive in large trays and I’m glad I asked to take a peek.
The Food Show cater weddings and private events elsewhere too and their client list is lengthy and impressive (as I write they’re catering Canada’s Olympic reception venue) and I can vouch for their rather fine canapés (the asparagus shots are some of the best I’ve ever tasted). As we leave, they’re tending a barbecue which is in full swing and very popular. This serves up pretty much anything you can grill and it’s all on a take away basis. There are plenty of slices of cake and muffins sitting next to corrugated cups of bean coffee too.
It’s also here where we meet the most knowledgable and delightful gardener Chris who is more than happy to show us around one of the Heritage Lottery funded conservatory greenhouses. He’s as proud as a parent with their newborn, showing off his tomatoes, peppers and aubergines and we’re as excited as him as he tells us about their plans to turn the plot into a market garden. If you like gardening, and you have some spare time on your hands, you may want to think about joining the volunteers at the Palace – there’s quite a bit of work to do.
A florist is dressing the gates at the entrance to the Palace with roses and green foliage ahead of a wedding taking place later in the afternoon. The Palace is a perfect wedding setting and with a Church for a service of blessing things couldn’t be better. It’s not just weddings though, there are plenty of events that would be perfect hosted here.
We drove to the Palace as there’s plenty of on-street parking on Bishop’s Avenue and it’s free on Sundays. Check before you drive during football season as there are restrictions in operation for Fulham Football Club matches. Buses and tube also serve the Palace – check their website for full details. http://www.fulhampalace.org/.
Gardens open daily from dawn until dusk.