WE GOT THERE WITH VIRGIN TRAINS, STAYED AT THE PARK TOWER, KNIGHTSBRIDGE AND HOTEL INDIGO, KENSINGTON, AND VISITED RHS CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW.
Part of the excitement and ritual surrounding the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is getting the all-important e-mail to welcome His & Hers magazine to Press Day at RHS Chelsea. This triggers a flurry of activity to organise the London trip. We met on a sunny Sunday morning, waving Virgin First Class train tickets, which is where the adventure began. Our editor never switches off, and WIFI is complimentary in First Class, as are snacks and soft drinks (on a weekend when you can upgrade for £10 upwards). On week days, staff serve complimentary full English breakfasts, healthy appetising lunches, and a choice of delicious evening meals, depending on your time of travel. It was ‘asparagus week’ on our return journey, and the evening meal options came with locally sourced, very fresh asparagus, that made it all seem rather special. My own option, Tuna Niçoise, was delicious, and I’m in awe of the staff who poured seriously hot coffee and tea as the train gently swayed (I imagine this involves intensive training). The First Class Lounge, which we visited at Euston, was a real benefit. It’s spacious, it’s comfortable, you can access WIFI, and the soft drinks are complimentary, and it’s away from the hustle and bustle on the concourse. Pendolino trains get you there comfortably and speedily: what’s not to love! The helpful staff at Euston Station guided us towards Oyster cards (to use on the Tube), that proved to be stress free and a great bargain.
The sun was shining and we were feeling a chilled out vibe as we headed for Covent Garden and after a long lingering leisurely lunch (a new concept for our editor), we set off to walk towards our hotels. The route took us past Buckingham Palace: we knew the Queen would be at RHS Chelsea the following day. We sauntered along cobbled streets and suddenly, right before us at the edge of Hyde Park, stood the Park Tower Knightsbridge, a Luxury Collection hotel; it’s on a leafy walk-way, and yet this is a hugely popular shopping destination: Harrods is just around the corner. It’s close to the Victoria & Albert Museum, Knightsbridge (underground station) is a two minutes’ walk away, and most importantly, RHS Chelsea Flower Show is just a few stops down the line.
Any hotel that boasts a tower is going to look impressive from the outside: once we stepped inside, it’s a revelation. The lobby is described as custom contemporary design, and yet, possibly because of the imposing glittering chandelier and gently curved walls, I was thinking ‘Roaring Twenties’, though to be fair, no-one was swinging from the chandelier. It’s a vast, light, elegant space: the staff were warm and welcoming. It all felt seamless: and the room, which boasted a view of Hyde Park, was spacious: the décor is classic and it’s all about comfort. The bathroom had the wow factor, it’s pale rippled marble: the walk in shower provided immediate warm/hot spray at the push of a button, with Elemis toiletries to hand. The large bath provided another option. It was traumatic saying goodbye to this state of the art bathroom: I slept in total comfort, with a vast duvet as soft as down, wrapped around me. Breakfast in the One-O-One restaurant was superb, sushi was amongst the many options, but I opted for the full English. The staff were friendly, kind and helpful: and fresh pots of coffee were on offer, but I was a garden enthusiast on a mission.
We returned later for afternoon tea in the hotel lounge, served under a canopy of magnolia blossoms, inspired by Royal Hyde Park. It was a dazzling treat, there were fragrant blends of tea by Twinings, pots of coffee, hot chocolate, and there is a tempting champagne option: there were classic smoked salmon and egg sandwiches, with the addition of a lamb and natural yoghurt twist. How to describe what came next: marshmallow, Turkish delight and nougat lollipops, blackbird’s nest chocolate waffles, clementine custard and red currant compote, hand crafted delicacies shaped like swans, gold leaf scattered on chocolate: all totally delicious. We sampled Norwegian red king crab, which is on the menu, alongside wild Cornwall sea bass fillet, cooked in red Burgundy wine, in the renowned One-O-One restaurant.
Across town, our travels took us to Hotel Indigo, Knightsbridge, where our editor was staying. We have a longstanding appreciation of Hotel Indigo, having proudly featured the group’s Liverpool hotel as an advertiser and long-term editorial favourite for years.
Their Knightsbridge hotel certainly didn’t disappoint. Its interior design is crisp, stylish and yet playful and His & Hers’ room was spacious and inviting, featuring a large, incredibly comfortable bed, a generous array of refreshments and a chic bathroom, which was well stocked with Aveda goodies.
Having checked in, we dined in style at Theo’s Simple Italian, a beautifully designed restaurant which charmed us with its style, the warmth of its staff and risotto so perfect we were still speaking about it an hour or so after dining. We also spotted Theo’s Simple Italian (which is located in the heart of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) featured on an episode of Made in Chelsea the following evening, so clearly we’re not alone in appreciating this oh so stylish Italian eatery. We were sad to leave this elegant and welcoming home from home, but Chelsea beckoned, and we couldn’t wait any longer to visit the show.
RHS Chelsea is the best garden show in the world. It grows, it evolves, it takes chances, yet it remains the one and only show in town. This year’s themes were: the Queen’s birthday, ornamental arches, floral tributes, gardens from around the world, and a growth in gardens sponsored by charities. I loved it all: I always do, and yet talking to designers about their show gardens seemed special this year because of the deeper meaning that inspired them. I was taken by Diarmuid Gavin’s, Harrods’ eccentric show garden. It had a Heath Robinson feel to it: terraces and topiary with an octagonal folly and sunken Italian pond. Conical bay trees seem to move by clockwork, and circular beds, overflowing with herbs, dance around the structure: mesmerising.
The Artisan Gardens are always fascinating: the ‘Garage Garden’ housed a ‘mini’ in a lush, Japanese inspired setting, and was designed by Ishihara Kazuyuki, and the ‘Meningitis Now – Futures Garden’ designed by John Everiss was a joy because it represented the spirit and energy of families whose lives have been changed by Meningitis. It’s a Cotswold country garden: dramatic sculptures lead the eye on to a Greek themed folly and the whole represented hope.
The Andy Sturgeon, Daily Telegraph show garden was best in show, described as a ‘captured’ landscape, dramatic bronze fins represented an ancient mountain range with a stream of melt water running in the rock strewn gorge. Amongst such creative talent, I discovered Marion Labbez, who gilds and paints on the reverse of glass (mirrors), in silver and gold leaf, and the results took my breath away. Afterwards, I needed to sit quietly in Hyde Park, for ten minutes, contemplating a waterfall, simply to fully appreciate everything I’d seen and experienced at RHS Chelsea.
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