Chelsea Flower Show 2016

This year’s Chelsea Flower Show will appeal to all types of gardeners.  From the flamboyant to the traditional, from the informal to the formal, this Show has it all.  Phillip Johnson’s 300,000 individually crochet poppies covering 21,000 sq.ft is a visual masterpiece and surely one which can never be forgotten; each poppy representing a memory of a loved one.  Elsewhere was a Heath-Robinson like garden, with moving plant pots, twirling trees and a moving flower bed.  For the more royal amongst us, the Queen was represented by a 10ft cut out of her head, filled with 10,000 flowers – a striking image used by many journalists.  The show felt more inclusive this year, taking itself less seriously, but no less impressive for that.  Keen gardeners of all ages mixed with celebrities and stars, their common love of plants uniting them in appreciating all that Chelsea has to offer.

One of the biggest surprises was the Garden Garage in the Artisan Section – a beautifully designed and tranquil area in which to house a car. Magazines and broadsheets focused on the first black designer for Chelsea, ever (which rather puts to shame the notion that gardening is for all); however, the bonus of the attention is that the RHS and wider gardening world, are rectifying this and, we hope, gardening in the future, will really be for all. As we hope Chelsea will be too.

Images and copyright: lucyelliottphotography.com


A wine lover’s delight – The Vineyard, Stockcross, Berkshire

Wine lovers in Kensington are rather spoilt. We have the Milestone Hotel, The Royal Garden and the Kensington Wine Rooms all offering a wide variety of wines and experiences. Outside London though, just off the M40 at Newbury, is The Vineyard, a five star Relais et Chateaux hotel offering wine connoisseurs, wine lovers and novices alike, a true wine experience.

The hotel is not what you would call ‘quintessentially pretty’ – for that stick with Hartwell House, Hambleton Hall or Gravetye Manor previously featured in this magazine. But it does outdo all with the variety and types of wine on available. With over 30,000 bottles, 3000 bins and hundreds of wines on offer by the glass, the hotel is able to provide opportunity for serious wine dinners, wine tasting evenings, corporate private wine schools and ‘wine nights’.

It has hard to deny you are in a boutique ‘wine’ hotel – upon entering the reception, you are greeted with a double story height wine cellar containing 5,000 bottles. Most unnerving (but visually spectacular) is the glass floor upon which you stand looking down onto the lower level cellar. In the 3AA Rosette restaurant, our gastronomic ‘Judgement of Paris Dinner’ comprised 7 courses, with two glasses of blind wine for each course and was, according to my husband who fancies himself a wine connoisseur and foodie, “fantastic”. The Judgement of Paris was the momentous occasion in wine history, when, on 24th May 1976 top wine experts gathered together to taste six French and six Californian wines blind. Many of those who attended were amazed to find they had voted Californian wine as superior to the French. A mural in one of the meeting rooms depicts this occasion. One course was accompanied by blackened glasses, so not only was the country difficult to discerne but (rather unbelievably), also the colour.

To have seven courses and not mention any would be remiss: dishes included Leek and potato veloute with black truffle accompanied by Crozes Hermitage, Champ Morel, France 2014; Guinea fowl and partridge terrine, blood orange with walnut accompanied by Alsace PB, Marc Tempe France 2012 and Tidenham duck, heritage beetroot, quince and ginger accompanied by Bialla, Cabernet Sauvignon, California 2009. In addition to the entrance wine cellar, we were
shown around more wine vaults situated behind the main rooms of the hotel and a ‘fridge room’ on the top floor. It is probably fair to say I shall never hold a more expensive wine than the £20,000 magnum bottle of 1982 Chateau Petrus!

The rooms are generous and ours had a large seating room area with balcony overlooking the golf course, and a huge marble bathroom. If you have had enough of food and wine, there is a gym, swimming pool (indoor), Jacuzzi, steam and sauna room and treatment rooms.

The Vineyard won the European Hotel Wine List of the Year in 2015 – not surprising when their wine cellar boasts 30,000 bottles of fine wine from some of the world’s best wine producers, Sassicaia, Domaine Leflaive, Armand Rousseau to name a few In addition, the wine cellar has vintage wines including; Old and new world wines including Domaine Charles Audoin (Burgundy) and new world, Rudd Estate Mount Veeder Sauvignon Blanc (California). Unusual grape varieties, such as Orin Swift Mute which is a Californian dessert red made using native grape varieties from portugal. As I said, enough to satisfy any connoisseur, wine aficionado or novice.
The Vineyard, Stockcross, Newbury, Berks RG20
Telephone: 01635 589407

(Lucy and Stephen were guests of The Vineyard)

Images & Copyright: www.lucyelliottphotography.com

Out of Kensington: Hambleton Hall, Leicestershire

For a weekend away, many consider the Cotswolds as “The Place to go” – however, just 90 miles out of London, but in a northerly direction up the A1, is Hambleton Hall. This distinctive Victorian mansion, near Oakham in the East Midlands county of Rutland, is the perfect starting point for long walks around Rutland Water or to take part in water-based leisure activities.  Hambleton, built in 1881, was originally a hunting box* and provided an ideal base for local hunts and for their social activities.

In 1979 Tim and Stefa Hart bought Hambleton Hall to create a boutique hotel. Upon arrival via a sweeping drive, a roaring fire greets you. Outside, the Great Outdoors beckons.  Most visitors come for the country air or to get some exercise. There is a swimming pool in the gardens and Rutland Water, being the largest artificial reservoir in Europe, offers plenty of other activities, such as sailing, kayaking, canoeing or windsurfing. Game shooting, riding, fox hunting or watching birds from the 31 hides is also available. Well behaved dogs are welcome and rows of Le Chameau wellingtons are available for long walks around Rutland Water.

Back inside, food and wine play a large part in the Hambleton Hall experience. Aaron Patterson is a Michelin-starred chef who originally trained at Hambleton Hall and then, after a stint at Le Manoir under Raymond Blanc, returned in 1992 as Hambleton Hall’s Director and Head Chef. The food is beautifully presented and very original – as an example we had tian of crab and cucumber, flavoured with lemongrass and ginger; rice-less squid risotto with chorizo sausage; loin of fallow venison with celeriac and chocolate and roast duck with cucumber, plums and black beans.  The menu changes daily and most of the ingredients are sourced locally, or are grown in their own kitchen garden. The innovation and taste of their meals proves yet again that restaurants outside London can easily hold their own against those in the capital.

Tim and his sommelier, Dominique Baduel, offer various wine-pairing events during the course of the year.  Dominique showed us a new acquisition that they were trialing – a type of syringe (called Corovin) where a thin needle pulls the wine out of the cork without the need to take the cork out of the bottle. The cork will then reseal the hole, meaning that expensive wines can be offered by the glass.

The 17 bedrooms are individually and traditionally decorated and all overlook the gardens and Rutland Water. The gardens are beautiful and in April tulips provide a carpet of colour. One of the highlights is to have lunch on the terrace, amid the floral display, watching the various activities on the lake.  Using Hambleton Hall as your base, there is plenty to see – Belvoir and Rockingham Castles, Burghley and Boughton House, Elton Hall and Althorp are within reasonable distance. The market towns of Uppingham, Stamford and Oakham are also a draw, offering antiques, art galleries and small independent shops. Tim also runs the Hambleton Bakery in the next door village of Exton – a very popular destination where traditional breads, fruit loaves, muffins and cakes are made on the premises.

Hambleton Hall provides a real break away with plenty to do and see in wonderful surroundings. Having many friends and relatives in Leicestershire we know it’s a favoured destination for those looking for something special and we thought it might be the same for the residents of Kensington!

Lucy and Stephen were guests of Tim and Stefa Hart
Hambleton Hall, Oakham, Leicestershire, LE15 8TH
www.hambletonhall.com 01572 756991

Images and copyright: Lucy Elliott www.lucyelliottphotography.com

Out of Kensington: Hartwell Hotel & Spa

Sitting in 90 acres of sweeping fields, landscaped gardens, ha ha’s and a lake is the beautiful Hartwell House – an Historic House Hotel, one of only three in the UK, owned by the National Trust.

Just an hours car journey from London this historic house, built in the seventeenth century, now provides a true respite from the rush of London life. In the past carriages would have bought you to the huge wooden front door via the mile long avenue of Lime trees. Today you approach via a sweeping drive to be met by a statue of Frederick, Prince of Wales. The door opens and you are immediately in the Jacobean Great Hall – where high ceilings, works of art, antiques, traditional furnishings and a large wood burning fire place greet you.

Over the years, various architectural additions have been made resulting in architectural styles such as Jacobean, Gothic revival, Victorian and Georgian interiors. The gardens, in the style of Capability Brown, have also received various designs. As an example, and in addition to the ha ha’s, there are statues, gazeebos, follies – and the mid-section of the bridge originally formed part of Kew Bridge.

Leading to the rooms in the main house is a fine example of a Jacobean staircase complete with statues. Rooms are large with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the countryside and gardens. Our room, The Queen’s Bedroom comes complete with four poster bed, his and hers walk-in wardrobe, floor to ceiling windows, artwork, antiques, multiple sofas and armchairs. This room originally belonged to Queen Josephine when she and King Louis where exciled from France and lived at Hartwell House from 1809 – 1814.

Hartwell House is clearly a popular destination for both residents and non-residents – many were enjoying formal Afternoon Tea, and the restaurant at dinner was full with couples, groups and those attending a corporate event. Chef Daniel Richardson is locally known as the chef who bought Aylesbury Duck back on the menu – traditionally quite a difficult bird to cook and one which takes skill, especially as it is quite a fatty bird. Sadly, not being in season on our visit, we were still able to chose from an extensive menu: Pan friend scallops with apple and fennel salad, accompanied by cauliflower and lime leaves; Veloute and pan friend fillet of Hallibut with crushed potatoes, artichokes, saute leeks and crab sauce or Beetroot macaroon with goats cheese mouse as examples. Deserts were equally exotically named.

Walking around the grounds on a beautiful Autumn’s afternoon is a real treat. If walking does not give you enough excerise, there are tennis courts and a croquet lawn. The converted former stables provide elegant space for a gymnasium, large swimming pool, together with sauna, spa and beauty rooms. Again non-residents are very welcome with day spa packages being popular and a smart cafe/restaurant is on-site overlooking the pool area.

Hartwell House is well situated being close to London and Oxford and is ideal for overnight or longer stays, combining with other attractions in the area. It provides a relaxing break from London in old traditional surroundings, comfortable and classy with no bling in sight!
Lucy and Stephen were guests of Hartwell House

Hartwell House Hotel & Spa, Oxford Road, Nr Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP17 8NR
www.hartwell-house.com 01296 747444


Images: Copyright:  Lucy Elliott www.lucyelliottphotography.com

‘One night at Kensington Palace’ with Joy Sigaud and the Philharmonia Orchestra

Kensington Palace and The Orangery provided a wonderful backdrop for an exclusive charity event to raise monies for the Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity and Alpha Boys School.  ’Inspirations’ founded by Joy Sigaud, is an organisation raising funds for various charities, through music events.


Guests were treated to champagne and canapes in the Stone Room in the Palace prior to moving on to The Orangery for the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by John Gibbons (Joy’s mentor) to perform a collection of Joy’s compositions selected for chamber orchestra.  ‘One Night at the Palace’ showcased Joy’s talent as a composer.


Born in England of Jamaican parents, Joy tells a story through her music of the movement of peoples in both an historical and contemporary context, bought to life by the passionate playing of the orchestra.  As a child she learnt to play the piano age 4 and has been composing since the age of 10.


The large audience comprised friends and family, together with dignitaries. Her Excellency Aloun Assamba High Commissioner of Jamaica gave an impassioned speech.  Supporters of the evening included The Jamaica High Commission, Tiffany & Co, Boodles, Donna Karan, Belgravia Gallery and many more.  A wonderful and very memorable treat for all who were lucky enough to be present.

Images and copyright:  Lucy Elliott / www.lucyelliottphotography.com






Out of Kensington: Beautiful, historic St. Moritz

St. Moritz, high up in the Swiss Alps, feels like entering Narnia.  Travel via the UNESCO Rhaetian Railway, the most scenic route imaginable and a few hours later reach St. Moritz.  Be greeted by liveried staff from Badrutt’s Palace Hotel and enter a different time, a different experience.  The hotel, built in 1896 epitomises luxury – an historic building filled with antiques, discrete staff, beautiful views and various restaurants to suit all types of requirements.

Most people visit in the winter months, but the summer months also have a lot to offer – plenty for all to see and do.  Try a trip on a horse drawn carriage complete with picnic hamper, to the mountain lake and swim in what must be one of the world’s most beautiful pools…. learn to make cheese in an Alpine lodge, try your hand at sailing in the ‘Badrutt’s Palace’ their own 6-person sailing boat, with the wind flying in your hair.  Shopping is provided in the hotel’s own Palace Galerie – a Bond St. in the mountains.  In addition to the hotel restaurants you can also try Chasa Veglia, a rustic style restaurant housed in one of the oldest farmhouses in St. Moritz.

For foodies, a Chefs Dinner in the kitchen, complete with silver service, followed by a ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ pudding experience in the Dessert Kitchen, is a must and will delight adults and children alike.   As for the bedrooms they are large and it is well worth trying for one overlooking the lake, which with the morning mist, looks spectacular.  Breakfast can be taken inside or on the verandah, the latter being very picturesque with flowers and again, over looking the lake.  Of course many famous people visit Badrutt’s Palace Hotel but even the less famous are treated as special. A real gem of a place and a diamond experience.

Lucy Elliott was a guest of Badrutt’s Palace Hotel

Images: Copyright; Lucy M Elliott www.lucyelliottphotography.com







Sophisticated Slapstick, gymnastic artistry and innocent fun reminding you of childhood: Giffords Circus, Chiswick House

The summer season comprises Garden parties, rowing, cricket and tennis. Added to this should be a compulsory visit to a vintage family-run circus. Giffords Circus performing ‘Moon Songs’ at nearby Chiswick House is a wonderful evenings entertainment for all (and not necessarily just families). Tremendous, heart-in-the-mouth acrobatic and gymnastic feats, a bear riding a horse being led by a small dog, magic you really can’t believe, canon blowing clowns and tiny boys juggling. Candyfloss, ice-cream and pizzas are sold and after the show you could have your own picnic. Another option is to have supper in the UKs only travelling restaurant: ‘Circus Sauce’ – a marque decorated in bunting and country flowers, providing four courses of delicious home made (comfort) food served on communcal oak tables. An evening of Sophisticated slapstick, gymnastic artistry, goofy clown – pure innocent fun reminding you of your childhood.Tickets are priced at £22 for adults and £14 for children with the exception of Chiswick House and Gardens.  Tickets for these performances are priced at £25 per adult and £15 per child.  Under 3s are free to all shows if they are sitting on a lap.  www.giffordscircus.com


Images:  Lucy Elliott, www.lucyelliottophotography.com



Jazzing it up in Paris!

I am never quite sure why people fly to Paris, when Eurostar is so convenient, not least to mention quick, especially from Kensington. Premium Standard offers wide seats, snack meal accompanied by wine, tea and coffee. The fields of England and France pass by in a jiffy and within 2.25 hours you are in Paris.

Once you have arrived, and taken a short metro trip is the 5* Hotel La Tremoille situated in the ‘Golden Triangle’ between Avenue George V, the Champs Elysees and Avenue Montaigne, where, in addition to the top end retailers, are also many restaurants – modern, traditional (Belle Epoque style), expensive and otherwise.

The hotel, built in the Haussmann style in 1883 originally as a private home is an architecturally grand building. In the 1960s both Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington stayed there, placing the hotel in the centre of Jazz life in Paris, where every June/July the Paris Jazz Festival is held.

It well known that hotel rooms in Paris are characteristically small (indeed some are tiny). We
were lucky enough to have a room at the top of the hotel, overlooking the Golden Triangle complete with two ceiling height French windows leading onto an original wrought iron balcony and from which, armed with Gin and Tonics at night, we could see the sun going down. One unusual feature of the room was that it had its own service hatch, so breakfast could be sent to the room without staff intruding. Although the hotel is so centrally placed it sits in a quiet street and also offers a spa and wellness centre.

The restaurant, ‘Louis’, on a Monday evening, was (as befalls most hotel restaurants) rather quiet, which was a shame as the tuna tartar with avocado mousse was excellent, as was the risotto and guinea fowl breast.

So what’s to do in Paris? Well being so central – only a few minutes walk from the Champs Elysees and hence the Metro it is easy to be anywhere within a short space of time. Shopping is an obvious pastime, a boat trip down the Seine affords an excellent way to see the highlights of Paris from the river frontage and learn about its history. A particular recommendation and
despite having visited Paris many times previously, we had never visited, was the Ile St Louis – a delightful, authentic village built in the 17th and 18th centuries. Comprising narrow one way streets, two bus stops and no metro, it is a residential village with beautiful traditional architecture and small shops (mostly selling ice cream or home made chocolates).

With the speed of Eurostar and the centrality of the hotel, even a short break in Paris can seem like a true holiday.

Lucy and Stephen were guests of Eurostar and Hotel La Tremoille

Travel Information:
La Trémoille, 14, rue de la Trémoille, 75008 Paris,
Rates start from €360 (£256) per room per night including a continental breakfast and wi-fi. For further information or to book visit www.hotel-tremoille.com or call +33 156521400.

Eurostar operates up to 18 daily services from London St Pancras International to Paris Gare Du Nord with return fares from £69.
www.eurostar.com/ or 03432 186186

Fast and convenient check-in – passengers are requested to arrive only 30 minutes before departure

The extra baggage allowance you get on Eurostar vs planes (Eurostar offers each person 2 bags/suitcases and 1 piece hand luggage)


Dame Judi Dench at the Unveiling and Dedication of ‘The Conversion of St Paul’

Dame Judi Dench delighted guests at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden by formally launching the sculpture by renowned Bruce Denny.  The 80 yr old, resplendent in a beautiful cream outfit,  commented that although she’d been unable to see the eclipse earlier that morning, she was pleased to see the sun now shining and declared it was ‘…  a wonderful way to welcome Bruce Denny’s lovely statue’.  The cutting of the ribbon followed a formal service held in the church, commonly referred to as The Actor’s Church, with the Rev’d Richard Syms and the Rev’d Simon Grigg in the presence of the Deputy Lord Mayor of Westminster, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowen Williams, and numerous actors/actresses.


Images and copyright:  Lucy Elliott


British Soldier takes on gruelling 20 days of fitness exercise to raise money for Royal Hospital Chelsea


Staff Sergeant Stephen Hughes (27) who is currently serving in the Royal Army Physical Training Corps in Kabul undertook a gruelling 20 days of 20 different physical challenges to raise money for Royal Hospital Chelsea.  The ‘Reps to Remember’ 20 tough physical exercises were chosen to mark the number of British Forces operational tours of Afghanistan, and to repeat them 453 times, equating to the number of British Soldiers who lost their lives in the region.

Stephen said of his fundraising challenge in Kabul, “The ‘Reps to Remember’ challenges were extremely tough; far harder than I had anticipated. Thinking about the Chelsea Pensioners at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, where my comrades and I may live in our retirement and the 453 service personnel who sadly lost their lives in Afghanistan definitely got me through it. I’m really pleased that 240 people were moved to donate to this great cause.”

Kate Marsh, Fundraising Manager at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, said, “Now that Stephen has completed these challenges we are even more in awe of his efforts than we were before. He is a true inspiration and we are delighted that the public got behind him to very nearly reach his target of £5,000 for the Royal Hospital Chelsea.” (To date Stephen has raised £4,734. Donations are still being accepted at http://bit.ly/reps2remember).


Images and copyright:  Lucy Elliott www.lucyelliottphotography.com