Chocolate Fest at the Royal Garden Hotel to celebrate Chocolate Week

What is it about chocolate that everyone loves a little piece? From the white milky bar kid to ‘… all because the lady loves ….’white, milk or dark chocolate. A recent evening at the Park Terrace Restaurant at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington proved that chocolate in whatever guise, Easter egg, truffle, filled with gnache, or produced as a hot chocolate soufflé still has that allure that most cannot deny.

In front of their chocaholic audience, the two chefs, Head Chef Steve Munkley and Pastry Chef Nick Hollands demonstrated (in many examples) a ‘here’s one I prepared earlier’ to show how easy it is to make chocolate cases, Easter eggs, chocolate sauce, chocolate ribbons to decorate Easter eggs or extremely fragile stick chocolate lattices (actually, like most things in life, once you were shown how to do this, it was remarkably easy – but since this was not the Generation Game and we didn’t actually have to do anything apart from eat, I can say this with confidence). As suspected there is a chocolate which could be deemed ‘good for you’ and that is the dark chocolate, especially the 100%, due to the lower sugar content. The worst for you, (with apologies to the Milky Bar Kid) is the white chocolate as too much sugar is added. The stronger the cocoa percentage the better for you.
After our 1.5 hours of instruction on all things chocolate we went through to the dining room for our four course chocolate extravaganza. This comprised …..yes, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. This was definitely not the place for the diabetic. Fabulous evening as it was, I did wonder if it should come with a hotel health warning – ‘not suitable for those with high regard for insulin levels, or those intending to fit into a wedding dress in the near future. For everyone else, this evening is highly recommended’.

The courses comprised Milk Chocolate Parfait, Raspberry and Chocolate Macaroon; White Chocolate and Coffee Tart with marbled Chocolate Ice-cream; Dark Chocolate Cake with Hazelnut Flake and Orange Mascarpone and the most sublime Hot Chocolate Soufflé with warm Cherry Bakewell. I had this years ago at Reids Hotel in Madeira, and have never found another which came close, but on this occasion it reminded me of that glorious evening many years ago.

I hope the Royal Garden Hotel repeats this chocolate extravaganza event – the chefs, extremely experienced and willing to share their professional tips were excellent as a double act, the audience who started the evening upon arrival with one of the strongest chocolate cocktails I’ve ever tasted, all thoroughly enjoyed both the presentation and the dinner afterwards.

Chocolates are not just for Valentines – as was (apparently) proved by Casanova who preferred chocolate to champagne. Eat your heart out Charlie.

The Chocolate Dessert menu is available in Park Terrace Restaurant until the 14th October for dinner only.
Royal Garden Hotel, 2-24 Kensington High Street, London W8 4PT
www.royalgardenhotel.co.uk / 020 7937 8000

Images & copyright:  Lucy Elliott, www.lucyelliottphotography.com




The lighting up of the Christmas Lights at the Milestone Hotel

Great excitement as children (very special ones, as they had all written for the magazine) held their breath, counted down from ten, and then watched Julian Fellowes press the ‘detonator’ to turn on the lights.

No this wasn’t Oxford Street, but closer to home at the wonderful Milestone Hotel where locals (rather specially chosen as writers or clients of the magazine or residents) mixed and mingled as Lord Fellowes and his wife arrived to set the ‘detonator’ for the Christmas lights.  Sadly for most who’d hoped for a chat with Fellowes this wasn’t to be which was a shame since Downton Abbey has clearly been the winner on TV for the past couple of years (OK Spooks comes a close second, so for recent weeks Sunday evening was a delicious in-house entertainment of drama – taking on the country and drama – of the country taking on class).

Back to the Milestone. This is clearly a hotel who know how to party – mulled wine, mince pies, attentive service, a glorious festively decked out hotel frontage, and of course the children. Well apart from The Kensington Hotel holding classes in teaching children how to sit at the table properly having their ‘afternoon tea’ hotels in Kensington are not particularly renowned for being child friendly. However, the Milestone is an exception and surpassed themselves; children were given chocolates and their own (rather lovely) Milestone Teddy Bear. They were allowed to run around (we had one very tiny one) and the others shook hands very seriously on being introduced, and bearing in mind these were all aspiring authors, were delighted to have their photograph taken with Lord Fellowes on the steps of the Hotel.

This is the first ‘Turning on the Christmas Lights’ at the Milestone and they hope to turn this into an annual event. In the absence of anything else official in its place, the Milestone can’t fail, and this is bound to turn into one of the most sought after invites in the calender year in Kensington (particularly for the children who have written for the magazine!)

Images and images copyright: by kind courtesy of The Milestone Hotel




The Maldives

Turquoise sea, white sands, amazing food, spectacular snorkling – no we haven’t gone to heaven – yet. This is the Maldives. A ten hour flight from London and a small aeroplane trip from Male and you are, what most people would consider, in heaven.

Accommodation is in small wooden villas with outside bath, shower, his/her basins, and a double size day bed. Frequently the (night) bed is decorated with rose petals. The views, interrupted only by the odd palm tree are of turquoise sea changing to dark blue further out into the Indian Ocean. This is the place to relax; read, have a spa or massage, play backgammon, table tennis, tennis, golf or simply eat and drink. The eating and drinking on the Maldives is taken quite seriously. You may have endeavoured hard to lose weight for your holiday, but the generous portions will, I’m afraid, completely ensure that you will need the gym on your return. Menus change daily and a couple of times a week, the entire restaurant is recreated on the beach for a huge b-b-q. Spectacular.

When you’ve had enough of being on land, you can snorkel or dive. We snorkled amongst many different types of vibrant coloured fish and surprisingly graceful sea turtles. The biggest fish we swam with were the baby reef sharks who seemed very comfortable swimming with us. Boat trips are also available for those who want to photograph the sunset across the sea, armed with the inevitable sun-downer cocktail.

The Maldives are experiencing visible climate change effects and suffer from encroaching sea levels resulting in land loss from these islands. It is probably best to visit now before these beautiful ‘in heaven’ islands of the Indian Ocean are lost forever.

This was a personal holiday of the author.

Images and text:  Lucy Elliott  wwwlucyelliottphotography.com