HRH The Duchess of Cambridge formerly opens Kensington Aldridge Academy and the Kensington Leisure Centre

Yesterday HRH The Duchess of Cambridge officially offended the new Kensington Aldridge Academy and Kensington Leisure Centre.  The new facilities stand on the site of the former leisure centre where, during their time at Wetherby School, both Their Royal Highnesses The Duke  of Cambridge and Prince Harry had swimming lessons.

Her Royal Highness toured the academy, met Principal David Benson, students and staff, and sat in on a geography and RE lesson.  The Duchess then enjoyed a short presentation from students in the theatre before unveiling a plaque to commemorate her visit (and being given a posy from 3 year old Florence Aldridge).  Before leaving the Duchess visited the academy’s Creates Hub for young entrepreneurs, and met students are are designing items for sale at Portobello Road Market.

Her Royal Highness then took a short walk to the leisure centre, due to open to residents of Kensington in March, to tour the state of the art facilities and watch sporting displays from local primary school children and other community groups.  She then attended a reception to meet those involved in the project and unveiled a plaque to mark her visit to the leisure centre.


Images & Copyright:  Lucy Elliott / www.lucyelliottphotography.com

Truffle Hunting in the Dordogne

Firstly, and I would like to get this out of the way. Not all airports are equal. Some are more equal than others. City Airport is a case in point. None of the usual palaver of walking miles and miles once you’ve got there to try and find your gate. None of the waiting around carousels for your baggage to appear. Departing from City Airport turns out to be rather a well kept secret. You mention City Airport to people and they say, “Oh yes I used City and it was brilliant”. Well if it’s brilliant why aren’t people shouting about it? OK so they want to keep it a secret. Well I’m about to spill the beans. It took us precisely one hour to get there from Notting Hill (Friday morning 8.30 a.m.) and one hour to return to Notting Hill (Sunday 9.00 p.m.) When you get out at City Airport from the DLR the airport is there, right in front of you. Check in took about 60 seconds. Cost-wise, once you’ve added all the implausible extras from ‘no frill airlines’ you might as well have paid City Jet the same but have far less bother. Have I said enough?

City Jet fly to numerous places in France. Margaret and I flew to Brive, in the Perigord region of the Dordogne Valley. Our purpose? To hunt truffles and learn how to cook truffles and foie gras. A hard weekend. Within an hour of landing we were hunting truffles in the truffle area of Yssandon. Truffles can be found in three ways, by using a pig (somewhat unreliable as the pig will enthusiastically eat the truffle), flies (I won’t go into this here) or a dog. We met Jean-Pierre accompanied by his young dog who was definitely more interested in playing. She was quickly replaced with Pif, a 14 year old, experienced ‘truffle hunter dog’. Together we found lots of truffles. One so large that it sold on the market the next day for 180 euros. Truffles found in this area are known as The Black Diamond Truffle. They can be found from December to February and are highly prized. Collected in wicker baskets lined with the traditional red checked cloth, truffles have a very distinct scent, stronger in scent than when actually eaten. They tend to grow, as a fungi about 35 cm beneath the earth, on the roots of oak or hazelnut trees. One easy way of working out whether you might find truffles is whether there is a barren patch of earth surrounding the tree on the grass level. If it’s barren it means there are truffles since they are taking away all the moisture from the surface.

Truffles can be eaten both raw or cooked. Raw can be on sour bread with foie gras, or crushed with salted bread. Cooked could be as a brillarde – a form of runny scrambled egg or omelette with truffle – a traditional dish for all truffle aficionados. Other examples are Limousin beef fillet, with black truffle spelt risotto; roasted wild turbot with black truffle mashed potato; sea scallops cappuccino with black truffle or as a sauce with veal. To my mind the two most simple but delicious ways of eating truffle are (a) sliced truffle sandwiched between two layers of young brie, on bread or (b) truffle with foie gras and a tiny bit of truffle oil, flashed grilled. In both these examples the taste and texture of the truffle really shine.

The weekend of 14/15 January was La Fete de la Truffe held in Sarlat – a beautiful and traditional French market town. Tiny quaint cobbled streets, a traditional market square where the old and the young sample dishes of foie gras and truffles and chefs show off their culinary skills. Each truffle on sale at the market is checked for freshness and quality (if the truffle is ‘wet’ or a bit squishy, then it’s off). But there’s more to see here than just truffles and people eating and drinking. A must is the trip in the Vue du Ciel a glass lift to view the town from above. Masses of higgledy piggley roof tops in reds, oranges and browns, like a Klee painting, adorn the vista. You could imagine this was how London looked pre the Great Fire. Very close together, all shapes and sizes, turrets, flat roofs, steep roofs, etc. You really don’t expect this surprise as you ascend in the lift. Apparently it is equally beautiful at night.

As part of the Fete de la Truffe, the Academie Culinaire du foie gras et de la truffe takes place – here one star Michelin chef Daniel Chambon taught us how to make ‘Petit chou farci de foie de canard a la truffe, brunoise de legumes et de truffes’. Which, like most cookery demonstrations looked simple enough. It certainly tasted delicious. Later in the afternoon it was our turn to try and under the eye of Henry Florance, a group of enthusiastic novices (of varying degree of culinary talent) tackled a gratin of foie gras, truffles and vegetables. And for a group of enthusiastic novices, the results were surprisingly good.

A weekend in the Dordogne (Friday – Sunday) is a wonderfully easy (and stress free) escape from City Airport with plenty to do and see, and if you love truffles, go before the end of February.


How to get there:

What to do/see:
Vue de Ciel, Sarlat: www.sarlat-tourisme.com About 5 euros per person
Jean-Pierre Vaujour email:  jp.vaujour@wanadoo.fr / (only speaks French)

Where to stay:
Manoir de Malagorse www.manoir-de-malagorse.fr
Chateau de Lacan, Brive www.chateaulacan.com
Le Pavillon Saint-Martin Hotel www.hotel-saint-martin-souillac.com


CityJet flies to Brive twice a week from London City.  Their one way fares start from as little as £79, including all taxes. To book flights visit www.cityjet.com or call reservations on 0871 666 50 50. 

Lucy Elliott (Editor) and Margaret Mervis (Travel Writer) of The Kensington Magazine were guests of the above.

Images and copyright: Lucy Elliott/The Kensington Magazine





A summer’s afternoon with Elvis and Queen Victoria

One of the most fun afternoons we’ve had in Kensington for ages.   A low key, family event in the wonderful surroundings of Kensington Palace.   A village fete type occasion which could have been happening in any village in Britain.  Instead we had an opened out marquee with Regency and Baroque dancers, together with dancers from the 1950s, jiving and a’ rock’n'rollin to Elvis.  The young and the old got together for a family afternoon of fun and dancing, stories and art.
Inspired by Royal Historic Palaces, local school children held a Fashion Show.  They designed and made outfits for members of royalty who had lived at Kensington Palace over the years.   We had William of Orange, Queens Caroline, Charlotte and Victoria, and Princesses Margaret and Diana (all in finery they would never have imagined).  There was even Peter, the Wild Boy.

The catwalk, 12 ft of it, was not, as Diana Olutunmogun said, a fashion show from Paris, nor even Milan, but from our very own London, Kensington Palace. Young children (some very young) sat on benches and watched in awe as “royalty” – children older themselves sashayed up and down.  ’That’s my brother’ whisphered one very proud little girl, rather loudly.  Grandparents beamed away, parents videod, tweeted or photographed.
Everyone was genuinely encouraged to join in the dancing, from 3 year olds to those approaching 80….   all showing various levels of talent!   Older sisters taught very little ones; professionals swung teens, parents and grandparents about.  The sun shone, families and friends had picnics, a small makeshift table provided teas, coffees, cakes and wines, for those who hadn’t realised this was an entire afternoon’s entertainment.   The most endearing and long lasting memory was of a boy, aged about 7, strumming his skate board very determinedly as though Elvis. Which of course he was. Obviously.
This was Kensington at its best.
images copyright Lucy Elliott

The Marbella Club, Spain

The Kensington Magazine was invited to stay at The Marbella Club by kind courtesy of the owner, Mr David Shamoon as part of the press corp covering The Global Party (more of that later).

The Marbella Club, as with Reids in Madeira, has quite a history.  Faded elegance; understated chic and royal connections.   At the cocktail party Count Rudi von Schonburg, (known simply as ‘Count Rudi’) a great friend and business partner of Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe of Spain, recounted a story of the Prince galavanting around Europe in the fifties telling all his friends about this wonderful place in Marbella – surrounded by a pinewood forest, on the edge of an olive grove.  His friends dutifully turned up, only to find a farmhouse which was neither chic nor elegant.  Having been determined to leave the next day, his friends succumbed to its charm and were woed.   They then stayed a couple of weeks, and in turn mentioned it to their friends.   The allure of what is now, some fifty years later, The Marbella Club is exactly that it is understated.  In a world of celebrity culture it is refreshing to be somewhere where the service is impeccable, the food is wonderful (nothing like a long lunch at the Beach Restaurant) and even if everyone is someone, no-one seems to care or even notice. Celebs (if they want to) can actually be themselves without having to preen in front of cameras.

On a spot check (we like to do this), out of seven members of staff we spoke to, the minimum length of service was 5 years and the maximum, 22 years.  As one younger waiter gesticulated in charming broken English – “this is my family, why would I want to work anywhere else”.   No amount of glossy brochures can give such a good testament as this.

The rooms and bathrooms are large; but the tour de force are the Andalucian style private villas, each with its own pool.  Beautifully decorated (remember no glitz), these are a wonderful treat for anyone wanting total privacy. The gardens are beautiful, reflective of mediterranean greenery and very tranquil.  Just lie by the pool and listen to the birds singing, or for the more energetic try a ride in the beautiful countryside, a round of golf, or a visit to the Thalasso Spa.

The Marbella Club offers a wonderful break from the fast pace of life – a time to recharge and enjoy understated elegance and service.

Images Lucy Elliott

Copyright The Kensington Magazine

External shots around The Marbella Club; internal shots inside an private villa; Lucy Elliott with Count Rudi


Contact details:  The Marbella Club

Charity Dinner to raise funds for a Cyber Knife – Providing a different kind of radiotherapy care for Cancer

Local restuaranteur Patrick Tako, owner of Chez Patrick in Stratford Road, W8, hosted a Charity Dinner with the Mayor of Kensington & Chelsea, Councillor James Husband in attendance, together with his wife, the Mayoress.

The four course dinner was to raise awareness and funds for CyberKnife – a new frameless radiosurgery system which targets treatment more accurately than standard radiotherapy.  It is revolutionary in that patients do not require anaesthesia, there is no recovery time and patients can usually be treated and go home on the same day.   It is not yet widely available in the UK although there is a CyberKnife at The Harley Street Clinic.

Patrick, together with colleagues from the Metropolitan Masonic Charity are aiming to raise the required £3M for a second UK CyberKnife  to be installed at St Barts Hospital.   At the beginning of March, a substantial sum of £500,000 had already been paid to Barts and the London Hospital towards this goal.

The charity dinner at Chez Patrick raised £1,772.00 with guests paying generously for raffle prizes as well as the dinner.   John Hussey of the Metropolitan Masonic Charity received the cheque from Patrick.

As Patrick explained his incentive to try and do as much as he could to raise money for the CyberKnive, is one, sadly borne of the recent loss of his father last year to cancer, and then weeks later, finding his mother had breast cancer, and cancer on the kidneys.   His desire to raise as much funds as possible is tangible.  He finished his speech with the words ” if we all give a little, we can achieve a lot”.  Simple but true.

If you would like to contribute towards this essential peice of machinery to help those with cancer recover, please give as generously as possible to uk/virginmoneygiving.com/charities/The Metropolitan Masonic Charity

From left to right, top to bottom:

Images: Lucy Elliott

Copyright: The Kensington Magazine: (a)  John Hussey, The Mayoress and Mayor; (b) Patrick Tako and John Hussey

(c) Patrick Tako;

Copyright: Brian Mackett: (d) Patrick Tako, The Mayoress, Mayor and Lucy Elliott