Absolute – London Life. It’s been a Glorious London Year.

Absolute – London Life. It’s been a Glorious London Year.

Summer! Always a truly magnificent time of the year. The fresh spring months made way for the long, warm weeks that stretched over the glorious summer holidays.  These weeks were filled with the promise of sunshine, alfresco dining, day trips with bucket and spades to the coast, long walks in the blooming countryside and lavender fields, strawberry picking, ice cream sundaes and BBQ’s galore.

To celebrate all things summer 2019,this issue of London Life will be sharing favourite London discoveries that have been found over the warm summer months in one of the most glamorous areas of our wonderful capital; the decadent and very chic Royal Borough of Chelsea.

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow fast in movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer”
–      F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby.

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Earlier this summer I was lucky enough to get myself a coveted ticket to the Chelsea Flower Show. This magnificent occasion is one of the most quintessentially British places to visit at the start of the summer season. Each of my visits so far over the years to the Chelsea Flower Show have always miraculously been blessed with beautiful weather, as if the weather gods are shining down on this treasured May weekend.

The Chelsea Flower Show has been hosted by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) annually since 1912 in the grounds of the Royal Hospital in the infamous borough of Chelsea and is renowned as being one of the most famous flower shows in the UK.

Held over the late May bank holiday in the Chelsea Hospital Gardens on Kings Road, each year always promises visitors a visually amazing sight and senses will be blessed with the infusion of heady floral scents from every area of the immaculately designed show from the endless creative variety of blooms on display.

We entered through the towering main gates and strolled through imaginatively designed gardens and breath-taking floral displays. We were met by huge clusters of vivid Delphiniums, which sat happily next to champion Azaleas in a plethora of rainbow hues. We walked through paths of iconic Poppies, which curled around the pretty Lupins, that were nestled beneath the towering Hollyhocks. Grand Rhododendrons sat poised like towering floral castles stretching up to the sky, and the rows of award-winning Roses in every colour sent out the glorious fragrant scent across the breeze.

The Chelsea Flower Show has grown in popularity over the years thanks to its dedicated followers as well as being televised by the BBC, and this year there was even more coverage with added Royal glamour as one of the most beautiful gardens had been carefully co-designed by the wonderful Duchess of Cambridge. It always looks fantastic on TV but it’s even more amazing to visit, so next year, if flowers, champagne and all things quintessentially British summertime are just your taste then make sure to get yourself a ticket.

A perfect way to spend your day at the Chelsea Flower Show is to arrive early to avoid the crowds, dash round all the show garden exhibitions which range from traditional Victorian inspired gardens, to modernist and minimal gardens, then there’s Japanese and oriental garden displays, water gardens, an array of artisan gardens next and interesting urban themed exhibits. Then visit the stunning Chelsea show centre piece, the grand Great Pavilion which is home to the most dazzling and fragrant in-door displays. Then finish with a late afternoon lunch and a decadent glass of crisp champagne in the elevated champagne bar.

I have heard rumours that if you visit the Chelsea Flower Show on the last day, then lots of beautiful blooms and plants are sold off at discounted prices, so pick your timings right and there could be bargains to be snapped up.

Tickets for the 2020 show go on sale this September and if you are a member of the RHS then you can get a discount as well. You can buy tickets for a full day, or entry at 3.30pm and 5.30pm which makes them slightly cheaper. RHS members tickets cost between around £42 to £94 and public tickets cost between around £45 and £107.

If you don’t manage to get a ticket for this wonderful British summer event, Chelsea is still a great place to visit at this time of the year as plenty of the shops, restaurants and bars in Kings Road and in the Duke of York Square are decorated just for the occasion with beautiful and fragrant designer floral displays which are really worth seeing.

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
London Gate, Royal Hospital Road, Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, SW3 4SR.

Chelsea Pubs!

An outing in wonderful Chelsea, whether it’s to stroll around a flower show, a spot of retail therapy, a trip to the theatre or to visit an art gallery, is always gratefully concluded with a bite to eat or refreshing beverage at a pretty gastropub.

Here are just some of my favourite pubs in Chelsea, hidden away off the beaten track in the pretty streets and avenues of some of the most floral and leafy areas in South West London, each offering appetising menus, chic cocktail lists and draft beers. These celebrated and award-wining watering-holes are certainly worth searching for during a stroll around one of the most chic, glamourous and lovely boroughs of London.

The Surprise.

I had never heard of this wonderful little gastropub tucked away behind a residential street, a stone throw from Kings Road. We quite literally stumbled across it by accident as we had taken a wrong turn.

Starving hungry and thirsty for a drink of the gin and tonic variety, we were instantly welcomed and shown to a cosy vacant corner of the pub to rest our weary feet. The tasteful décor is a quirky mix of large comfortable sofas, big cosy armchairs, and large fireplaces, with high ceilings and a light airy spacious feel. Every house on the street has its own tankard behind the bar which just adds to friendly and homely feel that the pub and its staff radiate as soon as you enter through the big open doors.

The menu was fantastic with an array of light bites and hearty main meals, all created with seasonal and fresh ingredients. Each plate of food was attractive and well thought out, and each item on the menu was reasonably priced. To quench my thirst, I ordered a wonderful elderflower gin cocktail. To get the meal off to a flying start, I chose the most moreish bowl of Cornish clam bisque, with smoked olives and watercress (£9), followed by the main course which was the hearty homemade Surprise bacon and cheese burger with ale onions, steamed brioche bun and skinny fries (£15.75), and to finish, a toffee and banana crème brulee with amoretti crumbs and caramel cream (£7).

The service was attentive without being rushed. The staff were all friendly and helpful. It was so comfortable I didn’t want to leave. The Surprise, you were indeed a Surprise and I shall certainly be returning as long as I can find you again the next time I wander off the beaten track of the Kings Road in search of a G&T.

The Surprise.
6 Christchurch Terrace, Chelsea, London, SW3 4AJ.

The Phene.

The Phene in Chelsea is one of my favourite pubs in this postcode. The décor, main bar area, and soft furnishing are all exquisite. A beautiful mixture of dark wood and grey panelling, teal green walls, and the luxurious floral wallpaper which adds a beautiful botanical feel to the venue. There is a wonderful light and airy conservatory as well as a variety of function rooms, and they cater for all occasions including weddings from 12 guests up to 200 guests.

The Oakley Room is the perfectly lovely first floor room space for 44 seated and 75 standing guests with its own dedicated bar, large bay windows and polished wooden floors and a real fireplace. The Club Room is a cosy dining room perfect for 16 seated and 30 standing guests, with teal green walls, floral bright wallpaper and fuchsia pink fabric lounge chairs. The Conservatory seats 28 guests and is a beautifully light and airy ground floor dining space perfect for group lunches. The Aviary is the pretty restaurant situated on the ground floor by the garden. The garden itself is leafy and floral, a real oasis in the heart of Chelsea just perfect for summer cocktails.

The menu is fantastic, and the head chef of the Phene is Michelin trained and serves sumptuous seasonal dishes with British fresh ingredients, with a mixture of British classic and modern dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner through the week. There’s also a huge selection of craft beers and international wines which are the perfect accompaniment to all the dishes.

The Phene is also well known for its extensive vegan and vegetarian menus with these dishes also accommodating gluten free and coeliac free diets.

On my last visit to The Phene I chose the smoked chicken and leek terrine to start (£8), the main was a perfect plate of Lamb rump with spring vegetables with an anchovy and olive salsa (£18). The amazing dessert was plum crumble with clotted cream (£7).

The Phene.
9 Phene Street, London, SW35NY.

The Chelsea Ram.

The Chelsea Ram is a great pub. The decor is bright, clean and traditional, with authentic fireplaces, polished wooden floors, panelled walls in teal blue with matching velvet highbacked armchairs. Shelves of books with brightly coloured spines and framed artwork adorn the walls. The service is great, and all the staff are friendly and welcoming.

On my last visit I tried the Haddock and leek smokie, poached with toasted soldiers (£8.50), followed by one of The Chelsea Ram infamous Ram Pies, the pulled Lamb shank Shepherd’s pie topped with Isle of Mull mash and served with a side of fresh garden peas (£15). Every mouthful was divine. Being too full for pudding, I concentrated on polishing off the glorious bottle of Malbec (£28.50).

The Chelsea Ram can be found just off the Kings Road. The nearest station is Fulham Broadway, and its right near Chelsea Harbour and only 5 minutes’ walk from Imperial Wharf.

The Chelsea Ram.
32 Burnaby Street, Chelsea, London, SW10 0PL.

The Phoenix.

The Phoenix on Smith Street in Chelsea is a wonderful little gem of a pub. The pub has a classic menu that regularly changes to showcase new items and great dishes. The Phoenix serves British cask ales, boasts an extensive wine list, an inventive cocktail list and a good selection of continental beers. There’s also a great out-door terrace area and a super in-door bar space perfect for groups or dinner dates.

When we last popped in, we feasted on a sharing dish of Baked Somerset Camembert, with rosemary, thyme, garlic, red onion jam and toasted sourdough (£16). I then ordered a generous portion of Pan-fried Scottish Salmon niçoise salad with basil dressing (£17), with a side of homemade sweet potato chips (£4.50). The finale arrived, a delightful dessert of sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice-cream (£7). I was quite literally ready to go pop.

The décor of this pub is super. It’s fresh and modern, with bold coloured soft furnishings and comfortable furniture. The service is great too.

The Phoenix.
23 Smith Street, Chelsea, London, SW3 4EE.

Coopers Arms.

This great little pub is found sitting happily on Flood Street just off Kings Road. This super watering-hole has a good classic pub menu which won’t break the budget. On my last visit here, I was starving and ordered the huge club sandwich with char-grilled chicken breast, smoked bacon, with salad and home-made fries (£8.50), and then the pudding was a magnificent portion of chocolate-brownie with vanilla ice-cream (£7.50).

Coopers Arms.
87 Flood Street, London, SW3 5TB.

London Life

Charlie McBrien