A pic­nic of a way to spend a week­end

LISA GRAY stayed in an up-mar­ket part of London – and took a ham­per along to sam­ple its al fresco de­lights . . .

Macclesfield Express - - TRAVEL -

A PLAY­GROUND of the rich and fa­mous, Bel­gravia is renowned as one of our cap­i­tal’s most af­flu­ent and well-heeled neigh­bour­hoods.

Home to the likes of Ro­man Abramovich, An­drew Lloyd Web­ber and Nigella Law­son, there is no bet­ter place to spend a few hours spot­ting Fer­raris and sam­pling how the wealthy and fa­mous spend their time.

The idea of en­joy­ing a sim­ple pic­nic while sur­rounded by such op­u­lence may not be the first cater­ing op­tion that springs to mind.

But that is just what one bou­tique ho­tel of­fered guests this sum­mer, as part of an ‘ur­ban food ad­ven­ture’ de­signed to help guests un­cover some of the cap­i­tal’s open spa­ces.

The Bel­graves Ho­tel, which show­cased the pic­nic ini­tia­tive, proudly oc­cu­pies a charm­ing cor­ner of the neigh­bour­hood, com­bin­ing old-world allure with the lux­u­ries one ex­pects from such an im­pres­sive lo­ca­tion.

Though its Pic­nic and Play pack­age has now ended, the ho­tel is an ideal base from which to ex­plore some of the area’s green gems, whether al fresco din­ing is in mind or not.

Bel­graves is just a 10-minute stroll from Knights­bridge Tube sta­tion, which is on the Pic­cadilly line with reg­u­lar di­rect trains from Heathrow, mean­ing this one-of-a-kind ho­tel is within two hours of Manch­ester Air­port.

We are greeted by help­ful and pleas­ant concierge staff, who are oblig­ing with­out a hint of snob­bery, and swiftly shown to our room de­spite ar­riv­ing five hours be­fore the of­fi­cial check-in time.

The ac­com­mo­da­tion is stun­ning in its simplicity, both el­e­gant and warm, with an enor­mous bed to sink into, in­di­vid­ual fea­tures and ex­pan­sive views across the im­pos­ing London land­scape.

The bath­room is a real high­light, with a mon­soon shower and gen­er­ous bath big enough for at least two, per­fect for re­lax­ing after a day’s ur­ban ex­plo­ration.

The pic­nic it­self, in a com­pact ham­per equipped with all the uten­sils and ac­ces­sories re­quired, is a tes­ta­ment to the enor­mous tal­ent and flair of the Bel­graves’ sig­na­ture Pont Street restau­rant.

Not a soggy cu­cum­ber sand­wich or dry pork pie is in sight, with de­lights in­clud­ing saf­fron and but­ter­milk chicken skew­ers, su­per­food salad with quinoa, pomegranate, fen­nel and pis­ta­chios, straw­berry and pink pep­per­corn tarts and wild garlic pesto orec­chi­ette salad.

So, where to en­joy our por­ta­ble feast?

There are a num­ber of benches dot­ted around Bel­gravia it­self which make for a pleas­ant af­ter­noon’s peo­ple­watch­ing, though it is worth not­ing the flag­ship Bel­grave Square Gar­den is open only to lo­cal res­i­dents.

The ho­tel is within easy reach of some of London’s best known green spa­ces, with St James’ Park, Green Park and Hyde Park all within a short walk­ing dis­tance.

Slightly fur­ther away, one finds the Vic­to­ria Em­bank­ment Gar­dens, where ping pong ta­bles pro­vide some fun post-pic­nic ta­bles and Ky­oto Gar­dens in Hol­land Park, with wa­ter­falls and Koi carp pro­vid­ing a pleas­ant back­drop for hun­gry vis­i­tors.

If rain threat­ens to dampen out­side ex­plo­ration, Bel­gravia is well po­si­tioned for con­tin­gency plans.

World fa­mous Har­rods and nu­mer­ous other high end Knights­bridge stores make for a fas­ci­nat­ing few hours’ shop­ping, while the nearby Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum, Sci­ence Mu­seum and Vic­to­ria and Al­bert Mu­seum pro­vide hours of en­ter­tain­ment for vis­i­tors of all ages.

It is worth get­ting to the mu­se­ums early, with long queues of­ten await­ing vis­i­tors later in the day.

And with Bel­graves just a stone’s throw away from Buck­ing­ham Palace, the ho­tel is ide­ally placed to pay your re­gards to Her Majesty by tak­ing a guided tour.Plan­ning a visit to London can be a lit­tle over-fac­ing to the un­fa­mil­iar tourist, with such enor­mous choice in the city over where to stay.

Bel­gravia’s rep­u­ta­tion as one of the world’s most de­sir­able places to live is clearly jus­ti­fied, boast­ing charm and con­ve­nience for any ex­plorer.

Pic­nic sea­son may be fad­ing as au­tumn turns colder, but Bel­graves Ho­tel prom­ises to im­press what­ever the weather. BEL­GRAVES, a Thomp­son Ho­tel, is lo­cated at 20 Che­sham Place, London, SW1 8HQ. Prices start from £299 (+ VAT) per room per night for a King Su­pe­rior.For more in­for­ma­tion on Bel­graves, please visit thomp­son­ho­tels.com/ ho­tels/london. Vir­gin At­lantic’s Lit­tle Red flies three times a day to Manch­ester from London Heathrow. Econ­omy fares start from £2 plus £92.85 tax. For in­for­ma­tion call 0344 2092770 or visit vir­gin-at­lantic. com.

PHILIPVILE

●● Bel­gravia, viewed from one of the rooms at The Bel­graves Ho­tel, in­set

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