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