By Derren Howard
A day out in London with a spot of lunch always has a certain appeal.
A little more than an hour up the track from Eastbourne, if Southern Rail are on their A-game, and the options are vast. Galleries, concerts, sport, theatre, shopping or just sight-seeing and people watching, London always has plenty to excite and inspire. For this trip to the capital my wife and I hit a few shops on Regent Street but a combination of damage limitation for the credit card and a rumbling stomach soon had our minds drifting.
Food is rarely far from my thoughts at the best of times but when running on empty in London you are seriously spoilt for choice. As the weather was decent, and in the spirit of sampling something a little different, we went for the picnic in the park.
A picnic when I was growing-up was a pretty standard affair. The outdoor blanket was taken from the garage, given a bit of a shake and we’d drive to a spot by a nearby river and set up camp. mA few sandwiches, crisps and sausage rolls would appear from the cool box and feeding time would begin, normally followed by a game of football - there wasn’t a well-dressed butler or an ice bucket of fine Italian Presecco to be seen.
Don’t get me wrong, picnics by the river were great fun but the hamper provided by Dukes London, complete with butler service, was on a different level. The Champions League of picnics.
We walked to Dukes from Regent Street and we were greeted by our butler. We took a five minute stroll into Green Park and found a quiet area with a view of Buckingham Palace. The butler was soon at work laying down the first blanket then on top went a rather pristine looking white starched cloth and from there our hamper was presented and fully laid out. The Presseco was popped and left to chill in the ice bucket and we were left to chill on our blanket.
The butlers vanished, presumably back to the hotel and almost immediately we began to enjoy the food and there was lots of it. The Loch Duart salmon was freshly poached and served with a new potato salad, mixed with mustard and tarragon. We soon made light work of the chorizo and goat’s cheese scotch eggs while the spiced chicken brochette with courgette and cherry tomato was also full of flavour. If you had room, there were three different British artisan cheeses with a selection of fresh breads, crackers and a chutney. And just for something sweet, a lemon posset slipped down the edges to top off a fine picnic. It all felt quite posh but in a relaxed way and within one of London’s finest parks. With nothing else to do, feeling full and content we laid back drained the remaining Presseco and watched the clouds drift by through the leaves of the trees above.
A quick phone call to the hotel and the butlers re-appeared in double-quick time - were they hiding behind a tree? They efficiently packed the hamper and left us to enjoy the rest of our day in London. A very nice lunch-time option for a summer’s day out in the capital.
Derren and Maria Howard were invited by Dukes London. Traditional British Picnics with butler service are priced from £39.50 per person (minimum two people per picnic). Traditional British Picnics with a small bottle of Champagne are from £99 per person (minimum two people per picnic). Children’s Picnics are £12 per person.
For more information on Dukes London please contact 0207 491 4840 or visit www.dukeshotel.com.