Feeling wilted because you missed out on tickets to the Chelsea Flower Show‘s centenary edition? Fear not: a rose at any other show would smell as sweet and there are plenty of capital distractions for social butterflies, barflies and busy bees – from watering-can cocktails to edible gardens. Here’s our (ahem) pick of the bunch, plus a round-up of the best London boutique hotels to bed down in afterwards…
BEST FOR SOCIAL BUTTERFLIES
The Roof Gardens’ One Day Club, 26 May
One of London’s best-loved hideaway bars, the Roof Gardens in Kensington, is celebrating its 75th birthday in Bacchanalian splendour with watering cans full of Champagne cocktails (such as Strawberry Fields, with Beaumet Brut Champagne and Grand Marnier-soaked strawberries) to coax any wallflowers and shrinking violets out of the shade. The acre and a half of tropical high-rise horticulture (with palm trees, babbling streams and even the odd flamingo) will be abuzz with west London’s designer-clad set and DJ-spun tunes. Tickets are £15 in advance and £20 on the door.
Bed down for the night Ramble round the corner to the Ampersand Hotel, where those feeling as delicate as a flower can lounge on squishy sofas and nibble on pastries in the floral-print bedecked Drawing Room, followed up by a gentle round of ping-pong in the games room.
Branch out Need more of a fix? Head to Kensington Palace, for a tour of Wills’ and Kate’s digs (well almost…) and a Chelsea Flower Show-inspired afternoon tea on the Orangery restaurant’s rose-scented terrace.
BEST FOR HISTORIC HORTICULTURE
RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, 9–14 July
Gorgeous gardens of all colours and creeds (from 50’s-style Modernism to ecological bug sanctuaries) welcome old-hand growers and greenhorns alike to this venerable venue – King Henry VIII’s southwest London palace – rivalling Chelsea for green-fingered genius and well-heeled hobnobbing. Wander by the water gardens, take a punt on the RHS’s winning allotment and engage your senses in the Inspire, Grow and Escape zones of this palatial take on a village fete; with shops, tastings and a sprinkling of gardeners to offer sage advice.
Bed down for the night Head downriver to the Bingham for drinks on the garden-view balcony and dinner in the Michelin-rated restaurant. Ferries leave the Hampton dock for Richmond pier, just a few steps from this riverside hotel’s garden entrance. More about the Bingham…
Branch out Continue the garden theme next day with supper at the Petersham Nurseries Café (+44 (0)20 8940 5230), where the ingredients in their divine dishes come straight from the potting shed to your plate.
BEST FOR GREEN GOURMANDS
Corrigan’s Mayfair restaurant Mayfair in Bloom tasting menu, 21–25 May (with chef cooking demonstrations until 28 May)
Culinary whiz Richard Corrigan has graduated flowers from garnish to main ingredient in his Flower Show-inspired six-course tasting menu – laced with trimmings from the restaurant’s rooftop garden and washed down with custom ‘Chelsea in Bloom’ cocktails. It’s served for a limited time only, so make like a Venus flytrap and snap up some tickets to watch Corrigan’s chefs blend botanical flavours and shed new light on house-plant haute cuisine – with perennially tasty dishes such as Cornish crab and apple blossom. Contact the restaurant (+44 (0)20 7499 9943) for details.
Bed down for the night The Metropolitan by COMO hotel is the perfect parkside stay, with panoramic views of Hyde Park, London’s most tree-filled spot, and more edible inventiveness at Nobu; where you’ll dine on a Michelin-starred mix of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines.
Branch out Trot down Hyde Park’s tree-lined lanes (with a small diversion to Speakers’ Corner) to take a pedalo trip across the Serpentine Lake, or hop on horseback to explore the surprisingly pleasant Rotten Row before grabbing a Mojito at the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen (+44 (0)020 7706 8114).
BEST FOR A BUZZING BAR
Edible Garden at Belgraves Hotel, 21–25 May
Belgraves Hotel is already a hothouse of well-groomed Belgravia gamines, but in honour of Chelsea’s centenary its Cigar terrace will be bursting into life with an Edible Garden experience. Chew up the scenery at the living edible-flower wall and let your palate blossom with the mixologist’s petal-garnished, botanical-infused cocktails. Daily edible-flower cocktail classes, food and flower pairing tutorials and seed packet giveaways will give you the know how to cultivate some colourful, herbaceous dishes and drinks of your own.
Bed down for the night Flagging floral enthusiasts need only totter upstairs to hit the hay in one of Belgraves‘ blissful bedrooms. The Thompson Suite is perfect for rakish types with a slick Mad Men-style wet bar or less pricy Premium rooms have blossom-coloured sofas sunk into window nooks. The living room-cum-bar is fabulous whether bedecked in blooms or not, with geometric bookcase walls and perfect-for-slumping-in sofas.
Branch out Stalk up to Harvey Nichols’ (+44 (0)20 7235 5000) fifth floor for their take on the Chelsea Flower Show – bloom-garnished Forbidden Fruit Martinis and Mare Flower cocktails.
BEST FOR PERFECTING YOUR POSY
Tom Aikens’ Lunch in Bloom 21–25 May
Cutting-edge chef (and Smith reviewer) Tom Aikens has teamed up with bouquet-crafters extraordinaire, Wild at Heart, at his Michelin-starred restaurant, to teach diners how to brush up their boutonnieres before tucking into a three-course floral feast. After wrangling your wisteria into a vision of loveliness, tuck into petal-packed dishes such as confit of Loch Duart salmon with viola, violet flowers and pickled endive. The Lunch In Bloom package costs £120 a person; ring the restaurant (+44 (0)20 7584 2003) for details.
Bed down for the night The Kensington Hotel is a 10-minute walk from the restaurant, where you’ll see plenty of flowery decor features throughout. See how your efforts compare to their understated yet impactful tea-rose arrangements (Smith loves the mod square vases), while you sip on their elderflower-infused cocktail, Sunset on the River Thames.
Branch out The Victoria and Albert Museum (+44 (0)20 7942 2000) has dug up some of its old chestnuts from their archives, with enchanting vintage garden gewgaws, such as architectural watering cans, botanical illustrations and homewares with horticultural designs.