Clear blue skies, a chill in the air, calm seas and a gentle breeze, this was January 15 in the New Forest of southern England, quite unexpected and welcome.
My wife, Kay, and I were guests of Chewton Glen, the quintessential English Country House Hotel for their 50th anniversary party. The skillful managing director Andrew Stembridge had assembled a kitchen dream team, followed by a host of celebrities, dignitaries, past guests and team members, but most of all, exuberant fans of Chewton Glen to indulge in an anniversary feast.
The black tie evening began with a Champagne reception followed by an artful fireworks display as guests made their way along the hotel gardens to the ballroom. Well timed remarks were made along with an emotional “walk down memory lane” video of the hotel before we enjoyed a seven course meal. The noted chefs working on our culinary experience were Luke Matthews, Pierre Chevillard, James Martin, and Jean-Christophe Novelli. Understanding they had a tough crowd to please, the chefs presented themselves to the guests who included TV personalities Merry Berry and Chris Evans. The Livingstone Brothers were in attendance as owners of Chewton Glen, but they also enjoy ownership of Cliveden House, which has relished in a great renewal plus they announced the acquisition of the historic Lygon Arms Country House in the Cotswolds. The evening was completed with music and dancing followed by carriages at midnight.
During our extraordinary 48 hours at Chewton Glen we enjoyed a delightful meal at the Three Tuns thatched roof pub, a walk on the beach to Highcliff Castle, the elaborate beach home of Harry Selfridges and, most of all, a glimpse of the inspiring Treehouses at Chewton Glen. The treehouses are six pods of rooms built in the forest on stilts. The perfect setting to escape the world and disconnect in the lap of luxury.
We allowed ourselves some additional indulgent time in London at the Lanesborough. It has just completed an expertly designed refresh of gracious six-star hotel standards. With the help of enlisted friends, who live in London, we set out on a hotel bar examination of the Shangri La, Rosewood London, Claridges and the Connaught. I am happy to report that they have all passed with flying colors. We also took time to entice lady luck at the Ritz Hotel Casino, which was great fun.
Our visit to the city coincided with “Lumiere London” a stunning visual art display throughout the city which happens each year in mid-January for just three short nights. There were a total of 31 installations in a variety of locations; most notably the façade of Westminster Abbey displayed in full color and Les Voyageurs (the travelers) a setting of several all-white human figures floating above the city streets of the St. James area.
Any occasion is the perfect time to visit the city of London or the countryside as no one presents stately indulgence like the British.