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Royal Hospital Chelsea: Visiting the historic home of the Chelsea Pensioners with Open House London

Royal Hospital Chelsea chapel exterior © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2019

The exterior of the chapel of Royal Hospital Chelsea

As the host venue of the Chelsea Flower Show, the Royal Hospital Chelsea sees over 157,000 visitors pass through its gates every May. However, these horticulture lovers only get to see the outside of this historic venue. Known as the home of the ‘Chelsea Pensioners’, parts of the Royal Hospital are open to visitors, including during Open House London.

Wren’s Chapel with ceiling painting by Sebastiano Ricci

The Royal Hospital Chelsea is a retirement and nursing home for around 300 veterans of the British Army. Until the 17th century, there was no state provision to look after retired or injured soldiers. However, King Charles II (1630-1685) recognised these veterans needed care and founded the Royal Hospital Chelsea in 1682. He chose to establish it on a 66-acre site in Chelsea, which housed a theological college named ‘Chelsey College’, founded 73 years older by his grandfather James I of England (1566-1625). Charles II and his royal administrator Sir Stephen Fox (1627-1716) commissioned architect Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) to design and oversee the building’s construction.

Wren designed the Great Hall and Chapel. The 42ft high chapel was completed in 1687 and was consecrated in August 1691. The chapel’s interior features a painting of the Resurrection of Christ by Italian painter Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734) and his nephew Marco Ricci (1676–1730), which was added in 1710-15 during Queen Anne’s (1665-1714) reign. Just to the south-west of the Chapel was the Great Hall, which was originally intended as a dining hall. It featured 16 long tables with a large mural of King Charles II on horseback being crowned by Victory. Meanwhile, outside in the central court, the King was honoured again with a 7ft 6in statue in copper alloy by Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721). Read the rest of this entry

Calling all avo lovers – The Avocado Show pop-up is coming to Bluebird Chelsea

© Avo Garden

The Avocado Show pop-up is coming to London in March 2019

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you may have noticed the avocado is having a moment. In fact, this is more than a moment as it has been happening for a couple of years now and you’d be hard pushed to find a brunch spot without avocado on the menu.

With this in mind, avo lovers are in for a treat this spring as Amsterdam’s famous The Avocado Show is coming to London for a limited time. The team behind the world’s first all-avocado concept will setting up camp at the Bluebird Chelsea from 11th to 24th March. The Avocado Show pop-up will be serving their stunning, stand out dishes using sustainable and socially responsible avocados.

The menu will feature creations influenced by chef Jamie van Heije. Among the dishes on offer include The Avo Garden (salad composed on top of an avocado), The Bun Burger (a wagyu beef patty with bacon and toppings served between two avocado halves) and The Benny Boy (poached eggs with house-made hollandaise served atop crispy bacon slices and avocado halves). The Bluebird Café will be transformed with plenty of foliage and greenery. Staff will be wearing branded The Avocado Show shirts as they bring TAS’s unique vibe to Chelsea.

The Avocado Show was launched in 2017 and was a big hit with foodies and critics. Today, The Avocado Show is open in several locations, has published a cookbook and developed avocado fries for sale.

  • The Avocado Show Pop Up runs from 11-24 March 2019. At Bluebird Chelsea, 350 King’s Road, Chelsea, SW3 5UU. Nearest station: South Kensington or Sloane Square. For more information and booking, visit the Bluebird website.

For a guide to what’s on in London in March, click here.

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The river runs through it: Have you spotted the river in Sloane Square tube station?

One of London’s hidden rivers is flowing through one of the capital’s busy tube stations.

Sloane Sq river © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

A 19th century iron pipe (the green) carries a river above Sloane Square station

London is home to many ‘hidden’ rivers. Many of these became subterranean in the 19th century as the capital’s population boomed. A host of tributaries of the River Thames and River Lea have been forced underground and now exist in pipes. While most of the secret rivers aren’t visible to most Londoners today, there is one river you can see (sort of).

Sloane Sq river © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Many commuters have no idea there’s a river running through the station

The River Westbourne was originally named Kilburn – originating from ‘Cye Bourne’, which means ‘royal stream’. It rises in the Whitestone Pond in Hampstead and flows south through Kilburn, Bayswater, Hyde Park and Chelsea, before discharging in the River Thames near Chelsea Bridge. One of the crossings over the Westbourne was the Knights’ Bridge, a name dating back to at least the 11th century. Although the bridge is long gone, its name lives on in the district of Knightsbridge. There was another bridge crossing the Westbourne in the Sloane Square area named Blandel Bridge, later being renamed as Grosvenor Bridge.

The Serpentine lake in Hyde Park was formed in 1730 when King George II’s wife Queen Caroline (1683-1737) ordered the damning of the Westbourne. The river continued to supply the Serpentine until 1834, when it was deemed too polluted, so Thames water was used instead.

London’s population boom in the 19th century prompted widespread development. Increased residential dwellings popping up in the areas surrounding the Westbourne in Paddington, Chelsea and Belgravia, led to the decision to drive the Westbourne underground. The water was directed into pipes in the early part of the 19th century.

Today, commuters who use Sloane Square tube station can see the River Westbourne crossing the platform and tracks in a pipe. A large iron pipe suspended from girders carries the Westbourne through Sloane Square station, which was opened in December 1868. The pipe is the original one from the 19th century and managed to escape damage when the station was bombed during World War II in November 1940.

Sloane Sq river © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The Westbourne was forced underground in the early 1800s

  • Sloane Square tube station, Chelsea, SW1W 8BB. Nearest station: Sloane Square (obviously!).

For more London history posts, click here.

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The Chelsea cows – the story behind Wright’s Dairy and its surprising musical legacy

Have you ever spotted a cow’s head sticking out of one of Chelsea’s buildings? Here’s the history behind them…

Wrights Dairy King's Road © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The former Wright’s Dairy on the Kings Road now houses a Carphone Warehouse

Today, the London district of Chelsea is famous for its football club, trust fund socialites and designer boutiques. However, until the 19th century, the area was a rural neighbourhood. Chelsea served as a market garden for the rapidly-expanding city, with corn, barley, fruit and vegetables grown on the area’s numerous farms, orchards and gardens. It was particularly known for its root vegetables and was the first place in Britain where lettuce was grown successfully in the mid-to-late 18th century. Meanwhile, the area became fashionable for the wealthy from the 16th and 17th centuries, with its residential districts starting to overtake the farms in the late 19th century.

Wrights Dairy © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The Wrights Dairy head office in Old Church Street

One such farm which held on longer than others was Wright’s Dairy. The dairy was one of the first in Chelsea and was erected on Cook’s Grounds (the site of Glebe’s Place today) in 1796. Around 50 cows and two goats grazed nearby, providing milk for the dairy. In advertorials for their business, they were described as ‘dairy farmers and cowkeepers’. A frequent visitor to the dairy was Scottish philosopher and writer Thomas Carylyle (1795-1881), who lived a few minutes walk away on Cheyne Row. At the time of Carylyle lived in Chelsea, the dairy was run by W. H. Wright, whose late father had founded the business.

The Old Dairy was forced to move slightly west due to rapid redevelopment in the late 1800s, with Cook’s Ground and the nearby kitchen gardens of the Chelsea Rectory being swallowed up by housing. Wright’s Dairy set up their headquarters and a shop at 38-48 Church Street (now Old Church Street). The fields behind the dairy were used for the grazing cows. The street – which runs from the Embankment to the Fulham Road – is one of the oldest recorded streets in the area and dates back to the 16th century. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, business was booming for Wright’s Dairy and it was well-known and respected in the area. Its advertising in 1914 (see here) boasted about being “under constant medical, veterinary and sanitary inspection” and “acknowledged to be the finest and cleanest dairy in Chelsea”. One of their big selling points was stocking “humanised, sterilised and special nursery milk in glass bottles for infants and invalids”. As well as their Old Church Street base, Wright’s also had a shop at 69 King’s Road. Like many dairies of the time, both shops and the headquarters featured cow head sculptures sticking out of the top of the buildings.  Read the rest of this entry

Cocktails, hot dogs and movies as Bluebird Chelsea launches Foodflix

Bluebird Foodflix
As the temperatures drop and the nights set in, cosying up in front of a good film is more appealing than ever. This autumn, Bluebird Chelsea is launching a weekly movie night with films, food and cocktails. Cointreau will transform the King’s Road venue’s cinema room into a wintry orangery.

Every Tuesday evening, film fans can enjoy hot food, Cointreau cocktails and popcorn as they settle down to watch a movie. Sit on a comfy sofa or chair surrounded by orange tress as you watch films that have been chosen for their popular soundtracks. Among those being screened include The Greatest Showman, Dreamgirls, Moulin Rouge! and Whiplash. By the time December arrives, things will be taking a festive turn with Love Actually and The Holiday.

On arrival, guests will receive a welcome drink of Cointreau Fizz (Cointreau, sparkling water and freshly squeezed lime juice). Cointreau will also be serving two popular concoctions from their wooden pop-up bar: Royal Sidecar (Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal, Cointreau and freshly squeezed lemon juice) and Hot Cointreau Mulled Cider (spiked Cointreau cider made with Cointreau, fresh lime juice, cider, star anise, cloves and garnished with a cinnamon stick and slices of orange and apple).

Bluebird Foodflix

Sip on a Cointreau cocktail while watching a film

Meanwhile, your appetites are also fulfilled for as your ticket includes a Bluebird hot dog (spiced pork, pickled cabbage and chilli mayo) or a vegan burger (mushroom and edamame with sriracha mayo and baby gem). Additional food and drinks can purchased on the night.

The film programme is as follows:

30 October : The Greatest Showman
6 November : Dreamgirls
13 November : Moulin Rouge!
20 November : Whiplash
27 November : Love Actually
4 December : The Holiday.

  • Bluebird Chelsea, 350 King’s Road, Chelsea, SW3 5UU. Nearest station: South Kensington. Tickets: £25 (includes film, welcome Cointreau cocktail and a Bluebird hotdog or vegan burger). For more information, visit the Bluebird Chelsea website.

To find out what’s on in London in December, click here.

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Cocktails fit for a mobster as Barts speakeasy launches its Comic Book menu

© Johnny S Photography for Barts

A ‘Kidnap and Handsome’ cocktail @ Barts
© Johnny S Photography for Barts

As someone who doesn’t like to follow the crowd, I’m a huge fan of speakeasy bars. I love the idea of venturing into a secret bar or restaurant that only a few know about. Barts in Sloane Avenue has been on my to-do list for quite some time and this week, I finally paid a visit to attend the launch of the venue’s new Comic Book menu.

Barts is located in Chelsea Cloisters – a 1930s apartment block on Sloane Avenue. You’ll have to hunt a bit to find it – there’s no neon street sign guiding you to your destination. We eventually found the hidden door and rang the bell, prompting a tiny letterbox-sized window to open revealing a pair of eyes to check if you’re not the fuzz. Once we entered, we were greeted by an intimate, quirky space featuring cosy red and wood interiors. Vintage Bric-à-brac, such as taxidermy, lampshades and tennis racquets, adorned the walls.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

The Alchemist (vodka, elderflower cordial, mint, gomme syrup and apple juice)

The venue originally opened in 2009 and describes itself as ‘London’s worst kept secret’. However, the team behind Barts have decided to shake thing up and have launched a new Comic Book menu. The new drinks listings come in the form of, you guessed it, a comic book, which tells the story of how Chicago gangster Uncle Barts crossed the Pond and started his bootlegging business in Chelsea’s mean streets. Aside from the obvious of being a place to peruse the alcoholic concoctions on offer, the menu also gives you something to read (handy when your friend or date is running late!) and provides an entertaining back story to some of the innovative cocktails. The menu is separated into eight chapters (e.g. ‘The Real McCoys’ and ‘Most Wanted’), with each having a distinct theme and with boozy mixes complementing Uncle Bart’s adventures animated on the opposing pages.

After spending rather longer than we expected perusing the extensive menu, we settled on the Charleston Crumble (Grey Goose vodka, cranberry juice, rhubarb purée and vanilla syrup) and the Jazz Singer (Russian Standard Original vodka, passion fruit purée and vanilla syrup). On reflection, they had very similar ingredients, but tasted rather different. Mine was the Charleston, which tasted like a dessert and I absolutely loved it. When I tried a bit of my friend’s Jazz Singer, it was more fruitier. Next up, my companion wanted something a bit more dramatic – the intriguingly named Kidnap & Handsome. When the drink arrived at our table, it made quite the entrance. A short tumbler was oozing smoke under a bell jar, with the gangster theme continuing with dollar bills, a lipstick-smudged playing card and chocolate truffle. The drink itself was a mix of sweet and bitterness – Sauvelle vodka, oak-infused vanilla syrup and oak bitters. My choice, The Alchemist (Belvedere vodka, elderflower cordial, mint, gomme syrup and cloudy apple juice) was decidedly less theatrical in a simple coupe glass, but refreshing and subtly sweet.

Drinks aside, Barts also plays host to regular parties and live entertainment. During the night, we were entertained by the fabulous, feel-good vocals of the Haywood Sisters, who really fitted into the retro vibe. Barts regularly have live music on the bill so it’s worth checking out their website.

Overall, we had a great evening – the service, venue and drinks were all exceptional. I loved the intimate feel of the bar, while the staff were friendly and clearly knew their stuff when it came to mixology. Barts would be a great venue to impress a date or celebrate a birthday. I’m off to join Uncle Barts’ mob!

  • Barts, Chelsea Cloisters, 87 Sloane Avenue, Chelsea, SW3 3DW. Nearest stations: Sloane Square or South Kensington. For more information, visit the Barts website.
© Johnny S Photography for Barts

The intimate bar is a cosy inviting space full of vintage interiors and leather seating
© Johnny S Photography for Barts


For more of Metro Girl’s bar reviews, click here.

Barts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Blooming lovely! A visit to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Celebrate the advent of summer at the RVLRY warehouse festival this weekend

Celebrate the weekend at RLVRY - a secret warehouse festival in Chelsea

Celebrate the weekend at RVLRY – a secret warehouse festival in Chelsea

Looking for something a bit different this weekend? Well, how about a warehouse festival in Chelsea? The team behind pop-up brand Roxx are bringing together some of the capital’s best DJs, food trucks, live acts, art installations and fashion brands for one special day-to-night event.

Taking place this Saturday 30 May, RVLRY will be a combination of indoor festival and warehouse party. The daytime action will start with a relaxed festival vibe outdoors with performances from acoustic artists. When the sun goes down, London DJs The Space Cowboys (The Cuckoo Club), and Nicola Robinson (It’s Rude To Stare) will really be getting the party going indoors. There will also be entertainment until the early hours from beat boxing harmonica players, double percussionists, LED sax players, electric guitarists, and rock’n’roll live bands.

Also taking part will be some of London’s quirkiest boutique brands and new talent, including Pritch London fashion, a community art project managed by Talenthouse, art from James Mylne, Rich Simmons & Elmo Hood, jewellery by Other Goods, and photography by David Richardson. Meanwhile, drinks brands Crystal Head Vodka, Don Julio and Pistonhead beer will be among those keeping you lubricated, while Kurobuta, Tommy’s Burger Joint and The Wandering Chef will be keeping hunger at bay.

The event will be taking place in a warehouse space in the heart of Chelsea, with full details to be revealed to ticket holders nearer the time.

  • RVLRY takes place on Saturday 30 May 2015. 6pm–3am. Tickets from £20. For more information and tickets, visit Design My Night.

For a guide to what else is on in London in June, click here.

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