The thing about five-star hotels is, that lovely as they often are, if I am entirely honest, they’re often easier to enjoy without your kids. However, the Royal Garden Hotel is working hard to change this so when we were offered the chance to try out their Junior Chef Package, I jumped at the chance.
The hotel, on Kensington High Street right next to Kensington Gardens couldn’t be better located for a family stay in London, so after checking in to our room we spent the afternoon at the brilliant Diana Memorial playground.
Our room was fabulous – incredibly spacious and, on the ninth floor, its huge windows had amazing views over London. The bathroom was enormous and, it’s a really small point, but I loved the little night light in the wall by the bathroom which meant everyone could find their way to the loo in the night and we didn’t have to leave the bathroom door open all night so the room wasn’t too dark for the children.
After margaritas in the bar overlooking the park and non-alcoholic cocktails for the children, we had an excellent dinner in the Park Terrace restaurant. The children were presented with activity packs and happily played board games and the children’s menu was brilliant – it’s nice to see home-made chicken goujons rather than the usual plastic-looking nuggets they tend to be served.
After a good night’s sleep and pancakes, bacon and maple-syrup for breakfast (my favourite hotel treat) Toby,9 and Olivia, 7, joined the hotel’s executive head chef Steve Munkley and two assistants for their two hour cookery class.
The conference room was set out with ten little work stations and the floor covered in plastic so that the ten children, aged between five and ten, could make as much mess as they like.
The children donned mini-aprons and little chefs’ hats and set to work making white chocolate biscuits which were then sent off to the hotel kitchen to be cooked. Steve then sat the children down and handed round various exotic fruit for them to try – with ice buckets strategically placed for them to spit out anything they didn’t like. “I find children are much happier to try unfamiliar things if they know they don’t have to swallow it,” he said. They then played a game in which they had to identify fruits simply by feeling and sniffing – Olivia was very proud that her team won and she was presented with a cookery book for her efforts.
Once the biscuits arrived back the children were shown how to use an icing bag to decorate them and cook choose from huge bowls of sweets to further adorn them. Then – they moved onto chocolate truffles. They were given “raw” truffles to cover in nuts, cocoa or whatever they chose which were boxed up to present to their parents (and they were fabulous – as were the biscuits.)
Parents are welcome to stay and watch or not as they please – the hotel is right on Kensington High Street though so, unsurprisingly, we chose to go shopping, and the kids were enjoying themselves so much they barely noticed we’d gone.
This is a hotel which really goes the extra mile for children – they have designed their own treasure hunt around Kensington Gardens and children who complete it receive a free ice cream sundae, and the concierge has both indoor and outdoor games to lend. We all had a great time – it’s refreshing to see a smart hotel which actually welcomes children rather than simply tolerating them.
The next Junior Chef package will run April 13 to 15 2012. It costs £580 for a two-night stay in an Executive room for up to two adults and two children including breakfast and a two-course lunch or early-bird dinner on one night of the stay.www.royalgardenhotel.co.uk/junior-chef-package