Chelsea Flower Show is somewhere my mum has ALWAYS wanted to go. Each year when it’s broadcasted on the BBC, she’ll exclaim “we should go one day”. One day. That’s an expression that pushes things out, doesn’t it? One day in the future… To me, that’s where you don’t make active plans and often end up missing out. So when I had the opportunity to go this year, with hospitality tickets, needless to say, I had no hesitation in saying “YES PLEASE!” and asking my mum to join me. And boy were we in for a treat!
You may remember from my March round-up post that I’d been included in a Mother’s Day e-Book in collaboration with Raymond Blanc, one of my all time favourite chefs! With this, I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to attend the Chelsea Flower Show with two tickets to the hospitality area at the 2017 Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show, Jardin Blanc. Jardin Blanc was inspired by Raymond’s aim to create an area to truly kick back and relax within the stunning gardens. What resulted was truly some of the best hospitality I’ve ever experienced. And in bigger news, as this post title suggests, I’m just going to put it out there that I’m probably Raymond Blanc’s new BFF! But I’ll get to that…
The sun was shining, it was hot enough for summer dresses and lots of sun cream, and we were seriously looking forward to it! With the weather in our favour and our passes in hand, Mum and I made it to the show, just in time for breakfast, which was included in the Le Lily package. Faced with a sumptuous feast of croissants, savoury muffins, fresh fruit and granola, and best of all a breakfast cassoulet of haricot beans, lardons, sausage, tomato fondue and baked egg – we were prepared for a great day. We washed it down with refreshing freshly squeezed juices. For mum, fresh orange, and for me the fresh cold-pressed blend of Rhubarb, Pear Kale, and Ginger. I felt immediately like I was on holiday!
This place is an absolute Instagrammers dream; everywhere you look there’s something beautiful! Seriously, you can’t make a turning without seeing a creative display or sensory experience. The show gardens, of course, have been carefully created with different themes. They attracted the crowds in a big way, and we found ourselves joining the queues to see them!
The crowd was something that really surprised me. I had expected the Chelsea Flower Show would be generally a population of much older people but I was so wrong. There’s a great blend of young and old, couples, groups of friends and duo’s like Mum and me too!
Even if you’re not so green fingered (I wouldn’t consider myself to be at all – I can hardly keep a basil pot plant alive…) it’s an incredible place to be. There are contributions from familiar names that you may not have expected (like Mary Berry!), as well as lots of corporates.
Our favourite was the Great Pavillion, a marquee bigger than all three floors of Topshop Oxford Street put together, filled with the world’s best flowers! We had fun posing by the exhibits and looking at awe at the plants towering over us! We both adored the contribution from Marks and Spencers, which included a fountain made of flowers, as part of their Mediterranean themed exhibit. We absolutely loved it.
Before we knew it, it was time for lunch. We went back to our home for the day, the exquisite Jardin Blanc. Just walking in, you can’t help but have a smile plastered on your face. With live music by “Wandering Hands Band” an acoustic trio of singers, guitarists and a truly brilliant Saxophonist, incredible cocktails, and a garden wonderland of beautiful props, it was the perfect place to relax in the sunshine.
From a vegetable, kaffir lime leaf escabeche amuse-bouche to the strawberry and vanilla vacherin dessert, the ingredients for our lunch were locally sourced and the menu was designed by one of my all time foodie heroes, Raymond Blanc!
I opted for the roasted guinea fowl, served with redcurrants and lime, with a slow-cooked ballotine of pan roasted breast and spring veggies. Mum’s artichoke barigoule with citrus bulgur wheat and braised fennel was the clear winner though, delicious and beautiful too! I’m not going to lie, I was super jealous and had total food envy!
We loved the attention to detail with an edible meadow of micro herbs which we could trim directly from the plant, to garnish our food. The menu itself was made of special paper with plant seeds inside, so you’ve got the opportunity to grow the herbs yourself just by planting the entire menu in a pot with some water and soil. Pretty cool if you’re green fingered!
Our pudding, the strawberry and vanilla vacherin was one of my favourite dishes from the whole day (and yes we really did eat a lot!). Bursting with strawberries and with a perfect meringue side – I could have eaten a truckload, soooooooo good!
After lunch, mum and I strolled through the fresh gardens and the stalls. There are hundreds selling garden accessories, flowers, from furniture to actual wood pizza ovens! There are areas with live music, entertainment, unusual exhibits, statues, you name it! It’s the very best kind of sensory overload.
I had my eye on this teapot which unfortunately wasn’t available for purchasing… I asked a few times!
The Driftwood animal sculptures were incredibly detailed and towered over us tall.
There were so many gardens, each one unique and even for a gardening-novice like me, they were seriously special!
When we felt like our feet were close to dropping off after all that walking, we headed back to the Jardin Blanc. Mum tried the Summer Cup mocktail, with chamomile, hibiscus, lavender and peach and I fell for the prettiest of all cocktails, a gorgeous pink Rhubarb sour! We lay out in the sun and sat on the swings and truly relaxed.
Some of the other bloggers joined us as well as Raymond Blanc, himself, and together we enjoyed our cocktails whilst we discussed the Jardin Blanc, our latest adventures, Raymond’s plans for Le Manoir, and our blogs. He is even kinder and friendlier than on television (if that’s at all possible). And very amusing. He actually swept me up into a firemans lift mid photo when we got together for our group photo and whisked me around! What a charmer!
Raymond’s vision seems to have truly come to fruition – Jardin Blanc was beautiful and all of us agreed it was a pretty amazing way to experience the flower show.
We were in great spirits; the girls were brilliant company and the botanically themed cocktails quenched our thirst in the heat! We discussed holiday plans and how we all must visit Le Manoir one day soon. I’ve wanted to dine there forever and meeting Raymond and seeing his vision in Jardin Blanc cemented that mission!
We ended our Chelsea Flower show experience with an afternoon tea in Jardin Blanc. Given that we’d been having so much fun chatting with Raymond and fellow bloggers Angie and Sophie, we were a little late, so there were just a few afternoon tea items left for us!
As I had guessed, an afternoon tea designed by Raymond Blanc was sure to be something special. And a treat it was for sure. With unusual finger sandwich options, such as the punchy Brie De Meaux, apricot chutney and celery baguette, and the delicate smoked salmon served in a smooth green spinach roll, I would have loved to try them all! Fruity scones were served with Raymond Blanc’s Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat ‘Saisons famous preserves. The sweets included fine macarons, fruit tartlets, filled to the brim with oozy creme pâtissière, perfect mini lemon drizzle cakes and classic choux pastry eclairs, beautifully iced in pastel colours. They were prepared to perfection and just as pretty as the floral gardens. I had a permanent smile on my face for the rest of the day and vowed that I need to get to Oxford to Le Manoir as soon as possible!
It was the perfect sweet treat to end the sweetest of days!
So whilst the day was meant to be a treat for mum, I quickly learnt that if you’re in Jardin Blanc, the Chelsea Flower Show truly is a treat for anyone. I had the best day with my mum and would recommend you take yours too!
I’ll hope to see you all there next year!
We were guests of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and whilst our experience was complimentary, my views are completely my own. It was an incredible day, and I’d highly recommend it!