A casual comment over breakfast one Sunday was the real reason we were in London for a weekend in October. Roald Dahl’s moving and magical story of Matilda, adapted into a musical and performed by the RSC, had been enjoying rave reviews at Stratford and had just announced its move to London’s Cambridge Theatre. Incredibly, we were lucky enough to get tickets for the second night.
A family trip to London is always a highlight and this time we were really looking forward to staying in Chelsea, near our old stomping ground of the King’s Road. The Wyndham Grand, we discovered, is Chelsea’s hidden gem, and as London’s only 5 star all-suite hotel, perfect for families with children. A short stop-off in Covent Garden to catch up with friends and a somewhat errant son meant we didn’t arrive at the hotel until early evening – just as Jedward were leaving on their way to see their ‘hero’ Britney Spears. Although we could hardly claim to be star-struck they were hilarious, and just like their on-screen persona. A quick wash and brush up later we hit the hotel’s spacious bar to wait for friends. Commotion in the lobby saw the children rushing to see if there was anyone slightly more interesting (sorry Jedward).
Sadly it wasn’t One Direction, but the entire Chelsea team wasn’t a bad coup. Staying at The Wyndham prior to their Arsenal match they couldn’t have been more pleasant, taking time to pose with anyone who asked and we all fell a little bit in love with Frank Lampard. A promising start to a great weekend. Later we discovered that because of its setting which allows for a high level of security, The Wyndham is a favourite with visiting celebs and minor Royalty.
The Thames-fronted hotel is reached via a small access road to Chelsea Harbour and neighbouring private apartments are home to several pop stars. A recent refurbishment at The Wyndham has seen the launch of a new penthouse floor with four fabulous suites, a revamp of the elegant Chelsea Riverside Brasserie and The Bar overlooking the marina, whilst the refurbished Blue Harbour Spa boasts a large pool alongside beauty treatments. Although October sunshine poured through the floor to ceiling windows of the Brasserie it wasn’t warm enough to sit outside on the hotel’s private veranda beside the marina, but in summer they host daily barbecues here which sound idyllic.
Almost all of the hotel’s 158 suites boast views of Chelsea Harbour, The Thames and London’s spectacular, ever-changing skyline. Sadly ours didn’t, but we did enjoy trying to spot some familiar landmarks across the river towards Wandsworth. After a delicious breakfast in the hotel’s harbourside brasserie which saw us devouring Eggs Benedict and an ‘American’ mini steak with hash browns and eggs – we thought a walk would do us good and the hotel purports to be ‘just minutes’ from the King’s Road. I am not sure our children would agree – although we were on foot. Ignoring pleas to ‘grab a cab’, we strolled past favourite shops of old, and some new ones, enjoying the atmosphere and the October sunshine. The King’s Road was busy and there was certainly no sign of a recession here as shopping bags swung gaily and in abundance. We investigated the Continental food market at the Duke of York Barracks, admired the oysters, the French pastries and bought a sourdough loaf made with Marmite (for a Marmite-loving daughter). A quick coffee in the sunshine gave us the chance to survey the rather sophisticated and interesting scene which was being played out in front of us. Plenty of people, plenty of nationalities and lots of shopping.
A short cab-ride back to the hotel meant we had a little time to appreciate the facilities. Our adjoining rooms were spacious and each had its own sitting room, flat screen TV and ensuite bathroom. Although our children are independent enough, this really is an ideal set-up for any family. Comfortable beds made a short nap all-too-tempting before heading off to the theatre. It was easy enough to hail a cab outside the hotel for our trip to Covent Garden that evening, and needless to say Matilda was brilliant. Somewhat weary, we were deposited back at the hotel hours later where all was quiet and headed to bed, only after checking the bar for any lingering celebs of course...
Wyndham Grand, Chelsea Harbour, London 020 7823 3000 www.wyndhamgrandlondon.co.uk