Simms' city: Richmond Park, L’Artisan du Chocolat and Gerhard Richter

Our diarist Freya Simms offers her fortnightly reflections on her favourite London haunts…

The joy of being a born and bred Londoner, when all have gone back to their rural retreats, is having the city practically to yourself.

With my family just a hop, skip and a bridge away from me in Barnes and off the back of a very full 2011, I decided that enjoying some London downtime is exactly what I needed.

Christmas Day started in the traditional way of stockings et al., but to interrupt the frenzy of gluttony, greed and of course charades we went to Richmond Park for a good stomp with the Welsh Springer (Toby) and scruffy Westie (Max) amongst the deer. 

Richmond Park

By 12pm there was already a plethora of Christmas toys on display from scooters and bikes to lots of shiny new lycra for the more fitness obsessed.  This was followed by a warming mulled wine in The Plough a traditional 18th century inn, which is a lovely, cosy pub near Sheen Gate. Two hundred years later it’s still going strong and is always a hive of activity on the 25th!

Richmond park

Source: Cycling in London website

Richmond park

L’Artisan du Chocolat

A few days later we visited another of my favourite haunts near the park, the delightful Teahouse at Petersham Nurseries. With an amazing selection of fragrant teas to enjoy and tempting big fat slices of springy icing-laden coffee walnut or lemon drizzle cakes – there is so much more than plants on offer here.

In between the fresh air and culture was naturally an unhealthy amount of time spent watching some Christmas TV specials while nibbling a present of l’Artisan du Chocolat salted caramels (well remembered Tarnished Knight). My particular favourites were Downtown Abbey and Absolutely Fabulous, brilliantly intertwined with The Killing and the new Sherlock Holmes.

L’artisan du chocolat

Source: L’artisan du chocolat

L’artisan du chocolat

The Delauney, Aldwych

A couple of nights later my mother, sisters and I (all well and truly over the age of 21) hopped into the car to take advantage of the quiet city streets and went to see the RSC’s production of Matilda. Greeted by ushers as ‘maggots’ or naughty children we were happily transported back to childhood and the imagination of firm favourite Roald Dahl.

The theatre shook with laughter and the show stealer had to be Trunchball.  Bertie Carvel plays one of Dahl’s most grotesque characters with chilling aplomb. If there are any tickets left get them. This really is an unmissable show.  

Post show we went to The Delauney, sister restaurant to The Wolesely, for cocktails and a quick bite.  Based on the Grand European cafes of Eastern Europe, it is a beautiful and bustling space.

The Delauney

Source: The Delauney website

The Delauney

Gerhard Richter, The Tate

One exhibition I really didn’t want to miss and closes early January is the Tate Modern’s major retrospective of Gerhard Richter.The show spans nearly five decades of Richter’s work and was timed to coincide with his 80th birthday.

Clearly every other Londoner had the same idea as it was heaving, but a wonderful tribute to an artist that has achieved such a dramatic body of work spanning so many styles.

Gerhard Richter


Gerhard Richter

Finally, New Year’s Eve was a relatively quite affair celebrated with champagne, smoked salmon and foie gras with a few family and friends enjoying everybody else’s impressive fireworks from my West London roof terrace.  A lovely way to see in 2012 (and no babysitting fees to pay!).

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