Simms’ city: Escape the Olympics with cheese, Hogarth and a hidden garden

Our diarist Freya Simms offers her fortnightly previews of her favourite London haunts…

Hiding out from the Olympics in West London

The bunting is up and the flags are flying, but sadly I’ve not been invited to the Opening Ceremony dress rehearsals or the real thing (which I would have happily fought my way across London even with all its crazy Olympic TFL restrictions for). So, I’ve decided the next best thing is to watch the choice moments on the telly with other NFI friends and for the rest of the time hide out in lovely London venues far away from the games…

La Fromagerie

La Fromagerie

The current weather is definitely crying out for picnics and al fresco eating. Last night the Tarnished Knight came over for an impromptu soirée on my roof terrace so I stopped off at La Fromagerie just off Marylebone High St to score some goodies. For a start, when temperatures soar, it’s rather nice just hanging out in the cool room nibbling tasty morsels and chatting to the helpful staff with their heavy Francophile tones.

I returned home with some delicious cheeses, a selection of hams - including a fennel salami and a truffle enhanced mortadella, a delicious pot of duck rillettes and some black figs. My partner in crime arrived with a perfectly balanced ratio of crusty to fluffy white bread, a bottle of Riesling and a bottle of white Burgundy.

Chiswick House and Hogarth House


These two west London venues both have a fascinating heritage and with all the noise going on in the East, they are likely to be crowd free. Chiswick House is a magnificent neo-Palladian villa set in beautiful historic gardens. Built by the third Earl of Burlington in 1729 to showcase his art collection, and also home to leader of fashion and political activist Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire (made famous by Amanda Foreman and Kiera Knightly), it once captivated visitors and still does.

Because today it continues to display some spectacular national treasures. The gardens at Chiswick are said to be the birthplace of the English Landscape Movement that inspired countless gardens including New York’s Central Park. There are some great features to seek out, as well as a lovely café and a good programme of events including an open air cinema.


A Rake’s Progress, Plate 6, A Scene in a Gaming House

Hogarth House is just around the corner and was built a little earlier, circa 1700. It was the country home of the great painter, engraver and satirist William Hogarth (1697-1764) from 1749 until his death. Hogarth bought the house to act as his family’s country refuge, a weekend and summer home away from the noise of his other home in what is now Leicester Square.

The house/museum holds an extensive collection of his 18th century prints. It includes a walled garden replete with fruit trees and a nut walk. Stepping through the gate today will see the ancient mulberry tree - the Hogarths are said to have made mulberry pies for the Foundling children who stayed with them. And if you’re lucky enough to visit when they’re in season, you may be lucky enough to have a taste of the tart, succulent berries.

The Chelsea Physic Garden


Another London hideaway, teaming with history and a veritable haven in this glorious weather is the Chelsea Physic Garden.

Founded in 1673, as the Apothecaries’ Garden, it was created to train the apprentices in identifying plants. Its walled environment and proximity to the river created a nurturing environment for indigenous plants - as well as those painstakingly transported from overseas - and now includes a unique living collection of 5,000 different edible, useful and medicinal plants. It was here the first tea from China was propagated which was then sent to India to establish the tea industry there!

This garden is a wonderful green oasis away from the urban bustle of London in which to enjoy a relaxing stroll and a sit down with a delicious piece of carrot cake from the award-winning Café.


Freya Simms is managing director of Gong Muse a Strategic Communications agency for the art and luxury markets and winner of PRCA Agency Campaign of the year 2011.


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