MEANDERING THE BUSTLING streets of the city, you couldbe forgiven for thinking that the heart of London is chockfull of buildings and people. Looking down from a privileged vantage point and you see a rather different picture, with the large swathes of greenery in the Royal Parks. The view from our Executive Room at the Royal Garden Hotel in High StreetKensington afforded a stunningview of Kensington Gardens, which, even on the early evening of a rather grey Fridaywas sprinkled with dog-walkers,football players, scampering children and occasional lovers walking hand in hand… The business of our one-night stay was for six-year-old Joe to hone his culinary skills at the Junior Chef masterclass. First, we had a leisurely evening a deux, including an early dinner date in the Park Terrace restaurant. The only trouble was that Joe was so entranced by the booty of games on offer from the concierage (Twister, Snakes & Ladders, Buckeroo) that he didn't really want to leave our room. After a few contorted moves of Twister, I managed to persuade him to dine with me, before we headed to our room for a good night's sleep.
Come Saturday morning and we were ready for our cookery lesson, led by award-winning Executive Head Chef, Steve Munkley. Decked out in chef's apron and personalised chef's hat, Joe looked every bit the part, and looking at the enticing bowls of ingredients (sugary decorations and chocolate), he was eager to get started. On the menu, gingerbread cookies, and chocolate truffles. With ten or so budding chefs taking part, Steve had a captivated (and occassionally heckling audience – mentioning no names, ahem). After watching Steve masterfully knead and roll the dough, the pint-size chefs got to try it for themselves, cue puff clouds of flour and enthusiastic waving of rolling pins. After much deliberation over an array of cookie cutters – hearts, stars and gingerbread people – each child filled a large tray that was whisked away for baking. Next came a fun quiz to test the children’s food knowledge by naming an assortment of odd-looking vegetables; to his credit, Steve managed to get every child to taste everything, even if they did spit out what they didn’t like pretty quickly (he told them they could do that, so long as they tried it). Then the children were then split into teams for a hands-on treasure quest, where they were given a taped-up box of produce, which they could dip their hands into to prod, squeeze and identify items, including a stick of cinnamon, a lemon and some herbs. Then it was back to the business of baking – more precisely, decorating their cookies with squeezy dollops of piped icing, numerous sprinkles, sweets and mini marshmallows. Then there was bowls of melted chocolate for truffle-dipping, and more licking of sticky fingers (some more than most, again, mentioning no names…).
By midday, our cooking session was over and we departed with a very sugar-laden but lovely booty, as we wandered across Kensington Gardens to the Princess Diana Peter Pan playground for Joe to run off some of that sugar rush.
The Junior Chef Package at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington runs on April 13–15, including two nights, one dinner and cookery class for two children, costs £580 for a family of four.