Last week, I joined a group of bloggers at the Artist Residence hotel in London for tea and croissants in the morning, before being bundled into Land Rovers and whisked to the new Artist Residence sister hotel in Oxfordshire, for lunch in the garden and a Dutch flower workshop with Bloom and Wild.
It was the perfect day for an outing, with bright blue skies and a pleasant breeze. The car journey seemed to take no time at all as I chatted with Milly (you may remember her from my Cornwall interview). We arrived just before lunch and were offered a glass of rosé and the chance to explore the hotel, which only opened in May.
I was charmed by the decor, especially the floral House of Hackney wallpaper that was such a striking feature. Some lovely ladies from Bloom and Wild, who were giving us a flower workshop in the afternoon, had set up a gorgeous display of blooms that made my flower loving heart very happy.
Artist Residence, Oxfordshire
I also got to peep into one of the bedrooms, which was gorgeous and looked extremely comfortable. I would have enjoyed lingering in the tub in the light, airy bathroom and writing postcards at the vintage desk.
After having a look around and taking a million photos between us, we headed out into the garden for lunch, our appetites whetted by the fantastic sounding menu that had been emailed round the day before.
Al Fresco Dining
Doesn’t that look a delightful table? I felt summer had truly arrived as I took my seat and was offered some more rosé. The outdoor dining area overlooked the hotel’s lawn and vegetable garden, and I was delighted to learn that many of the vegetables and salad leaves served for our lunch were freshly picked from the garden.
The hotel had cooked up a fabulous feast for us. To start, we were given sharing platters of crispy whitebait with garlic sauce; mozzarella, pea, broad bean and mint salad; heritage tomato salad with ewes curd and olives; and scotch eggs served alongside homemade brown sauce.
The main course was lamb wellington, with buttered Cornish potatoes, a green salad (from the garden!), barbecued radishes (also from the garden) and violet artichokes. I was beginning to seriously doubt whether I could manage dessert (strawberries with toasted marshmallows, lime curd and strawberry sorbet), but when it arrived it looked so delicious I couldn’t resist.
The food was all absolutely incredible, and it was glorious to enjoy it outside on a lovely day in excellent company.
Dutch Flower Workshop
After our meal, we went back into the cool, shady interior of the hotel for our Dutch flower painting inspired workshop. I was particularly excited for this workshop, as I love Dutch floral still life pictures, and there was a glorious selection of flowers awaiting us to help feed our inspiration.
Rowan, pictured above, talked us through the process of arranging our flowers, making it look incredibly easy as she finished her lovely floral display in about 10 minutes flat.
I settled down with a cup of chamomile tea and set to work, choosing a selection of blooms I liked best, and trying to create a loose, tumbling arrangement, featuring the striking colours that I often admire in my favourite Dutch floral artworks.
I sat next to the charming Briony from A Girl A Style, and we bonded over our mutual love for books, flowers and pretty teacups.
After a hair-raising moment when my display threatened to topple over, and I had to pop in a few dahlias to balance it out, I pronounced mine finished.
I don’t think I’ll be setting up as a florist any time soon, but I was still pleased with my result.
On being told it was time to leave, we were kindly showered with leftover blooms to take back home with us (I got some funny looks later on the tube as I maneuvered my way along platforms, weighted down by my spoils!).
It really was the most perfect English summer day, and I’m now contemplating buying some florist foam so I can have a go at some more flower arranging – practice makes perfect, as they say!