Chelsea Physic Garden, London
Chelsea Physic Garden is just a short walk from Sloane Square tube and the shops on the King’s Road. This historically significant and tranquil walled garden is the oldest botanical garden in London.
Wander around Chelsea Physic Garden and enjoy lunch in the Tangerine Dream Cafe
Chelsea Physic Garden is an oasis of calm tucked away beside the River Thames. With its fascinating history, edible garden and excellent Tangerine Dream café, this is a little gem for Foodie Travellers particularly those with a penchant for chocolate history (and gin).The Foodie Travel Guide
- Great for Foodie Gardeners
- Tangerine Dream Café
- Specialist courses & talks
The Chelsea Physic Garden
Behind an inconspicuous wooden door, you’ll find this enchanting 4-acre walled garden. Founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries for its apprentices to study the medicinal qualities of plants, it became one of the most important centres of botany and plant exchange in the world.
Give Thanks to Sir Hans Sloane
Proudly overseeing the garden, you’ll find a statue of Sir Hans Sloane, an early benefactor. It’s thanks to him that the recipe for milk chocolate came to Britain. He brought it back from Jamaica where he’d worked as the physician to the Island Governor. It was there he saw chocolate being given to young children as a medicinal drink. Mixed with water, the taste was so unpalatable to him, he added milk instead. On his return, his recipe was sold to an apothecary and later, used by Cadbury’s when they starting making chocolate.
Explore the Edible Garden
You’ll find individual beds dedicated to edible oils, forest fruits, vegetables and alcohol. Make the connection between the tipples you enjoy and the plants used to flavour them. Discover that wormwood is used to flavour vermouth; the flowering tops of heather to make heather ale; and that hops, the cone-shaped female flowers used to flavour and preserve beer, also have young shoots that can be eaten as a vegetable. At chef Tom Kerridge’s pub, the Hand & Flowers in Marlow, he’s likes to poach chicken in a hop stock.
Discover the Garden’s Connection With Beefeater Gin
Visitors to the Beefeater Gin Distillery will know that James Burrough, its founder, studied here. To celebrate his special connection with the garden, the company recently distilled a new gin variety known as Garden Gin. In 2015, Desmond Payne, the Master Distiller at Beefeater Gin came to the garden to give a talk on ‘The History of Gin in London’.
Learn From the Romans What Not To Eat
In the medicinal garden, each bed has its own wooden medicine cabinet which opens to reveal information about the plant. Banana and coconut palm are highlighted for their important role in HIV/Aids research and broad beans, for containing an amino acid that’s used to treat Parkinson’s disease. Just steer well clear of the pretty oleander flower. It’s been known to be toxic ever since the Roman army discovered, due to a mass poisoning of its troops, that their stems do not make good skewers for cooking meat.
Eat Lunch in The Tangerine Dream Café
The coiffed ladies of Chelsea will want to keep this a secret but, after a wander around the garden, lunch in the garden’s Tangerine Dream Café is a delight. If it’s a sunny day, sit outside at one of the wooden tables. Serving fresh seasonal produce with a good choice of wine, tuck in to dishes such as salmon en croute or goat’s cheese and gruyère quiche.
- The Physic Garden gift shop stocks stylish garden accessories, books and jars of the garden’s own honey
- There’s an active programme of workshops and talks. In 2015, Chantal Coady, founder of Rococco Chocolate, gave a talk on how to ‘Become Your Own Chocolate Expert’.
- If you buy annual RHS Membership, you gain free entry into the Physic Garden at specified times
- Next door to the garden is Gordon Ramsay’s flagship Chelsea restaurant (booking essential)
- Visit the Natural History Museum and you’ll see the cocoa specimen brought back from Jamaica by Sir Hans Sloane
WHERE TO STAY IN LONDON
A 15-minute walk from Richmond Tube Station,the Bingham features luxurious rooms, some overlooking the River Thames.
Rooms from £92 a night.
The Hotel Zetter
The Zetter Hotel is a quirky, award-winning boutique hotel located in fashionable Clerkenwell, London.
Rooms from £135 a night.
Chelsea Physic Garden tell me that only Guide Dogs are permitted to visit the garden.