Published on BespokeRSVP on Wednesday 7th March 2012
On an unseasonably warm and sunny February afternoon in London, I walked out of South Kensington station and smiled as I saw large numbers of happy people sitting outside basking in the sunshine whilst sipping on coffees and nibbling on cakes. I wanted to join in but I was on my way to something much better. I crossed the road and entered The Pelham, a delightful boutique hotel, which spans three conjoining Georgian townhouses.
Upon entry I was shown to the drawing room. Warm, cosy and littered with luxurious furniture, artworks, dark oak panelled walls and an honesty bar, the room was a complete contrast to the sunny weather outside and I could see myself sitting by the coal fire on a cold winters evening with a good book and a glass of red.
But I was not there to lounge around; I was there for an hour with Jacqueline Harvey. Guests of the hotel are able to enjoy one of four hourly sessions with Jacqueline – a lifestyle consultation, a personal fitness training session, nutritional evaluation or centering meditation. I chose the nutrition session, which was followed by The Pelham’s version of a healthy Afternoon Tea, partly because I have had one too many personal training sessions that have left me depressed that I cannot afford more and partly because I have a bad diet. Or so I thought.
Any nerves that were present before I sat down with Jacqueline, and believe me there were a few, were quickly dispelled as I caught a glimpse of her huge smile and warm nature. Slender with flawless skin, I could immediately tell that Jacqueline practices what she preaches. I got subtle hints of her healthy lifestyle a few times during my hour session. She tries not to eat too much wheat “but I ate a lot of bread yesterday and my stomach didn’t feel good for it”, which reassured me that I do not have to cut things out of my diet but simply save the things that worry me as a treat.
We started off by running through a few questions – name, height, weight and blood type, which I didn’t know, then a series of questions about my health. As I answered no to most, I started to believe that I was healthier than I had thought before. I also felt a bit smug when I answered the exercise question. Had Jacqueline have asked this question three months ago, the answer would have been completely different, almost non-existent.
“Well, you’re actually quite healthy”, beamed Jacqueline from the large pink floral armchair. My reaction was that of surprise, followed by utter happiness. For years I had thought that my diet was poor. Perhaps that is because I focus on the negatives. I am guilty of eating something sweet every single day, whether that is a bar of chocolate, a slab of cake or a cookie. I can’t seem to go a day without naughty treats and in this day and age, you’re sometimes made to feel guilty about it.
All was going so well, until I was asked to recall my actions in the 24 hours leading up to our meeting. Oh dear. My first reaction was to lie, she would be horrified, or better still, I would be horrified to tell an extremely healthy woman sat opposite me that I had gorged on pizza and numerous alcoholic drinks as I celebrated a friends 30th birthday. I hadn’t taken it overboard because I knew I had the session but still, I had to confess to something that really does not occur very often. As I spoke, there was absolutely no sign that Jacqueline was judging me. You see this lady knows that we all have our vices, not many of us are perfect and from time to time we have a blow out. Mine just happened to be the day before our meeting. The fact that she told me I looked well made the slight hangover feeling just that little bit better.
We continued to chat about what I usually have for breakfast, lunch and dinner and for some reason, Jacqueline came to the conclusion that I do not snack, which I had to quickly correct her on. Snacking is my problem. I’ll have breakfast, manage until lunch with nothing in between but as soon as the last forkful of food hits my mouth at lunchtime, I’m already thinking of the next thing to eat and that’s usually something sweet. But instead of making me feel even guiltier than I already do, Jacqueline provided me with a few alternative ideas, including dates, fruit, fruity oatcakes and pre prepared raw bars. A couple of pieces of chocolate wouldn’t be the end of the world and she even finds that a solitary slice of cheese on an oatcake at the end of the meal sometimes takes away the need for something sweet.
After what felt like twenty minutes, the hour was up, which was signalled by a knock on the door from the very polite deputy manager and a waiter who was carrying a large tray. On the tray sat a cake stand full of freshly baked treats, along with a plate of open sandwiches and a non alcoholic mojito. I ordered a white tea to accompany my lunch, which was delivered promptly, my first cup poured delicately by the waiter.
The selection of open sandwiches included poached salmon on black rye bread, free range egg with mustard cress on granary loaf, grilled turkey breast and guacamole on spelt bread and breadless hummus on cucumber. The sweet treats included ginseng yoghurt jelly with bee pollen, matcha and mandarin delice, dairy free and gluten-free carrot cake, camomile and lime shortbread and organic honey comb served with fresh fruit. I had my first taste of real honeycomb, which was one of the sweetest things I have ever tasted. It was delicious but I couldn’t even finish the morsel that was on the plate. The ginseng yoghurt was unlike anything I have tasted before – a mouse like yoghurt sat on top of a layer of honey and was topped with crunchy bee pollen. My favourite was the gluten free carrot cake, which was dense and topped with a delightfully sweet dairy free butter cream.
We sat nibbling at the delicacies on offer while talking about our favourite London restaurants for a further half an hour before it was time to leave. In little over an hour, Jacqueline inspired me, not least because she had not criticised any part of my diet, rather suggested some fantastic alternatives that could help me in my quest to being healthy. We left the room and I was treated to a tour of the hotel rooms before departing. My experience did not include an overnight stay but had I have stayed, I would have enjoyed a beautifully decorated room and perhaps an unbeatable view of South Kensington and a huge king sized bed. As I left the building, Jacqueline took my hand in hers, gave me a hug and two kisses and wished me a good day. Her infectious smile rubbed off on me and I left beaming and planning my healthy meals for the week ahead.
15 Cromwell Place