Hyde Park Garden, at Mandarin Oriental, review: Summer crystallised into a single afternoon

Dazed with food, a little drunk, and surrounded by the ones you love most – these could well be some of the happiest moments you’ll ever know

Summer, one might believe, is less a season than a sensation – the creamy splash of milk-thin sunscreen; the hot fragrance of skin broiling under heat; the soft smack of love and humidity that disperses throughout all moments of these finer days. You sit on patches of wild grass, on sand or on the roadside, drinking beer from bottles, rosé from bags, lemonade from paper cups, digesting each second of brightness before the call of autumn comes.

If there was a destination that could crystallise the feeling of summer into a single afternoon, the way in which Anthony Kiedis could distill the spirit of easy California cruising into a few riffs, the answer might well involve a couple of hours at Hyde Park Garden, positioned at the rear of the Mandarin Oriental hotel, slightly hidden from the cash-thick welter of the Gucci, Burberry and Jimmy Choo boutiques, safe from the retail wilds of Oxford Street, and flush with a money-shot view of a lush stretch of the park’s vegetation.

Mandarin Oriental garden with Horseguards walking through Hyde Park London

You’ll perch at wooden tables, either long enough to host a whole masthead of staff, or intimate for just two, with a parasol overhead in case the climes take a little turn, the occasional Brompton soundtracking your time with the gentle sound of clicking gears and turning spokes. You’ll pull together a sort of snacking spread from a seemingly limitless supply of plum-chutney pots, grapes, soft cheese and crumbly cheese, charcuterie slices cut so thin that they tear easily in the hand, simple bits of pickles that jolt everything into life, British hams spread like a deck of cards at a Vegas casino, perhaps some choppy piccalilli, and shingles of melting butter that you’ll set on slices of sourdough, the kind of which that’s softened on the inside, humming with crisp grill marks on the out, thick enough to hold open the double doors of the hotel lobby and flavoured with the gentle funk of dairy when you spread ungodly mounds of the golden-hued paste across the intricate web of charred gluten, north to south, east to west, corner to corner.

Tables set at the Mandarin Oriental in the back garden by Hyde Park London

The blasts of wine, which may come from Sussex, Kent or Hampshire, are pretty appropriate chasers for when the occasion calls, and, during the odd moment when the surrounding SW noise falls to a silence, you may hear nothing but the windy sway of the nearby English oaks and the silver birches that fringe the sizeable parkland.

In London, where you can get live-fire pits by the acre, small-plate wine bars by the bushel and techno-charged fine-diners in their spades, the summer-eating options are endless – but it takes a certain type of place to let simplicity sing on its own, displaying the spirit of the season as it ought to be: open, unadorned, natural, simple – and the garden setting here appears to have been lifted directly from a Manet canvas. Dazed with food, a little drunk, and surrounded by the ones you love most, these could well be some of the happiest moments you’ll ever know.

Before lights out, you’ll likely manage another slip of cheese into the mouth, and you’ll certainly have a weakness for a few more slugs of the sweetened wine. After all, the office, the emails, the daily responsibilities, the call of autumn – at least for a moment – can wait just a little longer.

  • Hyde Park Garden, at Mandarin Oriental, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA, mandarinoriental.com
  • Boards, from £16
  • Three-course lunch, from £60

Want more restaurant recommendations? Read our review of The Audley Public House, where you’ll find salvation in the Sunday roast…

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