Hanging with Natalie
Author and brains behind the Cliveden Literary Festival, Natalie Livingstone reveals her fave hangouts
It’s surprising that Natalie Livingstone who has time to rack up any favourite places quite frankly. Along with her husband Ian, she’s owned Cliveden House since 2012 and has been flat out organising Cliveden’s first ever literary festival, looking after her three children and writing a best-selling book. The Mistresses of Cliveden tells the story of the women associated with the legendary, sumptuous country house, once infamous for The Profumo Affair, now a 5-star hotel and National Trust managed property. However, we managed to twist her arm to reveal her hangouts of choice, both in our ‘hood and beyond. Over to you, Natalie.
The Waterside Inn, Bray
This is the most incredibly romantic restaurant, where you can feast on gorgeous, 3 Michelin-starred French cuisine by Alain Roux, al fresco, by the Thames. It’s one of my favourite dining experiences and a safe bet for anniversary dinners with my husband.
The Feathers, Burnham
This 18th century pub is just across the road from Cliveden. It was once frequented by Edward VII during the 1870s when he was the Prince of Wales. These days our local is a traditional, casual pub that’s perfect for a pint or quick bite.
A mooch around Oxford’s dreaming spires
You can’t beat an amble around Oxford’s beautiful colleges. I spent some time doing just that while I was researching my book – and took tea with the provost of Worcester College Sir Jonathan Bate. Afterwards I snuck into the student bar and had a vodka tonic, which transported me back to my own student days (I studied at Cambridge though, so the enemy!). Wadham is another one of my favourites and I also think the Ashmoleanmuseum is incredibly special – I’m a massive fan of its classical statues.
I love Windsor Castle for its historical association with Cliveden. They’re only five miles from each other and legend has it that when there was a fire at Cliveden, Queen Victoria herself raised the alarm after spotting the flames from her window at Windsor. Her friend, Harriet, Duchess of Sutherland, lived at Cliveden at the time and the queen would often pop up the river on her little barge to see Harriet. These days I take my children, who are aged 13, 10 and 16 months, to the castle for a day out.
We recently relaunched the spa and now offer treatments from top London facialist Sarah Chapman – it’s the first time she’s collaborated with a hotel. They are divine – if I ever get chance to escape for a few hours, you’ll find me here indulging in a facial. We’ve also developed our own-brand signature beauty products, with scents that are affiliated with the house’s various former chatelaines. So the spa has a brand new look but retains that all-important sense of history.
My favourite restaurant in the whole wide world is the River Café. I’m a huge fan of Ruth Rogers – she’s both an inspirational chef and woman, and was top of my list for speakers at the literary festival. I love how River Café has helped redefine how us Brits approach restaurants. It has first class, flawless food coupled with a delicious informality and warmth of service. You feel like you’re in a family home. My favourite dishes? All the pasta, the Dover sole, the Death by Chocolate.
This independent Chelsea book shop is an institution and the best in London. There’s a fantastic array of titles and you get great advice from the clued-up staff. It’s very inspiring – when I visit, I feel like good writing is seeping into my skin via osmosis.
Serpentine Gallery, Hyde Park
Bang in the middle of Hyde Park, this is an oasis and sanctuary of culture. I loved the Zaha Hadid exhibition, and I need to catch the Grayson Perry one that’s on at the moment. You can make a day out of it, exploring the park and the delightful restaurant too.
The Beachcomber Cafe, Barton on Sea, New Forest