We’re lucky enough to work with some fabulous venues, but when we got a call from Kent House Knightsbridge about partnering up as one of their preferred caterers we jumped at the chance. Situated just a stone’s throw from the shopper’s paradise of Harvey Nics and Harrods, it’s also an amazing venue that has hosted some truly magical celebrations. We asked Anna at Evolve events to tell us a little more about this classy London location, and what goes on behind the scenes there today…
// Tell us a little bit about Kent House… What’s its history?
Kent House Knightsbridge is a beautiful townhouse with a rich, royal history. The first house was built in 1790 and was rented by Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, and son of George III who enlarged it and (modestly!) named it after his own title. Prince Edward installed his mistress in the house and had a tunnel built underneath the road linking the house to Kensington Palace and enabling secret rendezvous. Unfortunately, he was constantly in debt and his beloved mistress did not stay long in Kent House. Prince Edward later married and went on to have a daughter, the future Queen Victoria. In 1870 the house was rebuilt and turned into a remarkable salon by Lady Noble, the granddaughter of pioneer railroader Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Lady Nobel invited leading musicians of the day and the famous Les Ballet Russes to perform and celebrated actors and actresses of the day were entertained there. Lady Noble left Kent House in 1940 when, like so many other London landmarks, the needs of war transcended the need for luxury living and the building was taken over as wartime offices. The house was acquired by Westminster Synagogue in 1960 and a third renaissance of the building began as the glories of the house were restored and it now hosts exclusive events for private individuals and leading brands.
// What makes it stand out as a venue?
It’s the largest surviving townhouse of its kind. When you hire the venue you get the complete house with all of its rooms which can be used to provide a different pace across the course of the event, as guests move through the building enjoying different rooms. Guests are often welcomed downstairs and we host conferences and dinner dances upstairs in what was the original ballroom, with guests able to step out onto our terrace, where we also hold BBQs in the summer. The history of the building means it has beautiful features such as our atrium ceiling, the beautiful cornicing of the walls and our black and white tiled floor in the Marble Hall, yet it is also neutrally decorated, giving great scope for branding and our clients often project logos and images onto the walls and even the outside of the venue.
// Is there a particular part of Kent House that has the most wow factor?
For me it would have to be the staircase. It’s grand, has a red carpet along with beautiful iron work and our guests love it. It’s a beautiful feature and we’ve had everyone from bridal wedding parties, to the Household Cavalry and models posing on it. We’ve also decorated it over the years in many styles, often with flowers and once with a real grass runner, which filled the whole house with the scent of summer.
// You’re situated in super-exclusive Knightsbridge, what are the best bits of this location?
Well there are the obvious retail delights of Harrods and Harvey Nics! The window displays at Christmas are worth a trip in their own right. If you do decide to buy something at Harrods, make sure you leave the store with its signature green bag! We’re blessed to be opposite Hyde Park so we often go for a walk around the Serpentine at lunchtime, and of course some of London’s finest museums are on our doorstep. We love to get lost in the rooms of the V&A or attend their free late night openings which are always great fun.
// What kind of events are you most known for hosting at Kent House? What are some of the most memorable you’ve hosted?
The house offers a light and neutral space within a grand setting and is popular for a range of events from weddings, receptions, private dinners, conferences, product launches, corporate events to Christmas parties. Each Christmas we style the venue differently building our own bar and installing different furniture and styling and have seen it full of glitz and glamour for a Hollywood theme to chic and elegant for this year’s Scandi theme. The venue is often used as a dry hire and completely styled to suit the event. We’ve had a Wonderland party with playing cards projected on the outside and a White Rabbit greeting guests, for Lancôme we changed our red carpet to pink to match their branding and for a private party we created a White Peacock installation at the top of the staircase with a floral tail that flowed all around our staircase. And of course we will always try and incorporate any special requirements, even installing an enormous palm tree for a Caribbean wedding party.
// Who are the team involved at Kent House, and how do they all play a role in the day-to-day running?
We work with Evolve Events, an award-winning events management agency who take pride in getting the detail right, and providing all the elements needed to style your event. It’s often the details of an occasion that everyone remembers, so we spend a lot of time getting them right and our team is known for its seamless service and attention to detail. We also recognise that every event is unique; one day we might be styling the venue to suit a modern wedding and then the next day, creating a 1920s themed conference. One of the most lovely features of the venue is its flexibility and to maximise this, we work with a range of partners to help us create a different look and feel but also to reflect the different budgets allocated to different events.
// How did your collaboration with Kalm Kitchen come about, and what is it about them that made them stand out as one of your approved caterers?
We’d followed Kalm Kitchen on Instagram and drooled over the beautiful food and we knew we just had to try it for ourselves. The presentation is second to none and we love the importance that is placed on how the food appears. After a tasting we were delighted to discover the food tastes just as sublime as it looks, with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal produce. We got together to discuss menus and ideas for Kent House as we knew our clients would love Kalm Kitchen’s approach to food. One of our favourite dishes is the shared plates, which always get guests chatting and interacting with each other.
// What would you say are the ingredients for success when someone is planning a menu for their wedding day or special celebration?
Don’t be afraid to ask. Work with your planner to explore different ideas of what you want. Their experience should guide you to what you can and can’t make work for your venue and budget. There’s so much to plan and think about in an event and it’s often the little details that guests remember. So, take it one step at a time and leave the paperwork, planning (and stress!) to your event manager.
// Can you reveal any of the secrets that would make an event at Kent House completely memorable? How do you go the extra mile to ensure every event is a success?
Event planning is so varied and the levels of detail in each one is incredible. We have tried and tested structures in place to make sure everything goes well on the day. Making an event memorable is often about surprising guests and trying to do something different. One of our favourite recent examples was an edible invitation, made of gingerbread, which got guests excited before they even arrived. People often think working in events is glamorous and of course there is an element of that – I particularly love working with our amazing florists! – but it’s also about not being afraid to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in, especially at the last minute if extra guests arrive or have different dietary requirements. Flexibility and an ability not to panic is the key!
// What exciting things have you got coming up at Kent House over the next few months?
September is always about Christmas planning and we’re doing lots of food tastings at the moment. We’re also putting the final touches to our summer packages for next year. We’re really excited about our new second outdoor terrace which is really pretty and we think guests will love it for receptions and photo opportunities.
// If someone was interested in hosting an event at Kent House, how should they get in touch?
You’ll find us on the usual social media platforms @kenthouseSW7 and you can email us at kenthouseknightsbridge.org or call us on 0207 591 3838. Gary and Kim both love to chat about events so will be delighted to arrange a show around and chat about your event ideas over a glass of fizz.
Credits… Images courtesy of Kent House Knightsbridge