Who knew there was a helipad in London? Not me, that’s for sure. It’s in Battersea – in case you also didn’t know. I’m headed there to embark on my first UK helicopter ride with Apollo Air to take a trip to the New Forest for the day. Just jumping into my helicopter to head to the New Forest for lunch. I’m sorry, who am I? One boujie, enjoying-the-fine-things-in-life lady, that’s who.
I’m excited to take the helicopter ride; with many people feeling less comfortable flying on a plane under the current circumstances, Apollo Air’s private helicopter trips ensure you don’t have to miss out on a holiday. Here I am, ready to take a flight – without getting on a public plane or going through an airport. Life of luxury, indeed.
I’m in a group of five so we’re in line with the new ‘rule of six’, with the two pilots in the cockpit, which is sealed off from the rest of the helicopter. Ordinarily a mask would need to be worn when in a confined, inside space but the added benefit of Apollo Air is that it is a pioneer in COVID-free travel. The VIP helicopter company uses ACA; a bipolar ionisation technology which removes pathogens, making it an effective solution in ridding a space of 99.4 per cent of bacteria and viruses, including our lovely friend COVID-19.
The ions have the property to cluster around microparticles, gases, airborne mould spores, viruses and bacteria and as this occurs, a natural reaction occurs on the cell membrane surface of airborne biologicals where they remove the harmful biological of a hydrogen atom. In short: the pathogens are deactivated and quickly die. What does it mean? A safer, COVID-free journey and no need to wear a mask – although guests are more than welcome to do so, should they feel more comfortable.
We were able to see the air ion counter which allows you to check the ion count inside the aircraft and watching this definitely made me feel more secure. The Ionisation Purification System works by using positive and negative ions to improve the interior air quality and kill pathogens, both in the air and on surfaces. I personally wore a mask, simply to be extra safe due to vulnerable family members, but the innovative technology means that passengers are not required to wear masks or gloves and everyone can sit back and enjoy the journey at ease.
And what a journey. What would have been a two-hour drive took just thirty means, as we flew over London’s stunning citscape to begin with, before moving across green countryside. I was pointed in the direction of the Isle of Wight – whose tomatoes I’d soon be gorging upon – and it was incredible to see the view from up top. That’s definitely something you wouldn’t be able to spot had we taken the less exciting car option.
The Kitchen at Chewton Glen
Landing in Chewton Glen on a sunny day, with no plans other than to enjoy a delectable lunch – I could get used to this life. We’re exceptionally lucky as today, James Martin (yes, Saturday Kitchen’s favourite) is cooking for us. Previously a pastry chef at Chewton Glen’s The Kitchen, he returns to the country house hotel’s restaurant every so often, for anyone else who’s a fan and would like to be cooked by him (trust me, you do).
After some fan-girling and picture-taking with James, we sat down to eat. I cannot even begin to tell you the struggle of ordering from this menu: I wanted it all. It all came recommended too, but not in the ‘oh I’m the chef so of course it’s all good’ manner you often get in restaurants but in a genuine manner as some items were specials on the menu; others were flown in from suppliers the previous night or that morning. It was hard but I get there in the end, eventually opting for the sardines on toast; scallops with hazelnuts and a side of lobster mac ‘n’ cheese (how can one not?). The sardines on toast, one of the specials, are bittersweet: by far the best sardines on toast I’ve ever had, featuring those gorgeous Isle of Wight tomatoes. I genuinely fear having sardines on toast elsewhere as I can’t say I enjoy disappointment.
Painfully torn between the day’s boat fish, a gorgeous Dover sole drenched in garlic, lemon and herb butter and the grilled scallops, I am promised I won’t eat scallops the same as these anywhere else. Sold. Hand-dived Orkney King scallops in their shells, in a lemon and herb butter with hazelnuts, the light charcoal taste from the grill merges beautifully with the zesty lemon and sweet herb butter and the nuts add a delightful crunch. Our waitress even washes the scallop shells for us as our pilot, suggests they’ll make beautiful soap or jewellery dishes. The lobster mac ‘n’ cheese is a gooey, cheesey delight – though I could always do with a more powerful presence of lobster in this dish – and don’t worry, I always eat my greens; French beans in butter with black pepper in this case.
Dessert is a selection of the banana split, knickerbocker glory, strawberry meringue ‘bisous’ – all nods to childhood pudding nostalgia. Yet it is The Kitchen Apple which gets my attention; a sucker for a novelty dessert, this Pink Lady apple reveals vanilla ice cream when cracked.
Return Journey Home
Enjoying a long lunch in the sunshine, this lady of luxury is much at ease with today’s lifestyle and it is sad to admit we have to return home. Yet another bittersweet moment as we do have the novelty of flying back in style. I confess; I remove my mask for the return journey – if only to truly experience the clean and pathogen-free atmosphere Apollo Air Services provides and I must say, I know I was calmer than I’d have been on a communal flight. Our pilot apologises for the slight turbulence we encounter (through the headsets we are all wearing) but I comment that I probably experience more bumps and jolts in an Uber through Central London. We land back in Battersea and I feel like Dorothy after she’s lost her ruby slippers as I begin my walk home, my life of luxury over – for now.
As the ‘rule of six’ returns, Apollo Air’s private helicopter rides could be the answer to your prayers to fit in a few last trips to Europe or enjoy the simple staycation in style.
Steve Graham, Apollo Air Services, “We’re delighted to be the first helicopter charter company to have this ground-breaking technology on our aircraft, which will allow our clients to travel with peace of mind that they aren’t putting themselves at risk of the COVID virus.. We are seeing a growing demand for helicopter travel in the current landscape, where health and hygiene have become top priorities. Not only do helicopters provide a perfect, sealed bubble for clients to travel with close friends and family, without the need to visit busy airports and take public transport, but now we can also ensure the air they breathe whilst onboard is free of the virus.”