EDEN CONFIDENTIAL: Chelsea diner to the stars is off the menu

EDEN CONFIDENTIAL: Chelsea diner to the stars L’Antico is off the menu after 28 years after ‘impossible’ rise in costs

It’s the end of an era in Chelsea, where one of the fashionable area’s most popular restaurants has closed down after 28 years.

Family-owned L’Antico, in King’s Road near Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge ground, was a favourite haunt of famous figures including Olympic gold medallist Lord Coe, design expert Stephen Bayley and former England manager Roy Hodgson.

Its owner, Francesco D’Alessio, tells me that a huge proposed increase in the rent is to blame. ‘The rent used to be £78,000, but they were proposing to put it up to £100,000,’ he says. ‘They’ve got their own estate agent now to sell the place.’

D’Alessio adds: ‘There was so much history, and all the famous people. But everything’s going up and it was getting impossible.’

Its owner, Francesco D’Alessio, tells me that a huge proposed increase in the rent is to blame. ‘The rent used to be £78,000, but they were proposing to put it up to £100,000,’ he says

James Hewitt may have hoped to head to the Alps at the first sign of snow and snap on his skis for some downhill exhilaration.

But not this Christmas: instead, he is intent on a very different kind of adrenaline rush.

I can reveal that the former Household Cavalry officer, 64 — notorious ever since selling the story of his five-year affair with Princess Diana — is driving thousands of miles across Ukraine to rescue civilians left homeless by Russian artillery.

The mission is being undertaken for Help4Ukraine, a group established by writer and campaigner Lord Monson to supply ambulances and aid and bring those in need to safety.

James Hewitt may have hoped to head to the Alps at the first sign of snow and snap on his skis for some downhill exhilaration. But not this Christmas: instead, he is intent on a very different kind of adrenaline rush

‘James Hewitt is not in this for personal glory,’ Nicholas Monson, 67, tells me at the launch party for Rory Knight Bruce’s memoirs, An Unanchored Heart. ‘He’s doing good work for the cause and will be on another run before Christmas.’

Hewitt, who teamed up with former Coldstream Guards officer Mikey Stewart-Richardson before throwing his lot in with Help4Ukraine, is fully aware of the challenges ahead.

In his first public statement about Help4Ukraine, he explains that each mission begins at Lviv, where the convoy — ‘four vehicles: two drivers in each’ — loads up with ‘hospital beds and essential medical equipment’, before embarking on a gruelling drive eastwards.

Hewitt aims to be back for Christmas — to be reunited with the woman in his life. Monson tells me: ‘He’s got to look after his mum’ 

‘We covered 2,500 miles in three days,’ he says of his last mission, when the convoy came within six miles of the nuclear power plant at Zaporizhzhia, which remains in Russian hands. They took on board ‘36 refugees — [and] a cat and a dog’.

Among them was a teacher, Irene, who, for more than a month, ‘had been living underground, with no fresh water, no electricity, no heating, no gas for cooking, no clean clothes. Her apartment had been destroyed.

‘She was smart, polite and enormously grateful that she could finally experience freedom.’

Hewitt aims to be back for Christmas — to be reunited with the woman in his life. Monson tells me: ‘He’s got to look after his mum.’

MAMMA MIA! Abba star Bjorn Ulvaeus is pleading with tribute bands to stop putting on Swedish accents. ‘It’s the only thing I don’t enjoy so much, when people do Abba,’ says the musician, 77. ‘Because we don’t have Scandinavian accents — or not as pronounced as theirs.’ 

Gardeners’ World star Peter Seabrook quietly cultivated a fortune. The horticultural expert, who died in January aged 86, left £1.65 million. Probate documents disclose that Seabrook left a gross estate of £2.9 million before his liabilities were paid.

His estate will be shared between his two children. He had planned to leave most of his estate to his wife Margaret, but she died from Covid-19 in 2020.

Sir Rod Stewart is mourning the death of his second brother in a matter of months. The Maggie May singer announced yesterday that Bob had died, having bidden farewell to Don, 94, in September. ‘It’s with great sadness that I announce the death of my brother Bob last night who joins my brother Don on the great football pitch in the sky,’ says Sir Rod, 77. ‘I’ve lost two of my best mates in the space of two months. RIP Irreplaceable buddies.’ 

Bad break for Lady Branson

He’s ballooned across oceans, parachuted into parties, blasted into space — and kite-surfed in tandem with a naked female model.

But while Sir Richard Branson, 72, gives no sign of heading for life in the slow lane, his wife, Joan, has no option.

‘She had an accident in London recently,’ Branson tells my New York spy at the premiere of the new documentary series, Branson.

Lady Branson, he adds, has been confined to hospital for six weeks with a badly broken leg after falling off the pavement while carrying two grandchildren. ‘She’s on the mend,’ he insists.

Sounds like kite-surfing would be safer.

While Sir Richard Branson, 72, gives no sign of heading for life in the slow lane, his wife, Joan, has no option

Pick of the parties

THE OCCASION: Quintessentially Foundation’s Fayre of St James’s concert in aid of the Firefly Project, at St James’s Piccadilly.

GOING TO HER HEAD: Royal favourite Ellie Goulding, sporting a new brunette hairdo, geared up for her performance at the Prince of Wales’s Earthshot Prize ceremony in America tomorrow by singing to guests including Princess Beatrice and her husband, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi.

POET’S CORNER: Normal People star Daisy Edgar-Jones recited Wordsworth’s Christmas poem Minstrels.

ABBEY ROAD: Oscar-nominated actress Minnie Driver was immersed in conversation with Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. Could we see the Good Will Hunting star in a future Downton film? ‘We’ll have to see,’ Lord Fellowes tells me. ‘I admire her very much. She is terrific.’

Royal favourite Ellie Goulding, sporting a new brunette hairdo, geared up for her performance at the Prince of Wales’s Earthshot Prize ceremony in America tomorrow by singing to guests

Guests included Princess Beatrice and her husband, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi

Normal People star Daisy Edgar-Jones recited Wordsworth’s Christmas poem Minstrels

Oscar-nominated actress Minnie Driver was immersed in conversation with Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. Could we see the Good Will Hunting star in a future Downton film? ‘We’ll have to see,’ Lord Fellowes tells me

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