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Rosewood Hotel London + Retro Art Afternoon Tea

Up On Reflection

Rosewood Hotel Holborn London Courtyard © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

We’re leisurely making our way round the courtyard of Rosewood Hotel in Holborn, a mere canapé’s throw from Sir John Soane Museum. Our first visit was for dinner in Holborn Dining Room. Second visit, Champagne in Scarfes Bar. Our third visit is for afternoon tea in Mirror Room. These are the last photos you’ll ever see of the Retro Art Afternoon Tea. Fortunately, Rosewood London hasn’t gone the way of Bonhams or Typing Room Restaurants – history. Instead, this fifth edition afternoon tea is being superseded by the Van Gogh Afternoon Tea to coincide with an exhibition in Tate Britain.

Rosewood Hotel Holborn London Hallway © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Retro Art Afternoon Tea is just what the doctor ordered after our inaugural Irish Georgian Society London St Patrick’s Party lecture A Very Grand Tour held at The Medical Society of London, off Harley Street. The lecture might have stretched to 100 slides on 16 buildings in 40 minutes but prepping over dinner in Indian Accent, Albemarle Street’s part subterranean wholly Subcontinental haute cuisine restaurant, eased the intellectual burden. Even an eight hour Very Grand Detour lunch the day before in Hix Soho didn’t detract from a performance as polished as our reflections in Rosewood’s Mirror Room.

Rosewood Hotel Holborn London Bathroom © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Rosewood Hotel Holborn London Flower Arrangement © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Rosewood Hotel Holborn London Sandwiches © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Rosewood Hotel Holborn London Retro Sweets © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

An enigmatic vitrine, shortly to become an evolving diorama of dainty delights, is placed on our table. Pescatarian savouries upfront include salmon vol au vents with cream cheese and keta caviar, egg and watercress sandwiches, and the cucumber and cheese variety. In true Duchess of Bedford tradition, plain and raisin scones follow, accompanied by Corniche Cornish cream, lemon curd, and strawberry and elderflower jam. Queen Victoria Darjeeling blend is a 19th century interrupter. That’s before the afternoon tea leaps another century forwards, starting with retro sweets of Ferrero Rocher | Jaffa Cake | lemon flying saucer | rhubarb and custard. Finally, the vitrine is filled with a very 20th century interruption, a diorama of edible vintage sculptures.

Rosewood Hotel Holborn London Malika Favre Pastry © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

  • Malika Favre inspired pastry: lime and pineapple mousse, raspberry crémeux and sponge, raspberry glaze and chocolate. Malika is a French illustrator and graphic artist based in London. Her bold minimalist style bridges the gap between Pop Art and Op Art.
  • Andy Warhol inspired pastry: Morello cherry jelly, chocolate mousse, vanilla brûlée, flourless chocolate sponge, cherry ganache. Campbell’s Soup is one of Andy Warhol’s most celebrated works of art. Produced in 1962, it’s composed of 32 canvases each representing a can of Campbell’s Soup.
  • Retro Wall Art inspired pastry: vanilla tart case, almond crunchy praline, salted caramel mousse, chocolate crémeux, caramel glaze, chocolate popping candy. Wall Art took on a new meaning in Seventies and Eighties, embracing geometrics and flowers in bright colours.

Rosewood Hotel Holborn London Andy Warhol Pastry © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“As a Pastry Chef, I’m always curious and draw inspiration from things that surround me. London is a vibrant city with an incredibly energetic art scene. Rosewood London’s quirky interiors reflect the British capital’s history, culture and sensibilities,” explains Executive Pastry Chef Mark Perkins. “The interiors feature works of some of the world’s most renowned artists, with contemporary pieces complemented by more traditional art. My latest creations are inspired by retro art from the Sixties to the Eighties.” Next time, we’ll complete our Rosewood London courtyard journey with a leisurely visit to Sense Spa.

Rosewood Hotel Holborn London Retro Wall Inspired Pastry © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Architects Architecture Art Country Houses Design Developers People Restaurants

Pitzhanger Manor London + Anish Kapoor

Master of Mirrors, Master of Light

Pitzhanger Manor Party Relaunch © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It’s the GSM rule. The thicker the invitation card, the better the party. The relaunch of Pitzhanger Manor proved the point. Sir John Soane’s former country house – post a £12 million facelift (or rather major surgical enhancement by Jestico + Whiles working with Julian Harrap Architects) – on a stormy night was filled with lights and flowers and music and guests.

Pitzhanger Manor Party Column © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Lord Lieutenant, Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen,” began Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, Chair of The Trustees. “The house was built 220 years ago. The library, 80 years ago. The garden room, three years ago.” He spoke in the garden room now rebranded Soane’s Kitchen. You guessed, it’s a café by day, venue by night. Designed by Jestico + Whiles, Soane’s Kitchen is an elegantly understated pavilion set in the walled garden.

Pitzhanger Manor Party Eagle © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pitzhanger Manor Party © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pitzhanger Manor Party Lantern © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pitzhanger Manor Party London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pitzhanger Manor Party Ealing © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pitzhanger Manor Party Light © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pitzhanger Manor Party Chinese Wallpaper © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pitzhanger Manor Party Chinoiserie Wallpaper © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Pitzhanger Manor Party Piers Gough © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Sir Sherard continued, “Every house is unique. There are degrees of uniqueness. Artfully antinomian eclecticism? That’s Pitzhanger. Not for Soane the menu de siècle. He dined à la carte. Pitzhanger is a cocktail of Georgian and gothic eccentricity. Austere and extravagant.” He praised the artist who hand painted the spectacular upper drawing room wallpaper: “Alistair Peoples, champion of Chinoiserie wallpaper!”

Pitzhanger Manor Party Anish Kapoor © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The inaugural exhibition in the library turned art gallery is by Anish Kapoor. Sir Sherard acknowledged, “Anish Kapoor sets a very high standard of excitement and artistic imagination.” The former Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan ended by saying, “Pitzhanger is at the intersection of art and architecture and design. It is Soane’s enduring legacy. Two centuries on, he stands so tall. Pitzhanger – the jewel in the crown of the rapidly reviving Queen of the Suburbs! A wonderfully uplifting zig in a world too full of zags.”

Pitzhanger Manor Party Anish Kapoor Exhibition © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Anish spoke on the “amber melancholic Turneresque light” of Pitzhanger’s stained glass windows. “It’s like a fading yellow page of ethereal importance,” he observed. “I tried to play with it too. I do what I do. Let the conversation happen if it must.” The night ended well: a goody bag of colourful macaroons courtesy of Coutts.

Pitzhanger Manor Party Anish Kapoor Art © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Architecture Art

St Ferréol Church + Old Port Marseille

A Reverse Chronology

St Ferreol Church Marseille © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Marseille is over in a flash: fleeting days in the sun, days a mere handbreadth, mere phantoms in the sun. To paraphrase Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, we’ve zigged our way through the zaggers. Our last place of discovery is an historic building in Vieux Port. We’re taking a moment to rewind the years and decades and centuries.

St Ferreol Church Marseille Facade © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Ferreol Church Marseille Chapel © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Ferreol Church Marseille Altar © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Ferreol Church Marseille Bust © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

  • 2019: Lavender’s Blue descend on St Ferréol Church.
  • 1979: A statue of the Holy Family by Yves Le Pape is added to the third chapel on the right.
  • 1875: The façade is rebuilt, incorporating a statue of the Immaculate Conception, as part of the construction of the Rue de la République.
  • 1844: Augustin Zeiger builds and installs the gothic style organ.
  • 1801: The façade and first bay of the church are demolished to make way for road widening.
  • 1800s: The Jesuits take over the running of the church.
  • 1700s: The multicoloured marble altar is installed.
  • 1700s: The bell tower is erected.
  • 1600: A bust of the Patron Saint is placed in the third chapel on the left.
  • 1588: The vault is completed.
  • 1564: The tomb of the Mazenod family is established in the third chapel on the left.
  • 1542: The Augustinian church is dedicated on 15 January.
  • 1379: The building is transferred to Augustinian monks.
  • 1100s: Knights Templar erect a building on the current site.
  • 200s: St Ferréol is martyred for refusing to offer a sacrifice to idols

St Ferreol Church Marseille Plaque © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley


Architects Architecture Luxury People

Palais du Pharo + Marseille

The Phocaen City

Palais du Pharo Marseille © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Napoleon III’s waterside pad hogs one of the best spots in the city. Marseille’s best dressed palace is now a conference centre for its best dressed delegates. Hector-Martin Lefuel, known for his work at the Louvre, was commissioned in the early 1850s to design a summerhouse fit for an Emperor. Napoleon III never actually stayed in this palace. After his death, Empress Eugénie donated Palais du Pharo to the city. A people’s palace.

Pharo Palace Marseille © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Marseille Palace Vieux Port © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley


Marseille + Catalans Beach

Avec le Temps

Plage du Catalans Marseille © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Corniche begins.

Catalans Beach Marseille © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley


Marseille + The Doors

Fallen Arches

At the beginning of the 19th century, French writer Stendhal observed, “The house doors remind me of those in London. They are of polished wood with brass knockers, and raised by two steps off the pavement which is separated from the street by a running stream of clear water.”

Architecture Art Town Houses

Marseille + Marilynne Robinson

A Seraphic Calling 

“We know only what we know, only in the ways that we know it or can know it.” MR. On a morning of utter unimpeachable freshness, it’s time to enjoy a latitudinal view of experience. No curtailment of grace, or majesty, thank you. Efficacious, beautiful, vital, satisfying, glorious. “We wander the terrain of a very remarkable freedom.” You guessed. MR again.

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Sofitel Vieux Port Hotel Marseille + Paul Cézanne

Unstill Life

“Well, life is full of surprises,” proclaims essayist and novelist Marilynne Robinson. Couldn’t agree more. We’ve just woken up in Marseille. South of France. A night in Provence. There’s more. Breakfast in bed in the Mediterranean city’s best address. Perfection. Nowhere better to enjoy the experiential rhapsodies of reality. So far, so great, Sofitel Vieux Port. The Paul Cézanne inspired five star retreat. Marilynne believes, “Beauty is a strategy of emphasis.” Sofitel mirrors the artist’s strengths, offering a fine balancing between tradition and innovation, suffused with light and imbued with beauty; a distinctive manner of looking, a novel system of application. Pétanque, anyone?

Protestant work ethic gone astray, it’s over to Wallpaper* to extol the delights of Sofitel’s Les Trois Forts restaurant: “The restaurant at the top of the Sofitel Vieux Port doesn’t just have one of the best views in the city – taking in, you guessed it, three forts – it also has one of the greatest chefs in France running the kitchen. Dominique Frerard is a painstaking, ultra meticulous, details guy of the first order and highlight decorated for it.” Meanwhile, Sofitel’s famous feather down pillows (intrinsic to the temporal, a present pleasure) form the perfect companions to considering the mysteries of consciousness. The view’s pretty dreamy, too.

Architects Architecture Design Developers People

La Tourette Marseille + Fernand Pouillon

The Divine Architect

“I am content to place humankind at the centre of Creation. We are complex enough, interesting enough… I find the soul a valuable concept, a statement of the dignity of a human life and of the unutterable gravity of human action and experience.” So says Christian philosopher Marilynne Robinson. Fernand Pouillon was the architect of this influential Postwar housing scheme overlooking Fort St Jean at the tip of Marseille’s Vieux Port. Completed in 1953, it quickly became something of a prototype. How to do modernism. A lesson in proportion. Rising to 21 storeys, precast concrete decks with cross walls in shuttered concrete and external walls faced with stone casing produced a lasting effect. La Tourette continues to offer sleek slices of desirable urban living.

Architecture Luxury Town Houses

Marseille +

Webs of Moment and Meaning and Memory

American writer Marilynne Robinson is enthralled by this “roaring, surging universe”. Witness, the fury of the Mistral. Here’s to zoomorphia: cathedral as zebra.

Architecture Luxury Town Houses

Marseille + Corniche President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Onward to Camelot

A pericope scooped from Marilynne Robinson’s writings: “We came from somewhere, and we are travelling somewhere, and the spectacle is glorious and portentous.”

Architecture Luxury Town Houses

Marseille + Traverse de la Fausse Monnaie

De Temps en Temps

Gardens to tarry in.

Architecture Luxury Town Houses

Marseille + Anse de la Fausse Monnaie

The Wealth of Nations

A kind of dark gorgeousness. It does translate, after all, as the Cove of Counterfeit Money.

Architecture Luxury Restaurants

Marseille + Vallon des Auffes

Up Ship Creek

Below and beyond Marseille’s marvellous Mediterranean Corniche, the Valley of Grass ascends to hillside bastides and descends to coastal cabanons: from country houses to cosy cabins.

Shabby chic: a tired old phrase for a tired old style, but Marseille does shabby chic with (rusted) bells on.

Architecture Luxury

Frioul Archipelago + Chateau d’If Marseille

Blue is the New Black

Blue Coast, Blue Flag, Lavender’s Blue.

Architecture Luxury

Marseille + Lavender’s Blue

A Veil Will Be Lifted

After a divagation of a decade or two there was a gorgeous blossoming, first fruit springing forth following a certain attraction to the centre of cosmic reality, a spiritual gravitational pull occurring towards the close of the age. A late vivid sense, a reawakening. “We are heirs to the testimonies of unnumbered generations,” reconciles liberal Christian Marilynne Robinson. She thinks, “Our realism distracts us from reality, that most remarkable phenomenon.” Tacitly, an exploration of ontology would begin.


Cats + Marseille Corniche

The Perfect Combo

Architecture Luxury

Lavender’s Blue + Bouches-du-Rhône

Differing Dominions | Completely Hinged

Soon, very soon, all this will be the scene and subject of nostalgic memory.


Lavender’s Blue + Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

The Elegant Vigour of Angels

Like the noonday sun.

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Lasarte Restaurant + Monument Hotel Barcelona

Nonsense and Sensibility

Déu n’hi do! Lavender’s Blue is a release of pure joy. Visiting a metropolis to explore just one neighbourhood concentrates our minds. A new tourism. We’re on it like a Jane Austen bonnet. Especially when the met is Barcelona; the hood is Eixample; and the local is Lasarte. “Work, strive, feel, listen, talk, taste, observe, thrill, improve, excite, think, imagine, inspire, decorate, reflect, research, work, pamper.” So declares Chef de Cuisine Paolo Casagrande.

In an Ecclesiastical moment, away from lives crowded with incident, taking an initial step toward the Examen later, we’ll go for pamper. Three Michelin star pampering, if you will. Putting the gas in gastronomy we’ve enjoyed Everglades Hotel’s colcannon gnocchi (City of Londonderry) and the Capital Club’s Guildhall power breakfasts (City of London dairy) not forgetting the East India Club’s potted shrimps in seaweed butter plus we’re not averse to Hakkasan Mayfair’s finger lickin’ stir fry black pepper veggie chicken, but when in Rome the Continental foodie capital…

Lasarte is managed by the renowned Basque chef Martin Berasategui. His restaurant in San Sebastián is also called Lasarte. Guess what? It’s got the Red Book’s top accreditation too. The Barcelona outpost is on the ground floor of the luscious five star Monument Hotel, once the home of industrialist Enric Battló. Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas was the original 1890s architect. Lasarte is reached through the open plan bar, beyond the Michelin starred Oria restaurant, secreted behind enigmatic herringbone oak doors. Architects Carles Bassó and Tote Moreno, architect interior designer Oscar Tusquets and interior designer Mercè Borrell and have delivered a modern monastic aesthetic. An inner sanctum of sorts. Its cocooned in herringbone oak floors and panelling.

Martin’s signature looms large over the restaurant. Literally. It’s scrawled across clerestory height mirrors above the panelling. Paolo combines Martin’s fiery signature dishes with his own fearsome foray into Catalan cuisine, from ginger to jalapeño. He’s got range. Don’t you just love folded linen napkin trays? Synchronised pouring? Cork presenting? A wooden wheelbarrow piled high with special artisanal reminiscential original regional bread? Lasarte is the embodiment of brilliance. The Lasarte Menu is €215 a head. Time to raid the Lazard family vault again. Fotem un café?

Catalan fished stew? Suquet. Petit fours balanced on a candelabra? Candy-labra. Mim cava. Mmm cava. Ah cava. Colm Tóibín records in Homage to Barcelona, “In Barcelona the poets and the professors, the designers and the rest of the generation of 1992 have taken Champagne to their hearts. In Barcelona they call it ‘cava’, and they take it as seriously as they take most things. Codorniu and Freixenet are local brews, for everyday use like wine from a barrel… Drinking cava is an integral part of being a Catalan.”

We’re not leaving this block. Period. Homage to Eixample. Micro travel is all about discovering what’s next door. Imagine our surprise, and dedication to the cause, to discover – in a city that brims with power shopping strips – that Passeig de Gràcia, the strip that easily outstrips all others, is at the foot of the hotel’s marble steps. Colm says it has “a glamour to be found nowhere else in Barcelona, in the faces, the clothes, the hairstyles.” This is no cursory peep behind the faded Iron Curtain. These days we’re all about intense western festoons. After such sweet, salt and umami sensory satisfaction, now’s the time to join the style savvy and go spend the next two generations’ inheritance. Eixample: it’s an extension to our very existence. Salut i força al Canuti!

Architects Architecture Art Design Developers Town Houses

Casa Amatller Barcelona + Josep Puig i Cadafalch

Sweet Dreams are Made of This

To describe Modernisme as Catalan Art Nouveau underrates its roots but it’s a fair starting point. The style originated in the 1870s when Barcelona was enjoying industrial prosperity and expanding beyond its medieval walls. This expansion, named Eixample, became the home of Modernisme. The relaxation of town planning and the influx of wealth combined with a resurgence of Catalan identity created the perfect climate for new commissions and in turn a new style. Modernisme is a manifestation of Catalan character in stone. And brick. And trencadís (broken ceramic tiles). In homage to the region’s history, Gothic, Moorish and medieval styles were fused with naturalistic motifs of Art Nouveau. Catalan architects superimposed their local customs and beliefs on traditional architecture and made it something new. The epoch ended in 1911.

Who better than Colm Tóibín to capture the spirit of the moment, “The style is known as Modernisme, and it was taken up by Catalan architects at the end of the 19th century as a national style from a number of sources, Art Nouveau and William Morris’ Arts and Crafts movement being among them. In 1903, just two years before the Palau de Música was begun, the leading Barcelona architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch wrote, ‘the most important thing we have done is that we have made a modern art, taking our traditional arts as a basis, adorning it with new material, solving contemporary problems with a national spirit.’”

Casa Amatller is a prime example of Eixample Modernisme. Its crazy ziggurat gable and spiky dingdong parapet sew a rich Dutch pattern into the fabric. The fabric of the rich, stitch upon stitch. Casa Amatller is one of three attached mansions, each a wildly varying rebuilding of an existing structure, together known as “Mansana de la Discòrdia” or “block of discord”. Chocolatier Antoni Amattler Costa commissioned Josep Puig i Cadafalch to go for it. Big time. An oriel as big as a planet. It was one of the first houses in Barcelona to have electricity, no less. Modern without the isme too. All that, he did with great aplomb. Almost 120 years after completion, Casa Amattler still has the wow factor. Madness or genius? Chisel or pencil? Fantasy or reality?

Apropos to the source of the dosh, Casa Amatller could easily be a stage set for Hansel + Gretel on speed. Maybe a bit of Rapunzel on acid thrown in for good measure too? Josep’s heroic adeptness at ecstatic playfulness is a trait Postmodernists would strive to emulate but rarely achieve a century later. Colm observes his eclecticism: “His style moved from the strident neo Gothic to the more gentle Germanic.” Peter Thornton, writing about Paris in Authentic Décor The Domestic Interior 1620 to 1920: “Most Art Nouveau was a good deal more sober than is generally supposed.” The same could not be written about its Catalan counterpart. No way, José.

Speaking at the European Commission in Smith Square, London, architectural historian Andrew Saint remarked, “Art Nouveau is really missing in the English context.” He cited Charles Harrison Townsend’s Horniman Museum in London as a rare example. “You can see Art Nouveau as a coalescence of vernacular traditions with an interest in urban politics. The poor old Glasgow School of Art shows that Scottish nationalism was an important force. But that energetic Pan Slavic or Catalan movement is missing in Britain.” There is no British equivalent of Casa Amatller.

Architecture Art People

St Josep Oriol Church + Diputació Barcelona

Sects + The City | Rosy Apple

St Josep Oriol was a late 17th century Catalan priest canonised by Pope Pius X in 1909. Construction of the church named after him began two years after his canonisation. Enric Sagnier, a prolific local architect, came up with a neo Renaissance style.

St Josep Oriol is a precious survival. George Orwell laments in Homage to Catalonia, 1938, “almost every church had been gutted and its images burnt. Churches here and there were being systematically demolished by gangs of workmen.”

Architecture Hotels Luxury

Hotel Continental Palacete La Ramba de Catalunya Barcelona + Lavender’s Blue

Demis, Dates and Dignitaries

Marvelling at the marbling, living our best lives, we only live twice.