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Architects Architecture Art Design Hotels Luxury People Restaurants Town Houses

Ireland’s Blue Book + Bishop’s Gate Hotel Derry Londonderry

Merry Girls

“The sun always shines on the righteous!” claims hotelier Astrid Bray and sure enough the clouds fade to reveal an unblemished cobalt blue sky over the Capital City of Northwest Ulster. For once it’s not “foundering” as the locals would say. Depending on your persuasion, the name of this place is a four syllable binational portmanteau (Londonderry), a three syllable aristocratic surname (Londond’ry) or a rationalist nationalist two syllables (Derry). The city is one of two in Northern Ireland to share its name with its host county; Armagh does as well (Antrim doesn’t count as it is a mere town and county).

We’re here for Sunday morning sunny side up (eggs benedict with halloumi) breakfast at Bishop’s Gate Hotel next to one of the arched entrances to the Walled City. This much praised hotel is a member of Ireland’s Blue Book. We’re no strangers to the collection. Recent jaunts have included Belleek Castle, Ballina, County Mayo; Astrid’s favourite Bushmills Inn Hotel, County Antrim; Castle Grove, Ramelton, County Donegal; Coopershill House, Riverstown, County Sligo; Castle Leslie, Glaslough, County Monaghan; Dunbrody House, Arthurstown, County Wexford; The Merrion Hotel, Dublin; and the truly majestic Marlfield House, Gorey, County Wexford.

Sisters Margaret and Laura Bowe are joint châtelaines of Marlfield. Laura is Chairperson of Ireland’s Blue Book. “Now entering its 47th year,” she explains, “our collection of properties and restaurants continue to offer luxurious, memorable and unique experiences across the length and breadth of the island of Ireland… We are very proud of our chefs and patron chefs, with many of our restaurants boasting one and two Michelin stars.”

Guests at Bishop’s Gate Hotel are greeted by a framed picture of a quote by the sage Madame Lily Bollinger, clearly not the abstemious sort: “I drink when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it, unless I’m thirsty.” Equally educational are a series of framed architects’ drawings illustrating the genesis of the architecture of the hotel and other significant buildings in Derry.

Originally two townhouses dating from the 1800s, the site was purchased by the Northern Counties Club at the end of that century. International architect Alfred Forman transformed the private residences into the members’ club. The new owners have retained a clubby feel to the hotel with well stocked bookshelves displaying photos of Northern Counties Club visitors such as Winston Churchill, William Butler Yeats and Derek Hill. And they serve great grub.

Like all cultural tourists to the city, we ask our waitress for directions to the Derry Girls mural. “Not a bother!” she enthuses. “Just like a lollypop lady I’ll direct you!” Her shortcut is through the rear of the hotel. “This room used to be a garden and that’s a covered up well in the corner. The house where the hotel is now was used to hold prisoners during the Siege of Derry. They were able to travel underground from here to a well on Shipquay Street and from there across to boats on the River Foyle to escape.”

Before the very much larger than life mural, we’re off for alfresco mid morning coffee in the Hidden City Café. Outside seating is in the adjacent Garden of Reflection decorated with Tim Ward’s glass artwork. The west bank enclave surrounding Bishop’s Gate Hotel has a real Georgian Dublin meets bohemian Galway vibe. So much history. But the question on everyone’s lips is when is the third television series of Derry Girls coming?

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Art Design Luxury People

Mary Martin London + Cat Couture

The Catwalk

Zelda Blakley is the latest top model to don Mary Martin London haute couture. So what does Zelda have to say about her new outfit? “This ballgown is simply purrfect! I’m feline very elegant. I’m like the cat that got the cream!”

“Seriously though,” Zelda purrs, “In the words of my favourite French philosopher Roland Barthes, ‘Fashion the myth… at the very moment it produces… attempts to substitute its artifice, that is, its culture, for the false nature of things; it does not suppress meaning; it points to it with its finger.’ Or rather, claw.”

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Art Luxury People

Aux Merveilleux de Fred Northcote Road Battersea London + Meringue Recipe

Gros Bisous

“C’est très chic!” exclaims Parisienne Maud Rabin mid flow in Hôtel Meurice Paris. We are of course discussing Aux Merveilleux de Fred. That bakery. It’s the ultimate Franco British style signifier: you know when Frédéric comes to your postcode you haven’t just made it, you’ve arrived, you’re at home. So if whippin’ up a frenzy is your thing, stay tuned. We’re about to give away a half a century or so old secret recipe. Cancel the lawyers Fréd, we’re off to speak to the 21st century Mrs Beeton of Ireland. She’s more than ready to spill the beans or at least count the ounces of castor sugar. It’s the alternative Irish recipe for meringues.

It’s all yours Mrs B: “When you put all your egg whites in a deep bowl you have to whisk those up until they are literally standing in stiff and dry peaks. It’s worth doubling the recipe – three egg whites – to make enough meringues, especially when the oven has to be so low. You fold the three ounces of granulated sugar into the stiff eggs that you’ve just whisked up. Keep whisking them until they are as firm as before. You’re then left with the three ounces of castor sugar. Fold in the castor sugar but just give it one whisk – don’t whisk away up like before. Use two spoons to ladle out into separate meringues on a paper lined baking tray.” Like a good photograph the rule of thirds applies to meringue making. As Frédéric would no doubt murmur, “C’est incroyable!” Or as Maud puts it, “In Paris we always say c’est la  vie! It means ‘this is destiny’. We always say it in a positive way.”

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Art Design Luxury People Restaurants

Cathedral Quarter + The Muddlers Club Belfast

Art Is An

Cathedral Quarter: a place of short skirts and long nights. Ever since Wallpaper* Style Guides were invented, cities have been reinvented as collections of legible quarters and not necessarily four of them either. According to Wallpaper* Belfast’s three quarters – alongside the districts of Shankill, Falls, Ormeau, East and Central – are Queen’s Quarter (for studying humanities), Titanic Quarter (for studying a human disaster) and Cathedral Quarter (for studying humanity). Queen’s is just called Queen’s by locals but the Quarter moniker has stuck to Titanic and Cathedral.

Definite articled hostelries – The Cloth Ear, The Dirty Onion, The Spaniard, The Thirsty Goat – line the cobbled laneways of this historic ‘hood. And so does one of the city’s or rather country’s best restaurants. Down a New York type alley lined with street art and scenes of the lives of national heroes like Henry Joy McCracken and Wolfe Tone hides The Muddlers Club. The 40 metre high slimline steel spire of St Anne’s Cathedral pierces the slit of sky visible above the entrance to this Michelin starred restaurant.

Saturday evenings are all about the tasting menu at Muddlers. Make that tasting with matching wines. It’s both local and international: eel from Lough Neagh up the road; wine from Syria across the world. All eight exquisite courses are beautifully choreographed by the waiting staff. An open kitchen along one wall and a bar along another adds to the conviviality. The interior is as industrial as the approach to the restaurant and suitably dark: Chef Gareth McCaughey named his restaurant after a secret society that met on this site two centuries ago. The architects were Oscar + Oscar who designed another of Belfast’s Michelin star holders, Ox. It’s more than a meal, it’s an event: The Muddlers Club doesn’t do things by two quarters (halves).

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Black Heroes Foundation + Mary Martin London

Matters of Fact

“Just don’t give up what you’re trying to do,” believed the American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. “Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” Every month should be Black History Month. But not every day can be National Windrush Day. To mark the 73rd anniversary of the Empire Windrush ship docking into Tilbury, bringing workers from Caribbean countries to help fill postwar British labour shortages, Black Heroes Foundation opened an exhibition in central London on 22 June. Chair of Trustees Joyce Fraser explains, “I set up Black Heroes Foundation in memory of my late husband. Recently, we entered a competition organised by Westminster City Council for a pop up in Piccadilly. We were one of 11 successful applicants out of a total of 120.”

The Foundation is a community based charity for the development and promotion of talent, together with cultural and artistic initiatives in the community. And as Joyce succinctly puts it, “A world where Black Heroes are acknowledged, respected and celebrated.” The Chair’s late husband, Peter Randolph Fraser, known to all as “Flip Fraser”, was the first Editor of The Voice newspaper and joint creator of the show Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame. The ground floor of the exhibition is devoted to the Windrush Collection and the Black Heroes Wall of Fame.

The Windrush Collection includes a living room, bedroom and kitchen furnished with typical West Indian items from family portraits to a porcelain book of the 23rd Psalm. A commemoration of Flip Fraser is joined on the Wall of Fame by inspirational people from the past and present: the Classic Collection, London’s Great Women of Colour and Wandsworth People. Take Harriet Tubman. She was a slave born in Maryland who fled to the free state of Pennsylvania in 1820 aged 29. She returned to Maryland over the next decade to rescue both family members and friends at great peril to her life. Harriet was buried with military honours in Fort Hill Cemetery New York in 1913. As African American civil rights activist Asa Philip Randolph observed, “Freedom is never given; it is won.”

“My heart will always be in Brixton,” Olive Morris, a heroine on the Wall of Fame, once said. Born in Jamaica in 1915, she came to the UK aged nine. Her first home was off Wandsworth Road and she went to Lavender Hill Girls’ School. As an adult living in Brixton, her activism took off. Olive was involved in many campaigns including the scrapping of Suspected Person Laws which permitted police to stop and search anyone suspected of loitering but was used indiscriminately against black people. She died in 1979.

A showcase of some of the dresses of the UK’s leading black fashion designer Mary Martin London is on display on the mezzanine level of this exhibition at 12 Waterloo Place. “I’m thrilled to have been asked to be part of this important event,” Mary confirmed. The designer is providing demonstrations each day on how her clothes are actually made: the sewing machine is clearly on overtime. Pointing to one of her pieces she exclaims, “It’s called the Death of a Queen as it nearly killed me making that dress!” Attendance has been lively. Westminster Councillors were at the opening and the flow has been constant ever since – the exhibition lasts five weeks. Heather Small, the Voice of M People, and soprano Nadine Benjamin are two of many well known supporters to enjoy it so far.

Councillor Matthew Green, Cabinet Member for Business, Licensing and Planning, pointing to Mary’s Marilyn Monroe Dress exclaimed, “A faux foxtail. Oh golly! Has somebody worn that? This is all so fantastic. I’m really pleased to see the whole exhibition too.” Councillor Louise Hyams, Deputy Cabinet Member for Communities and Regeneration, added, “I’m also really pleased to see the exhibition. It’s beautifully choreographed for the venue and so interesting. Mary’s show is great: she could easily harness her creativity into the world of film costumery.” No doubt Councillor Hyams would agree with Dr Mae Jemison, the first African American female astronaut, who believes, “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”

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Architecture Art Design Fashion Hotels Luxury People Restaurants

Luton Hoo Bedfordshire + Hertfordshire + Katie Ice

Hoo’s Who

Seriously. It was that good. The revivification of Countess Markievicz. Luton is the new Paris. Katie swapped a runway for the runway. The revolution has begun. Game on. As for the legendary niche leap….

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Art Hotels Luxury People

The Lanesborough Hotel Knightsbridge London + Cruella Afternoon Tea

She’s Got Attitude

We caught up with Annabel P, Lavender’s Blue Art Director, Disney fan and afternoon tea afficionado, in her temporary address: the five bedroom penthouse suite of Sheraton Hotel. But it’s another hotel we are here to talk about and more specifically the afternoon tea that is on everyone’s lips. To coincide with the new Cruella film, a bit of a prequel to Dodie Smith’s The 101 Dalmatians, The Lanesborough Hotel is serving a themed limited edition afternoon tea carefully crafted by Head Pastry Chef Kevin Miller.

“There are little nods and big gestures to Cruella throughout the afternoon tea,” explains Annabel. “Cruella is very Vivienne Westwood – 1970s punk rock and anarchy. She’s a super chic sassy gal with anarchic attitude. It’s all rock and roll and a little bit mad.” The egg and cress mayonnaise sandwiches and mint yoghurt and cucumber filled may be classics but they are placed alternatively on the plate with white and dark bread. The striped effect is of course inspired by Cruella’s two tone hair. All very Daphne Guinness.

The pastries are full blooded odes to the film. Anarchy Reigns (raspberry and chocolate shortbread presented on a mini artist’s easel) is an artistic licence to thrill. I’ve Got Attitude (chocolate brownie topped with caramelised banana and pecan cream) is a confidently cocksure sugar hit. Rebel Heart (coco nibs base with coconut raspberry mousse and liquid hibiscus centre) is not for shrinking violets. Modern Masterpiece (gold inside out cheesecake of blueberry compote, lemon tofu cheesecake, blackcurrant and violet sauce injection) is dangerously addictive.

Every plate is full of devilishly delightful signature pieces. “The Lanesborough is very dog friendly,” praises Annabel P. “When I arrived a bed with a couple of treats was set out for Winne my mini wire haired dachshund. “I’m sure Cruella would approve!” This season is all about reinvention of the A line and afternoon tea. And killer heels of course. It’s all brilliant, bad and more than a little bit mad.

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Architecture Art Country Houses Hotels Luxury People Restaurants

Culloden Estate + Spa Cultra County Down + Art + Soul Art + Sculpture Fair

Across the Water

In the land of champ and Portavogie scampi and pasties (Ulster not Cornish) and soda farls and wheaten bread and dulse and Tayto crisps and fifteens and rocky roads and yellowman there’s something new and exciting to go and explore for a wee dander. The original house at the heart of the Culloden Estate – the Bishop’s Palace – may be 145 years old but Art and Soul, the Holywood International Art and Sculpture Fair filling its grounds and interiors, is very much a meantime use.

Dr Howard Hastings, Managing Director of Hastings Hotels, explains “At Hastings Hotels, I believe that we can distinguish from our competitors by highlighting the local culture and heritage surrounding our hotels. One way we do this is by focussing on our own locally grown produce in our menus. At Culloden Estate and Spa, another way we achieve this is through the artwork on display throughout the hotel. Some of these paintings were acquired by my father, Sir William Hastings. He selected paintings he liked and which he thought were in keeping with the Bishop’s Palace setting. More recently we’ve concentrated on supporting our local artists, many of whom have international reputations, yet still live and work in Northern Ireland.”

For just three weeks this summer, the five star hotel is brimming over with the work of sculptors Paddy Campbell and Orla de Bri, textile artist Karen Fleming, oil painters Gladys Maccabe and Tracey Quinn, watercolourists Neil Shawcross and Catherine Thompson, and lots more. There are also fine art prints by a certain Andy Warhol. These new arrivals will complement the Culloden Estate’s impressive permanent collection. Upon arrival, visitors are greeted by 125 sculptures gracing the law with six figure prices for the bigger pieces. Organised by Gormley’s Fine Art, the exhibition is the largest of its kind in Ireland. There’s always refreshment time too for sipping a wee Bushmills whiskey or West Coast Cooler or C+C brown lemonade in the Culloden Estate’s Cultra Inn.

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Art Fashion Luxury People Town Houses

Fathomless +

Substantial Faded Pageantry

Call it a nascent realisation, coming from somewhere and heading somewhere, mixing with the multihyphenates while sojourning in cloud capp’d towers and gorgeous palaces. Such stuff, radiating a seductively dark gorgeousness.

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Architecture Art People

Victoria Embankment Gardens London + Robert Raikes

A Good Awakening

Statues have become something of a fraught subject of late in London but one deserving gent of yore is commemorated in Victoria Embankment Gardens. This linear stretch of rich greenery and extraordinary multicoloured bloom is one of the Capital’s less obvious open spaces, sandwiched between the 19th century embankment along the River Thames and the elevated built form of The Strand. It’s Victorian with a vengeance, viscerally exhilarating and visually rewarding.

The Victorians loved a philanthropist and they don’t come much better than Robert Raikes. This turn of the 19th century journalist and hospital and prison reformer is best remembered as the founder of Sunday schools. Noting the unsupervised behaviour of children on Sundays in his home town of Gloucester, he engaged local women to teach them reading and church catechism. The experiment was so successful he reported in his paper the Gloucester Journal that the town had become “quite a heaven upon Sundays”. The movement spread across the country and in 1785 the Sunday School Society was formed. Robert Raikes’ statue, sculpted by Thomas Brock in 1880, stands proud among the summer bedding.

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Mary Martin London + The Collections Preview

No Ordinariness

Saints and collars. Carriage and gait. The deportment of culture. Narrative express. Mesmeric couture. Grace is grace.

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Art Design Luxury Restaurants Town Houses

The House of Lavender’s Blue + sketch Mayfair London Afternoon Tea

Class Art Class

It all started at a private party in Chelsea. What doesn’t? Many moons ago, back in the sway, we shimmied up to developer Orpheus’ latest townhouse feeling just a little bit on form. By midnight we’d hit the top terrace dancefloor and before we knew it, we were tearing it up with the gorgeous Clea Irving. She was of course Art Curator of sketch. We’ve always been drawn to fabulosity.

A fuchsia painted rollercoaster of engagement parties, afternoon teas with models and planners and model planners, breaking the midday rule (“More Champagne darlings… time… places… people…”) over Christmas fairies and fairy cakes, summer madness and some insanity, pre Masterpiece cocktails, post Masterpiece nightcaps and post post Masterpiece parties ensued down the years.

We mightn’t have three Michelin stars or boast egg shaped loos or own a dining room big enough to thrash out a game of badminton in but – hey! – at The House of Lavender Blue we reckon we’re sorta up there with the artistic antics of sketch. A dismembered mannequin posing as Surreal garden sculpture. Goddit. More dioramas than a Victorian playground. Goddem. Architectural sketches and artistic endeavours of varying substance. All watched over by the attendant eye of Art Curator Zelda Blakley. Godda get more. Godda get out more. What’s more, more’s more.Knock knock. “What’s there?” A reverse Pandora’s Box. A pink cuboid of delights decorated with drawings of the ceiling plasterwork of sketch dining room. A bureau style ensemble with an extending board for playing monopoly or chess or miniature croquet or Russian roulette. And a menu signed by Executive Head Chef Fred Don and Executive Pastry Chef Christophe Gasper in a watermarked envelope. Sealed with an S. Which stands for superlative.

Très bon appetit. Jing Yunnan gold black tea. Sandwiches: avocado and tomato, egg gougère, cucumber and asparagus, vegan coronation chicken. Truffle brioche bun. Scone with clotted cream and strawberry and poppy flower jam. Petits gâteaux: bergamot macaroon, cherry and pistachio Battenburg, chocolate and buckwheat cake, exotic tart (!), lemon and grapefruit marshmallows. The whole shebang.

It all ended with a private party in Battersea. What doesn’t? Well, when we say ended… a new day has just begun (“More Champagne darlings? Time! Places! People!”). sketch afternoon tea is like a decadent lifetime away. The carousel must continue. We’re drawn to the new dawn. The fabulous new dawn.

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Art Design Developers Fashion Luxury Restaurants

Mary Martin London + Stuart Blakley

That Jacket

Some days you just got it. Lifestyles Magazine America is dedicating its latest issue to Mary Martin London. The renowned fashion and entertainment publication is distributed in 39 countries. Chief Operating Officer Anthony Alexander explains, “We just love Mary’s personality. And when we saw her clothes we were amazed! We’re bridging the gap between exposure in the US and the UK.” As Elizabeth Bowen wrote some 90 odd years ago in The Hotel, “Gratifying how one’s intimate world contracted itself, how one’s friends wove themselves in! Society was fascinating, so like a jigsaw puzzle!”

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Art Design Fashion Luxury People

Heather Small + Mary Martin London

One Morning in Heaven

Ever since Heather Small unleashed to the world her unbelievable vocal range with the ultimate Eighties remix Ride on Time (accurately described back then as “a payload of pure euphoria”), she’s been forever moving on up, projecting a pure renaissance. Oprah Winfrey chose her British Olympics Games solo single Proud as the theme tune for her chat show. As well as being the frontispiece of the internationally successful band M People for decades, Heather’s own career has remained stunningly stellar. “I step out of the ordinary | I can feel my soul descending,” she sings in her extraordinary anthem Proud. In her next hit Close to a Miracle the opening lines embrace hope, “It could all be so beautiful | Like a ray of sunshine | From the inside looking forward | With a whole different view.” Today Heather is dressed head to ankle in Mary Martin London. She’s working those Jimmy Choo heels.

Londoner Heather Small is the petite toned embodiment of empowerment blessed with an orchestra of a voice and a down to earth yet megawatt presence. Yep, she’s stunning. “The love we have for each other should be regardless of colour or creed. I’ve grown up in a society that doesn’t reflect me. I’m a dark skinned black girl. I’m a proud sista! Everyone should be proud. I’m in control. I’m aware of who I am – I am very happy with that. Fashion means quite a lot to someone like me in the music industry. Fabric, cuts, the way fashion makes you feel.”

“I met Mary at a fundraising event,” reveals the legendary singer. “Mary spoke quite a lot – so do I! She’s got a wonderful brain. Mary is very very observant – any situation gives her inspiration. She reimagines her surroundings as a piece of clothing. A feeling, a vibration. That’s what I noticed about her. Mary’s clothes are ultra creative, a really good cut. It’s always about the bigger picture with her, more than fashion. There’s a bigger statement at the heart of them, what it’s like to be different, marginalised; she’s an inspiration, it’s more than apparel. It’s about sisterhood! Let’s laugh. Let’s have continuous applause by putting a crown on each other’s head! Above all have fun. Mary’s as mad as a box of frogs!”

Rising up, Heather confirms, “I do believe in God. We are put on earth to fulfil a purpose. We need to learn how to be the best to ourselves and each other. Take yourself to a higher place and touch others. I believe in the goodness of people. Always tell the truth because anyone who hears the truth whether they want it or not they take notice… Singing has been a passion all my life. Mary’s clothes represent me.” Angel Street is an address and an address and a dress.

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Art Design Hotels Luxury People Restaurants

Eric Lanlard + Cake Boy Battersea London

Sweet Things Are Made of These  

“I can’t wait to reopen the seating area outside,” says Eric Lanlard, his voice still rich with the timbre of Brittany. We’re in Cake Boy, his café lounge school next to the River Thames in Battersea. The Master Pâtissier and Chef is standing under a halo of lights beside a mouth watering cascade of tartes aux fruit, entremets framboise, pralines and tartes paysannes. “My favourite dessert in the world is tarte tatin – piping hot from the oven with crème fraiche on the side!” he shares. Eric moved from Plomelin in northwestern France to London 32 years ago to work for restaurateurs Albert and Michel Roux, becoming their Head Pastry Chef within a couple of years. He opened Cake Boy in 1995. Ever since, the Garçon de Gâteau has been busy as a global baking ambassador for the likes of Marriott International and Virgin Atlantic in between keeping it sweet by publishing books.

It’s time to take a trip down memory lane, an eight year trip back to a promotion in Knightsbridge… Here goes… Now that London Fashion Week is over, we can all breathe out. Nothing tastes as good as chocolate, so we’re off to experience the Montezuma Afternoon Tea at Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel. The hotel building is looking well for 50. Once the gangly new kid on the block, all Sixties bravura, it has matured (with the help of a subtle facelift) into something altogether more refined. The address is not so much golden postcode as golden place: Cadogan. Jumeirah Carlton Tower is off Sloane Street, home of the Rangers, between Candy + Candy’s One Hyde Park and the only road in London to have an architectural style named after it (Pont Street, keep up). Nearby is of course King’s Road, foodie paradise (Duke of York Square market) and shopping heaven (from Partridges to Peter Jones).

Afternoon tea, really an excuse to indulge between official meals, is high up the list of sybaritic Must Dos. Chinoiserie at JCT lives up to its name. Bedecked with hand painted Chinese wallpaper and gold leaf galore, the lounge is thronged with an army of cheongsam clad waitresses at our beck and call. We half expect Fan Bingbing to sweep through the revolving doors. Instead, the flame haired resident harpist provides a sense of serenity for the American, Saudi and English Isabel Marant clad guests. A glass of Champagne accompanies fresh strawberries before the menu goes choc-a-bloc in a celebration of its cocoa theme (Montezuma was the last Aztec king and a bit of a chocolate fiend). We order a Darjeeling and (Lady Grantham wouldn’t approve) a coffee.

One of the many joys of afternoon tea is having your cake and eating it in whatever order you desire. For the purposes of this review, we will stick to the order of the menu. Cocoa dusted (a taste of what’s to come) croissants with chorizo and Elemental provide a comforting intro. The sweet meets savoury theme makes its surprising, sensual, debut with a rich curried crab tart topped by white chocolate. A heart shaped white chocolate and parmesan palmier is hard not to love. Another unlikely yet successful marriage is chocolate macaroon with venison. For pescatarians, there’s the opportunity to order off menu, so cucumber and mayo sandwich is a traditional alternative. Back on menu, the cassis imperial chocolate cupcake is a fine dark mousse with balsamic blackcurrants filling an edible chocolate case. A sprinkling of pearls completes this sultry indulgence.

To cleanse the palate, a conquistador shot is an inspired layered composition of passion fruit, white chocolate with basil seeds and coconut jelly. Mission complete. Caraque spicy chocolate tart with popping candy features a pistachio wafer as delicate and colourful as the Chinese wallpaper. Dark mini chocolate caramel loaf filled with liquid salted butter, sweet food in savoury form, provides a jubilant succulent extravagant finale, for now, to cocoa. After this exotically original South American tour de taste, familiar British comfort returns in the form of (Lady Grantham would approve) scones with clotted cream and fruit preserve. Throughout this autumn, the general public can get tarted up and enjoy Eric Lanlard’s Montezuma Afternoon Tea. It costs £40 per person; £50 includes the Champers; for £55, the strawberries are added. The service is great, friendly staff who are more than adept at catching eye contact; a Coutts (of course) bank machine outside the hotel comes in handy for withdrawing tenners for tips.