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Pembroke Hall + Baggot Street Dublin

When Angels Come Calling

It’s all change on and off Baggot Street in Ballsbridge, south Dublin. The Unicorn and l’Écrivain restaurants are history. Larry Murphy’s watering hole has closed although Searson’s and The Waterloo continue to serve thirsty customers. Wilton Place, where Baggot Street meets the canal, is being transformed. Wilton Park House and the other office blocks are demolished, waiting to be replaced by architects Henry John Lyons’ on trend glazed office led mixed use scheme which will include LinkedIn’s European headquarters.

Wilton Park House was the home of the Industrial Development Agency. Architects Tyndall Hogan Hurley’s block was, perhaps, an acquired taste, an unforgiving sort of beauty, but it had an impressive fortress-like appearance with its granite walls and horizontal bands of irregular spaced windows interspersed with stainless steel panels. Those windows held significance: the higher the grade of IDA manager, the more windows they could claim for their office. Not every commercial building can boast of status denoting fenestration. Hierarchy continued with the tea trolley: plain biscuits on the first to fifth floors; chocolate coated biscuits for senior management on the top floor. The ground floor staff restaurant serving subsidised meals was a place for everyone to gain their “IDA stone”.

Pembroke Road is a continuation of Baggot Street to the south of the canal. Little has changed along this stretch of grand Georgian terraces and villas. Architectural details only have been updated. Dublin based architect John O’Connell points out, “The patent reveals of the sash windows were painted white in Victorian times to reflect light.” Pembroke Hall on Pembroke Road is a tall two bay three storey over basement mid terrace townhouse. It has that wall to window ratio so pleasing to the eye that Dublin does best. And of course a grand doorcase with fanlight. An internal fanlight extends natural light through the entrance hall and up the staircase.

The house has been sensitively restored and converted to accommodate 12 bedrooms for holiday lets. Contemporary furnishings include steel framed desks designed by Patrick McKenna of Wabi Sabi and headboards designed by Helle Moyna of Nordic Elements. There’s more change to the southeast of Pembroke Hall. The Berkeley Hotel (famous for its late 20th century tapestries) and Jury’s Inn (infamous for its all-nighter Coffee Dock) have been replaced by new luxury apartment blocks called Lansdowne Place.

Over to Pembroke Hall owners Ian and Hilary McCarthy: “Ballsbridge has a wonderful history that goes back to the Viking invasions of the 8th and 9th centuries. A legendary battle was fought here between the Irish and the invading Danes. A Viking grave and burial mound was uncovered not far from where Pembroke Hall is today. Medieval Dublin was a sprawling city served by two major roads. You can still walk along the route today from St Stephen’s Green to Merrion Row and along Pembroke Street, then on across the River Dodder and south to the sea at Blackrock.”

Ballsbridge – or ‘Balls Bridge’ as it was then – was and still is a prosperous settlement. It had a linen and cotton printers, a paper mill and a gunpowder factory. The farmland that surrounded it was owned by the Fitzwilliam family. In 1833 it was inherited by George Herbert, the 11th Earl of Pembroke. It was George Herbert who created the Pembroke Road you see today which was and is part of the larger Pembroke Estate in Dublin.”

Georgian Dublin was one of the most fashionable cities in Europe. Wealthy aristocracy lived in tall elegant terraces of brick houses of which No.76 Pembroke Road is one. George Herbert’s lands were close to the city’s three most beautiful Georgian garden squares: Fitzwilliam Square, Merrion Square and St Stephen’s Green. He built magnificent residences all along Pembroke Road. His name lives on in one of Dublin’s grandest wide boulevards and his name is remembered at Pembroke Hall.”

“We acquired the house in 2017. It had been in use as a guesthouse previously but it was closed for some years after the economic difficulties of 2008. We refurbished the house extensively over six to eight months, keeping faith with its history and historic features. Our online reviews are nine plus and we are delighted and thankful for that.”

“We believe Pembroke Hall is very special. We want to provide guests with a very comfortable experience when they, stay based on three elements: a good night’s sleep in a super comfy king or super king sized bed; excellent WiFi; and a super shower. We decided not to do food because our location is minutes away from fantastic eateries that provide wonderful food all day. We are just a 15 to 20 minute walk from the city centre.”

“Our location is wonderful. The Aviva Stadium is moments away and is the home of Irish rugby and soccer. On 13 November 2021 Ireland won against the All Blacks at the stadium – our third victory against this world winning team! There are an array of local eateries, parks and transport facilities on our doorstep. You can walk to the city centre for shopping, Trinity College, Dublin Castle, government buildings and Dublin’s wonderful art galleries. Not forgetting the Guinness Storehouse too. We hope this gives you a feel and flavour for Pembroke Hall.”

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Architects Architecture Country Houses Hotels

Ballymascanlon House Hotel Louth +

Lough and Quay

It was one of the first conversions of a country house to a hotel in Ireland. The Quinn family threw open the doors of Ballymascanlon House to the public almost seven decades ago and continue to run this successful establishment. It’s hidden in a 53 hectare estate to the north of the smart east coast town of Dundalk. In the 1860s, the Dublin born architect Patrick James Byrne gave the Georgian mansion a Tudor Gothic makeover. There are modern extensions but the main house is full of period charm, indoors and out, and to the rear, historic rubblestone outbuildings embellish three sides of an unbruised lawn.

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The Standard Hotel London + Ibiza + Hua Hin

Autumn Leaves Fall

It’s 5pm on a Wednesday evening and the Veuve Cliquot is flowing along with canapés that set a whole new standard for finger food. And that’s even before the rum punch and margarita cocktails reception gets going. We’re in Townhouse Eight event space which has a wraparound terrace illuminated by the full moon of St Pancras’ clock and the fireworks display of King’s Cross’ cranes.

Our host is Elli Jafari, Managing Director of The Standard, London. That’s her métier (profession) and that’s her métier (talent). The glamorous Iranian-American tells us, “Our London hotel has many layers, some naughty, some sweet!” The phallic sculpture rescued from an Italian vintage fair welcoming guests to the top floor private dining room certainly falls into the former category. There’s lashings of the latter too.

“We’re pleased to announce two new hotels: The Standard, Ibiza and The Standard, Hua Hin. Our Ibiza hotel will have a sexy bar with amazing music. The 67 bedroom hotel is in the famous and historic Old Town and you’ll be able to hire one or more of our many private villas too. It’s very rare to be able to rent a private villa in the Old Town. Our resort is next to the marina so all the super yachts will be there for your arrival!”

The Standard, Hua Hin resort with its accompanying private beach villas is Thailand’s answer to the Maldives. The resort will include a 171 bedroom hotel along with 28 villas creating a poolside vibe reminiscent of The Standard, Miami. We have more signed deals in Europe: Brussels, Dublin, Lisbon and Milan. Each destination is eclectic and individual – each of our hotels is completely unique. Our Dublin hotel, due to open in 2025, like all our hotels will have various restaurants. Something for everyone! We want to embrace Dublin culture and all the energy the vibrant city offers.” It’s not so much about creating a new standard of living as a new standard of staying. And eating. And partying. And being.

Karla Evans, Director of Marketing and Culture at The Standard London, takes us on a whistlestop tour of the hotel. It’s now 7pm and party central. It feels like every space is throbbing to a wild music beat – parts of it are in fact. Podcasts and music are streamed from the Sounds Studio and the Isla restaurant hosts DJs every weekend. It’s hard to believe that the core building used to be Camden Council’s offices.

Our guide relates, “The ground floor reading room is a homage to the Council library which used to be here. It’s stocked with vintage sourced books from the Fifties to the Eighties. It’s all a bit tongue-in-cheek!” ‘Chaos’ and ‘Order’ bookcases are cheek-by-jowl; so are ‘Politics’ and ‘Tragedy’. “We have drag races in the bar on Sundays. There’s always a unique shop in Standard Hotels where you can purchase weird and wonderful goods sourced from all over the world.” Snatch Game Brooches by Lou Taylor and Trip Wild Mint and Camomile Oil are two quirky gifts on display in the London shop.

We’re on the 10th floor now. “Decimo is our Michelin starred Hispanic Mexican restaurant. Alexander McQueen held their afterparty here. The theatre of the kitchen is on full display. There’s definitely a bit of an LA party feel to this hotel.” That’s true for sure: there’s nothing standard about our evening. “You must finish the night in Double Standard, our New York style bar for highflyers. It’s famous for Aperol spritz slushes!”

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The Hoxton Hotel + Seabird Restaurant Southwark London

Midtown Mid Rise Midday

It’s the hottest table in town right now. And certainly the most dizzying. The acute angled windowed corner of Seabird for a cute pair only. We’re enjoying another Bowenesque moment. Elizabeth liked to party. Her house Bowens Court in County Cork was made for parties although it was demolished before she had to start charging guests. The Anglo Irish novelist would approve of our choice of Toucan Do It cocktails (Olmeca Los Altos, cinnamon, aji pepper) at noon. Rewarding.

Seabird is the penthouse level restaurant of The Hoxton Hotel isn’t in Hoxton, east London; it’s in Southwark, south London. The hotel is located in a bit of a no woman’s land but none the worse for it. There’s still an element of grittiness and character marking this stretch of Blackfriars Road. The Prince William Henry pub opposite advertises “two darts boards” and a “backyard private room”. Interesting. Blackfriars Food Market offers “Korean, Kofte Hut, Semoorg, Japanese, Thai, Falafel”. We’ll soon discover that when it comes to Seabird, safari hued staff uniforms and rattan furniture lend a Mediterranean mood matched by the seafood focused menu with such highlights as ginger infused prawn croquetas carabinero in olive oil. Appetising.

A lift zaps us up from ground zero to level 14. Not quite skyscraping then but it turns out this height is perfect for taking in a horizontal pendulum view from upstream Thames to downtown Southwark. Bang in the middle of the view to the north stands One Blackfriars designed by Simpson Haugh, a bulging glass erection full of bankers who have trousered a few bonuses in their time. Revealing. To the southeast can be seen architect genius Trevor Morriss’ Music Box apartments and college. Rogers Stirk Harbour’s Neo Bankside wrapping around the 1740s Hopton’s Almshouses are to the east. Satisfying

The Hoxton’s architects are Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, a London practice going very strong since 1986. Derwent London, the developers, are the Capital’s leading deliverer of non residential floorspace. Alex Lifschutz considers, “The Hoxton Southwark is an example of the hospitality sector leading trends in co working and co living by treating premises and buildings as active and integrated rather than passive resources.” Fascinating.

He continues, “This multilayered building picks up from one of our earliest and best known projects, Oxo Tower just round the corner on the Thames. Oxo also provides a very varied and integrated mix of uses including affordable cooperative apartments, independent shops, designer maker studios, a gallery plus the emblematic Harvey Nichols Oxo Tower brasserie and restaurant at roof level, still going strong after 25 years of operation.” Illuminating.

Where Southwark lacks a tight urban grid – this isn’t New York – it does now have at least one tight architectural grid. The Hoxton exhibits strong elevations with a downtown warehouse appeal enhanced by buff and dark brown facing brick. The street experience is more permeable with larger windows lighting ground and mezzanine floor restaurants, bars and conference rooms. Distracting.

There’s an emphasis on long term adaptability of the architecture: Alex Lifschutz once more, “The present hotel rooms could be converted into offices or vice versa and all the floorplates could be reconfigured as apartments. Likewise, the rooftop restaurant could be altered to become penthouse flats…” No woman is an island. When a woman is tired of (high) London living, at street level there’s always a game of darts to play or a bag of falafel to grab. Tempting.

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The Whistledown Hotel + Bandstand Warrenpoint Down

Pink Flamingos

A late 19th century terrace of houses, long a hotel, has been reinvigorated and given a not so much High Victorian interior as High Celtic. Exuberance is the word. Lunch in the canted bay window is framed on three sides by the best view in County Down, overlooking the incoming storm brewing on Carlingford Lough. Yacht sails shudder, rocks are sprayed and seagulls flap around, while wild garlic mushrooms are served in the first floor restaurant of The Whistledown Hotel come hail or high water. To the rear of the hotel is Warrenpoint Park complete with its freshly restored bandstand, good for sheltering from the rain.

Warrenpoint is blessed with an abundance of Victorian houses, especially along the esplanade. Castle House, close to an inland side of Warrenpoint Park, stands out as being older. It’s a Georgian five bedroomed three storeys over exposed basement corner house marking the junction of St Peter’s Street and Great George’s Street South. The first floor paired Gothic windows are particularly distinctive: with fenestration like this curtains would be a crime. The ground floor margin paned sitting room windows, the middle portion taller than its outer equivalents, is equally interesting, reflecting a triptych of the streetscape. Even a spider’s web of telephone wires can’t diminish the charming appearance of Castle House.

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Hôtel George Washington + Le Petit George Restaurant Paris

French Connections

The Francophile Charles Dickens would still recognise the Golden Triangle of Paris. Dickens on France edited by John Edmondson in 2007, “Dickens first saw Paris in July 1844, when he and his family were travelling through France on their way to Italy. He was instantly enthralled: ‘I cannot tell you what an immense impression Paris made upon me. It is the most extraordinary place in the world. I was not prepare for, and really could not have believed in, its perfectly distinct and separate character.’ This first, fleeting visit marked the beginning of a friendship with the city that would last for the rest of his life.”

To quote Joseph Roth in The White Cities: Reports from France 1925 to 1939, “Over the rooftops of Paris there is a smiling baby colossus of rude health.” A baguette’s throw from Champs-Élysées and a croissant’s toss from l’Arc de Triomphe lies Hôtel George Washington, one of two independent boutique Parisian hotels (the other is Hôtel Chateaubriand) owned by second generation hoteliers and siblings Romain Rio and Méryll Collette. Assistant General Manager, Camay Tan, explains, “The Rio family are personally involved in both the decoration and day to day operations. It’s a unique ‘guest home’. All 20 guest rooms are individually decorated: every single detail was created and specially made. Hôtel George Washington is both classical French and contemporary.”

A love of interior design is clear from the custard colour and navy trimmed reception hall to the 27 meter high seascape mural painted on gold leaf seen from the elevator behind a glass panel to the Marmara marbled bathroom filled with The Ritual of Ayurveda products. “There’s a focus on really good materials,” says Camay. There’s also a focus on individuality: domed objets d’art; Grecian urns; sculpted shirt collars; Indian feathers. In the duck egg blue reception rear reception area opening onto an intimate courtyard are bookshelves with hours of distraction. Titles include ‘American Fashion’, ‘La Lumière de Londres,Putman Style’, ‘Le Style Hitchcock. Joseph Roth springs to mind again: “… it’s so well appointed that it almost corresponds to my notion of a seventh heaven.”

In Francis Scott Fitzgerald’s short story The Camel’s Back character Perry exclaims, “Take me upstairs. If that cork sees my heart it’ll fall out from pure mortification.” Channelling your inner Perry, close your eyes and dream of the ideal Parisian hotel bedroom. And open your eyes in the fourth floor bedroom of Hôtel George Washington. As you gaze through the pair of French doors clasping Juliet balconies and a trombonist serenades you from the street below (no, not artistic licence, this is Paris), it’s clear some dreams come true. There’s an elephant in the room. Or at least one over the bed. And a herd in the Ralph Lauren wallpaper. “It’s so unique, that’s one of my favourite bedrooms,” Camay confides. “Our bedrooms are very large for Paris. They all have double beds with a bath and rain shower in the en suite bathrooms.”

“We are in the business area of the Golden Triangle of Paris,” she confirms, that iconic 8th Arrondisement. “Do you know how the Arrondisements are numbered? They are ordered like an escargot, the numbers swirling around in decreasing concentric circles. We kept the façade of Hôtel George Washington and refurbished everything else behind. At Hôtel Chateaubriand we were able to keep the original form inside. Hôtel George Washington is a Haussmann townhouse with a ‘noble’ second floor which has a balcony. Our service is very personal – our team have been with us a long time. Our clients are a very good mix of leisure and business travellers.”

The Rios also own Le Petit George a few doors up on Rue Washington. Quirky neon lettering on the awning reads “Sincère et Malicieux”. Has Tracey Emin been en ville? We have an aperitif: “Champagne is an integral part of French culture!” Camay relates, “Monsieur Rio’s inspiration for this restaurant was the same expression of luxury as the hotels, from opulent linen tablecloths to silver cutlery, bringing back attention to detail. We wanted to change part of French dining culture and bridge the gap between bistro and gastronomy: ‘bistronomy’. It’s a unique dining experience.” The all-female run establishment is a hit with lawyers and bankers midweek and well informed travellers at the weekend. “We attract a really good lunch crowd and are busy Monday to Friday. Lisa l’des Forges is Chef and Melisande Malle is Sommelier and Manager.

The décor is an essay in understated elegance in a language only the French can compose. A marble and brass bar stretches along one party wall and the kitchen to the rear is only visible through a small serving hatch. There are no pictures on the walls: we are the living art in this space. “There’s a Chef’s Table in the basement for 10 people,” leads Camay. Joseph Roth once more, “Paradise is downstairs, in a basement. But it’s so well appointed that it almost corresponds to my notion of a seventh heaven.”

There’s plenty for seafood lovers on this evening’s menu. Anchovies for hors d’oeuvre (Anchois de Cantabria); caviar for entrée (St Jacques de Bretagne à cru, purée de choux fleurs, caviar de hareng fumé); and octopus for plat (Poulpe grille, joue de porcelet, haricots); accompanied by an aromatic Domaine de l’Enclos 2018 Chablis by Romain et Damien Bouchard. “We have a passion for natural wine produced without sulphite,” Melisande shares. “We’ve all the classics and also like to educate with new wines. It’s a very elaborate wine list!” No food fatigue here: “Lisa changes the menu three times a week,” confirms Camay. “They are dancing in the streets of Paris,” reported Joseph Roth. That’ll be us; we’re in rude health.

Charles Dickens witnessed at first hand the dramatic transformation of Paris. Dickens on France edited by John Edmondson 2007, “It was transformed, under the aegis of Napoléon III, by Georges Haussmann, Préfet de la Seine from 1853 to 1870. Haussmann had many of the old streets in central Paris demolished to make way for a system of long elegant boulevards that brought structural unity to the city… Dickens witnessed the progress of this Haussmannisation at first hand. He told W H Wills in a letter of October 1862 that a group of theatres on the Boulevard du Temple ‘that used to be so characteristic’ had been demolished ‘and preparations for some amazing new streets are in rapid progress.’”

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Parc Morceau Paris +

Oh Em Gigi

“You have to live near the Parc Monceau,” opined Nancy Mitford. “Well, they live up by the Parc Monceau. We must all meet up one day soon.” David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding Prime Minister, established his Paris headquarters at Hôtel Le Royal Monceau last century. Parisienne Maud Rabin remarks, “It’s so beautiful; lots of movies have been made here.” The park is surrounded by gorgeous townhouses and apartment blocks with penthouses and attics catching glimpses over the high treeline of the flights of fancy immortalised by Claude Monet.

The public park was established by Phillippe d’Orléans Duc de Chartres, a cousin of King Louis XVI, following the Duc’s marriage to the Princesse de Penthièvre. He commissioned the writer and painter Louis Carrogis (better known as Carmontelle) to design the gardens – they still retain a painterly quality. Carmontelle subcontracted the Duc’s architect Bernard Poyet and a German landscape architect Etickhausen to design a series of follies in an informal layout. An Egyptian pyramid on a lawn and a Roman colonnade reflected in a pond of waterlilies and an English bridge over a stream continue to delight visitors.

It’s not Paris if there’s no hint of Haussmannia. Monsieur Georges Eugène of course managed a spot of 19th remodelling of the park under Napoléon III. Set in an exclusive quartier of the 8th Arrondisement, wealthy Jewish banking families such as the Camondos, Rothschilds and Péreires established residences skirting the perimeter of the park. You really do have to live near the Parc Monceau.

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Lavender’s Blue + Paris

The Diamond as Big as the Paris Ritz

Nancy Mitford’s character Walter in her 1931 novel Highland Fling affirms, “Paris to me means the Ritz.” Colette refers to “The dim continual hubbub of the fully awakened Rue de Rivoli” in Cherié, her novel of 11 years earlier. She adds, “But the weather over Paris was fine.” Strolling down Rue de Rivoli, The Boulevard of All Our Dreams, we are so doing Christian Dior at Galignani.

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Stameen House + Boyne Valley Hotel Drogheda Louth

Later Thompson’s Garage  

We haven’t rested our trotters here for at least three decades. The last time we called by was en route to the Caseys’ rather well known Georgian townhouse in north Dublin. As the blood red sunset descended upon Henrietta Street we knew we would live in that city some day. Moving on: it’s great to see the original 19th century Italianate block of Stameen House, the core of Boyne Valley Hotel, being carefully restored – stonework cleaned, glazing bars reinstated to sash windows, stained glass landing window repaired, and so on – and a new sensitively designed two storey wing elongating the entrance front. We’ll pass on the 20th century extension… Such fun flicking through the original hard copy brochure. David Hicks style brown carpet! Brown wallpaper! Brown haired people whose follicles match the décor! Although it’s nice to see the brown furniture still in use in the main reception rooms. Stameen House owes its current appearance to the Dublin architect William Francis Caldbeck (circa 1824 to 1872). His clients, the Cairnes family (beeresses rather peeresses), eventually sold their home for hotel use in the 20th century. Parp parp! Trains chug along the end of the garden.

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La Divine Comédie Demeure Privée + Spa Avignon + Animals

The Certainty of Chance  

Another week, another all suites hotel. Hosts Giles Jauffret and Amaury de Villoutreys’ residence in a walled garden hidden down a laneway behind tall wooden gates in the honeycomb coloured city of Avignon always proves the perfect getaway. “Being a relatively small residence, we can focus on our guests,” says Giles. “The real luxury is being able to receive them as friends, and to have time for each one on an individual basis. We present our house more as a family home than a hotel. We wanted to share our French history, passion for art and l’art de vivre with others.” There are 42 watercolours of the city of canals in the Venetian Suite. The Naples Suite is hung with Neapolitan gouaches. And then there are the animals. Whether statues or the real thing, from a stuffed horse to a hatted stone dog, Persian cats to Weimaraner dogs, they all match the décor.

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Windsor Castle + Sir Christopher Wren Hotel Windsor Berkshire

Wrenaissance

It’s a merry jumble of pre Georgian and Georgian and neo Georgian buildings spanning centuries of sash windowed elegance. At the core of Sir Christopher Wren Hotel in the Royal County Town is a red brick two storey eight bay house with a three bay pedimented breakfront containing a Tuscan porch facing onto Thames Street. A painted inscription claims the building dates from 1676 and was the home of the architect of St Paul’s Cathedral London. Its façade looks younger: stylistically early 18th century. Sir Christopher Wren also likely designed the Guildhall in Windsor.

The house became locally known as The Haunted House when it fell vacant in the early 20th century before it was bought by the Misses Outlaw in the 1920s. Clearly unperturbed by any ghostly rumblings, the two sisters ran turned it into the Riverholme Restaurant and Guesthouse. Changing hands over later decades, the hotel expanded to back onto the River Thames. Sarova Hotels purchased the hotel in 2011 and carefully restored it. The riverside brasserie in Sir Christopher Wren Hotel is the best place in Windsor for afternoon tea. Save, perhaps, for an invite from Her Majesty to sup at nearby Windsor Castle.

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Chelsea Harbour Hotel London + Mary Martin London

All Sweets

There are human whirlwinds. There are female tornados. But nothing can prepare us for the arrival of Mary Martin London at breakfast, morning coffee and car onwards to meet and greet Mayor Sadiq Khan, full throttling through the Chelsea Harbour Hotel and leaving a fiery trail of merriment behind her. The lady is on top (of the hotel; of the world), on vision, on game, on fire. She’s reached dizzying heights and we’re not just talking about our penthouse view overlooking the marina. “I was born a diva!” Mary exclaims embracing the panorama. This ain’t her first rodeo and it sure won’t be her last. All morning, Britain’s leading black fashion designer entertains and educates and generally is the star of the show.

Life hasn’t been slow behind the scenes for us this season either. Saturday mornings learning about the art and chemistry of Kent winemaking on the 2.8 hectare Barnsloe Vineyard. Later, sampling anse and mushroom broth with a lemon zest at Frog and Scot in Deal. “It opens up the palate really nicely!” declares Lady Dalziel Douglas. “Dover is where it’s at next!” she whispers, giving away an estate agent’s secret. Then there was tasting the sabih and shakshuka at The Palomar on Rupert Street, Soho, prepping for Tel Aviv. Not forgetting chilli zucchini fritters at Charlotte’s Cloud, the nearest stop off from St Luke’s Church Chelsea, after listening to Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag by organist Rupert Jeffcoat. Gosh, how much staccato’d syncopation can you fit into one Sunday morning service? Capriccio by John Ireland – Deal’s answer to Hamilton Harty (great composer; Georgian townhouse blue plaque) – will be played next week.Next there was Annabel P’s crushing Instagram moment at supper in The Ivy Tower Bridge when the waitress destroyed a photogenic moment by pouring red moosh all over the Centre Court Melting Ball bombe. A flight later, Belfast meant downing the Donaghadee Daiquiris at The Cloth Ear and shooting the Ballyhack Breeze at Horatio Todd’s. Back to the English Capital. James Sherwood’s 1975 Discriminating Guide to London Fine Dining and Shopping contains sections on Where To Eat… “in blue jeans”; “if you’ve come into an inheritance”; “if you want to dance”; “outside”; and “in the company of beautiful people”. Two restaurants listed for beautiful people that we love and are still going strong are Daphne’s and San Lorenzo. But if you really want to try on those blue jeans having just got freshly loaded and are ready to dance outside with beautiful people, there’s nowhere like the private roof terrace of Chelsea Harbour Hotel when Mary Martin’s in town.

Fellow breakfaster, model, animal and children’s rights campaigner, Janice Porter speaks out, “Once met, never forgotten! It was my privilege to meet the actual Mary Martin on Saturday 27 July. Her smile was overwhelming and her face simply radiated joy for life. As we enjoyed a hearty breakfast her laughter filled the hotel as she recalled outrageous incidents from her childhood and spoke of her recent university graduation. It wasn’t though until I visited her collection in St James’s and watched her at her sewing machine that she really came to life. Her dresses, I hesitate to call them that, rather than stunning artistic creations, took my breath away. Mary is simply a star. She’s an intelligent, witty, beautiful self made woman proud of her ancestors. I stand by her!”

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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.”