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Kapara Restaurant + Wedgwood Mews Soho London

The Real Chinatown

“Is there such a thing as Israeli cuisine?” Ruthie Rousso asked in the inaugural issue of the Televivian Journal three years ago. “The international response settles the issues for us all: Israeli food is quickly becoming among the most popular in the world. Israeli restaurants bloom and boom in London and New York, Israeli cookbooks win international prizes, and Israel in general has become a place of pilgrimage due to its restaurants and not only because of the Old City and the Dead Sea.”

The Chef continues to muse, “Food is a reflection. Plates have narratives. They tell different stories. These stories have a very personal connection to the traditions and habits that pass from generation to generation. But there is also a much broader dimension related to issues of culture, history, conflicts, wars, international relations, and even GDP. The complex Israeli identity is contained on every plate. In every tiny heirloom Palestinian bamya with preserved lemon and brown butter served in haBasta, and in every steaming pitta stuffed with roasted cauliflower, crème fraîche and local hot pepper … Israeli cuisine, like Israeli identity, is a fragile and frail tissue of crossings and stitching, fraught with youth on the one hand, and with hindering history on the other, full of adventurous urges, creativity and courage. Yes, and some chutzpah as well.”

Shabbat shalom! Kapara is chutzpah in a pistachio nutshell. But first, it’s oh so quiet (to channel Björk). Seems like a no show. Then, predicting a riot (channelling Kaiser Chiefs) it’s suddenly oh so Soho. Sababa! Soon the Galilee Dry White Givon Chardonnay is flowing as the lights get dimmer, the music booms louder, and the imaginary patterns appear in the wall tiles. Or are they imaginary? Everything seems rather naughty but terribly nice. Mezze is: Roasted Plums and Feta (soft herbs). Brunch Plate is: Baby Aubergine Shakshuka (spicy tomato sauce, stewed aubergine, eggs, tahini, pickled chillies, chive). Sweet Ending is: Gramp’s Cigar (brick pastry, pistachio, rose, coco, passionfruit curd, chocolate soil, smoked tuile). From smoky to smoking to smoking hot. And in an even sweeter ending, the cocktails are: The Glory Mole (El Rayo Tequila, hibiscus, cardamom, ginger, lime, soda) and Space Cowboy (Konik’s Tail Vodka, port, pimento, caraway, strawberry, hop, soda).

Kapara is tucked away in a redrawn block stretching from the retained 17th century Portland House (stuccoed up in the mid 19th century) on Greek Street to the replacement Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road. Architectural practices Matt and Soda combined their pizzazz to bring the best piece of urban design to hit London this decade. Nine storeys above ground (some occupying the air space where the Wedgwood china factory once stood) and four underground. A glazed sliced cone nose diving into the earth lights the subterranean office floors. If this is Soho Estates cleaning up their act what’s not to like? One sixth of the site is dedicated to new public realm. The restaurant spills onto part of this realm: an elusive and exclusive courtyard. Terracotta stained GRC (Glass Reinforced Concrete), glazed bricks and scoop and scallop patterned tiles all add to the Mediterranean ambience. A four metre high stainless steel head sculpture by Cuban artist Rafael Miranda San Juan gazes across the courtyard.

Owner Chef Eran Tibi’s earliest memories involved food. “I helped my father, a Tunisian born baker, in our family bakery and I spent time with my mother trimming okra tips. Family and food became intertwined, inseparable, from a young age. Food was a means to an end for my family – it meant more, it was a way of life. My grandfather was a great lover of life and all its indulgences. He owned a bar, a restaurant and a club. He instilled in me the importance of living for the moment, of being present in the now.” Aged 30, Eran decided to formally train at Le Cordon Blue School in London. His first restaurant in the English capital is the wildly successful Bala Baya in London Bridge. Eran’s mission to bring localised Middle Eastern food to southeastern England proves there really is such a thing as Israeli cuisine.

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Old Union Yard Arches + Bala Baya Restaurant Southwark London

Behind The Music Box

It’s a long time since Gilbert and George sang Under the Arches (1969) and an even longer time since Flanaghan and Allen did too (1941). These days, railway arches are – like every square metre in London – hot property. The Low Line. Theatres, restaurants, bars and community hubs fill the stretch from Union Street to Surrey Row known as Old Union Yard Arches.

But before the arches were redeveloped, there was, and very much still is, The Music Box. The capital’s most exciting apartments and music college scheme. Developer Taylor Wimpey Central London had the vision to commission the exciting young architecture practice Spparc (now in full bloom) to design a building that entwines architecture and music in a standout standalone standing ovation on Union Street.

A mezzanine divides the archway of Bala Baya into two levels. The ground floor is achromatic in deference to the White City of Tel Aviv. Upstairs, the exposed brick vault lends a more rustic allure. Owner Chef Eran Tibi – you guessed it – is Televivian. Interior designer Afroditi Krassa added bright terrazzo slabs from a Haifa factory. Eran says, “I wanted to walk on floors that remind me of home.” Tableware comes from one of Jaffa’s famous flea markets. The rear wall of the mezzanine is built up in perforated breeze blocks of the type you see just about everywhere in gardens in Israel. But the biggest import is the custom built pitta oven from Israeli manufacturer Jagum.

The rumble of trains overhead provides an accompaniment to dancey music. Six years old, Bala Baya still strikes the right chord with a cacophony free lunch. Putting that oven to good use, pitta is served with mezze: Pink Tamara (smoked roe, extra virgin olive oil, chives). Fish Clouds (smoked haddock fish cakes, pita crumbs, poached egg, white taramasalata, apple, fennel) are a reminder of Tel Aviv’s western coast. ‘Bala Baya’ means ‘mistress of the house’ and the pudding Lady Baharat (pink lady, salted caramel, Baharat cream, wonton) proves to be a woo worthy sweet symphony. Israeli wines are labelled “from home”. Pale straw coloured Carmel Selected Sauvignon Blanc 2020 carries aromas of tropical fruit notes against a backdrop of cut grass. Like The Music Box, the wine is aging well.

Unsurprisingly Eran is a protégé of Yotam Ottolenghi. Michael Kaminer explained in his 2017 review of Bala Baya for The New York Times, “Before he became a global brand, Yotam Ottolenghi introduced Londoners to modern Israeli food – a minor trend that has become a phenomenon.” Bala Baya is part of this movement from minor to major, taking it up another octave. Encore! Encore!

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Campbell-Rey + The London Edition Hotel Fitzrovia London

Club Fenderland

The multi use lobby of The London Edition was a popular concept when it first opened. A decade later, the vast space is still buzzing. It encompasses workspace, a bar, a lounge area next to an open fire, reception, billiards and – from tonight – a Christmas tree designed by Campbell-Rey. The design studio founded by Duncan Campbell and Charlotte Rey takes a seasonal bow to Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s 1816 set design for The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with its oversized Murano glass baubles in colour and mirror finishes dangling between decorations hand painted to resemble lapis, onyx, marble and malachite. The gilded star atop the tree comes straight from one of the artistic Prussian polymath’s Queen of the Night’s Hall of Stars drawings. To celebrate the unveiling of the Christmas tree, guests are serenaded by a haloed cappella choir while devouring canapés and downing cocktails.

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The Londoner Hotel Leicester Square London + Hale Zero

You’re Driving Us Crazy

“Would you like Champagne?” proves to be the perfect entry to the perfect party. This is gonna be epically crazy – we can tell already. Do you remember when the festive season started in December? Or when Christmas trees had red and gold decorations? And the weekend began on a Friday? Well deep breath. November is the new December. Black and white is the new red and gold. And tonight, Monday is the new Friday.

Fashion designer Huishan Zhang dreamt up the most monochromatic Christmas tree imaginable for The Stage (isn’t that the world?) bar of The Londoner Hotel, Leicester Square. The black and white party dress code has been mostly adhered to with a few notable exceptions. Glam squads have been busy. Lady Elspeth Catton (played brilliantly by Rosamund Pyke in Emerald Fennell’s baroque comedic thriller Saltburn) with her “complete and utter horror of ugliness” would approve.

After black cod lime and Bloody Mary avo tartare entrées, Yasmine and Yuzu Margaritas, Lychee Rosé and Monte Velho Branco are pumped into us and before we know it we’ve been swept up to Eight (the height’s in the name) bar. What fresh heaven awaits? Celestial socialites and power creatives Pippa Vosper and Susan Bender Whitfield are getting ready to fill that penthouse dancefloor. Troops! You have your marching orders! Get to it!

Hale Zero is whipping up an absolute musical storm. Fresh from playing at the Beckhams’ Netflix party, the trio is always raring to go. The brilliant Brixton brothers get to the remixes, the grooves, the mashups, all the tunes with that vigour of tonight we are all “forever young”! And then without warning the whole floor erupts into synchronised dancing to Beyonce’s Crazy in Love. “Would you like more Champagne?” For the first time ever, no, we’re too busy dancing! As Lady Elspeth likes to say, “How wonderful!”

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Ardtara House Hotel + Garden Upperlands Londonderry


If there is a commodious Victorian country house which sums up gentry living in Ulster it would be Ardtara House. Tucked away in the countryside on the outskirts of the village of Upperlands, this two storey stone house is all that is good about late 19th century domestic architecture. Timewise, the original 1896 house was extended in matching style 17 years later so contrary to appearances it strictly speaking isn’t all Victorian. No architect is recorded but it’s very similar to Ardara House in Comber, County Down, which was probably designed by the popular architect Thomas Jackson. Ardara dates from the 1870s with a 1900 matching extension and is also a two storey house of roughly rectangular plan with plenty of canted bay windows. It was built by the Andrews family who were flour and flax millowners.

Ardtara was built by linen millowner Harry Clark. In 1699 the English Parliament had enforced the Wool Act to protect the English wool industry by preventing the Irish from exporting it. To offset the economic damage, Parliament encouraged the development of linen production in Ireland. Linen is a strong natural fabric made from flax plant which grows on wet fertile soil – so suited to the Irish climate. Harry’s ancestor John Clarke of Maghera considered building a mill on the River Clady on a site he referred to as his “Upper Lands”. His son brought the idea to fruition by building the mill. In 1740 the first beetling engine began turning. William Clark and Sons Linen is one of the oldest continually running businesses in the world.

Ampertaine House was the Clark family seat on the edge of Upperlands village. It is a five bay two storey late Georgian house with a large wing. Harry decided he wanted to build his own home for himself, his wife Alice and their six children. He died in 1955, a year after his wife’s death. One of the children, Wallace, would later say, “People from all over the world came to stay in our house. There were visits from cousins and friends from Australia, New Zealand and North America. There were also agents from the 40 or so countries where linen from Upperlands was exported.” The house (and 33 hectare estate) fell into disrepair until it was saved in 1990 by Maebeth Fenton Martin, entrepreneur and Director of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board for North America. She opened it as a hotel four years later. Maebeth had impeccable taste and restored the fenestration, plasterwork, panelling, chimneypieces, garden, lake and so on.

In 2014 restaurateurs Marcus Roulston and Ian Orr purchased Ardtara. It is a rural hotel addition to their urban restaurants portfolio of Eighteen Ninety Four in Portstewart and Browns Bonds Hill and Browns in Town both in Derry City. They have retained the period splendour and comfort. The top lit billiard room is now the restaurant; the pair of drawing rooms remains just that with the insertion of a bar; the conservatory has been reinstated as a function room; and nine bedroom suites are on the first floor. The terrace outside the drawing rooms has been put back and the Victorian garden restored. The garden is a dreamlike sequence of outdoor green spaces around a lake.

Marcus explains, “We have lovingly restored the house, combining romantic Victorian architecture with all the modern comforts you would expect in top class hospitality. Our idea for Ardtara was always for it to be a gourmet destination.” He and Ian have revived Ardtara’s early 20th tradition of self sufficiency of food supply supplemented by products from trusted sources within an hour’s travel. And now, to echo Wallace Clark’s words, “People from all over the world come to stay in the house.” Musician Phil Coulter, actor Bill Murray and singer Ronan Keating have all stayed at Ardtara House (although not at the same time).

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The Hideaway Sloane Place Hotel Chelsea London +

The Zone of Influence

Sloane Square is “the centre of the world” according to Ann Barr and Peter York’s Official Sloane Ranger Handbook. This essential 1980s guide was in effect an expanded update of Nancy Mitford’s 1955 “U and Non U” essay on what is upper class and what is not. Linguistics were tricky back then: “chimneypiece” was U; “mantlepiece” Non U. We sat beside Peter York at Nicky Haslam’s private gig in The Pheasantry, King’s Road, and he did emphasise it was all a bit tongue in cheek.

Sloane Square Hotel on Lower Sloane Street is equator hot in Handbook terms. It’s the launch party of The Hideaway, a basement speakeasy under Sloane Place. The Peter Jones crowd are here but everyone is more diverse less shibboleth reliant these days. Jazz musicians Bandini not to mention gallons of Moët and Chandon (thankfully the Prohibition theme isn’t taken too literally!) mean the intimate dancefloor is soon filled. The goat’s cheese macaroons are definitely U.

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Africa Fashion Week London 2023 + Mary Martin London

Angelic Forces at Work and Play

Mary Martin London headlined this year’s Africa Fashion Week London. Mary’s fashion is never superficial and always thought provoking, making statements on social and historic issues from class to slavery. She explained to us, “My collection this year is called Divine Intervention. It’s about a dream I had of the angels in heaven. Everything was cream and gold – it was an amazing experience. So my collection is all cream and gold. My final catwalk piece this year was the Ozone Dress. Swiss model Aïda wore a white wig with twigs coming out of it symbolising the clouds of pollution rising from the earth. The glittering dress is a copper earthquake. This is what is going on in the world. We need to stop it or the human planet will look like that!”

Two other models walking for Mary Martin London were six footer mother and daughter team Renée and Janeé Knorr. As well as being an international model, Renée is the founder of Global Women Wealth Warriors. “Our ultimate purpose is to help others to become whole in finance and spirituality as well as mental and physical wellbeing.” Based in New Orleans, Renée uses her 14 years’ banking experience to teach financial literacy. She recently told Peachtree TV, “The meaning of being a global woman is to harness beliefs that allow you to soar without any regrets. I am a global impact thought leader in fashion, finance and wellness.” She flew from Tanzania via Dubai to be at the fashion show. “Connecting with the motherland is so important. But I’m grateful to be here right now in London!”

International model, basketball player and burgeoning businessperson Janeé, who is based in Atlanta, added, “Other countries underestimate the power that African fashion has. I watch many top designers at work and when it comes to African designers they truly are about energy and innovation. Mary has that vibrance and power too. I am so proud to be wearing clothes from the latest collection. Her dresses move so beautifully on the catwalk. They’re so elegant yet easy to wear. I’m excited!”

And sure enough, the Divine Intervention Collection is earth shatteringly heavenly. The word “angel” is mentioned 290 times in the Bible. It looked like a few were visiting the human planet as the models glided down the catwalk in a glow of effervescence. Renée did fierce in one of Mary’s famous masks. “This is very appropriate,” she had told us backstage. “We love mask balls in New Orleans!” Janeé strutted her genetically blessed stuff. And then came Aïda Ouro Madeli. Time stood still as she posed in the Ozone Dress. This dress constantly changed colour as it reflected lights and cameras flashing. It appeared to spark and ignite. Mary is all about the metaphor. The Ozone Dress reflected all of us; we are in this together; and we all can have our angelic moments.

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Africa Fashion Week London 2023 +

The Heritage Generation

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Africa Fashion Week London upped sticks from Freemasons’ Hall Covent Garden to the Institute of Directors Pall Mall: from the Grand Lodge to the Even Grander Lodge. Three days packed to the Corinthian cornice. The ground floor was filled with a bazaar, the staircase became a photoshoot set; upstairs, it was all about the gallery for socialising, Abura Cocktail and Art Bar (Procero gin from Nairobi or South Africa Xwai rum anyone?), another bazaar; makeup salons and changing rooms popped up in the ancillary wing; and of course the vast saloon looking across Waterloo Place to The Athenaeum Club was – lights, cameras, curtains pulled, action! – transformed into the coolest catwalk in town.

Dr Mark Prince OBE, CEO and Founder of the Kiyan Prince Foundation, spoke movingly to us all at the opening of the conference on his work supporting young people. The charity was borne out of tragedy in memory of his 15 year old son’s murder in 2006. “This is God’s creation!” he exclaimed opening his arms to the room. “We feel like family tonight. I was misplaced – I was homeless at 15 yet I changed my life around. God put Kiyan on earth to do good things and we are still doing good things through the Foundation in Kiyan’s honour. My best friend now is the Master of the Universe.” Charity and fashion can go hand in hand.

After this thought provoking speech, Queen Ronke, Founder of Africa Fashion Week London and the Adire Oodua Textile Hub (which empowers female entrepreneurs), introduced a panel probing the most pressing questions of the day. Is Africa fashion’s final frontier? Is there a growing consumer market in Africa ready to buy? Can Africa realistically serve the international market? Whatever the answers are, Africa Fashion Week London is playing a leading role. The four Corinthian columns of this movement are African Sourcing for African Development Sourced in Africa, Made in Africa, Trade in Africa and Build in Africa.There were over 30 spectacular catwalk shows. Creative Director of Iffizi and human rights lawyer Sandra Vermuijten-Alonge stormed it in high energy style. Taking a bow, she put the run into runway, somersaulting down it in truly acrobatic style. Sandra bears more than a passing resemblance to the singer Pink so she was on form in her pink top, skirt and matching trainers. She lives in Victoria Island, Nigeria. Sandra shared,

“Iffizi is made to measure fashion for bold and fabulous ladies: made in Nigeria, designed in Belgium. We use African fabrics and tailoring infused with European style. Iffizi is for women who embrace their own identity and want to dress with elegance, grace and a big smile! There’s no ideal shape as ‘big fashion’ would have us believe. Iffizi puts women first, delivering exclusive custom made clothes that fit women and not the other way round. Our fashion is what I want to wear to work and to go out, feeling confident and feminine. Iffizi exudes a positive – we are one people. Let’s make this world a brighter place!” As for the name, Iffizi combines Efizy which in Yoruba means “cool, trendy, stylish” and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence which represents European historic culture. One third of Iffizi’s profits are reinvested in youth employment schemes training tailors and providing master classes in fashion. The handshake of charity and fashion once more.

There were so many other memorable catwalk moments. Mumini’s unveiling of the Sierra Leone flag; Elpis Megalio’s skeletal frame skirt; Ruby Dawn’s leopard skin short shorts; Enadia Igbin’s sheer red dress; Hertunba’s model designer fusion; Abaake by Equip’s age is no barrier. Menswear was well represented too. David Wej revealed his latest men’s collection. He established his eponymous brand in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2008. His seventh international outlet is on Great Portland Street London. Hanging high up on the wall of the saloon in a gilt frame, Sir Luke Fildes’ 1908 portrait of Queen Alexandra stared down with unmoving eyes.

Music played an even bigger role at this year’s event. Live drummers kept us all in party form. DJ Homeboy rocked the catwalk with Afrobeats and remixes from trance (for Elpis Megalio’s show) to chilled (for Ik-Pen’s). Old school favourites added spice such as Abba’s Xanadu (for Iffizi) and Alice Deejay’s Better Off Alone (Pa Masu). Best of all the final and most fabulous of all the designers – who could that be? – had her own theme tune by DJ Déjà Vu. Mary Martin London shares her knowledge and skills with the elderly at a local community centre in southeast London, when she isn’t working on her latest haute couture collection. Her charitable efforts in educating young people in Ghana has earned her the honorary title of Queen Mother bestowed upon her by Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.

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Queen Ronke + Lavender’s Blue

Haute Monde

Ife is an ancient Yoruba city in southwest Nigeria believed to date from between the 10th century BC and 6th century BC. It has a population of just over half a million and is located about 220 kilometres from Lagos. Ife is famous as a centre of the arts, especially for its ancient bronze, stone and terracotta sculptures. Queen Ronke Ademiluyi-Ogunwusi of Ife is the contemporary embodiment of this creativity, in serene and regal form. Her Royal Majesty was born into royalty as a Princess (her great grandfather was Ooni Ademiluyi) so marrying the 51st Ooni of Ife, counted first among the Yoruba monarchs, continues her life in palaces, when she’s not travelling for work.

After studying law at Thames Valley University she decided to follow her passion and work in fashion. “I’m in love with Western designs but I look to Africa for inspiration,” Queen Ronke shares. “Africa has 3,000 tribes and each tribe has its own unique fashion culture. In Nigeria we have around 500 ethnic groups all with their own fashions. I think we are only scratching the surface so far with African fashion!”

One of her royal roles is as Cultural Ambassador and in 2016 she visited President Bola Tinubu (then Lagos State Governor) to explain the initiatives of African Fashion Week Nigeria which she had just established. “Immediately he supported it,” Queen Ronke confirms, “and also reached out to others who could support it because he believes in the creative sector. He knows the development a nation can gain from small and medium enterprises. If you look at the fashion, hair, makeup and music industries you can see how the value chain grows our national wealth tremendously.”

Queen Ronke is at the Institute of Directors on London’s Pall Mall for Africa Fashion Week London which she launched 12 years ago. It has grown from strength to strength year on year and now hosts 30 catwalk shows, a conference, an awards ceremony and retail outlets. Her Royal Majesty looks suitably resplendent in her own designs. She confirms, “My position comes with my appearance as the wife of the King. You must keep up that appearance because you’re representing your husband wherever you are. If you’re dressed in jeans or not dressed in a proper manner it would have an adverse effect. People feel that being born royal I must always know better.”

Africa Fashion Week London is now Europe’s largest showcase of design from Africa and the African diaspora. “It’s a collaborative catwalk, exhibition and business development programme,” she summarises. “I want to highlight emerging designers and bring awareness of Africa’s burgeoning fashion industry to the international market.” The life and work of Her Royal Majesty Queen Ronke Ademiluyi-Ogunwusi of Ife combines beauty and intelligence, style and substance, heritage and commerce. And she knows how to make an entrance.

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Design Museum London + The Offbeat Sari

Indian Spring

Unravelling its forms, revealing it as a layered metaphor for the subcontinent, an exhibition at the Design Museum London brings together 90 of the finest saris of our time from designers, craftspeople and wearers in India. The sari is an unstitched drape wrapped around the body; its unfixed form has allowed it to morph and absorb changing cultural influences. Versatility is key: it can be wrapped, knotted, pleated, tucked or divided in two, either highlighting or concealing the body. Contemporary designers are experimenting with hybrid forms such as sari gowns and dresses as well as innovative materials like woven steel and distressed denim.

Curator of The Offbeat Sari exhibition Priya Khanchandani says, “The sari is experiencing what is conceivably its most rapid reinvention in a 5,000 year history. It makes the sari movement one of today’s most important global fashion stories yet little is known of its true nature beyond south Asia. Women in cities who previously associated the sari with dressing up are transforming it into fresh everyday clothing. For me and for so many others, the sari is of personal and cultural significance. It is a rich dynamic canvas for innovation, encapsulating the vitality and eclecticism of Indian culture.”

The most striking piece was made for the billionaire businessperson Natasha Poonawalla to wear to the 2022 New York Met Gala. An embroidered tuile sari with a train designed by Sabyasachi Mukherjee was worn over a gold Schiaparelli bodice, bridging the gap between fashion and sculpture. This was stylist Anaita Shroff Adajania’s interpretation of the Met Gala dress code Gilded Glamour. All bases are covered at this exhibition from haute couture to street fashion. There’s even a sari for rock climbing.

The exhibition isn’t just about the finished products: Ajrakh is an ancient method of hand carved wooden block printing that traditionally uses motifs based on Islamic geometry. Sample blocks are on display. A silk sari may be typically designed using a dozen or more blocks and then will undergo a complex process of printing and dyeing using natural pigments. The Offbeat Sari is yet another revealing fashion exhibition at the Design Museum London.

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Mary Martin London + Sustainability

Harbour Lights

Back at our home from home, Chelsea Harbour, we catch up with the Queen of Fashion. It’s the eve of Africa Fashion Week London – she’s headlining a catwalk of Africa and the African diaspora’s very finest. Before all the glitz and glamour, funk and fantasy, jazz and pizzazz, Mary talks to us about the serious side of her fashion artistry: sustainability. At the most fundamental level, her clothes are made to last. But there are multiple layers (pun) to her green credentials.

“I care passionately about sustainability, the environment, the climate emergency and nature. My eponymous fashion label Mary Martin London (MML) reflects these passions. MML could easily stand for Materials Made for Life! I also greatly care about Africa and again my clothes reflect this interest. While many of my models are either from Africa or the African diaspora, I employ and attract a diverse talent: one of my first catwalk models was Polish while I also have mature female Irish clients.”

“I am from a family of 13 siblings and am the second youngest of six sisters so as a child I got used to wearing ‘hand me downs’. I would give these fifth hand clothes my own spin by adding individual accessories. I have been collecting old fabrics from the 1970s. I recently bought factory leftovers of linen which I will use for my next collection.”

“My Queen of Africa dress is an aesthetic interpretation of the countryside: the colourway of this dress represents brown for earth, green for grass and yellow for the sun. My Cecil the Lion dress came about when I heard the tragic news story from Zimbabwe of a lion maimed and killed by a recreational big game hunter. Layers of tulle around the neck and shoulders represent Cecil’s mane. The back of the dress has got the silkiness and fineness of the lion’s body.”

“I also draw and make my own prints. For my first men’s collection, I designed a print called Slaves in the Trees. I researched the Himba Tribe in Namibia and discovered they use a lot of orange face paint and hair mud. Orange is for the vibrance of earth and black is for the unseen missing elements. Orange represents the sun, the happiness outside. The print also commemorates the suffering inflicted during the slave trade.”

“Many of my dresses have historical inspiration which ties in with the sustainable use of recycled materials and reimagining vintage pieces. Last September I organised a fashion shoot of The Return Collection at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This collection was in part inspired by Georgian costume and aristocracy. Except in my imagination the black models are now the reigning grand aristocracy! The Grand Staircase and Durbar Court provided the perfect backdrop for these extravagant clothes. The collection reuses sequins from old costumes.”

“I continue to research and look for new methods to reinvent old materials in exciting ways. My passion for sustainability, the environment, the climate emergency, nature and of course Africa drives me to be ever more creative, stretching my imagination and skills. I make clothes to last: they represent the antithesis of the throwaway culture. Mary Martin London is all about making the world a better, more exciting and more caring place for current and future generations.”

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Nate Freeman + The London Edition Hotel Punch Room Fitzrovia London

The Second Age of Umber

“You must not ever stop being whimsical.” Staying Alive by Mary Oliver, 2016.

When New Yorker Nate Freeman, ArtTactic podcaster and Vanity Fair writer, comes to town where does he go and what does he do? Why, he fills the Punch Room in The London Edition with 100 of the capital’s brightest. Punch and conversation flow while supper is served. Gruyere and thyme tartlets and tuna kimchi seaweed canapés to be precise. Waving goodbye to Nate and the revellers, the following morning it’s the Sheraton Grand Park Lane Hotel for Women Leading Real Estate. And for breakfast? Canapés of course.

“And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility of your life.” Still Staying Alive by Mary Oliver, 2016.

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The Portrait Restaurant St Martin’s Place London + Richard Corrigan

The Artists as Youngish Men

Chop chop! Who’s slicing and dicing and spicing the veg? Grand Chef Richard Corrigan himself. Next thing he’s marching over to our table: “Here’s mash to celebrate being Irish!” There’s mash and there’s Made in The Portrait by Richard Corrigan Mash. Its sunny complexion is what Nancy Lancaster would call “buttah yellah”. Picture perfect. The best olive oiled potato money can buy and even better when it’s on the (pent) house. Funday Sunday set lunch is best eaten while floating above the Mary Poppins roofscape over Trafalgar Square in a cloud of fervent luxury.

Richard’s menu is imaginative and concise with just four or five options per course. Keeping it vegetarian, today’s choices for lunch are burrata (peach, fennel, pistachio), conchigliette (cauliflower, Spenwood) and goat’s milk ice cream (English cherries, Riesling). This top floor new restaurant really is the English cherry on the icing on the cake that is the revamped National Portrait Gallery. Chop chop! It’s time to go dancing.

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Residenzpost + Louis Vuitton Espace Munich

Suited and Rebooted

There’s more to Louis Vuitton than branded suitcases. In 2014 the Fondation Louis Vuitton opened in Bois de Boulogne Paris. This is a major cultural and artistic institution embodying the company’s philanthropic commitment to support the arts. Gallery offshoots of the Fondation are springing up in world cities. Hot on the high heels of Paris, Singapore, Tokyo and Venice comes Espace Munich.

“While all Espaces follow a shared global vision, they are tightly intertwined with their local context,” explains Chairman and CEO Michael Burke. Espace Munich is set behind the retained façade of the Palais Toerring-Jettenbach. Designed by Bavarian court architect Leo von Klenze, this neoclassical building was badly hit in World War II. The rebuilt arcaded and frescoed façade provides an architectural punctuation stop to the west end of Maximilianstrasse (“millionaires’ street”!). The current exhibition is As Slow As Possibles by American film artist Sarah Morris.

An architectural model of Fondation Louis Vuitton is on display in the lobby linking the gallery to the store. Michael explains, “This magnificent ‘vessel’ in the Jardin d’Acclimatation Park was designed by the Pritzker Prize winning architect Frank Gehry. It is a technological feat that pushes the boundaries of architecture with its 12 glass sails enveloping ‘icebergs’ on a vast reflecting pool.” The store reassuringly still contains branded suitcases.

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Sigi Schelling Werneckhof + Werneckstrasse Munich

Her Namesake

A German restaurant serving German food, it is named after its Chef Patron and address. Sigi Schelling is the Chef Patron. Werneckstrasse is the address. It’s one of the classiest streets in one of the classiest areas of Munich: Schwabing. And it turns out to be one of the classiest restaurants in the city. Werneckstrasse is a quiet leafy street off the quite lively Feilitzschstrasse. The walled miniature estate of Suresnes Schlöss dominates the northern part of the street. This castle was built in 1718 for the aristocratic Cabinet Secretary Franz von Wilhelm. It is now a conference venue owned by the Catholic Academy of Bavaria. A sunny yellow façade and Mediterranean shuttered windows can be glimpsed through the cast iron entrance gates and screens.

At the southern end of the street set among townhouses and wooded gardens is Sigi Schelling Werneckhof. A metal sign projecting from the facade and an inset porch with a table of flowers and a stack of business cards in olive green, damson blue and plum red heralds the culinary destination’s presence. The restaurant occupies the ground floor of a traditional mixed use block also painted sunny yellow. A small lobby leads into two adjoining dining rooms. The kitchen is out of sight behind a sliding mirrored door.

Sigi explains, “Cooking is my life. My dishes combine originality, sophistication and lightness. For me, perfection on the plate means straightforwardness in harmony with accompanying elements. All masterfully prepared. Our menus reflect love, passion, experience and appreciation for authentic high quality products. It is a pleasure for my team and me to present you with an unforgettable experience. Nice to have you here!” Later, the waitress will add, “Each day Sigi is the first one in and the last to leave at night.”

The five course tasting menu on a Saturday evening is easily adapted to pescatarian needs. “The Chef is going to make you sole,” the waitress confirms, replacing the venison course. And this being a Michelin starred restaurant, cutting and deboning the sole is a performance carried out by no fewer than three staff in the middle of the dining room. Amuse bouches and canapés bracket the meal but not before fennel infused Don’t Mix the Drugs Gin is served with Thomas Henry of Palatine Tonic Water. Cuvée Excellence Blanc 2019 from Rhône accents the five courses.

The tasting menu is a classic that could match the orders. The original simplicity of Doric: Bretonic Lobster (marinated garden tomatoes, yuzu, bergamot). The organic fluidity of Ionic: Char (pumpkin, pumpkin seed oil, buttermilk). The refinement of Corinthian: Brill (shrimps, gnocchi, cauliflower, Thai curry anise sauce). The structural simplicity of Tuscan: Sole (quince, chestnut, mushroom). The richness of Composite: Curd Cheese (goat’s cheese soufflé, marinated blueberries, poppy seeds, plum, sour cherry ice cream). Saturday dinner is a lively four hour affair.

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Munich +

A Foreign City in a Faraway Land

Munich is so far south it’s twice the distance from Berlin as it is from Zürich. The German city is slightly closer to the equator than Paris. Salzburg is signposted out of the centre. Little wonder it’s so metropolitan. When in Munich … Nothing tastes as good as skinny fries (in Bayerischer Hotel of course). Except for strawberry tart (in Brioche Dorée overlooking a rainy courtyard behind Isabel Marant in Residenzstrasse).

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Stapleford Park Hotel + St Mary Magdalene Church Melton Mowbray Leicestershire

Making a Splash

It was 35 years ago and there was no escaping Stapleford Park in the print media. American entrepreneur Bob Payton knew how to make a splash. Instead of hiring only interior designers to decorate the bedrooms of his newly converted country house hotel, he threw a shirtmaker, a porcelain company and a perfumier amongst many others into the mix. It caught the press and public’s attention. Eight years later, another media savvy entrepreneur, this time Englishman Peter de Savary, took over Stapleford Park and opened it as one of his Carnegie Club outpost adding not least the Knot Garden in front of the main entrance door. Cue double page spreads in the supplements once more. Skibo Castle in Dornoch, the home of the Victorian philanthropic industrialist Andrew Carnegie, continues to be a Carnegie Club. His portrait hangs in the gents’ bathroom at Stapleford Park. Just when we thought life couldn’t get any more glamorous, we find ourselves pottering about the Wedgwood Room of the hotel, weighing up a walk in the Capability Brown designed parkland of heaven verging fields versus tea on the terrace. Happy camping. We do both.

Bob Payton bought the house and its 200 hectare estate from Lord Gretton for £600,000 and spent a further £4 million rejuvenating and opening it as a hotel and leisure resort. We’re privileged to exclusively share his last recorded interview before he died in a car crash in 1994: “I first saw Stapleford Park from the back of a horse riding nearby in rolling countryside. Stapleford has been for many centuries a sporting lodge with riding, shooting and lavish entertainment all part of its heritage. It is our endeavour to keep that same style for many years to come. So interesting is the history of Stapleford Park and fascinating its architecture that the house was open to the public for several decades. Walking through the house and around the grounds is like going on a magical mystery tour. Through each and every doorway, there is another adventure. Set in 500 acres of woodland and parkland, the house provides breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside from every room.”

“Our approach to life in the country is that of a relaxed, comfortable, casual existence. We’ve replaced the servants and butlers if the old days with a team of people who are dedicated to making sure you enjoy our home and all it has to offer. We hope you like our approach to hospitality. To complement the eclectic architectural style of this most unusual house I invited several famous names to design bedrooms based on their own image of life at Stapleford Park. Signature bedrooms have been created by Tiffany, Wedgwood, Lindka Cierach, Lady Jane Churchill, Crabtree and Evelyn, Nina Campbell, Liberty, Max Pike and many others. We’re thrilled that these folks found Stapleford Park such an exciting challenge.”

“The dining room is decorated with ornate and intricate woodwork accredited to the most famous of all English carvers, Grinling Gibbons. In these luxurious surroundings, we serve traditional English cuisine with the occasional flair of old fashioned American cooking. You can enjoy the food that Stapleford’s guests have enjoyed over the centuries and much much more. As for sport, the surrounding Leicestershire countryside is most famous for its equestrian links. We offer most kinds of equestrian pursuits including carriage driving and riding instruction. There is clay shooting on the property and game shooting can be arranged. You can fish on the lake in front of the house or at nearby Rutland Water. If that’s not enough, there’s tennis, croquet and basketball, as well as walks through and around the property in this most lovely of settings.”

“Come and discover a truly great undiscovered part of England. Stapleford Park is in reality most people’s fantasy of the quintessential English countryside. Let me tell you about Edward Prince of Wales. His mother wouldn’t let him buy Stapleford Park because she felt that his morals might be corrupted by the Leicestershire hunting society. Well that was 100 years ago. Fortunately the Royal Family settled at Sandringham so that all of us may now enjoy the pleasures of this most idyllic estate.” The Royal Family are still happily ensconced at Sandringham and we are even more happily enjoying life at Stapleford Park.

The house glows a golden hue in afternoon sunshine and shimmers a mysterious grey in morning mist. Poet Mary Oliver writes in her essay Wordsworth’s Mountain (Upstream Collected Essays, 2016), “This is to say nothing against afternoons, evenings, or even midnight. Each has its portion of the spectacular. But dawn – dawn is a gift.” Every elevation and wing is a piece of architecture in itself and together they form a visual whole in material only. Crunchie the ginger cat (technically the neighbour’s but wise enough to hang out on the estate) matches the ashlar stone. One minute Stapleford Park is a Jacobean manor house; turn a corner, the next minute it’s a Queen Anne stately home; turn another corner, a Jacobethan hunting lodge; one more, a Loire château. As for the entrance front facing the quiet waters of the lake, the nine bay string coursed perfection is as symmetrical as a supermodel’s face. No big name architects are recorded (unlike the landscape and panelling!) but two owners have added their name for posterity in stone carvings on the exterior of a wing: “William Lord Sherard Baron of Letrym Repayred This Building Anno Domini 1633”. Underneath there’s a postscript: “And Bob Payton Esq. Did His Bit Anno Domini 1988”.

Indoors the eclecticism continues thanks partly to the layering of six or so centuries and partly to the aforementioned cohorts of dreamers and designers let loose on the fabric and fabrics. The main block is laid out around two vast double height top lit spaces: the Staircase Hall and adjacent Saloon. Public and private lounging and dining ebbs and flows throughout the ground floor. The Morning Room (with its mullioned bay window). The Harborough Room (crimson Gainsborough silk wallpaper). Billiard Room (converted games table). The Orangery (windows galore). The Grinling Gibbons Dining Room (festooned panelling by his namesake). The Old Kitchen (stone vaulted ceiling). Formal dinner is served in the Grinling Gibbons Dining Room: Baron De Beaupre Champagne; pea, goat’s curd, mint pistou tartlet and crispy onions; butter roasted cod, fennel and leak cream, new potatoes, sea herbs. Stapleford Park is a bread roll’s throw from Melton Mowbray and its Stilton Creamery so a generous cheese board offering is called for: Beacon Fell, Bingham Blue, Pitchfork Cheddar, Ribblesdale Goat’s, Tuxford and Tebbut Stilton. Five tall sash windows frame the descent of darkness. Mary Oliver again, “Poe claimed he could hear the night darkness as it poured, in the evening, into the world.”