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Isabel Restaurant Mayfair London + Bathrooms

The White and Gold Stuff

Recollections may vary but we’re pretty sure we didn’t make it to Bar Isabel in Buenos Aires (the Gatsbyesque Four Seasons not to mention Algodon Mansion, Atlantico, i Latina and Milión have a lot to answer for) so her sister in Mayfair is a non negotiable destination. Chilean nightlife afficionado Juan Santa Cruz took Palermo by storm six years ago and while Mayfair has plenty of competition, the heat turned up with Isabel’s arrival. We want to thrive not just survive; to do not just be.

It’s all about fusion. Lunch is a Latin Mediterranean mélange, from scallops and halibut to burrata salad and Delica pumpkin. The interior is Art Deco Chinoiserie eclecticism. We all know the best place to be at a straightforward shooting party in a country house is in the bathroom. Ditto, darling, Isabel. All six bathrooms are embellished head to toe or at least ceiling to skirting board in de Gournay hand painted gilt to the heels wallpaper. They have to be seen to be believed.

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Architects Architecture Art Design Developers People Town Houses

Annabel Karim Kassar + The Lebanese House Beirut

Saving a Home Saving a City

This is a photographic record of French Lebanese architect Annabel Karim Kassar’s installation recreating part of the façade of the late 19th century Bayt K House, a traditional Ottoman era building in the historic quarter of Gemmayzeh, Beirut. While undergoing restoration in 2020 by her architectural practice AKK, Bayt K was damaged by the Beirut Port explosion. Sarkis Khoury, Director General of Antiquities in Lebanon’s Ministry of Culture, confirmed that at least 8,000 historic buildings were damaged in the explosion including Bayt K House and the Palais Sursock. The latter, also dating from the 19th century, is located in Achrafieh and is one of the country’s grandest residences. Disrupted but undeterred, the architect has worked with Beiruti craftspeople using traditional Lebanese materials both to restore Bayt K and to recreate the house’s triple arched façade and entrance divan as a showpiece.

Nathalie Chahine and Fadlallah Dagher explain in their 2021 publication Houses of Beirut 1860 to 1925, “A very typical element of the houses, as in houses of Bilad al-Sham more generally, was the lwan or liwan. This is a room opening onto the courtyard through a wide arch.” Annabel states, “I believe the human-centred approach to designing interior spaces found in traditional cultures still has much to teach the modern world.” Her designs combine a modernist vocabulary with the language of traditional Arab, Berber and Ottoman culture and craftmanship.

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Hôtel du Petit Moulin Paris + Christian Lacroix

We’re Here for The Ride

“Welcome to the Hôtel du Petit Moulin! We would like to thank you for your confidence and for choosing our hotel during your visit in Paris. Le Marais is full of history, wonderful shops, galleries, museums and restaurants. In fact, the building in which the hotel is set was originally the first Parisian bakery. This is where Victor Hugo would come to buy his baguette! Today, the original shop frontage remains, reminding guests of its former past as a ‘boulangerie’, protected under French Heritage. Make yourself at home, relax and enjoy a quiet drink at the honesty bar open from noon to midnight or head to the spa of our sister hotel, the Pavillon de la Reine, situated in Place des Vosges, just a 10 minute walk away from her and available to all our guests. Have a lovely stay with us.” Luc Guillo Lohan, The Manager.

Heaven’s in the detail and the Hôtel du Petit Moulin delivers from bookmarks and business cards to brass door keys and petite boxes â picorer. Highlights of the room service from Restaurant Chez Nenesse on nearby Rue de Saintonge include entrées: salade des queues de langoustines (Dublin Bay prawn salad); plats: fillets de bar aux fines herbes (sea bass fillet, sauce with fine herbs); and desserts: mousse et sorbet chocolat sauce pistache (chocolate mousse and sorbets with pistachio sauce).

Filling a pair of 17th century buildings which couldn’t be more pre Haussmann Parisian if they tried, the ground floor was once a bar and a street corner bakery. Victor Hugo’s house on Place des Vosges is just around the corner. As Monsieur Lohan notes, the former bakery still retains a hand painted glass shopfront. There are just 17 guest rooms. One bedroom on the rez-de-chaussée. Four on the premier étage. Four on the deuxième étage stacked in the same layout as below. Four stacked on the troisième étage. One on the étage intermédiaire. Three on the quatrième étage. The architecture is full of original quirks from fragments of timber structural beams to windows floating between floors. The interior is absolutely fabulous Christian Lacroix sweetie darling.The haut couture designer clearly had a lot of fun dreaming up this Louis XV on an acid trip décor. The colourful chaos of the montaged découpaged toile de jouy in the main rooms contrasts with the calm of the white marble bathrooms. Top floor Room 402 is the largest guest suite and angles into the street corner with the best views, taking in a sweep of chimneys rising above the buildings lining Rue de Poitou and Rue de Saintonge. The mirrored ceiling provides an altogether different view, not least of the shagpile carpet. “Early to bed, and you’ll wish you were dead. Bed before 11, nuts before seven,” shrieked Dorothy Parker in her short story for The Little Hours for The New Yorker, 1933.

Nowhere does acronyms better than cultural Paris. MAD (Musée des Arts Décoratifs) is hard to beat. MAHJ (Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaisme) is exhibiting Erwin Blumenfeld’s photography. The Festival of (captured Light in the City of Light.

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Design Luxury People Restaurants Town Houses

Place des Vosges + L’Ambroisie Restaurant Paris

The Glitter of this Mirage

We’re forever falling into the whirlpool of the high life. “Where do you come from?” asks our waiter. He’s from Marseille. “You can crack the egg!” Another waiter, “Your island of caviar has arrived.” And later, the maître d’, “You must come back in January for the finest winter truffle. À très bientôt!” Everyone’s speaking in hushed reverential tones. This is very fine dining. Not for the self conscious. Waiters stand like sentinels guarding the tapestried walls. A glance at one of them is enough to be shown to the Guerlain equipped powder room. Such is the segue! Halfway through this culinary ceremony, a waiter parades a white box of pungent truffle but we weren’t brought up the Seine in a bubble. It would be nice not to break the four figure bill ceiling today. Okay maybe just a little truffle shavings… C’est L’Ambroisie, ce ne sera pas bon marché. But there are no pockets in shrouds. So don’t rue the day. Especially when it’s the day after the Feast of St Ambrose.

The Scottish aristo actress Tilda Swinton swans into the first dining room. “I’m performing at three o’clock so we have an hour and a half for lunch. Cheers to taking these moments – there haven’t been enough of these lately. We’re going to stuff ourselves today for life is too short. We just have to get on with it! Apparently, did you hear we’re going to get an arctic winter? Maybe I should hibernate and live like Little Edie in Grey Gardens!” Everything is up a level. It’s like living life in fast forward.

The restaurant is terribly discreet: no windows onto the world, just a lantern lit doorway off the cloistered Place des Vosges. A petite lobby leads into an enfilade of three smart dining rooms served by a basement kitchen. There are only 35 to 38 covers. Founding Chef Bernard Pacaud secured three Michelin Stars by 1988. His son Mathieu continues to carry the recognition. Ever since Henri IV ordered the creation of the chichi quartier of Le Marais in the 4th Arrondisement, the palace-fronted Place des Vosges has been at the centre of civilised society. Very up our rue.

Lunch is all about packing a piquant palate punch. Mets: ile flottante à la truffe blanche d’Alba; velouté de topinambours; escalopines de bar à lémincé d’artichaut, caviar Kristal; et tarte chocolat et vanilla Bourbon. Boissons sans alcool: eaux de Perrier. Vins et eaux development vie: Riesling Engelberg 2018 et Château de Tracy Pouilly-Fumé 2016. Amuse bouches are served between each course. ‘Ambroisie’ comes from Greek mythology means a “source of immortality” and “food for gods”. A restaurant fit for eternal deities. A rue named desire.

So what’s the difference between one, two and three Michelin Stars? And don’t say an arm and a leg. A Michelin Guide Inspector explains, “One Michelin Star is awarded to restaurants using top quality ingredients where dishes with distinct flavours are prepared to a consistently high standard. Two Michelin Stars are awarded when the personality and talent of the chef are evidence in his or her expertly crafted dishes of refined and inspired food. Three Michelin Stars are given for superlative cooking of the chef at the peak of his of her profession – cooking elevated to an art form.” There are 10 three Michelin Star restaurants in Paris according to the 2022 Guide. That’s twice the number of triple Starred in London. Onwards and upwards. Bon voyage voyage.

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Art Design Luxury People Restaurants Town Houses

La Mâle d’Effeenne Rue St Paul + Village St Paul Paris

Who Loves It Wears It

Leaving behind the whiteness of a continental winter’s day we step into La Mâle d’Effeenne which is like entering a man cave but only if the man is Aladdin. Black is the new black. All that glitters really is gold. We’re greeted like long lost brothers by owners François Mahé (French) and Nico Francioni (Italian). They chime, “It’s been a year, has it not? We remember you well! You’re famous! Excuse the clutter – we’ve just had a large seasonal delivery.”

Their shop defies definition. Literally: there’s something in the name. “La” of course is feminine. “Mâle” clearly isn’t. This shop is for everyone so when it comes to clothes or scents, you decide. “Mâle” is a nod to Jean-Paul Gaultier’s famous scent. It also references “malle”, the French word for luggage. Gosh multiple entendres or what? And what hidden depths does “Effeenne” possess? It’s the guys’ initials spelt phonetically: “F” and “N”. So there you go. Putting the concept into conceptual.

La Mâle d’Effeenne is on Rue St Paul in the middle of Village St Paul in the middle of Le Marais in the middle of Paris. The dominating architectural presence is the Church of St Paul. There has been an ecclesiastical presence in this location for 16 centuries. In 1360 the village gained royal status when Charles V installed his Hôtel St Paul. Today, the chiaroscuro of the church nave is strongly pencilled by wintry shadow. A ciborium or baldachin of ghostly semi transparent scarlet veil is suspended over an Advent arrangement.

Lunch is in an hour at L’Ambroisie, a heartbeat away from Rue St Paul. Back at the store, François says, “Well done on getting a table at the restaurant. It’s very in demand. Let us know how it is!” We depart La Mâle d’Effeenne laden with exquisitely wrapped sprays d’ambiance by Secret d’Apothicaire (“It smells good enough to wear!” exclaims Nico) and embossed carte postales of Formi Dabel artwork. No wonder Nancy Mitford writes in her 1960s novel Don’t Tell Alfred, “At no season does Paris look more beautiful than early in December.” White will be the new black.

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Architects Architecture Design People Restaurants Town Houses

Dover Kent + Huguenots

Vagabonds’ Entertainment

When the Eurostar used to stop at Calais it made breakfast in France much more straightforward. So the next best thing is lunch in Dover. Like its French counterpart, the English port’s charm is not always apparent to the unseeing. But the Kentish rumour mill grinding on overtime has it that Dover is the next southeast town to be discovered. So we’re here, if not ahead of the curve certainty at its tip, making a splash, ready to dive in, explore and lots more besides.

Dover’s coastal position and proximity to France made it a natural first point of settlement for Huguenot refugees. Some stayed; others moved on to Canterbury and Spitalfields in London. An early 17th century census of foreign residents in Dover recorded 78 Huguenot residents: one gardener; one shepherd’s wife; two advocates; two esquires; two maidens; two preachers of God’s Word; two schoolmasters; three merchants; three physicians and surgeons; eight weavers and wool combers; 12 mariners; 13 drapers; 25 widows and makers of bone; and a handful of other tradespeople.

Typical of Huguenot destinations, the Dover textile industry increased in prominence. Dover and Sandwich became particularly well known for wool combing, the process of arranging fibres so that they are parallel ready for spinning. A French church was already established in Dover by the arrival of a Flemish population in the 1640s. The Huguenot population of Dover was large enough towards the end of the 17th century to receive monies from the Civil List of William and Mary.

Dover is still a welcoming place to foreigners. The Town Council’s 2015 Statement of Welcome for Refugees declares: “People in Dover are compassionate and caring. Almost everyone has experience either firsthand or through families and friends of the challenges of living in a border town. Many who work in Dover have responsibility at the sharp end for the protection and freedom of citizens against those who wish harm to our national community but also for upholding British values of community and compassion to those in need.”

The Statement adds, “The names on Dover’s war memorial and the graves of the War Dead in Dover’s cemeteries testify to the determination of our community to protect our national freedoms and way of life even at terrible personal cost. Dover is a front line community with a proud history of welcoming those seeking safety when in fear of their lives. In 1685 French Huguenot refugees landed at Dover fleeing persecution for their religious beliefs.”

And finally, “Dover was the first town to welcome Jewish children saved from Germany before the Holocaust of the Second World War. A child coming to Dover remembers, ‘When I saw the famous cliffs of Dover, I got terribly excited. Inside me I had a feeling that a new era was about to start. I made up my mind there and then to start afresh.’ We understand that threats to our freedoms and values can be physical and support our Border Force in their duties. Dover people fought and died in the past to make sure that our community was a safe and caring and compassionate place to live and flourish. Dover people today are committed to working to make sure we remain a safe and caring and compassionate community where a warm welcome is given to refugees and all are able to live full and happy lives.”

Banker Michael Ramus used to work in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral London. “Its architecture inspired me to drive around and visit every cathedral in England!” he relates. Michael is of Huguenot descent. “Back in the days when there was a telephone directory there were only six Ramus families listed. Huguenots, especially in the south of France, were often successful lawyers and textile merchants.” He is the patron of several artists and fashion designers. There’s clearly an affinity with France. “I feel totally at home in France whether in the south of France, Paris or Granville in Normandy.” I spend so many holidays there but even when I’m yachting in the Caribbean I can spot the Parisian yachts!” Michael is carrying a cutting from the Encyclopaedia Britannica of his ancestor:

Ramus, Petrus, or Pierre de la Ramée (1515 to 1572), French humanist, was born at the village of Cuth in Picardy in 1515, a member of a noble but impoverished family; his father was a charcoal burner. Having gained admission, in a menial capacity, to the college of Navarre, he worked with his hands by day and carried on his studies by night. The reaction against scholasticism was still in full tide, and Ramus outdid his predecessors in the impetuosity of his revolt. On the occasion of taking his degree (1536) he actually took as his thesis ‘Everything that Aristotle taught is false’. This tour de force was followed up by the publication in 1543 of Aristotelicae Animadversiones and Dialecticae Partitiones, the former a criticism on the old logic and the latter a new textbook of the science.”

The extract also confirms, “Henry II made him Professor of Philosophy and Rhetoric at the Collège de France. But in 1561 he embraced Protestantism, and was compelled to flee from Paris, and in 1568 from France. But he returned before the Massacre of St Bartholomew (1572) in which he was one of the victims… The logic of Ramus enjoyed a great celebrity for a time, and there existed a school of Ramists boasting numerous adherents in France, Germany and Holland.”

Dover is awash with Georgian architecture. It’s Bath-on-Sea, Clifton-de-Mer, Canning-over-Dour. In 2014, Castle Hill House was elevated from Grade II to II* by the Secretary of State. The actress Julia Stavrietsky owns the Listed Building. She stated the Government’s letter described the building as “the grandest 18th century house in Dover”. And, “The upgrade is a reflection of it being of more than special architectural interest for its quality of composition, detailing, distinctive plan form and outstanding interior decorative features, its degree of survival, its rarity of type in Dover and its historical associations with prominent local and national figures.”

Cambridge Terrace is one of many impressive residential blocks close to the beach. Jeff Howe and Paul Wells write about it in their 2012 publication Dover Then and Now. “The buildings are Grade II Listed, being mid 19th century constructions; they are stuccoed (plastered) to the front and ends, with bare back to the rear.” A vintage photograph in the book shows Cambridge Terrace in its original unpainted state: the architecture looks so much better, less two dimensional, the patina of the material adding a warm to its appearance.

Dover is proud of its heritage as demonstrated by the number of information signs on buildings. One on hoarding outside an impressive public building reads: “The Grade I Listed Maison Dieu (or Dover Town Hall) is undergoing a £9.1m restoration project over the next few years thanks to a £4.27m grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project will see the restoration of internationally significant decorative schemes by the renowned Victorian neo Gothic architect William Burges (1827 to 1881), a new street level visitor entrance to the Connaught Hall, along with improved access throughout the building. The project creates a sustainable future for the Maison Dieu by bringing redundant spaces back into commercial use, including restoring the Mayor’s Parlour as a holiday let in conjunction with The Landmark Trust, and a unique new café in the Victorian gaol cells. Once complete in 2024 the Maison Dieu will be permanently open to the public for the first time in its 800 year history and contributing to the creation of a heritage quarter in Dover town centre.”

A sign in English and French explains the history of a petite building next door to Maison Dieu: “St Edmund’s Chapel, built in 1253, originally belonged to the Maison Dieu, which ministered to pilgrims, and was under the control of a Master appointed by St Martin’s Priory, then the most important institution in medieval Dover after the castle. A ‘Cemetery of the Poor’ had been established outside the priory and the town walls and the chape you see today was built in its grounds, probably as a Chapel of Rest. It was consecrated in 1253 by Richard, Bishop of Chichester, in the name of Edmund, a former Archbishop of Canterbury under whom Richard had first studied and who was canonised in 1246. Richard fell ill and died in the Maison Dieu only four days later. Before his body was returned to Chichester Cathedral for burial, his internal organs were removed and buried in a cist, or pit, under the chapel altar. When Richard was canonised in 1262, St Edmund’s Chapel became a place of pilgrimage in its own right. It is still the only church in existence that was dedicated to one English saint by another.”

It continues, “After the Reformation in 1534, the priory, the Maison Dieu and St Edmund’s were forced to close. The chapel was surrendered to the King in 1544. Over the years, new buildings concealed the old chapel and its sacred status was forgotten. It had many uses including, in late Victorian times, as a blacksmith’s forge. In 1943 German artillery shells demolished two nearby shops revealing the chapel building for the first time in 400 years. 1n 1965 Father Tanner, Dover’s Roman Catholic Parish Priest, arranged for both the private purchase of the chapel and its restoration, using only genuine medieval materials – at least 75 percent of the building is still original. The chapel was reconsecrated in 1968 and is now owned by a charitable trust who maintain it solely from gifts placed in the wall boxes.”

We’ve swapped the harbourside delight of Le Channel restaurant in Calais for the hillside wonder of The White Horse pub in Dover for school day lunch. A plaque beside the bar reads, “The history of The White Horse, St James Street, Dover: Said to be erected in the reign of Edward III, in 1365, the premises was occupied by the verger of St James’ Church which stood next door. With the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 the ‘house’ was no longer connected with the church. In 1574 it became home to a string of ‘Ale tasters of Dover’ residents. The White Horse had been known as ‘The City of Edinburgh’ from 1635, its name and sign having been taken from a wrecked American freighter. It became the meeting place for actors and players from the Dover Theatre in the 18th century.”

It also states, “The name changed in around 1818 when the house was frequently used for inquests, often relating to recovered bodies from the sea. These are said to have been stored in what is now part of our dining area to the rear of the property. In 1865 a Mr John Friend sold the house, along with ‘The Five Ales’. Satchell was the owner in 1881 when the property was sold again to the Kingsford Brothers for the princely sum of £870; it was described as a ‘freehold property in the Hamlet of Uphill’. Later its ownership went to George Beer who began opening at 5am in 1890 and later merged with Fremlins Brewery. Alterations to The White Horse in 1952 uncovered a programme for Dover Theatre, dated 1809, advertising Harlequin and Mother Goose. This is still displayed in the pub today.”

Dover Then and Now includes a vintage photograph of Old St James’s Church and explains, “It is thought to be one of Dover’s oldest churches and stands next door to what is probably Dover’s oldest pub, The White Horse. Almost certainly referred to in the Domesday Book, the church was of Saxon origin, although the present ruin dates from the 1100s. As well as a congregational meeting place, the church was also used by the courts of the Barons of the Cinque Ports. The Victorians decided that St James’s was too small, and New St James’s Church was built in 1860 in Maison Dieu Road.” Like a large number of buildings in the town, Old St James’s Church was mostly destroyed by World War II German bombing.

Marianne Faithfull covered Dolly Parton’s song Down from Dover in 1970. Crooning in her unmistakeable husky upper class English voice, Marianne makes it all her own. It’s as if the feckless character in the lyrics (who gets a young woman pregnant out of wedlock and deserts her) is due a visit to the southeast coast of England. Not so, Dolly wrote it about Dover, Tennessee, which when it comes to rhyming usefully has – move over Kent – fields of clover. So little time, so many photographs to be taken! The Park Inn glass house extension, Hubert Passage, St Radigund’s Road, Victoria Park, Marine Parade also known as East Cliff…

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Architecture Art Country Houses Hotels People Town Houses

Dorinda The Honourable Lady Dunleath Baroness Mulholland + Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity Downpatrick Down

Music in September

A Service of Thanksgiving was held for Dorinda Lady Dunleath in the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, Downpatrick, County Down on 28 September 2022. The Dean of Down Cathedral, The Very Reverend Henry Hull, welcomed the congregation and noted that like the late Queen, Dorinda had a Christian faith which was reflected in a lifetime of dedicated and joyful duty. He recorded how she had worshipped at Holy Trinity Church Ballywalter, St Andrew’s Church of Ireland Balligan and at times, Down Cathedral. The cathedral is high on a hill clinging to the edge of the town, clearly visible across uninterrupted countryside from Ballydugan House to the southwest.

In 1970, just three years after Dorinda co-founded the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, along with Peter Rankin and Professor Alistair Rowan she wrote and published the Society’s List of historic buildings in Downpatrick. The introduction to the cathedral’s entry is: “A church has existed here since 530 AD when St Caylan was Bishop: early in the 12th century it was occupied as a house of Regular Canons of the Order of St Augustine, superseded after 1177 by Benedictines. The Church was destroyed by an earthquake 1245; pillaged and burnt early in the 14th century by Robert Bruce; rebuilt; destroyed by the English in 1538, pillaged and burn 1539; incorporated with a chapter by Charter 1609. In the 18th century it fell into disrepair. An Act of Parliament was passed 30 April, 1790, for restoration at the instigation of the Dean, the Honourable and Reverend William Annesley, and of Wills Hill, Earl of Hillsborough, and 1st Marquis of Downshire; ready for divine service 1818; vestibule and tower added, the latter completed 1826; totally disendowed by Irish Church Act 1869.”

The Service of Thanksgiving tributes were by architectural historians and authors Professor Alistair Rowan and Dr Anthony Malcolmson. Both spoke eloquently about Dorinda’s significant contribution to charities and culture in Northern Ireland, and in particular, architectural heritage. There were plenty of anecdotes of fun times too. Professor Rowan recalled Dorinda and her husband Henry arriving in fancy dress one evening at Leixlip Castle, County Kildare. The hostess, Mariga Guinness, was surprised to greet Dorinda in Little Bo Peep attire and Henry in cartoon character costume. Somehow there had been a miscommunication: it was a formal white tie dinner.

One of the readings was Order to View by Louis MacNiece. The poet’s mother and Dorinda’s mother were cousins. The opening line is, “It was a big house, bleak.” Another reading was a verse from St John’s Gospel which includes the line, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” The organist and choirmaster Michael McCracken led Down Cathedral Choir singing In Paradisum from Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem. The Harty Quartet played three pieces: George Frideric Handel’s Le Réjouissance; Johann Sebastian Bach’s Arioso; and Edward Elgar’s Salut d’Amour.