Striking a Striking Pose
“You are so uncluttered. You are the Holly Golightly of my life.”
Breakfast at Harrods
Ever since he started pottering about in 1759, aged 29, Josiah Wedgwood’s surname has been synonymous with feats of clay. Just 11 years later the self proclaimed ‘Vase Maker General to the Universe’ wrote to his business partner Thomas Bentley about a “violent vase madness” afflicting the Anglo Irish aristos. Trust the West British to have a weakness for garniture. Americans have subsequently assumed the mantle.
The last time we dined at Harrods we were plonked on a banquette next to the late Lady Lewisham (aka Raine Spencer) sporting the grandest bouffant since Marie Antoinette. Her Ladyship was promoting Le Grand Atelier. Today it’s breakfast and launch. Generations come and generations go. Now it’s the time of the talented designer Lee Broom to shine. He’s a tastemaker and a man of taste (Kitty Fisher’s is one of his favourite London restaurants).
The stats are impressive. In less than a decade Lee has: released 75 furniture and lighting products under his own label | designed 40 commercial and residential interiors | created 20 products for other brands | opened two eponymous showrooms (London and New York) | won 20 awards including British Designer of the Year 2012 | received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2015. Having collaborated with iconic brands such as Christian Louboutin and Mulberry (he has a fashion degree from Central St Martin’s), it was only natural that Wedgwood would come knocking on his door. He may have products in 120 stores worldwide, but there’s only one Harrods (complete with Wedgwood concession).
In person, Lee is charming and polite. “I was inspired by Wedgwood’s historic black and white Jasperware,” he explains. “It already has a contemporary feel. I’ve taken the classical elements and silhouettes and stripped back the ornamentation for an even more modern look. I love the charcoal colour and biscuit texture of Jasperware which I’ve injected with neon high gloss details!” Priced from £7,500 to £12,000, the bowl and vases are handcrafted in Wedgwood’s Stoke-on-Trent factory. Josiah would approve.
We Shall Have A Ball
It’s been a quarter of a century since our last visit. But still there’s an air of inevitability about it. A case of when, not if. Indulging in afternoon tea at Britain’s most expensive hotel (not forgetting the 15 percent tip), that is. Lavender’s Blue intern Annabel P rocks up wearing half a diamond quarry’s worth of rocks. More (late) breakfast with Tiffany’s than Breakfast at Tiffany’s. All in a day’s work.
Storming past the trompe l’oeiled reception and faux tented lobby, we take
on in the tiered Céleste at The Lanesborough, a glazed roofed internal pavilion looking heavenwards. It’s Wedgwood blue now. A jasperware temple. Regency, just like the building. Last time round, the wildly eclectic gothiental Conservatory as it was then called was flamingo pink. Sometime in between, lurking here for four years was a greyish art decoesque intruder named Apsleys. The hotel has changed hands as well as hand painted wallpaper, but is still Middle Eastern owned. Once Rosewood managed, Oetker Collection has adopted it as an English half sister to Le Bristol Paris.
Christian our sommelier ensures Blenheim Palace Sparkling Natural Mineral Water is on tap. Always glad to support enterprising duchesses. Egg mayo with celeriac sandwiches are a particular hit. Even trumping the cucumber and mint. Although not quite up there with sketch Mayfair’s fried quail’s egg sandwiches (zany has a new). Dominik our waiter refills the plate. Oh! We’ve spotted another firm favourite. No, not the (mother’s) Ruinart. Caviar. Maybe not on the same scale as That Lunch at Comme Chez Soi but an effective enough Russian invasion of the Scottish salmon sandwiches.
A careless magpie’s droppings of edible gold and silver leaf are liberally sprinkled across afternoon tea, even landing in the clotted Devonshire cream. We skip the lemon curd for strawberry preserve on the freshly baked scones (enveloped in pristine linen) but yearn for coloured sugar crystals (a dead cert at Marlfield House) to melt in the coffee. Although technically this is afternoon tea. Pastry chef Nicholas Rouzaud’s celestial array of hazelnut, caramel, chocolate and lemon meringue fantasies arrive. They quickly do a Lord Lucan.
In another quarter of a century a Victorian revival will be due. Brown will be the new black. Or at least the new greige. Expect heavy oak panelling, heavier drapes (again) and half a dead zoo’s worth of taxidermy in the revamped Céleste. It will be renamed Charlotte at The Lanesborough in honour of our newly married princess.
The Violet Hour + Astrid Bray
General Manager of the Grosvenor House Apartments by Jumeirah Living, Astrid joined Jumeirah Group as Director of Business Development for Jumeirah Carlton Tower and Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel before taking up her present role in 2012. Astrid’s high flying career has given her unrivalled knowledge of the international hospitality sector. She talks exclusively to Lavender’s Blue about her favourite things from – where else? – the largest all suite luxury accommodation in super prime London.
My Favourite London Hotel… Well, where we are sitting, my own of course! However if I am in traditional mood there is something rather special about walking into Claridge’s. But have you seen the secret garden at Number 16? I love sitting outside having a glass of rosé there in the summertime.
My Favourite Local Restaurant… It has to be The Fulham Wine Rooms. They have a great charcuterie with awesome wines as well as a proper restaurant. They get it right! I’ve regularly dined there since it opened a couple of years ago. You can choose wines to taste from a wall of wine bottles. The team are so well informed too.
My Favourite Country House… The Pig, in the New Forest. You can dress up or down, put on your wellies, sink into the most comfy sofas, just relax. It really feels like your home from home. The food is great – they even have their own forager.
My Favourite Building… The Chrysler Building in New York City. It’s magical. Such a stunning art deco building. I once stayed in a suite in the Waldorf Towers with windows framing a perfect view of the Chrysler Building.
My Favourite Film… Breakfast at Tiffany’s – pure magic. Truman Capote was so off the wall! Who else could invent a character like Holly Golightly? Perfection! The cinematography is absolutely brilliant.
My Favourite TV Series… Grey’s Anatomy – there is something about a surgeon!
My Favourite Play… M Butterfly. Not to be confused with Madame Butterfly, this play by David Henry Hwang is loosely based on the relationship between French diplomat Bernard Boursciot and Shi Pei Pu, a Peking male opera singer. I saw it in 1989 in the Shaftesbury Theatre in London – the pathos was mesmerising. Anthony Hopkins was electric in it. That was of course in his pre Hannibal days.
My Favourite Opera… Madame Butterfly. I weep every time…
My Favourite Artist… Monet. In 2007 I was invited by the director of MOMA to visit the Monet show in New York at 7.30 in the morning. One huge room full of Monet – and me! It was the ultimate private view.
My Favourite London Shop… Peter Jones – what would I do without it? It has everything! Where else is there?
My Favourite Scent… Chanel Beige.
My Favourite Fashion Designer… Louise Kennedy. She has an atelier on Merrion Square in Dublin but I discovered her shop in Belgravia near where I used to work. Her clothes possess timeless elegance. They have the flexibility of being off the peg but then they are tailored to fit.
My Favourite Charity… Age UK Hammersmith and Fulham. It is inspirational. Charity is more than just giving money. We’re cooking Christmas lunch for the aged at my hotel. We’ve guaranteed to raise funds to pay for tax and insurance for their minibus for the next three years. It’s so important to support a local charity.
My Favourite Pastime… Time spent with my fabulous little family.
My Favourite Thing… Flowers.