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Hotels Luxury People

The Gore Hotel Kensington London + Christian Dior

A Half Century | It is Cricket

What’s the story? A Royal Equerry. Raine Spencer’s best friend. An Al Fayad family friend. Two Lulu Guinness handbag hugging hoteliers. A pair of Cavani clad models. The couple who brought Shigeru Ban to Britain. What’s the collective noun for art dealers and architectural historians? A talent of…?  The Mayor’s right hand woman. A man of the cloth. And an engineer. New York, New Zealand, Long Beach, London and Coneywarren’s finest have congregated at The Gore’s 190 Bar for cocktails, canapés and craic. Frivolity between the solemnity of Bach’s Passion of St John (St Paul’s Cathedral) and Handel’s Messiah (Royal Albert Hall). Everyone’s dressed up with somewhere to go: the V+A’s Christian Dior show. Our lips are as sealed as a Man Ray painting. Except to say, turning 50 is good innings.

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Hotels Luxury Restaurants

Hôtel Plaza Athénée Paris + La Cour Jardin

Up and About in Paris and London | Garden of Eatin’ 

We fill the lacuna 

Lunch where? Paris. C’est le weekend. We’re Ivy’d out midweek although the Soho and Tower Bridge Brasseries’ zucchini fritti and truffle arancini are highly addictive. We’ve been wild about the Century Club’s wild mushroom burger. Hôtel Plaza Athénée Paris. Bows and bows of balconies along Avenue Montaigne. Next door to Christian Dior’s original couture house. The dress code for La Cour Jardin – the hôtel’s exclusive courtyard restaurant – is “elegant”. Ah bien. It’s cheek to high cheekbone with models. Martinets or marionettes? Ask Webb’s Road resident runway veteran Simon Duke. Poppy red parasols like oversized cocktail umbrellas keep the wrinklies wrinkles at bay. Virginia creeper clambering up the stone walls, smart trellis chairs among olive trees and acres of linen tablecloth… really the whole place simply oozes Parisian sophistication. The century old courtyard has been pimped and pruned to perfection by designer Bruno Moinard, displaying a talent for resonant juxtaposition. So this season.

We live off our acuity and salutary reminders

More mirrors than Versailles; more columns than the Coliseum; more pizzazz than Versace: this is the new luxury. Friday Street. Field of freedom. Earned ease. En plein air. A galaxy of culinary stars has aligned to make this restaurant happen. We’re star struck. Le grand fromage himself Alain Ducasse hooked up with Lawrence Aboucaya, owner of legendary Parisian vegetarian restaurant Pousse-Pousse, to concoct a homage to high energy menu. Under the watchful eye of Head Chef Mathieu Emeraud, the menu is fashionably divided into The Garden | The Classics | The Sea + The Shoreline | The Land + The Farm | The Herbs Garden | The Desserts. Just in case you miss the celebrity connection, there’s Alain Ducasse’s own brand champagne and the menu cover features an 18th century botanical watercolour from his personal collection.

We spend our years as a tale that is told

Sicilian olive oil accompanies randomly zoomorphic bread rolls, hatching out of folded linen baskets like long beaked ducklings. Artichoke and lemon risotto (€36.00) possesses all the freshness of The Garden. Tomato and pepper amuse bouche matches the red awnings. So does the John Dory, dusted with tomato and fennel (€58.00). Wide brimmed plates generously frame the food. Strawberry and almond (€22.00) come with madeleine on the side. And as an encore, orange and something petit fours. Chef Pâtissier Exécutif Angelo Musa’s efforts might expand waists by a few millimetres, but everyone’s so worth it. The proof is in the pudding. Delish! Us! Service is seamless. Doors magically open, The New York Times deftly appears: minimum fuss, maximum attention. Rooms range from €990 (single) to €28,000 (party time).

Wonders unto many, we are magnified and tainted by elegiac projection, poignancy and beauty

The sommelier arrives to explain the wine we aren’t ordering. Côte de Nuits 2000 (Richebourg) and Côte de Beaune 1999 (Corton Les Renardes). Both vins rouge, both Domaine Leroy, both €5,800. The wines are: “A perfect balance of acidity, alcohol, tonic and flavour. They have a controlled, perfect constitution.” We go for the more modestly priced €12 Saint Galmier Badoit Finement Pétillante 1778 (naturally carbonated water, to you). Good for catwalk silhouettes. An early autumnal breeze gently ripples through the courtyard. C’est la vie. La Cour Jardin: such seductiveness; an air kiss; make it a French kiss; a momentary embrace; a dalliance to the music of time. Dynamic magnetised moments. Life’s marginalia. Mise en Seine.

We are not your nebulous want 

Dinner in London? What gives? Let’s do The Arts Club again. Hold the front page! Newspapers: today’s headlines; tomorrow’s cat litter. Business and pleasure handsomely combine at a private dinner with former Cabinet Minister and Chief Whip the Right Honourable Andrew Mitchell MP in the very non plebish Ante Room. Sharing plates can be terribly irksome but it does mean enjoying three puddings or at least dipping spoons in three puddings. Tout suite. Ever dedicated to a story arc, the wine is French de rigueur. Vermentino 2015 (Domaine des Yeuses, Vin de Pays d’Oc) and Légende de Lafite 2015 (Baron de Rothschild, Bordeaux). La vie en rosé. Not so good for catwalk silhouettes. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

  • Starters: green bean and artichoke salad | Caesar salad | prawn cocktail | Applewood smoked salmon with honey mustard dressing
  • Main: grilled seabass, marinated aubergine and tomato
  • Sides: creamed spinach | gratin dauphinois | glazed carrots
  • Puddings: baked cheesecake with cassis sauce and berries | banana sticky toffee pudding | strawberry tart

We are the chosen ones

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Architecture Art Design Luxury People Restaurants Town Houses

Clea Irving + sketch Mayfair London

A Play on Words

Sketch Mayfair Parlour Ceiling © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

sketch, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is, “A rough or unfinished drawing or painting, often made to assist in making a more finished picture.” Or, “A rough or unfinished version of any creative work.” Or, “A brief written or spoken account or description, giving only basic details.” Or, “A short humorous play or performance, consisting typically of one scene in a comedy programme.” Or, “A comical or amusing person or thing.” sketch is also Mayfair’s most up for it eatery with so much art and music it’s institution as installation. If art makes what was not there before, sketch creates what was lacking.

Sketch

“Over 50 artists are represented here,” relates the beautiful Art Curator, Clea Irving, gazing at Annabel Karim Kassar’s Trophée Stag Light, Mark Lawson’s Bell Ash Tray, Ron Gilad’s Dear Igo Spider Lamp. Names, names. “My job is curating, assisting artists – sourcing plates!” she laughs. A conduit. Melbourne born UCLA educated Clea also arranges Sunday evening art classes in the Parlour from life drawing to lessons on design. The salon reborn. “It’s a Grade II listed house. It was previously the home of a balloonist, suffragettes, occupied for a spell by Dior, then RIBA. We’ve 190 staff but no elevator, just the original staircase. As the bar is being cleared at 4am, the pastry chef arrives. We’re 24 hours, front of house, back of house. It’s a little bit Downton Abbey.”

Sketch Martin Creed Gallery © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Glade is a verdant decadent fecund indoor garden brimming with 1950s French rattan furniture. “It was dreamt up by partners slash life partners Carolyn Quartermaine and Didier Mahieu, both artists,” explains Clea. “An enchanted fairy tale forest in central London. A postcard provided inspiration for the découpage walls.” Mrs Delaney on weed. The Gallery, a colourful cavernous cacophony by Turner Prize winner Martin Creed, is about to be revamped, given a rollercoasting makeover by Turner Prize nominee David Shrigley. Both downstairs restaurants serve Viennoiseries and afternoon tea with Dubonnet and Gin, the Queen’s favourite tipple. The menu is decorated with images from the 1902 Sears Roebuck catalogue.

“Restaurateur Mourad Mazouz oversees the interiors,” explains Clea, “And master chef Pierre Gagnaire looks after all the restaurants including the two Michelin star Lecture Room and Library upstairs. The interiors personify Mourad’s style and taste, his sense of humour. They’re purposely over ornamental, over the top, exuberant, playful, funny, tongue-in-cheek, about performance. Unlike Christo and Jeanne-Claude revelation through concealment, sketch’s décor is extrovert!” A barrel vaulted coffered kaleidoscope, a translucent tectonic Teutonic tartan, hovers over a pale monochromatic moonscape. Enigmatic eggs, USOs (Unidentified Stationary Objects), hatch humans (completely out of the loo). Blue steps for boys; red steps for gals.

JP Eating Afternoon Tea at sketch © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

She suggests, “People like to feel intimate when fine dining. Even though there are 46 covers in the Lecture Room and Library, the padded walls create that effect, softening the acoustics, adding ambiance.” Designed by South African born London based Gabhan O’Keeffe, burnt amber upholstery merrily zigzags across carpets and chairs, a marble Adam fireplace adding a moment of sobriety. Found and reflected objects fuse to become an eclectic whole. The restaurant as gallery, the Gallery as restaurant. Visual stimulation for digestion. “London’s where it’s all happening. There’s access to the best history, teachers, media. We’ve five of the best art schools in the world: Central St Martin’sCourtauld, Goldsmiths, RCA, Slade.” And with that, Clea finishes filling in the outline of sketch. The picture is complete.

Easter at sketch London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley