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.
Chelsea Harbour, all seven hectares of it, is a defining development of late 20th century London. Despite its Thameside location, the former industrial site had been poorly connected and blighted by infrastructure proposals. Architect Ray Moxley of Moxley + Jenner won a competition organised by landowner British Railways Property Board to design a mixed use scheme. “It seemed obvious to excavate the old harbour, rebuild the lock, repair the walls and form a new yacht harbour,” Ray remembered. “Harbours are always pleasant to watch and enjoy and property values are higher on the waterfront.” Honfleur provided inspiration. That town in northern France has houses and shops and bars and studios grouped around a lock on the mouth of the River Seine.
The triple level penthouse of The Belvedere merited its own brochure in the original marketing of Chelsea Harbour. Designed by Mary Fox Linton, the “interior of contrasts” included Seguso urns in the entrance hall and Hurel furniture in the reception room. “Fine views of the Thames on one side and upstream towards Richmond on the other” were rightfully recorded. The kitchen was fitted out by Bulthaup and the “warm intimate” guest bedroom had an Alvar Aalto table and 18th century chairs. Apropos to a flagship scheme, Ms Linton’s rejected chintz for eclectic minimalism.
Grouping is key to Chelsea Harbour’s aura of containment. The marina is tightly ringed by the hotel, Chelsea Harbour Design Centre and apartment blocks. Ray’s genius was to create a sense of place. The tallest apartment block, the 20 storey Belvedere, next to where the marina flows into the river, is topped by a whimsical witch’s hat roof. A maquette version of this roof tops the security pagoda entrance to Chelsea Harbour. Ray excelled at roofscapes sculpting a cornucopia of pyramids, swan necked pediments and mansards.
The architect was also adept at architectural playfulness, from reinterpreted Trafalgar balconies to oversized industrial metal window frames. The Design Centre is lit by tall glazed domes, ogee roofed conservatories and outsized neo Georgian windows topped by fanlights. Chunky columns and bulky balustrades add to the sense of gargantuan scale. Ray Moxley died in 2014 aged 91. Architectural practice APT is now encasing more of the original mall in glass to form an internal street. Lead architect Robin Partington enthuses, “We have the best jobs in the world. It’s all about curating, whether designing the interiors of an office development or masterplanning a scheme.”
Chelsea Harbour Hotel is shaped like half a butterfly, with two wings hugging the marina in an architectural embrace. The top of the tips of the wings culminate in oriels in the sky. Undulating waves of balconies swirl and curl their way across the elevations. The hotel looks like a grounded ocean liner. Earl Snowdon’s eatery Deals, which he launched in 1988 with his cousin Lord Lichfield, may have long gone but there’s always Chelsea Riverside Brasserie on the raised ground floor of the hotel. And yes, the view lives up to its name. The Canteen is also confined to history and memory. Its à la carte menu for October 1997 priced starters (featuring frivolity of smoked salmon and caviar) from £6.95 to £8.50 and mains (such as escalope of salmon with stir fried Asian greens, ginger and soya dressing) were all £12.95. These days, Chelsea Harbour Hotel room suite service caters for midnight munchies. Hand dived scallop ceviche at 2am? Yes please. Chelsea Harbour Hotel is the only all suite five star hotel in London.
The cruise ship inspiration wasn’t just confined to the exterior: it flowed indoors too. “David Hicks designed the hotel interiors in 1993,” explains Astrid. “It was all about a ship. He believed, ‘Themes are always intriguing.’ The mezzanine stairs were modelled on a cruise liner. The ground floor meeting room was called The Compass Rose. There were lots of blues and light ash wood in the interiors.” It was a real era catcher. One of David’s best known earlier works was his colourful revamp of Baronscourt, the Duke and Duchess of Abercorn’s seat in County Tyrone. Wallpaper by his designer son Ashley Hicks is for sale in Chelsea Harbour Design Centre.
Chelsea Harbour is the private members’ club of the marina world with a record breaking six year minimum waiting list. The luckily berthed include: Achill Sound; Ariadne; Christanian II: Ella Rose; Esperance; Honey Rider; and (guess which actor’s?) The Italian Job. A four bedroom Lamoure yacht is currently for sale at £249,000. Back on dry land, the range of properties on the 2020 market include: a two bedroom duplex penthouse (92 square metres) in Carlyle Court for £1,000,000 | a two bedroom third floor apartment (90 square metres) in King’s Quay for £1,200,000 | a two bedroom duplex penthouse (112 square metres) in Carlyle Court for £1,250,000 | a three bedroom 14th floor apartment (194 square metres) in The Belvedere for £3,200,000 | a four bedroom ninth floor apartment (186 square metres) in The Belvedere for £3,300,000. Splashing the cash is one sure way to make a visit permanent.
So, 50 is the new brasserie. After a nine month rework, our favourite Chelsea haunt is up and running again. Sprinting even. It came at a price: a cool £3 million. Money well spent though: Lambart + Browne (Founding Directors Freddy van Zevenbergen and Tom Browning are from the school of Nicky Haslam) have created interiors that are at once luxurious and relaxing. Let’s start with the spacious upstairs drawing room. That’s where we’re ushered for pre drinks to meet Maître d’ David Gjytetza on the last evening of summer. It’s like being at a house party – if you’ve friends who own a Georgian property overlooking the Thames. All five tall windows are gracefully dressed. It’s clearly not curtains for curtains: significant drapes are joined by Roman blinds and generous pelmets. There are plenty of Nickyesque touches: curly edged bookshelves, squashy sofas, tweedy cushions, a host of antiqued mirrors (through a glass, darkly). The drawing room meshes highbrow bibliophilia with talented mixology: it’s somewhere to slake your thirst with a Garden of Eden Cocktail (Wolfschmidt Kummel, Champagne, apple and lavender shrub) while browsing The Collected Works of Robert Louis Stevenson. Such reserve, such reticence.
In contrast, the intimate first floor cocktail bar is Chinoiserie red with midnight blue satin highlights. Such boldness, such sexiness. Drummonds sanitaryware is the ultimate sophistication signifier in the bathroom. The centuries old tradition of distractingly saucy cartoons of racy girls hanging on the walls is upheld. Downstairs, leather banquettes and stripy snug chairs are made for decadent dinners and languid lunches in the restaurant. Chandeliers with 50 shades radiate a soft glow. Such elegance, such comfort. General Manager Benoit Auneau joins us for a chat. Gosh, this place is friendlier than ever. The building was once a pub and it still feels like a local. A very upmarket local. “Cheyne is my baby,” says Benoit. “I’ve been here a long time.”
Owner Sally Greene (who’s also proprietor of Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho and The Old Vic Theatre in Waterloo) lives nearby on Cheyne Walk in a house with a Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll designed garden. Splendid. Sally opened Cheyne Walk Brasserie in 2004 to great aplomb; its relaunch has gone and upped the aplomb. She says, “My passion is creativity. My passion is looking for opportunities and just going for them.” During dinner, David tells us, “The split of guests is roughly 60 to 40 residents to visitors. We get people coming from Blakes Hotel and Chelsea Harbour Hotel too.” There are a few modelly types as well tonight. It’s a terrific British menu focused round the wood fire grill. We choose the scallops starter. Unusually, they’re served cold in a cucumber soup. Such flavour, such joy. Stuffed courgette flowers with aubergine caviar for main is a sumptuous artistic composition. Classic St Véran keeps things lively.
Al Ben Accotto, 58 Fulham Road… “plain walls, Venetian lanterns overhead”… “the crème brûlée is a triumph”
Alvaro, 124 King’s Road… “genuine, small Italian restaurant”… “octopus with spinach in chilli sauce is delicious”
Au Bon Accueil, 27 Elystan Road… “small, pretty, cheerful Chelsea restaurant”… “vegetables are prepared with originality”
Brompton Grill, 243 Brompton Road… “patterned wallpaper surrounds, pink tinged mirrors engraved with clouds”… “unforgettable tartare sauce on fried scallops”
Le Carrousse, 19 to 21 Elystan Street…“The original decorator was David Hicks; the original owner, Geoffrey Sharp”… “miraculously unrubbery escargots”
The Casserole, 338 King’s Road… “trendy Chelsea King’s Road atmosphere”… “avocado filled with cottage cheese, walnuts and celery”
La Chaumière, 104 Draycott Avenue… “the most expensive bistro in London”… “the entrée is served with baked potatoes and salads”
Chelsea Rendezvous, 4c Sydney Street… “white painted brick walls, a profusion of fresh plants and paintings by Brian McMinn”… “fried seaweed is a delicious addition”
Daphne’s, 122 Draycott Avenue… “plush banquettes, gilt framed pictures and subdued lighting”… “Elizabeth Shaw chocolate crisps are served with good coffee”
Don Luigi, 330 King’s Road… “modern prints hang on clean white walls”… “Scampi Don Luigi is a speciality”
Meridiana, 169 Fulham Road… “the dining room itself is bright, airy, spacious, clean and bustling”… “pasta is excellent”
Minotaur, Chelsea Cloisters, Sloane Avenue… “quiet, cool and spacious atmosphere of a hotel dining room”… “fresh vegetables are imaginatively prepared”
Parkes, 5 Beauchamp Place… “bright coloured banquettes line the dining room walls”… “artichoke hearts in mustard soup is a delicious starter”
La Parra, 163 Draycott Avenue… “darkly atmospheric in spite of white rough plaster walls and almost cloister-like Spanish arches”… “vegetables are seasonal and well prepared”
Poissonnerie de l’Avenue, 82 Sloane Avenue… “long red carpet, long polished mahogany bar, wood panelled walls, cut velvet banquettes”… “scampi flavoured with Pernod on pilaff rice is perfect if you like the idea of that combination”
San Frediano, 62 Fulham Road… “one of the most popular of Chelsea’s trattorias”… “salads are fresh”
San Lorenzo, 22 Beauchamp Place… “so popular is Lorenzo at lunchtime that it’s very hard to get in”… “in summer the favourite way to begin a meal is with either Mozzarella or Creolla salads”
San Martino, 103 Walton Street… “an attractive restaurant with a happy, bustling atmosphere”… “salads are drowned in dressing”
Sans Souci, 68 Royal Hospital Road… “the single long room has banquette seats down each side”… “salad dressings are, as the sauces, very very good”
Trojan Horse, 3 Milner Street… “freshly decorated in bright nurseryh red and blue with a few amphoras on door lintels”… “the rice is excellent and sauces are well blended”
235 Kings, 235 King’s Road… “one of Chelsea’s most popular and trendy restaurants”… “vegetables are nicely undercooked”
Waltons, 121 Walton Street… “Louis XV chairs, stainless steel chairs, and even a beautiful canopied sofa at a table for six”… “soups are wonderful, especially one of fennel and courgettes”
Iain is a protégé of celebrity chef Jason Atherton. He previously worked at Social Eating House Soho and The London Edition Hotel Fitzrovia. “I’ve found my home here!” he enthuses. His interview was cooking a 14 course meal sampled by Sally. “One of my greatest challenges was to win over regulars as this was already an established restaurant.” That challenge has been met and surpassed: “Our 100 covers are full almost every night!” The salmon tartare with avocado starter is a new cold delight. Another aubergine main, this time stuffed with piperade quinoa, proves Iain knows his onions – and fruit. We’re crème brûlée connoisseurs so on both recent visits pudding is an easy choice, especially when served with Russet apple compote and lemon sorbet. “It’s comfort food taken to a new level,” is how Iain describes his cooking. Can this Chelsea destination get any better? “We’re adding a private dining room for 30 to 40 people,” reveals David. Even better.
Cothay Manor, a star of Country House Rescue, is revisited by Postgraduate Diploma in Architectural Interior Design student Hermione Russell. Ever since her History of Art BA, Hermione has focused on country house architecture. “I’ve reimagined Cothay Manor, which dates from the 1400s, as a bed and breakfast in the countryside. I wanted to instil a sense of belonging into the interiors,” she explains. “I’ve sandblasted the beams of the low ceilings to make spaces appear more airy.” Her drawings reveal a contemporary reinterpretation of Edwardian notions of sweetness and light. Think Lutyens at Knebworth or later Aileen Plunket at Luttrellstown Castle. “The bedrooms are named after wild flowers,” says Hermione, carrying on a country house tradition. Take Dundarave, Northern Ireland’s finest estate on the market. It sticks to colours for the names of the seven principal bedrooms. The Blue Room, Pink Room, Green Room, Yellow Room, Red Room, Brown Room, Bird Room (which begs the question what hue is the plumage?). The 12 secondary bedrooms remain anonymous.
From the great indoors to the great outdoors. Postgraduate Diploma in Garden Design student Anastasia Voloshko’s exhibition is entitled Seam Maze Limassol Promenade. “Limassol is Cyprus’s most international city,” says Anastasia who has also studied interior design. “It’s a crossroads of different cultures and languages. My concept was to use the spectacular background of the sea and translate its deep mystery onto the land.” An organic flow of contours and materials emerges, connecting the rocky shore to the modern city. Again, a reinterpretation of traditional forms – a rock garden, pool, box hedging – creates a refreshed language, a new geometry for our times. “I am inspired by many things,” she ponders. “A nice mood, the sky, a song, a painting… sometimes my best ideas come out of nowhere!”
Two very different projects. Two very different voices. Yet both Hermione and Anastasia tell us, “Going to Inchbald was the best professional decision of my life!” Inchbald School of Design continues to equip new generations of graduates with the skills to create houses for gardens and gardens for houses and places for people.