Categories
Art Design Hotels Luxury People Restaurants

Eric Lanlard + Cake Boy Battersea London

Sweet Things Are Made of These  

“I can’t wait to reopen the seating area outside,” says Eric Lanlard, his voice still rich with the timbre of Brittany. We’re in Cake Boy, his café lounge school next to the River Thames in Battersea. The Master Pâtissier and Chef is standing under a halo of lights beside a mouth watering cascade of tartes aux fruit, entremets framboise, pralines and tartes paysannes. “My favourite dessert in the world is tarte tatin – piping hot from the oven with crème fraiche on the side!” he shares. Eric moved from Plomelin in northwestern France to London 32 years ago to work for restaurateurs Albert and Michel Roux, becoming their Head Pastry Chef within a couple of years. He opened Cake Boy in 1995. Ever since, the Garçon de Gâteau has been busy as a global baking ambassador for the likes of Marriott International and Virgin Atlantic in between keeping it sweet by publishing books.

It’s time to take a trip down memory lane, an eight year trip back to a promotion in Knightsbridge… Here goes… Now that London Fashion Week is over, we can all breathe out. Nothing tastes as good as chocolate, so we’re off to experience the Montezuma Afternoon Tea at Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel. The hotel building is looking well for 50. Once the gangly new kid on the block, all Sixties bravura, it has matured (with the help of a subtle facelift) into something altogether more refined. The address is not so much golden postcode as golden place: Cadogan. Jumeirah Carlton Tower is off Sloane Street, home of the Rangers, between Candy + Candy’s One Hyde Park and the only road in London to have an architectural style named after it (Pont Street, keep up). Nearby is of course King’s Road, foodie paradise (Duke of York Square market) and shopping heaven (from Partridges to Peter Jones).

Afternoon tea, really an excuse to indulge between official meals, is high up the list of sybaritic Must Dos. Chinoiserie at JCT lives up to its name. Bedecked with hand painted Chinese wallpaper and gold leaf galore, the lounge is thronged with an army of cheongsam clad waitresses at our beck and call. We half expect Fan Bingbing to sweep through the revolving doors. Instead, the flame haired resident harpist provides a sense of serenity for the American, Saudi and English Isabel Marant clad guests. A glass of Champagne accompanies fresh strawberries before the menu goes choc-a-bloc in a celebration of its cocoa theme (Montezuma was the last Aztec king and a bit of a chocolate fiend). We order a Darjeeling and (Lady Grantham wouldn’t approve) a coffee.

One of the many joys of afternoon tea is having your cake and eating it in whatever order you desire. For the purposes of this review, we will stick to the order of the menu. Cocoa dusted (a taste of what’s to come) croissants with chorizo and Elemental provide a comforting intro. The sweet meets savoury theme makes its surprising, sensual, debut with a rich curried crab tart topped by white chocolate. A heart shaped white chocolate and parmesan palmier is hard not to love. Another unlikely yet successful marriage is chocolate macaroon with venison. For pescatarians, there’s the opportunity to order off menu, so cucumber and mayo sandwich is a traditional alternative. Back on menu, the cassis imperial chocolate cupcake is a fine dark mousse with balsamic blackcurrants filling an edible chocolate case. A sprinkling of pearls completes this sultry indulgence.

To cleanse the palate, a conquistador shot is an inspired layered composition of passion fruit, white chocolate with basil seeds and coconut jelly. Mission complete. Caraque spicy chocolate tart with popping candy features a pistachio wafer as delicate and colourful as the Chinese wallpaper. Dark mini chocolate caramel loaf filled with liquid salted butter, sweet food in savoury form, provides a jubilant succulent extravagant finale, for now, to cocoa. After this exotically original South American tour de taste, familiar British comfort returns in the form of (Lady Grantham would approve) scones with clotted cream and fruit preserve. Throughout this autumn, the general public can get tarted up and enjoy Eric Lanlard’s Montezuma Afternoon Tea. It costs £40 per person; £50 includes the Champers; for £55, the strawberries are added. The service is great, friendly staff who are more than adept at catching eye contact; a Coutts (of course) bank machine outside the hotel comes in handy for withdrawing tenners for tips.

Categories
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

Categories
Architects Architecture Art Country Houses Design Luxury People

David Linley + Highclere Castle Hampshire

Inside the Box

2 Linley © Stuart Blakley

Thanks to a certain Sunday evening wind down from the wild weekend historisoap, Highclere Castle is as recognisable as the Houses of Parliament. Golden Bath stone Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite pilasters framing corner turrets ascend to a parapet – a tumultuous riot of strapwork, tracery, heraldry, pinnacles, plaques, coronets, colonettes, rosettes and finials. Jacobethanaissance architecture with Perpendicoco interiors. Handiwork of Sir Charles Barry, circa 1840.

A drawer in an upper floor of the V+A contains a perspective drawing commissioned by the architect to show his client Lord Grantham Carnarvon how the redesigned castle would look. It was originally displayed at the Royal Academy. Who says artists’ impressions and exhibitions are recent tools of self promotion for savvy architects? Architectural models are another tool. British design company Linley has developed expertise in creating scaled down versions of buildings – with a twist. They are functional, whether a humidor, bureau or writing desk. Robert Smythson meets Frank Smythson.

Linley Highclere Castle © Stuart Blakley

Mavisbank, Monticello, Monte Carlo Casino, Marino Casino. The latter a miniature in wood of a miniature in stone. Chairman David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley, son of the late Princess Margaret, nephew of the Queen, drops his title and abbreviates his name to David Linley in business. “Something of lasting value is most important,” he says, “beautifully made with the best possible materials. We search out wonderful woods.” Accuracy derives from photographs, drawings, surveys and even aerial views from helicopters.

Highclere Castle is the latest building to receive the Linley treatment. Honey I shrunk the treasure house. It’s a jewellery box. Constructed of maple, 11,000 individual pieces of marquetry have been meticulously selected and pieced together by highly skilled craftsmen. This architectural box, lined in faux suede, has three main drawers plus a trademark secret drawer. Costs £65,000, price of a car or parking space.

At Lavender’s Blue we’re good with colour. So is Linley. Upmarket London shops must have their signature colour. Liberty: regal purple; Selfridges: canary yellow; Harrods: Pantone 574c greenLinley: aquamarine blue. David says, “We needed a striking colour to stand out cause, in a senses, the logo needs to be something you can see from far away… so that when you see a bag being carried down a street you know it’s that colour. Therefore it must be Linley. It’s rather nice when you see one – oh, that bag’s come out of the shop.”

1 Linley © Stuart Blakley

Categories
People

The Violet Hour + Janice Porter

Janice Porter © lvbmag.com

Animal rights campaigner, charity fundraiser and children’s councillor Janice Porter on her favourite things. Living in rural Ireland allows her to indulge in country pursuits while frequent city jaunts ensure she keeps her wardrobe well stocked. Lavender’s Blue catches up with Janice in a rare spare slot of her hectic schedule juggling committee meetings, coordinating volunteers and saving animals (10,000 so far and counting). The setting: her rambling country house.

My Favourite London Hotel… Park Plaza Westminster Bridge. The vegetarian breakfast is the best in the capital and I love the club lounge with its views across the Thames towards Big Ben. Dukes Hotel is high up my list as well. It’s so discrete and elegant.

My Favourite London Restaurant… The Wolseley. It has the right combination of atmosphere, food, service and a great location for a night out in London.

My Favourite Omagh Restaurant…  The dining room of Tullylagan House. Beautiful surroundings for an evening meal. The Suitor Gallery at Ballygawley does the best cinnamon scones around.

My favourite Weekend Destination… London of course! Like Dr Johnson, I never tire of the city.

My Favourite Holiday Destination… Guernsey – I regularly visit the island. It has great coastal walks and St Peter Port is my ideal town. Afternoon tea by the pool at Longueville Manor is one of life’s pleasures.

My Favourite Country House… Drishane House. I studied the literary works of Somerville and Ross for my degree in English and this was their home in West Cork. In 1996 I had a memorable private tour of it. The house is so atmospheric – descendents of the writers still live there.

My Favourite Building… The Lanyon Building. I studied at Queen’s University Belfast and the Lanyon Building is its flagship piece of architecture. With its distinctive collegiate appearance it has long gained iconic status in Belfast.

My Favourite Novel… I’m an avid reader and enjoy autobiographies and biographies as well as novels by Molly Keane and Maeve Binchy. My all time favourite novel though is Wuthering Heights.

My Favourite Film… Pretty Woman. I watched the film in Spain when it first came out. Julia Roberts and Richard Gere have such strong screen chemistry.

My Favourite TV Series… Downton Abbey. Maggie Smith is quite simply hilarious and I love the plots even if there is the occasional slip of authenticity! Julian Fellowes is a very talented screenwriter.

My Favourite Actor… Bill Nighy, especially in Love Actually and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I love his nonchalant manner and unique voice.

My Favourite Play… Macbeth. It’s amazing how a play which is nearly half a millennium old can still be so pertinent today.

My Favourite Opera… Carmen is magical. I love The Phantom of the Opera. Does it count?

My Favourite Artist… Renoir. His paintings never fail to have a calming effect on me.

My Favourite London Shop… Lizzie’s off Northcote Road. It is a small boutique selling one-of-a-kind clothes and handmade items for the home. I never come out empty handed.

My Favourite Scent… Stella by Stella McCartney.

My Favourite Fashion Designer… I frequently treat myself to Louis Vuitton bags. You have to pamper yourself!

My Favourite Charity… Grovehill Animal Trust. I am Vice Chairman of the Trust and we have just purchased new premises for the expanding charity.

My Favourite Pastime… Walking through the countryside around where I live with my four canine companions.

My Favourite Thing… Brown Hunter Wellies.