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Architecture Art Design Hotels Luxury People Restaurants

The Berkeley Hotel Knightsbridge London + Breakfast

Apsley Fabulous

Lavender’s Blue. Some colours are legendary. And others become synonymous with places. The Blue Bar is always The Berkeley Hotel. The hangout of the bold and brilliant and beautiful down from Apsley House. Every era has one. A London fine dining defining interior designer. Currently, it’s Martin Brudnizki. At the end of last century, no restaurant or wine bar was complete unless David Collins had transformed it. The late Dublin born artist used a striking Lutyens Blue hue, a dusky cornflower, to create the most memorable interior in Knightsbridge just as the new millennium dawned. In a touching posthumous tribute, The Berkeley called up David Collins’ protégé to dream up a dining room named after his master. Robert Angell employed some of David Collins’ favourite motifs, from a white onyx bar to a Soaneian use of mirrors. Some designers are legendary. And others become synonymous with places. Lavender’s Blue. Breakfast in bed, even The Berkeley variety, means casually leafing through magazines, preferable the vintage variety. Although inclusion of today’s Times is a nice touch. Here’s the September 1999 edition of Wallpaper* magazine:

“There’s no denying that the acrimonious and much publicised art appreciation tiff between Damien Hirst and new Quo Vadis owner, Marco Pierre White, was bound to draw in curious diners and art lovers alike. But David Collins’ pleasing refit and the culinary skills of ex Ivy maître d’ Fernando Peire are two good reasons to return.  Leather banquettes break up the room, a marked improvement on its previous cold refectory incarnation. Though not hugely original, the food is exquisite, just as we have come to expect from a MPW establishment; lobster, poulet noir and a variety of risottos are all on offer to a discerning clientele. The controversial conceptual art by Marco Pierre White is more than a little reminiscent of that of Damien Hirst, though much cheekier, especially our favourite, the aptly named ‘Divorce’ – a copy of Hirst’s dot painting, but with four perpendicular slashes – ouch. The Private room at the back boasts Thirties New York green leather walls created by the ubiquitous Bill Amberg. The skeletons have been ripped out of the upstairs bar, and the refit’s final stage will include  a bar for the restaurant as well as a members’ bar called ‘Marx’ in homage to the great Karl who lived on this site. Admittance will depend on whether or not Fernando likes you – so start sending flowers and chocolates now.”

As always, what does Gertrude Stein have to say about breakfast in her 1914 Tender Buttons? Rather a lot as it turns out. Here are a few of her rich pickings, “A sudden slice changes the whole plate, it does so suddenly.” And, “An imitation, more imitation, imitation succeed imitations.” And, and, and, “Anything that is decent, anything that is present, a calm and a cook and more singularly a shelter, all these show the need of clamour. What is the custom, the custom is in the centre.” A candy striped strawed bottle of ‘Berkeley Boost’ – freshly squeezed carrot, orange, turmeric, apple and ginger – followed by a homemade croissant and almond pastry; fruit salad; Scottish smoked salmon, cream cheese, rocket with Annabel’s style linen tied lemon bagel; Greek yoghurt, granola, Acacia honey and strawberries; and a celebratory chocolate cake topped with raspberries. The portions are so indulgent this ain’t breakfast in bed – this is breakfast, brunch, afternoon tea and supper between the duvets. All to be taken laying down. All on Aunt Margery’s best linen and tea set. Some breakfasts are legendary. Lavender’s Blue.

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Design Fashion Luxury Restaurants

Daphne’s Restaurant + Bamford Haybarn South Kensington London

Everyone Likes It Hot

Macaronis and cheese anyone? That’ll be our movie. Moving on, we’ve got the hottest table in the coolest restaurant on the hottest day of the year. More Sahara than Siberia. Hot in the city. While the Christian name “Daphne” is most recognisable as Tony Curtis’ alter ego in Some Like It Hot, “Daphne’s” belongs to Princess Diana’s fav Italian local. Founded in 1964 by theatre agent Daphne Rye, just when nearby King’s Road was gearing up to the era, Daphne’s has since become a South Ken institution.

The restaurant is in cool company. Bamford Haybarn, one of Lady Bamford’s forays into retail and a shrine to sensational scent, is three doors down. Joseph and Chanel, shops not people, hang out in this Draycott Avenue ‘hood. Serena Armstrong-Jones, Countess of Snowdon, had a charming eponymous gift shop on Walton Street back in the day when she was Serena Linley. Her shop has come and gone. As for fashion, Isabel Marant flies the flag on Walton Street these days. Daylesford on Sloane Avenue is another of Lady Bamford’s organic outlets. Its canopy announces an all embracing offer: “farmshop, café, bar, butcher, bakery, cheese, fish, larder, wine, home store”.

Under current owner restaurateur Richard Caring’s watchful eye, Daphne’s was given the full Martin Brudnizki treatment half a century after it first opened. The Swedish interior architect puts it succinctly: “Minimalism, maximalism, modernism, classicism – I’ve done them all. For me they are the four pillars of design. I take a bit of each and mix them in different strengths depending on the client.” Dublin born designer David Collins, who died prematurely in 2013, transformed a swathe of hospitality interiors in London. A fresh eclectic glamour upped the stakes and steaks at The Wolseley restaurant for starters and Artesian Bar at The Langham Hotel for nightcaps. Martin Brudnizki upholds that tradition, from giving minimalism a Scandi twist at Aquavit restaurant to maxing out maximalism at Annabel’s club.

Daphne’s interior floats somewhere between minimalism and maximalism, blending modernism with classicism. A vivid palette of pinks, yellows, greens and oranges recalls the hues of sun drenched Verona gardens and rooftops. The conservatory dining room is a light confection of bevelled mirrors, linen awnings, 1950s Murano chandeliers, modern European art and a baroque style green marble fireplace.

Effortlessly sophisticated, Daphne’s is neither the place to try out macaroni cheese nor entry level wine. Lunch is Pinot Grigio di Lenardo Friuli 2018 (grape expectations); scallops with chilli and garlic (park those kisses); ravioli with buffalo ricotta and asparagus (so this season); Wedgwood strawberry cheesecake (china town). And selection of Italian cheese (please).

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Architecture Hotels Luxury Restaurants Town Houses

Villa Kennedy Hotel + JFK Restaurant Frankfurt

Er | The Autobiography of Things

So: 30 up, 20 to go. Cloudbotherers. In 2017 the price of new apartments in Frankfurt rose 25 percent. Hence the haste. It’s upwards and upwards. The Goldman Sachs rush. High cost high rise high flying high living it is then on the west bank of the River Main.

This, and other flotsam and jetsam, is what LVB* are discussing in Villa Kennedy’s JFK Restaurant. Over Cape Cod Dream mocktails: yoghurt | passion fruit | passion fruit juice | vanilla | lemon (€13).

And 50 Shades of Green herbivorous superfood: quinoa patty | avocado | Tahiti dressing | pumpkin seed pesto | courgette | young spinach salad (€26).

Chocolate thins to counterbalance all that healthiness. The best since last week’s petit fours served at Ballymore’s marketing suite – over a chinwag with Sir Oliver Letwin.

LVB are putting the gnomic into gastronomic.

There really is something swashbuckingly Rhode Island mansion about Villa Kennedy. It’s one of many turn-of-last-century landscrapers on the east bank of the River Main. Château façade; half timbered staircase hall; palazzo loggia: eclecticism on steroids.

Hansel and Gretel meets Norman Shaw was seemingly the whole rage back in the day. “Architecture is more than practicalities,” Dr Tim Brittain-Catlin reminded the audience at the final European Commission talk celebrating the European Year of Cultural Heritage.

Closer to the River Main is the 1896 Liebieghaus. A “prestigious villa” no less, announces a sign on the gatepost. Baron Heinrich von Liebieg’s former home is now an a museum. Said sign sums it up, “Manor house built in a mixture of styles: Southern German; Late Gothic; and Alpine Renaissance.” And for good measure a 1908 “Art Nouveau gallery wing with Baroque influences.”

Named after the Presidential visit of 1963, the very restored Villa Kennedy has been given the full blown Rocco Forte treatment with a little art deco help from designer Martin Brudnizki.

Hey ho. Jackie Kennedy was instrumental in launching the Irish Georgian Society. Ho hum. Now LVB have been appointed the social diarist for the London Chapter. JFK | JBK | IGS | LVB. Acronyms are so very FRA.

*A design based celebration of the good things in life

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Luxury Restaurants

Royal Albert Hall + Aquavit St James’s London

Last Night of the Poms | School for Scandi  

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that life is better experienced from inside the box. Especially if said box is the most columned, curtained, cushioned, closeted, contained and catered for one at the Royal Albert Hall. “Anyone for sheep’s milk ricotta and elderberry jelly on potato tuile or sweet garden pea soup with poached quail’s egg and truffle foam?” asks our in-house in-box in-the-know waiter.

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A few days later, suddenly, sharing a waiter with other guests seems rather déclassé, or would be if we weren’t dining in classy Aquavit. Lady Diana Cooper once described Vita Sackville-West as “all aqua, no vita”. Not so this restaurant: aptly named after the Scandinavian spirit, it’s full of life. We’re here, for starters. Not just desserts. A Nordic invader of the New York scene in the 1980s, sweeping up two Michelin stars, it opened an outpost in Tokyo and has now come to Mayfair.

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Shepherd Market is the foodie haven west of Piccadilly. St James’s Market, Aquavit’s address, is a new or at least reinvented Shepherd Market hopeful east of Piccadilly. It’s a discreet location on The Crown Estate, but more luxury restaurants and flagship stores are due to open shortly. “The location is coming,” we’d been told. Cultural additions to this heralded “new culinary hub” include a pavilion opposite Aquavit styled like a cabinet of curiosities. The disembodied voice of Stephen Fry reading an 18th century ballad “The Handsome Butcher of St James’s Market” floats above stacked dioramas.

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In 1989, Country Life reported: “Until quite recently London lacked continental style brasseries. There has always been a wide choice of restaurants but the alternative to an expensive meal has been the ‘greasy spoon’ café, the pub or various questionable ‘takeaways’. Traditionally the City provided dining rooms, now almost extinct, together with a diet of boisterous restaurants such as Sweetings, the catering world’s equivalent of the floor of Lloyds or the Stock Exchange. But greater sophistication was demanded by a new generation keen on modern design, New York and cuisine, as opposed to cooking.”

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That all changed with the arrival of Corbin + King and Richard Caring who have filled Mayfair and beyond with brasseries. Aquavit fits into the higher end of that mould. CEO Philip Hamilton says, “Our aim is to create a relaxed morning to midnight dining experience.” Handy, as we – the Supper Club (Lavender’s Blue plus) – all have Mayfair offices, from Park Lane to Piccadilly Circus. Scandi style has been ripped off so much by hipster hangouts but this is west, not east, London. Pared back lines allow the quality of the materials to shine (literally in some cases) through: marble floors climb up the dado to meet pale timber panelling, softly illuminated by dangling bangles of gold lights.

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The airy double height interior with two walls of windows was designed by Swedish born Martin Brudnizki, the creative force behind Sexy Fish, and showcases works by Scandinavian designers such as Olafur Eliasson. Furnishings are by Svenskt Tenn; photographic art by Andrea Hamilton; silverware by Georg Jensen; uniforms, Ida Sjöstedt. Wallpaper* meets Architectural Digest. We’d been warned that “it’s a bit of a fishbowl” but we’re down with that. See and be seen. Duchamp shirts and Chanel dresses at the ready. This glass box is Nighthawk without the loneliness; The London Eye minus the wobbliness; Windows on the World missing the dizziness. A mezzanine over the bar contains two very private dining rooms named ‘Copenhagen’ and ‘Stockholm’.

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The menu is divided into Smörgåsbord | Starters | Mains | Side Dishes | Desserts. It’s tempting to overindulge on the smörgåsbord – really, a return visit is required for that course alone. So it’s straight onto the starters. Scallops, kohlrabi and lovage (£9.00) in a light citrus dressing demonstrate Nordic cuisine does raw well. Dehydrated beetroots, goat’s cheese sorbet and hazelnuts (£9.00) – we’re getting citrus, nectarine and dill – prove there’s life beyond seafood.

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Sourdough bread and knäckebröd (Swedish rye crisp bread with a hint of aniseed) come with whey butter. “The whey butter is from Glastonbury,” explains our waiter. It’s all singing all dancing. Chillout music is playing in the background. We’re experiencing what the Scandinavians call ‘hygge’, that cosy relaxed feeling you get when being pampered, enjoying the good things in life with great company. All the more reason to sample Hallands Fläder (£4.50), an elderflower aquavit. A continuous flow of sparkling water is (aptly) plentiful and reasonably priced (£2.00). Ruinart (£76.00) keeps our well informed sommelier on her toes.

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Monkfish in Sandefjord Smør (Hollandaise type sauce named after the city) and trout roe (£28.00) tastes so fresh it transports us like a fjord escort to the Norwegian coast. Landlubbers be gone! Purple sprouting broccoli and smoked anchovy (£4.00) is a sea salty side grounded by the flowering vegetable. Chestnut spice cake with salted caramel ice (£8.00) is a slice of perfection revealing tones of vanilla and orange. Swedish hazelnut fudge provides a waistline enhancing end to dinner.

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Right now, Aquavit is hotter than Lisbon in July and cooler than the Chanel party in Peckham. And that’s just the beautiful staff. It shares Executive Chef Emma Bengtsson with the New York site and Head Chef is fellow Swede Henrik Ritzén, who previously cooked at The Arts Club in Mayfair. Emma, who is visiting England for a television appearance, believes, “Everyone has their own flavour profile – how they like things. I’m very intrigued with keeping flavours to highlight the produce itself. It’s very pure. The flavours are understandable… You gotta keep trying. Never stop trying.”

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Aquavit isn’t cheap but this is a high end establishment in Mayfair with form. It’s The Telegraph’s How To Spend It territory. After all, the person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good meal, must be intolerably stupid. And as Lady Diana Cooper once quipped, “money is fine”. Blink and you’ll miss daylight but that doesn’t mean January has to be dull or dry. We’re full and full of the joys. It’s not a school night and round the corner in Soho, Quo Vadis isn’t just a restaurant… Time to cut loose under a garish sky.

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Our dedication to reportage ever unabated, is it a dream sequence or the following day do we return for a smörgåsbord of diced and smoked mackerel tartare, sorrel and lumpfish roe (£7.00) in a salad bowl, sitting at a timber table on the polished pavement? Not forgetting the unforgettable Shrimp Skagen (£9.00)? Skagenröra isn’t just prawns on toast, y’know. Named after a Danish fishing port, other essential ingredients are mayonnaise, gräddfil (a bit like soured cream) and some seasoning. Grated horseradish, in this case, adds a bit of spice. Best crowned with orange caviar. It’s Royal Box treatment all over again as we have a dedicated waiter to our table. Or maybe that’s because we are the only alfresco brunchers braving the elements outside the box. By Nordic winter standards, it’s a positively balmy morning. We’ve a love | hate relationship with Aquavit. Love here | hate leaving.

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Art Design Luxury People Restaurants

Scott’s Restaurant + Sexy Fish Mayfair London

The Way We Live Now

Sexy Fish Restaurant Menu and Doorman © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The only thing better than octopus, squid and creamed spinach at Scott’s is octopus, squid and creamed spinach at Scott’s followed by matcha and ginger marble cake at Sexy Fish. Oh yes, that essential October invite to Sexy Fish. The restaurant with the name(s) attached. Nobu meets Chiltern Firehouse. So hip it hurts. Owner Richard Caring reputedly forked out £30 million on the Martin Brudnizki designed interior. Shell and hardcore. Newport Street Gallery meets Bilbao-on-sea. Damian Hirst mermaids; Frank Gehry crocodiles. Sexy Fish. Names, names. Trinny, Saatchi, Tatler, dining on an Esmeralda onyx floor under Vanity Fair’s style editor-at-large Michael Roberts’ seaweedy ceiling. Everyone Everything is larger than life. Restaurant as nightclub. Kitchen as theatre. Loo as black marble mirrored narcissist-friendly sanctuary. Model staff | model guests | model behaviour. Mostly. This is Lavender’s Blue.

Sexy Fish Restaurant Mayfair © Mark Brumell @ Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley