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Royal Ascot + The Duchess of Cambridge

Berserk in the Berkshire | A Missing Glass Carriage | Courses for Horses | The Tori Party

The Season is in full swing. Tuesday morning of Summer Solstice week: a chauffeur driven Merc screeches to a halt outside The House of Lavender’s Blue. Closing one’s own car door is so last century. And really, with train strikes all too common these days a uniformed driver is a necessity not a luxury. After gliding past Wentworth Estate, sailing by Guards Polo Club then gaping at the largest white portico ever facing a roundabout somewhere in Sunningdale, noon Champagne is on ice for us at the Royal Berkshire Hotel. Bling to king.

A glass carriage suite of Rollers soon pulls up beside the lawn to whisk us all – a highly fashionable set is emerging – off to the Royal Enclosure of Royal Ascot. Today is The Queen Anne Stakes, the opening contest of the five day meeting. Three maids stand to attention welcoming us into our double penthouse private box. Ding-a-ling. You can get the staff these days! Ollie Dabbous and other Michelin star studded chefs are going the distance at this year’s meeting. A hot and warm and cold buffet begins, platefuls of luxury signifiers:

  • Lavazza coffee
  • Beetroot and Beefeater Gin cured salmon, tonic jelly
  • Goat’s cheese, red onion and squash tart
  • Ginger and soy roasted salmon, pineapple relish
  • Aubergine and courgette involtini, basil pesto
  • Hot smoked trout, pickled celeriac, saffron potato, fennel
  • Warm Jersey Royal potatoes
  • Grilled squash, caramelised onion, broccoli
  • Tomato tartare, marinated Tomberries and baby mozzarella
  • Shredded summer salad, balsamic dressing
  • Traditional trifle, lemon posset, Cassis torte, chocolate Mogador, English strawberries, pouring cream
  • Duttamor, Winslade, Trufflyn and Blue Monday cheeses, apricot and ginger jelly, selection of artisan biscuits
  • Lavazza coffee and Charbonnel + Walker petit fours served in miniature top hats

The clock strikes two: it’s time for the Royal Procession. The Royal Landaus led by four Windsor Greys commence their stately journey along the celebrated Straight Mile. Since 1825, this procession has signalled the start of the Royal Meeting. The Coldstream Guards play the National Anthem. We stand to attention on our double penthouse private box terrace, joyously waving our Union Jacks.

Half an hour later, the First Race is off. With a total race value of £600,000 The Queen Anne Stakes naturally attracts the best milers in Europe and beyond. Meanwhile, we’re given free rein in our double penthouse private box. By mid afternoon, the party is in full throttle. The terrace is now an impromptu catwalk for models and influencers and influential models jockeying for position, snapping, being snapped and snapping being snapped. A blazing turn of foot isn’t confined to the racecourse below. We’re all winners: check out thoroughbred Lady Tori Nash mid strut; no dodgepots here! The wealth of millinery and feast of floristry has gone to everyone’s heads. Literally. That, plus the haze of topped up coupes and flutes and tulips. Afternoon tea is served:

  • Fortnum + Mason tea infusions
  • Smoked salmon, lemon crème fraîche, egg and chive, cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches
  • Buttermilk scones, Highgrove preserve and Cornish clotted cream
  • Chocolate wagon wheel, mixed berry tart, pistachio and rose financier, honey and lemon Madeleine, red velvet cake

Lord Glitters wins The Queen Anne Stakes in a thrilling finish! Did we mention we’re watching the race from a double penthouse private box? It’s so hard to prise ourselves away from this party in the sky but really we should hit our stride. Our favourite soprano Eves fills the big screens, belting out an aria. “What feathers in our hats!” Eves later laughs. Frankie Dettori, the Royal Meeting’s most successful current jockey, rides by. It would be rude to keep Ben our chauffeur waiting but it would be even ruder not to meet our future queen. Here she comes, winning the style race hands down, real pedigree, what a beauty, her eyes sparkling under a flying saucer hat. Such grace! Such poise! Such fragrance! Her majestic Royal Highness, Catherine the Great. It’s a photo finish followed by a bloody sunset over The House of Lavender’s Blue.

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Lavender’s Blue Opera + Selfridges London

Postcode Lottery 

Opera on the Terrace © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It’s our anniversary. Time to celebrate. Christmas – with a little help from Selfridges’ luxury handmade Celebration Crackers – came early to Lavender’s Blue. We’re looking fresh for our 100th and not worn out at all by 1,000,000 hits. After 99 articles from Serbian Royalty to British Royalty, Savannah to nirvana, Cristal to crystal, the falls to the Shankill, Royal Mint to polo minted, Edition to limited edition, Masterpiece to masterpieces, Duck + Waffle to our usual waffle, Knights at home to nights abroad, Clive Christian to Christ Church, Goodwood to New Forest, rural Darlings to society darlings, earls to pearls, supermodels to super models, Futurism to the past, we’ve left Home House for home. Party central at Lavender’s Blue.

Lavender's Blue Party Stuart Blakley

Classically trained soprano Sara Llewellyn serenaded us – and half the postcode – to a dream like performance on our courtyard terrace. After earning her Masters with Distinction from the San Fran Conservatory of Music, Sara’s many operatic lead roles include Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro at Berkeley. And yes, she has performed at the Royal Opera House. After jaw dropping renditions of Bach’s Ave Maria, O Mio Babbino Caro and Con Te Partirò, the tempo slowed down and the sun shone for an awe inspiring Summertime. Sara then proved her diversity while testing our moves with I Could Have Danced All Night. Tear jerkers followed with I Dreamed A Dream and You’ll Never Walk Alone. Finally, words and music at the ready, altogether now: the full Team Lavender Cupcake impromptu choir belted out That’s Amore. The whole postcode was entertained to our new take on Dean Martin’s classic. Glyndebourne SW4 had competition.

Morning Opera on the Terrace Lavender's Blue © Stuart Blakley


Pininfarina + Hyperion Rolls-Royce

A Paler Hue of Blue

Lunch with Paolo Pininfarina at the Louise Blouin Foundation. Outside, the November sky is unseasonably blue. Inside, the converted warehouse is simply white. It’s the backdrop to the tv series Four Rooms. Lunch was a suitably scrumptuous Italian affair. Antipasta served with Italian breads. Wild mushroom pappardelle with rosemary oil, toasted hazelnuts and parmesan. Panna cotta with autumn berries. Coffee and petit fours.

“London has such elegant blue skies,” observes Paolo and then qualifies the statement adding, “Sometimes!”. He says, “Blue is the institutional colour of our brand.” It’s more than 80 years since Battista “Pinin” Farina signed the deed founding Società Anonima Carrozzeria Pinin Farina in Turin. His grandson leads what has become an industrial design powerhouse and global partner to the motor industry.

“Design is what we have been about since the beginning,” says Paolo. “We use our knowledge to create for the future… to create magic!” Pininfarina’s automotive clients include Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati among others. Custom built luxury models take Pininfarina back to its roots, back two generations. Take the Hyperion (or at least you could if you’d a couple of million pounds to spare).

Created in Italy, this opulent one-off roadster takes up the legacy of Rolls-Royces designed by Pininfarina. Silver Dawn saloon of 1951, Camargue coupé of 1975… it has an illustrious heritage. The car is named after one of the Titans of Greek mythology, emphasising its architectural and figurative power.

The concept behind the Hyperion was to create a custom built car that would evoke the sumptuousness of 1930s driving. A majestic regal bonnet which surges forward, a body surrounding the driver and a single passenger, and an elegantly short tail were all musts. The result is a 21st century model firmly rooted in the values of the Pininfarina and Rolls-Royce brands. Structurally, Pininfarina moved the driving position back 400mm and took out the rear seats. A new style of hood was designed which folds behind the seats under a wood lined cover.

The iconic (for once the adjective is truly deserved) Rolls-Royce grille has been slightly inclined. An upper trapezoid part aerodynamically links to the engine hood. Recessed Bixenon headlights convey sportiness. The bonnet is underlined by the muscular taut wings. An illusion of movement even when the car is stationary is provided by extending the line that embraces the front wheels until it disappears into the hood cover. The rear end recalls Pininfarina’s legendary ‘Berlinettas’ of the 1950s and 60s with their cut off tails inclined downwards and a flat closure borrowed from boat building.

The bodywork is made of carbon guaranteeing geometrical accuracy, high rigidity and unexpected lightness. External and internal wooden finishing is another nautical reference. The doors are made of fine solid wood by craftsmen employing technologies used to create components for luxury yachts. A watch designed by Girard-Perregaux specially for the Hyperion can be removed from the dashboard and worn.

Hyperion is blue. Azure blue, the aquamarine of a hazy day on the ocean. Pininfarina has just completed a collaboration with another leading brand Paolo tells us in confidence. “Blue is the colour of both our companies,” he confides. We’ll keep you posted.