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Developers Luxury Restaurants

Hakkasan Mayfair London + Lavender’s Blue

Corporate Canton Cooking

When your office is in Mayfair the choice of school day eating is Hakkasan, Sexy Fish or Sofra. Hardly Hobson’s! To celebrate Hakkasan’s two decades of modern Chinese cuisine, some dim sum makes for caviar dusted fine lunching. To quote Gertrude Stein in Tender Buttons, 1914, “Single fish single fish single fish eggplant single fish sight.”

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Design Luxury People

Bentley + Lavender’s Blue

The Cannonball Run

Bentley © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Handily placed between Sexy Fish (the restaurant) and Annabel’s (the club), Jack Barclay on Berkeley Square, Mayfair, is the world’s oldest and largest Bentley dealership. For more than a century, it has been keeping the one percent on wheels. When you’re in full throttle sports gear (our tyres and our attire) breezing along the coast, escaping the heat of the city, who cares that your automobile is averaging 19 litres per 100 kilometres (15 miles to the gallon)? Everywhere looks better from behind the wheel of a hand built Bentley Continental GT Convertible. And that includes the English Riviera when the mercury’s rising.

Bentley Convertible © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Bentley English Riviera © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Stuart Blakley © Andreas Y @ Lavender's Blue

Bentley Interior © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Architecture Hotels Luxury People Restaurants

Rare Champagne + La Dame de Pic Four Seasons Hotel 10 Trinity Square London

Lotto and Cavagnole and Faro and Lansquenet

Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square Tower Hill London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Writing in Edwardian Architecture, Alastair Service describes the host building and its place in the architectural lexicon: “The commission for the Port of London Authority building was won in a competition of 1912 by Edwin Cooper (1873 to 1942), who had recently started a personal practice after working in a series of partnerships. Cooper’s success in the competition of 1911 for the St Marylebone Town Hall was, however, more significant for the future. Reviewing the entries for the competition, the editor of one architectural magazine wrote, ‘We cannot help asking ourselves whether all these colossal columns, domes, towers, groups of sculpture and other imposing features are felt by their authors to be the only natural and inevitable expression of the necessities of the case.’

Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Such criticism of extravagant building was in harmony with general feeling at the time. And the St Marylebone Town Hall built to Cooper’s designs shows a greatly simplified use of Classicism, emphasising the volumes in Holden’s [architect Charles Holden] way, rather than creating broken Baroque outlines encrusted in sculpture. The mention of Holden’s name is no coincidence. More than anyone else, it was his work that bridged the gap between the attempts at a Free Style and the varieties of Edwardian Classicism.”

Entrance La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The streamlined architecture of Marylebone Town Hall (long deprived of its sainthood), as Alastair Service observes, is more in keeping with a modern sensibility but the bombastic brilliance of Edwin Cooper’s portico is well suited to a Four Seasons flag. It mightn’t have been purpose built, but if those two other bastions of Beaux Arts architecture (The RAC Club and The Ritz) can be beacons of high end hospitality, why not the Port of London Authority building?

Column Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

La Dame de Pic restaurant is at the end of a short corridor off a vast domed rotunda lounge in the heart of the Four Seasons Hotel. It’s Anne-Sophie Pic’s first foray into the UK. She is the world’s most decorated female Michelin starred chef. Her third generation three Michelin star family owned restaurant is in Drôme; she also has restaurants in Lausanne, Paris and Singapore. Anne-Sophie says, “I know there is no feminine or masculine cuisine but my cuisine is very feminine because I put a lot of intuition, my feelings, into it.” Head Chef Luca Piscazzi brings these feelings to fruition.

Statue Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

White truffle – it’s in high season – is flaked over the cheese and mushroom gnocchi starter. Acquerello risotto main course is flavoured with pumpkin, bergamot and Yellow Bourbon coffee. Poached pear infused with sansho and ginger is decorated with argousier honey and beeswax. Each course is an adventurous fusion of taste and an avantgarde work of art. Unsurprisingly, the restaurant had barely opened before it snapped up a Michelin star. A second followed in hot pursuit.

Entrance Hall La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Fresco Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lantern La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Flowers La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Butter La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Bread La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Mushroom La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chantilly La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square may be quite close to the Tower of London and very close toSamuel Wyatt’s Trinity House but its immediate environs are surprisingly discreet. That doesn’t stop the 80 cover dining room being full on a midweek lunchtime. The interior is all about spare luxury. White walls and a tiled dado under a mirrored strip matching mirrored columns are softened by leather banquettes and a cluster of snugs below a central gigantic Chinese lantern.

Petit Fours La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

La Dame de Pic has joined an exclusive set of shops and restaurants in London stocking Rare Champagne. Nicolas Marzolf of Liberty Wines is the UK and Ireland Brand Manager of Piper-Heidsieck and Rare Champagne. While Piper-Heidsieck Champagne is Pino Noir dominant, Rare Champagne is 30 percent Pinot Noir and 70 percent Chardonnay. “Liberty Wines have a warehouse in Clapham,” he explains, “so an order placed by 3am can have a same day delivery by noon.” Harrods, Hedonism and Selfridges are shops selling Rare Champagne. It’s served in Core by Clare Smyth, Claridge’s, Scott’s and Sexy Fish restaurants.

Rare Champagne La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The two vintages available at La Dame de Pic are Blanc 2006 and Rosé 2008. “These are two very different Rare Champagnes,” notes Nicolas. “The year 2006 was warm – winter was pretty mild and there was a summer heatwave. You can see the fullness of the sun in the ripe fruit taste. The year 2008 was cold which resulted in a very delicate cuvée – graceful and not too full bodied. You always have the same aftertaste in all our Rare vintage: duality of warmth and minerality.”

Rare Champagne © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

He continues, “The noble origin of Rare Champagne dates back to a presentation to Marie Antoinette and expresses its revolutionary spirit against the trivialization of vintages. Over the last four decades, Rare Champagne has declared only 11 vintages. The tiara adorning the precious bottle features the triumphant vine prevailing over the whims of weather. The bottle design, called Pinte Majeure, is asymmetrical as it was originally mouthblown.” Today, the soft curves of the design pay tribute to Marie Antoinette, thelast Queen of France and the first modern icon, renowned for her ability to set new standards.

Nicolas Marzolf and Jan Konetzki La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“This is about more than just drinking Champagne,” relates Nicolas. “We are launching a luxury brand in the UK and Ireland. A luxury lifestyle – the Champagne experience. It’s about having nice glasses, nice places. The luxury way to entertain. And La Dame de Pic is the perfect place to enjoy Rare Champagne!” The celebrated sommelier Jan Konetzki, Director of Wine at Four Seasons, adds, “Rare Champagne is a great partner with La Dame de Pic’s food.”

Rotunda Bar La Dame de Pic Four Seasons at 10 Trinity Square London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Hotels Luxury People

Sir Simon Milton Foundation Gala Dinner + The Nine Kings Suite Royal Lancaster Hotel London

Lots of Fun

Sir Simon Milton Foundation Ball © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The first charity ball of the season interlocked the party circuits of London life. After being bagpiped into a drinks reception flowing with Champagne Irroy and Bergerie de la Bastide 2015, Robert Davis MBE, Chairman of the Sir Simon Milton Foundation, welcomed guests to The Nine Kings Suite of the Royal Lancaster. There was much to celebrate. The Sir Simon Milton Westminster University College in Pimlico built by Taylor Wimpey Central London is up and running with bursaries funded by the Foundation. The Annual Tea Dance is now a fixture on the calendar for older Westminster citizens. Before the four course dinner began fellow Chairman John Barradell OBE said grace and Major General Matthew Sykes, Chief Executive of the charity, raised a glass to the Loyal Toast.

Royal Lancaster Sir Simon Milton Foundation Ball © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Sir Simon Milton Foundation X © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Silken Strings Sir Simon Milton Foundation Ball © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Entertainment, heard and unheard, carried on through dinner. The Silken Strings, a female electrica strings trio, top conservatoires’ finest (they’ve performed with Sir Elton John, Queen, Rhianna and Take That), looked like models, played like angels and danced like dervishes. A silent auction included Christmas dinner for four at No.50 Cheyne (guide price £300; sold price £500). William Edwards fine bone china (used on the Belmond Orient-Express and at The Queen of Afternoon Teas in Café Royal) was a corporate supporter. The vast room was wall to wall with luminaries such as Lady Lucy French OBE, Executive Member of the Sir Simon Milton Foundation, and doyenne of PR Maureen Sutherland Smith. A tribute band, Abba’s Angels, got everyone on their feet. Actor Christopher Biggins compèred the auction, declaring “Some tables here have stronger finances than Greece!”

Christoper Biggins Sir Simon Milton Foundation Ball © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Maureen Sutherland Smith and Lady Lucy French Sir Simon Milton Foundation Ball © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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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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Architects Architecture Country Houses People

Ormiston House Belfast + Woburn House Millisle Down

We Dream the Same Dream

Ormiston House Belfast © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

This isn’t a tale of two pities. At last! A country house in Ireland not being converted into flats or a hotel or worst of all abandoned? Rather, being returned to its original use? Well, that is a good news story. Ok, it’s a country house historically if not geographically cause it’s plonked in Ballyhackamore, Belfast’s very own East Village, off a busy dual carriageway, but still. Restoration is ongoing – already, correctly detailed skylight windows in the stable block and proper cleaning of the sandstone suggest it’s all going to be terribly smart. Consarc are the architects of its revival. Ormiston House had a narrow escape. Planning permission was granted in 2010 to carve it up into 20 frightful flats. Thank goodness for a knight and madam in shining white armour in the form of the owners of Argento Jewellers. Past distinguished owners include Sir Edward Harland of Harland + Wolff fame.

Architect David Bryce Tombstone Edinburgh © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

With a burst of turn of the century optimism, the Northern Ireland Assembly bought Ormiston for a whopping This Boom Will Never Bust £9 million. Late 20th century uses had included a boarding house for nearby Campbell College and a police station. The final sale price to Peter and Ciara Boyle was a few quid over £1 million. Scottish architect David Bryce’s 1860s baronial pile is back in town. A grand 57 square metre staircase hall accessed through north and south lobbies sets the tone. Back of country house essentials such as a pastry kitchen and boot room aren’t forgotten. The four staircases will be put to good use, linking two floors of formal reception rooms, informal entertainment suites and bedrooms to a turreted top floor of two airy eyrie guest rooms.

A smorgasbord of cafés, restaurants and bars now consumes Downtown Ballyhackamore. Highlights include Graze (farm to plate), Il Pirata (Italian tapas), Jasmine (bring your own Indian although a free digestif is served – it’s never dry in Belfast) and Horatio Todd’s (a lively bar cum brasserie named after a dead pharmacist). Belfast prides itself on local chains. Clements (coffee), Greens (pizza), Little Wings (more pizza) and Streat (more coffee) to name a few. The #keepitlocal campaign garners plenty of support. Back in the day, Deanes behind the City Hall was The Place To Go. Chef turned restaurateur Michael Deane’s empire now spans Deanes Meat Locker, Deanes at Queen’s, Deane + Decano, Deanes Deli Bistro, Eipic and Sexy Love Fish. It’s even spawned a tour Dine Around Deanes (‘January to March sold out!’ screams the website).

The greening of East Belfast (not a political pun) continues to grow. New allotments on the Newtownards Road (who would’ve thought?) | East Belfast Mission’s vertical garden clinging to the Skainos Building, also on the Newtownards Road | Comber Greenway – the city’s answer to New York’s High Line. Quick city centre interlude. Still recovering from a driveby sighting of the shocking Waterfront Hall extension (wrong place, wrong shape, wrong materials, plain wrong – see the Ulster Museum for a lesson in How To Extend Well) squashed along the River Lagan, it is joyous to behold the new Queen’s University Library. Designed by Boston architects Shepley Bulfinch in association with local architects Robinson Patterson, it’s pure Ivy League architecture. The buttressed elevations and tapering tower are a suitably dignified addition to the campus.

Down the East Coast to cool Woburn House (no deer, not that Woburn). County Down’s very own Woburn is in the mould of a trio of mid 19th century Italianate villas-on-steroids in Newtownabbey: Seapark House, Carrickfergus (Thomas Jackson designed) | The Abbey in Whiteabbey (a Lanyon special) | Abbeydene in Whiteabbey (‘Jackson’s office or Lanyon’s office? Not without hesitation I vote for the former,’ pondered Charlie Brett in his 1996 guide Buildings of Antrim). Turns out Woburn is by neither of these Irish greats. The house sprung up in the 1860s to the design of John McCurdy of Dublin. Woburn’s tenuous connection to Ormiston is that it’s state owned. It was last used as a training centre for prison officers and now lies bleakly empty. Up to the 1950s, Woburn was the seat of the Pack-Beresfords until death duties necessitated its sale. It would be great to see both buildings even better connected, restored as single houses. That would be one helluva twist.

Woburn House Millisle © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley