Art Fashion Luxury Restaurants

Rosewood Hotel London + Retro Art Afternoon Tea

Up On Reflection

Rosewood Hotel Holborn London Courtyard © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

We’re leisurely making our way round the courtyard of Rosewood Hotel in Holborn, a mere canapé’s throw from Sir John Soane Museum. Our first visit was for dinner in Holborn Dining Room. Second visit, Champagne in Scarfes Bar. Our third visit is for afternoon tea in Mirror Room. These are the last photos you’ll ever see of the Retro Art Afternoon Tea. Fortunately, Rosewood London hasn’t gone the way of Bonhams or Typing Room Restaurants – history. Instead, this fifth edition afternoon tea is being superseded by the Van Gogh Afternoon Tea to coincide with an exhibition in Tate Britain.

Rosewood Hotel Holborn London Hallway © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Retro Art Afternoon Tea is just what the doctor ordered after our inaugural Irish Georgian Society London St Patrick’s Party lecture A Very Grand Tour held at The Medical Society of London, off Harley Street. The lecture might have stretched to 100 slides on 16 buildings in 40 minutes but prepping over dinner in Indian Accent, Albemarle Street’s part subterranean wholly Subcontinental haute cuisine restaurant, eased the intellectual burden. Even an eight hour Very Grand Detour lunch the day before in Hix Soho didn’t detract from a performance as polished as our reflections in Rosewood’s Mirror Room.

Rosewood Hotel Holborn London Bathroom © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Rosewood Hotel Holborn London Flower Arrangement © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Rosewood Hotel Holborn London Sandwiches © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Rosewood Hotel Holborn London Retro Sweets © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

An enigmatic vitrine, shortly to become an evolving diorama of dainty delights, is placed on our table. Pescatarian savouries upfront include salmon vol au vents with cream cheese and keta caviar, egg and watercress sandwiches, and the cucumber and cheese variety. In true Duchess of Bedford tradition, plain and raisin scones follow, accompanied by Corniche Cornish cream, lemon curd, and strawberry and elderflower jam. Queen Victoria Darjeeling blend is a 19th century interrupter. That’s before the afternoon tea leaps another century forwards, starting with retro sweets of Ferrero Rocher | Jaffa Cake | lemon flying saucer | rhubarb and custard. Finally, the vitrine is filled with a very 20th century interruption, a diorama of edible vintage sculptures.

Rosewood Hotel Holborn London Malika Favre Pastry © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

  • Malika Favre inspired pastry: lime and pineapple mousse, raspberry crémeux and sponge, raspberry glaze and chocolate. Malika is a French illustrator and graphic artist based in London. Her bold minimalist style bridges the gap between Pop Art and Op Art.
  • Andy Warhol inspired pastry: Morello cherry jelly, chocolate mousse, vanilla brûlée, flourless chocolate sponge, cherry ganache. Campbell’s Soup is one of Andy Warhol’s most celebrated works of art. Produced in 1962, it’s composed of 32 canvases each representing a can of Campbell’s Soup.
  • Retro Wall Art inspired pastry: vanilla tart case, almond crunchy praline, salted caramel mousse, chocolate crémeux, caramel glaze, chocolate popping candy. Wall Art took on a new meaning in Seventies and Eighties, embracing geometrics and flowers in bright colours.

Rosewood Hotel Holborn London Andy Warhol Pastry © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“As a Pastry Chef, I’m always curious and draw inspiration from things that surround me. London is a vibrant city with an incredibly energetic art scene. Rosewood London’s quirky interiors reflect the British capital’s history, culture and sensibilities,” explains Executive Pastry Chef Mark Perkins. “The interiors feature works of some of the world’s most renowned artists, with contemporary pieces complemented by more traditional art. My latest creations are inspired by retro art from the Sixties to the Eighties.” Next time, we’ll complete our Rosewood London courtyard journey with a leisurely visit to Sense Spa.

Rosewood Hotel Holborn London Retro Wall Inspired Pastry © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Luxury People Restaurants

Tate Britain London + Rex Whistler Restaurant Jazz Lunch

The Riding on the Wall

Tate Britain is the quieter relative of the extended family. Tate Modern has Herzog + de Meuron’s sexy ziggurat with its brilliant incidental installation (Watch Rich People In Their Apartments). Tate Britain has James Stirling’s paean to contextual irony. Lost on most, the less said the better. Thankfully, the Rex Whistler Restaurant is located in the basement of the original sturdily neoclassical gallery. Or is it? Entrances at varying degrees above ordnance data dictate an enjoyable disorientation. Lower ground floor? Garden level? Sub piano nobile?

Rex. The name conjures up a dilettantish dandyish raffish character. Definitely a Bright Young Thing. Julia Flyte’s American beau in Brideshead Revisited. Rex Bart Beaumont, chum of Charles Howard Bury, last owner of Belvedere House in Mullingar. Known to all and sundry as “Sexy Rexy”. The pair enjoyed jaunts to Tibet accompanied by a pet bear. No aggressive normalcy there, then.

Paintings are best seen from a seat. The Garrick Club gets that with its dining room wallpapered by in Zoffany. Before Carl Laubin (who completed a capriccio of Castle Howard estate buildings in 1996) and even before Felix Kelly (who painted the Garden Hall murals at Castle Howard in 1988) there was Rex Whistler. His 1937 murals can be admired traipsing through the National Trust dining room of Plas Newydd on the Isle of Anglesey but how much more relaxing to soak in his 1927 murals at the Tate lounging over lunch. At least that was the plan.

Gloriously out of sync with the modernist spirit of the age (more country house than Bauhaus), The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats is a whimsical adventure chronicling a party in search of epicurean delights. Follies and fortresses, temples and turrets… it’s an escapist setting, an ageless fantasy, Chinese wallpaper without the paper. Trompe l’œil gargoyle headed grotesques support the pedimented entrance doorcase. Half moon windows are treated as grottos. All the more remarkable given that Rex undertook this feat as a 23 year old Slade student. Tragically just 17 years later, the artist was killed on his first day of action in World War II. Rex Whistler’s legacy continues to inspire and enthral. His portraits of Lady Caroline Paget and her brother, later 7th Marquess of Anglesey, both recently sold for twice their estimates.

Lunch is served in the leafy garden along the Thames Embankment. Fresco to alfresco. A moveable feast. Fête champêtre. The meal is bookended by bubbly. Isn’t all hydration good for you? That’s a fair enough excuse for flutes of Coates + Seely Brut (£11.50). “Complex citrus infused fizz from one of the UK’s most impressive estates,” reassures the wine list. Hampshire’s finest fizz followed by Hampshire’s finest fish. Arriba! L’Abrunet 2015 (£27.00), “Made from organic white Grenache grapes grown in Catalonia,” adds to the bibulous nature of this indulgent Saturday afternoon. In honour of the founder of the gallery (Henry Tate was a sugar merchant) it would be rude not to have pudding. And it does result in a three course deal (£35.95). “Moderation is overrated,” agree the couple at the next table. The food’s wonderful – aptly British with a nod to the Continent. No buyers’ remorse.

The jazz ensemble strikes up. Maybe Tate Britain isn’t so quiet, after all.

Luxury Restaurants

Bank Westminster + Zander Bar St James London

Banking Success Story

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Dining and drinking fads. Gourmet fast food. Slow food. Lobster and chips. Lobster sliders. Chips in tin buckets. Twice fried or triple cooked chips. Courgette fries. Truffle fries. Quails’ eggs. Caviar blinis. More caviar blinis. Make that English Shah Caviar blinis. Beetroot macaroons. Flavoured éclairs (fashion forward). Gravadlax (having a fashion moment). Cup cakes (out of fashion). The great champagne versus prosecco debate. Pop ups. No signage. No booking. Social media invites only. Some fads don’t go away. Chopsticks are like camera film. Why bother? Time to go digital, get some cutlery.

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Tate Britain opened its doors recently to reveal the long awaited redisplay by museum director Penelope Curtis of its collection of British art. Walking through the full circuit of galleries, visitors can now enjoy a chronological presentation of paintings from 1540 to the present day. The overall effect is fresh and engaging, a rich overview of British art tracing the development of styles and fashions. Unrelated topics? Not really. Taste in food and art is prone to the whims of fashion. Tate Britain, in this case, has taken the classic approach to gallery hang.

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Across the Thames, Bank Westminster has taken the classic approach to its menu. Or in the words of manager Marco Pavone, “International classic with a twist of modern,” to be precise. It’s on Buckingham Gate, almost as far north as one may reach from Victoria without sensing the imminence of the palace. There is plenty of note on Buckingham Gate itself, from The Blue Coat School to Westminster Chapel. Despite the central location, an air of tranquillity pervades the spring evening. Bank Westminster’s immediate neighbours are the four star Crowne Plaza Hotel and the five star Taj Suites and Residences. The latter are owned by Tata, the company behind Jaguar. The 170 square metre Jaguar Suite comes with a chauffeured car. No prizes for guessing what make.

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An enigmatic doorway opens off the street into the adjoining Zander Bar. “The bar is 50 metres long,” confirms Marco, “the same length as an Olympic swimming pool.” No doubt it makes for some great Olympian nights on the town. A lean corridor leads past three intimate panelled private dining rooms and then – tah dah! – the restaurant, a contemporary conservatory in a historic courtyard. A plethora of aquamarine ceramic tiles, terracotta friezes, brick ogee arches and Juliet balconies combine with a fountain and lush planting to Continental effect outdoors. Indoors, things start sunny side up with the Warm Potted Shrimp Salad (£8.70), eggs to perfection. Herb Roast Scallops along with crisp pork belly and apple (£10.50) are astutely conceived and colourfully presented.

Head chef David Ferguson spent time at Bank’s sister restaurant in Birmingham learning, executing and honing his craft. This accumulated skill is most obvious in one of the main course dishes, Monkfish with Garlic, Parsley and Thyme Butter (£21.95). On the bone, its flavours are gentle and cohesive; its texture fleshy; it looks as pretty as a picture; and it seems to sing of the sea. An onion ring stack on the side proves to be a towering guilty pleasure. Fillet of Steak (£23.95) from the charcoal burning grill served with peppercorn sauce is perfectly cooked and hugely succulent.

“We change our menu four times a year,” highlights Marco. “Summer’s coming soon! Whatever season it is, we only serve the very best British beef from Hereford and Aberdeen Angus cattle naturally reared on farms selected by us. We pride ourselves on the philosophy of ingredient provenance.” Meanwhile, the food and wine service continues apace, attractive and attractively polite and politely unobtrusive.

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The only thing more devilishly delightful than Banoffee or Eton Mess (not a euphemism for Cameron’s Cabinet) is Banoffee Eton Mess (£7.50), the sum of two evils. Constituent parts – banana, toffee, crunchy meringue – are deconstructed and chocolate brownies thrown in for good measure. Cubes (the chocolate brownies), pipes (more chocolate) and three dimensional ogees (the meringues) emerge from a creamy base. Pineapple Tarte Tatin (£7.50) with coconut ice cream is an equally sagaciously sell-your-soul choice.

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A well considered wine list complements these classic culinary principles. La Clochette Sancerre, 2011 (£39.95) is excellent to go along with the first half of the meal. The second half is accompanied (it is a bank holiday) by a vibrant South African favourite, False Bay Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 (£25.95). “We do what we do properly,” is Marco’s catchphrase. Forgotten food. Now that’s another fad. But memorable food is what Bank Westminster is about. Classic memorable food done properly.

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