Hotels Luxury People Restaurants

Franciacorta Wine + Lavender’s Blue


On the table next to us at the glamorous World Boutique Hotel Awards, Francisco Seresina, owner of the sublime Villa Sostaga on Lake Garda, shared his insider knowledge, “Good Italian sparkling wine is from Franciacorta and also Trento.” Yes, “The point is these sparkling wines are made from the Champagne method. They take from 24 months to 10 years to mature whereas Prosecco is very quick. The best ways of making sparkling wine are the Champagne method by French inventors or the Martinotti method by Italian inventors.”

When pushed, Signor Seresina confided, “My favourite wine depends on the period of the year. There’s a perfect wine for many different moments. Italy has the largest variety of indigenous wines in the world. There’s life after Chardonnay and Merlot! Italy is geographically a very long country with mountains and seas which allow for many different wines in varying soil expositions.” Franciacorta is a small wine producing area in Lombardy, northern Italy.

Jan Konetzki steps in: “The general perception of rosé is not very serious. A copper­­­ish colour isn’t good. But the more vibrant colour rosé is, the more it merits attention. Rosé Rare Millésime Champagne 2008 is the best.” He adds, “And some of the finest French wines are from Northern Rhône.” Jan should know. Based in London, he’s one of the world’s leading sommeliers, on speed dial to triple Michelin star Chefs Clare Smyth and Anne-Sophie Pic. We’re chatting to him in the latter’s eponymous restaurant in our favourite Four Seasons Tower Hill.

Later, Maud Rabin, Global Director of Rare Champagne, the world’s most expensive and exclusive bubbly, will smile over drinks with us in the eternally divine Hôtel Meurice, “C’est la vie! That’s what we say in Paris. We always mean it in a positive way. Rosé Rare Millésime Champagne 2008 is a thrilling vintage. June and July of that year were very cool before favourable weather returned in August. Warm dry days and cool nights continued through to the mid September harvest, resulting in Champagne with great finesse and ageing potential.” Now is a good time for the lengthily refined Franicacorta Ca’del Bosco from the Vintage Collection Satèn 2015 en plage. Isn’t it always?

Fashion Luxury People

Boutique Hotel Awards 2018 + Elisabeth Visoanska

Carpe Diem 

“Without the connection you have nothing. It’s the people that really make the experience.” The impossibly beautiful Elisabeth Visoanska.

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Boutique Hotel Awards 2018 + Lavender’s Blue

Quite Simply The Universe’s Most Glamorous Hospitality Awards Gala Dinner 

How the great poses? “We do it all the time!”

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Clarance Hotel Lille + Lavender’s Blue

Unique Boutique

Ok, it’s a feeble excuse. But since Lavender’s Blue have once again been asked to sit on the Nominations Committee of the World Boutique Hotel Awards, we simply had to hop on Eurostar Business Premier to five star intimate luxury in Lille. Three blind mice arches on either side of a gated pedimented Corinthian pilastered archway line the pavement of Rue de la Barre in Quartier du Vieux. Beyond this most enigmatic of screen walls, set back behind a courtyard, is the façade of a gorgeous nine bay three storey 18th century stuccoed mansion. It’s Relais + Châteaux; it’s really a château.

Clarance Hotel started life in 1736 as the home of Count and Countess of Hespel. Current owner Aurélie Vermesse says, “It took me more than two years to set up La Clarence as a hotel, opening in April 2015. Today, I have 30 employees, a Michelin starred restaurant, and I generate €2.7 million in turnover!” Our coterie, an outré beau monde, is at home among the soignée haute monde, social carousels in slow motion, floating through the airily graceful reception rooms. A row of French (what else?) windows lighting the rear enfilade opens onto a gloriously private walled garden with the tower of St Catherine’s Church as a backdrop. Fruit trees and beehives surround a pond of waterlilies that would give Monet a run for his money. Clarance Hotel is divine, so chic.

It’s not just us feeling Lille. “For those who want a London career,” surprises Annunciata Elwes in Country Life, “but enjoy a French attitude to cuisine and culture (cheese and wine), apparently Lille is the next commuter property hotspot. Website Emoov claims that the combination of the capital’s higher wage potential, Lille’s more affordable properties (34.9 percent cheaper) and a Eurostar commute of only an hour and 22 minutes is a winner.”

By nightfall, turndown of our light and spacious bedroom includes a handwritten card from the hotelier: “’There, all is order and beauty, luxury, Peace and Pleasure.’ I wish you a pleasant stay at Clarance. Aurélie.” And the all important chocolate truffles. Our room, No.14, is called Le Voyage. It’s one of just nine rooms on the second floor. The others are called No.12 Allegorié; No.15 L’Albatros; No.16 Hymne; No.17 Le Flacon; No.18 Le Jeu; No.19 La Musique; and No.20 Clarance. No.13, its door luckily unnumbered, is the broom cupboard. A segmental arched window looks across the courtyard to a pleasing jumble of chimneys and rooftops. Directly below are seats perfect for enjoying a nightcap of Les Rochettes Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu 2015 from Loire Valley.

The categories for this year’s World Boutique Hotel Awards are Beach or Coastal| City Explorer | Classic Elegance | Culinary ExcellenceFamily | Honeymoon Hideaway | Inspired Design | Newcomer | Relaxation Retreat | Romantic Retreat | Wellness SpaSustainability | Stunning Views. We could easily nominate Clarance Hotel for all 13. Ok, Beach or Coastal might be pushing it.

Hotels Luxury

The Morrison Hotel Dublin + Sparkling Afternoon Tea

Shadows and Highlights


All in the name of research, you’ll understand. No really. We – the Delphic Oracle of hospitality – have been asked to nominate candidates for the World Boutique Hotel Awards. The next ceremony is less than eight months away: so little time, so many boutique hotels. Back in the day, or decade (the Nineties), The Morrison in all its monochromatic glory was where it was: It Boys, It Girls*, just it. The lobby cum lounge cum bar cum posing gallery was practically pitch dark and forever echoed to the clamour of clinking glasses and laughter. Dublin liked to party, and there was nowhere better to perch than on the John Rocha cow skins draped across black leather banquettes. A vague utopia of younger dreams. Boom.

Bang. Bust. Boom again. Google Googletown. The Celtic Boomerang Economy. The hangover’s over; Dublin’s back to partying. If you can’t beat them… sparkling afternoon tea for two please. Sparkling company, sparkling conversation and a glass of fizz. In the intervening years, The Morrison has become a DoubleTree by Hilton. Its interior is lighter now and even has – shock, horror! – accents of colour. A splash of fuchsia on the carpet runner; a streak of lavender across the reception desk. Still got it, though.

That familiar flow from savoury to sweet via homemade scones and fresh cream, as calming as the River Liffey framed by great windows open to the south, starts with smoked salmon and lemon butter sandwiches followed by cucumber with cream cheese and chives sandwiches. A trouser stretching diet busting calorie mounting range of miniature puddings completes the pleasure. Blueberry Bakewell tarts | mango and passion fruit panna cotta | lemon drizzle cake | best of all banoffee pie. A table filled with the talk of youth. Innocence and beauty.

*Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, the greatest It Girl since Clara Bow, was beloved by all. Scott’s in Mayfair was one of her favourite haunts. The restaurant famously has only one combined entrance | exit. Tara dined at Scott’s just after she got her nose job. The paparazzi eagerly gathered on Mount Street outside. “Do you think they’re here to photograph my legs?” she laughed, pointing to her rather fine pins.

Architecture Design Hotels Luxury People

Merchant Taylors’ Hall City of London + The World Boutique Hotel Awards

Guild Secrets 


Tonight’s the night! We’re down at the seat of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors, one of the 12 Great Livery Companies of the City of London. This medieval guildhall, protected from the proletariat by a cloistered courtyard overlooked only by the neon glory of 99 Bishopsgate, endows picturesque scenery on the international awards ceremony celebrating brilliance in luxury boutique hotels and villas. It’s the gala evening, the very grandest of City Livery dinners. The jetset have flown into town. We’re so excited we just can’t hide it! We just can’t get enough:



Select industry players, 200 of us, are black tied and white laced and ball gowned, ready for pleasures in the night. An enigmatic entrance off Threadneedle Street, a discreet doorway to decadence, leads into a long hallway lined with old masters of old masters and deadly 15th century hearse cloths illuminated by Grecian sconces. A vaulted gallery spills into the floodlit garden and flows into the great hall, its beauty blurred by the suffusing warmth of a thousand candles. The architecture is a highbred of Queens: Elizabeth, Anne, Mary and Elizabeth again.











“Be amazing!” declares guest speaker Tim Dingle. “If you want to be successful you can genuinely change the world. Don’t survive, thrive!” The awards recognise an academy of excellence amidst these suitably collegiate surroundings. “Liking your blog very much by the way,” says Mercedes Alonso. Scarlet Bray agrees. Wallpaper*, Elite Traveller, Spear’s Magazine, The Financial Times and The Telegraph: everyone is here. Clare Island Lighthouse, a clifftop six roomed hotel, scoops a prize, adding prestige to our emerald isle. Barry and Roie McCann are thrilled!


Echo Valley? Echo Valley? Norm and Nan Dove’s British Columbian ranch is amazing. Cowboy hats at dawn. Summertime in Goa, an exclusive use hilltop villa, wins Asia’s Most Romantic Retreat. Actually Asia features heavily. Our Man in India Alfred Tuinman is pleased. So is Suzanne Vertillart Chayavichitsilp. Africa is big this year. We’re dreaming of being washed ashore to Sea Monkey Villa, Mahé Island. Lovely to meet Christabel Milbanke-Brayson. Lyton and Eroline Lamontagne look resplendent.


There’s at least one UK winner: Hotel Gotham in Manchester gets the vote for World’s Best New Hotel. The top prize for World’s Best Boutique Hotel goes to Secret Bay Hotel, Dominica. All the hotels and private villas, the finest on earth no less, are illustrated in a glossy book, a coffee table essential. Sponsor Elisabeth Visoanska’s synergistic products mean we’ll all be looking particularly fresh for the next while. The Parisian cosmetician believes, “Preserving one’s youthfulness does not mean stopping the course of time; it means living life with continually growing passion.” We’d like to propose our own toast to Most Fun Boutique Hotel Reception Staff. And the winner we know, we know, we know is… The Capital (on Basil Street, a ruby’s throw from both Harrods and Harvey Nics). Sweet memories.