Saturday, 11 April 2015

venice for easter

Easter! We had lunch last Friday at Barrafina's new(ish) outpost on Adelaide Street in Covent Garden. I love the Soho branch, which opened in 2007, and have been meaning to try out the Hart Brothers' new place for a while. We ate crab croquetas and pan con tomate and tortilla and drank at least a few glasses of Cava. My favourite dish was a salad of chicory and anchovies, served with Salmorejo (an Andalusian purée of tomato and bread). Afterwards we wondered over to the British Museum to check out the Defining beauty: the body in ancient Greek art exhibition, which was quite brilliant. The show brings together around 150 items, mainly sculpture. Some are beautiful originals from Ancient Greek times, others are marble or bronze copies from Roman times or the modern era. I loved the bronze athlete on loan from Croatia the most, which was recovered from the Adriatic Sea just a couple of decades ago.

We'd planned to spend the rest of the long weekend visiting D.'s family in Edinburgh, but in the end we decided to pay a trip to one of our favourite places, Venice. A last minute change of plan. Friday evening was spent at my parents' house in Hampshire, on Saturday morning we flew and by midday we were making the journey across the lagoon to San Marco.

We'd booked into the Metropole for two nights, mainly because we'd noticed and fallen in love with the hotel's exterior the last time we were in the city. So Wes Anderson, wouldn't you agree? We checked in and went for a long lunch (prawns and polenta, pasta with duck ragu), and then for a wander. We spent most of the weekend wandering with no particular idea of where we were heading for. We'd shoot into a church or a bookshop, stop off for a slice of pizza, buy a gelato, get lost in a maze of side streets. All of the things you want to do in Venice.

Cool blue marble columns make up the exterior of the Doge's Palace. Sublime.

Pre-Saturday-night-supper spritzes and giant olives outside Florian. We had dinner at Corte Sconta, a renowned restaurant where they serve delicious seafood (swordfish carpaccio was a highlight) and great pasta. We slept well that night.

Unfortuantely, what with it being Easter Sunday, quite a few of the museums and palazzos we were hoping to visit were closed, so we decided instead to go for an early lunch on the Grand Canal. It was perfect - crisp pink tablecloths, dazzling light. I ate pumpkin flowers stuffed with ricotta and more pasta. Spaghetti, I believe. I never go for a main course in Italy, just a starter, pasta and perhaps a pudding... I mean that usually tends to do for lunch...

We spent the afternoon exploring Ca' Rezzonico, a museum dedicated to 18th-century Venice. I fell in love with these incredible chandeliers.

A brilliant palazzo! Ideal proportions and the perfect shade of pistachio green. Heaven. After a quick nap and a Bellini or two at Harry's Bar, we went for supper at Al Covo, a restaurant which is apparently 'very much on the international gourmet map', but which we stumbled upon totally by accident. I'm glad we did, because the owners (Cesare Benelli and his American wife Diane) were fantastic. I ate more stuffed flowers (courgette this time) and excellent fritto misto.

We took a boat to Murano on Monday morning. We saw a quick demonstration of a guy making a vase, which was fun. I'm really feeling Murano glass. I'd do anything for one of those enormous, ridiculous, pink glass chandeliers - the ones that look as if they've been crafted from sugar. So chic.

We zoomed around the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and then guess what? It was time for lunch. Spectacular reflections of the sun on the water plus beautiful pink flowers.

Afterwards we paid a visit to the recently opened Rousseau exhibition at the Doge's Palace. Highly recommended. This was my favourite painting in the whole show.

Before long it was time to head back across the lagoon. Thinking back now, the whole trip feels a bit like a mirage. Two nights and a few days of hazy Italian beauty.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Sunday, 29 March 2015

springtime wish list

I say wish list, but I actually bought this jacket yesterday. It's from Gant Rugger and it has 'light and truth' in Latin stitched across the back, which obviously I couldn't resist. It's the perfect shade of navy blue and I love the gold hardware. Also, I'm really feeling corduroy at the moment.

The reverse. I usually hate words on clothes but Ivy League university mottoes are a different matter I reckon. (It actually reads 'luxury and truth', a clever joke.)

Suede Gucci loafers in cornflower blue.

I keep meaning to pick up one of these natty sleeveless lambswool numbers from Drake's. This is the perfect shade of moss green.

Bright yellow trousers from Toast.

And for the house? To be honest I could probably do with one of these old illuminated signboards from Lassco. (They used to hang in an English seaside town.) Too excellent! Thinking about it, when or if I eventually find a studio, one of these will have to hang above the door.

A rare Irish mirror from the Regency period, studded with blue crystal and white glass in a copper frame. Ebury Trading occasionally have these beautiful old Irish mirrors in stock. I've wanted one for years.

We just bought one of these smart brass Miami table lamps and a jaunty red silk ikat shade from Pooky, my new favourite destination for lighting. It's living on an old wooden chest of drawers in our bedroom.

A good Beni Ouarain for our sitting room. (This particular one is from Beldi Rugs.)

Sunday, 22 March 2015

rebecca in richmond

Oh, Rebecca. I've been meaning to read you for years. A glamorous woman is mysteriously murdered on a Cornish estate in the 1920s (or 30s or 40s - nobody actually knows). So me. So when my friend Tobi told me that he had tickets for a theatre adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's best-loved novel at the Richmond Theatre, I was there like a shot. The play was excellent - disturbing, funny, totally gripping. I particularly loved the set, which featured the wreck of Rebecca's sunken boat at its centre, a crystal chandelier swinging above. Director Emma Rice’s adaptation made excellent use of live music throughout the performance - violins and fiddles and gloomy sea shanties sung by fishermen in dark raincoats. Yes, I loved it. And now it's time to track down the paperback...

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again... I came upon it suddenly; the approach masked by the unnatural growth of a vast shrub that spread in all directions... There was Manderley, our Manderley, secretive and silent as it had always been, the gray stone shining in the moonlight of my dream, the mullioned windows reflecting the green lawns and terrace. Time could not wreck the perfect symmetry of those walls, nor the site itself, a jewel in the hollow of a hand.

Monday, 16 March 2015

somerset spring

We arrived in Somerset late last Friday night. It was a long and tiresome drive from London. After a quick feast of cheese, bread and beer on arrival, we turned in for the night. Our home for the weekend was The Talbot Inn, a converted 15th-century coach house located in the estate village of Mells. We woke early on Saturday morning, well rested and happy to be in the country. The view from our bedroom window, of Somerset hills and trees and bright blue sky, made the late night journey more than worth the trouble. Breakfast was eggs and a Bloody Mary or three. Afterwards we paid a visit to St Andrew’s church, just next door to the inn. Inside, all was still and peaceful. In the image of the church entrance above, you'll spot the 16th-century Mells Manor in the background. The village's name comes from the Latin for honey, mellis, referring to the beautiful colour of the local stone.

We didn't do a great deal on Saturday. After our morning walk around Mells we hotfooted it over to nearby Babington House, where we had lunch on the terrace and read the newspapers for a few hours. The sun was shining; it felt like spring might finally be on its way. We spent the afternoon back in our room at the inn, dozing, with the sunshine streaming through the windows.

Dinner at the inn was another restrained affair - roast chicken and wine and rice pudding with rhubarb, followed by a jigsaw puzzle and an attempt at a murder mystery board game. And then other night's good sleep.

After breakfast on Sunday we headed over to Montacute House, which I've written about before. This glittering Elizabethan mansion is one of my favourite country houses to visit. The weather unfortunately wasn't nearly so nice as it was on Saturday, but the Somerset stone still gleamed golden.

Lovely spring daffodils in Montacute's greenhouse. In the afternoon we drove back to London, stopping off at the wonderful Pythouse Kitchen Garden in Wiltshire (which I've also written about before) for mushrooms on toast and fish pie. A good weekend.

Monday, 9 March 2015

in the press... lonny march 2015

I was delighted to be asked to photograph a selection of my 'prized treasures' for the March issue of US-based online interiors magazine, Lonny. Take a look here. Back in February, I enjoyed a very fun morning at The Marlton Hotel in New York with the Lonny team, where they photographed me for the feature. I wrote about the hotel and restaurant inside, Margaux, in my recent New York post - I loved the interiors so very much. The beautiful olive green leather banquettes and pink floral tiles became the perfect backdrop!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

late february

What's been going on since I was in New York? Well, a few weekends ago, I made a very good cake. Blood oranges are in season, so I bought a bunch from our local greengrocer and made this zingy blood orange and olive oil cake (find Tom Hunt's recipe here). No sugar is involved, just lots and lots of dried apricots, which give the cake a sublime toffee flavour. It's basically marmalade in cake form, which can only be a good thing.

We bought a set of vintage Marcel Breuer Cesca chairs to go with our beloved marble dining table. They were a total eBay bargain. I love the combination of honey coloured cane and sparkling chrome.

We went to a fun party at The Serpentine. Cocktails and art and stuff.

Duncan fell off his bicycle and broke his arm! It was pretty nightmarish for him for a couple of days, but he's now well and truly on the mend.

I made a trip to Tate Britain. This painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds is one of my favourite pieces in the whole place.

I got a new (old) watch! It's having a much nicer (orange) strap fitted this week. I've never worn a watch until now. Look at those painted numbers! So incredibly cool.

We've been buying lots of old terracotta pots which we're filling with plants and then sort of forgetting about, which is what I think most people do.

I've been drawing a lot...

I've just finished Crazy Pavements by Beverley Nichols. I can't remember who it was that recommended this book to me, but I'm very glad they did. Curiously, there isn't too much information about it online. After a bit of research however I managed to find a battered old copy bound in grey linen on eBay. Set in 1920s London, the novels tells the story of Brian Elme, a young and handsome gossip columnist who spends his time making up society gossip, until he becomes the star of society himself. Beverley Nichols was one of the original Bright Young People, and in this novel he satirises the set to which he belonged. I recommend. It's deliciously funny.

And I've been listening to Beirut almost 24/7. I never really used to pay much attention to Beirut and then a month ago I decided to give all of their albums a good, proper listen. I instantly fell in love. Beirut's songs make me want to pack it all in, run away to a Romanian forest and join a group of Gypsies. Or something.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

new york in february

I returned from New York last Tuesday, where I'd been spending a few days with my mother and sister, who'd both never been before. (My role was the unofficial tour guide/taxi hailer/chief lunch adviser.) On the previous Friday, our first full day, we headed over to Central Park and Fifth Avenue; leaving the girls to shop I paid a visit to The Frick, which was wonderfully peaceful. I had the Garden Court to myself.

And then on to the MoMA where I managed to catch the Matisse exhibition a day or two before it closed. It was seriously beautiful and probably the most inspiring exhibition I've seen in a long time. My favourite part? The films projected on to the walls of the gallery showing Matisse cutting shapes out for his assistants to pin up and arrange under their master's direction.

The next day we zoomed up to the top of the Rockefeller Center, which gave us this superb (albeit rather gloomy) view of the city. It even started to snow whilst we were up there. For lunch we headed down to Balthazar in SoHo. I'm a big fan of the London version, but was excited about checking out the NY original, which didn't disappoint. I had the usual - a Bloody Mary and steak frites.

Sunday was spent meandering along the High Line (after excellent bagels and coffee from Black Seed, recommended to me by a friend). I popped back uptown to The Met after lunch, where I spent a couple of hours sketching. I found a fabulous multicoloured pencil in the gift shop which naturally, I went a bit mad with. Later on I met with the lovely Marisa from Stylebeat.

Another sketch. It was cold whilst we were there, that's for sure. Even walking along the streets to get from A to B would bring us out in tears after about twenty minutes. Good excuse to pop indoors for a hot chocolate though.

I took a cab down to The Marlton Hotel on Monday morning, to meet with the guys from Lonny Magazine (more to come on that soon). I absolutely adored The Marlton - the interiors, the design and the excellent restaurant next door, Margaux, where we enjoyed a good meal on our first night (I highly recommend the cauliflower custard).

The interior of Margaux - leather banquettes in the perfect shade of olive green, beautiful teal and pink tiles, lovely chairs, mirrors and light fittings. It all just works so spectacularly well.

Later on I pottered around Greenwich Village, before picking up a book to take home from the wonderful Three Lives & Company bookshop. In the evening we flew home, tired but happy after a very good break. Mum and sister loved it. I didn't sleep on the plane, but I did watch Paddington, which, as much as I love the Big Apple, filled me with joy at the thought of returning to my home city... Until next time, New York.