Medici Restaurant Frankfurt + Christos Simiakos + Stamatios Simiakos

The Italian Jobs

Popes, bankers, patrons of art – and – of late, chefs and restaurateurs. The name Medici has been synonymous with high achievers for at least 600 years. Two brothers have brought a little piece of Florence to Frankfurt. Modern Mediterranean cuisine has come to downstream downtown Mainhattan. Christos and Stamatios Simiakos may be Gummersbach born, but the establishment owes more to their Italian heritage. Make that fishfingers not frankfurters.

Medici is 14 years old. Restaurants age in dynastic dog years. That makes it middle aged, well established, past going places, arrived in life. But the Simiakos siblings aren’t resting on their laurels – which, incidentally, include a young Michelin star. Plus there’s a youthful buzz about the place. Maybe that’s the current clientele? Or perhaps it’s just the buxom Florentine belles bulging out from a fresco plastered over the dining room wall.

Who said don’t mix business (lunch) and pleasure? All two-and-a-quarter courses please. More is more. Merry hearts have continual feasts. Pleasant words are like honeycomb, sweet to the soul and health to the bones. Yes, it’s a hard job, but some people just gotta dine and do it. Decadence has a new.

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Lavender’s Blue + Frankfurt

Many Mansions

John Goodall, Country Life’s Architectural Editor, presented a talk on castle architecture, the second in the European Commission series of lectures curated by Dr Roderick O’Donnell and hosted by Cultural Attaché Jeremy O’Sullivan at Europe House, Smith Square, London. The series marks the European Year of Cultural Heritage. “The elevations of châteaux are often one third roof,” John commented. “The French were obsessed with roofs.” Pictured are houses, not castles, in Germany, not France. Nevertheless, John’s comments could still be applied. Their roofs have more slopes than Klosters, more gables than a Lucy Maud Montgomery novel. Monsieur Mansard would approve.

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Town Hall Hotel + Typing Room Restaurant London

Indefinite Article | Our Type

Goodness. Two far east trips in one season. We’ll be in Ichinomiya by spring at this rate. Nuala was well worth the trip for midweek frolics. Hopes are riding high for Saturday lunch in Typing Room. We’re liking the name already, even minus its definite article, spending half our lives typing up storms. We’re here to snatch the three course (plus snack) set lunch menu. It’s fashionably short: two options per course. Fortunately it caters well for pescatarians:

We’re very partial to Michelin style madness and had been reliably informed to expect multisensory sensations. Cow bells ding-a-ling? No; just lively piped music towards the close of the afternoon. Surely foam at the very least? Our sense of anticipation rises. One of our carnivorous companions chooses the venison. Will it vaporise upon arrival with said guest merely left to inhale the gamey scent as if the doe was gracefully passing by on a moor? Before being shot dead? Not quite: it arrives solidly three dimensional, delicately seared, with the closest nod to starry styling being its geometric presentation (an oblong cut next to a cabbage roll). Belcanto’s fag ash butter pushed boundaries; Typing Room’s marmite butter is easier to love.

The snack is really an oversized amuse bouche, crispy and colourful, balancing on a rolled linen napkin. The crab is pure seefood. See it. Eat it. Delish. The brill is brill (sorry, couldn’t resist). Honestly, it’s as light and wholesome as our writing (we weren’t once described as “architecture’s answer to Hello! magazine” for nothing). Sheep’s yoghurt was but now isn’t on the menu. Pity. We could eat sheep’s yoghurt till the cows come home. But a colourful cacophony (pudding arrives to the beat of that lively music) of sweet meets savoury is worth writing home about. Under the aegis of Jason AthertonCity Social (his goat’s cheese fritters with honeyed white truffle oil are particularly memorable) being one of his many other forays – is Executive Chef Lee Westcott who formerly worked for Tom Aikens.

The restaurant is naturally lit by large sash windows on two sides. A central chimney breast divides it into two spaces. We’re in the larger space, overlooking the kitchen with its eight rolled-sleeve-white-shirted-navy-aproned-mostly-bearded staff. Walls are painted an inky charcoal grey. Seats look Scandinavian and must be comfortable because, afterwards, well, we don’t remember if they were or not, and you always remember uncomfortable chairs, don’t you?

Typing Room is in the same building as the five star Town Hall Hotel (lack of definite article clearly being a theme). It’s a sturdy Portland stone monument to municipality designed by Percy Robinson and Alban Jones in the final year of the Edwardian era. It was added to 30 years later in a similarly robust manner. Rare Architecture completed the recent conversion adding a daring metallic intervention. Or “abstracted veil” in the words of architect Nathalie Rozencwajg. The interiors are furnished to reflect all these eras: neoclassical antiques; vintage mid century pieces; and contemporary sculptures. Eclectic and eccentric: a doll’s house cupboard here; a dentist’s chair there. And – holy cow – a big yellow fish. Taxi!

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Lavender’s Blue + The Irish Times + The Gloss

Russian Unorthodox

Lavender’s Blue. A Vision | A Residence | A Blog. Our Gesamtkunstwerk. A decade of collecting and arranging. Irish country house attic style. So where better to celebrate in print than The Irish Times? Better again, The Gloss supplement. An A3 splash in Ireland’s glossiest A1 publication. Style Editor Aislinn Coffey gets it: “Your project and home was such a breath of fresh air, I adore it!” Virtuosic studies in light and shadow. Nothing’s really ever black and white (unless like us you’re under contract for the technicolour snaps). All things considered really, Lavender’s Blue is worthy of a retrospective at the Grand Palais. Clearly, we were an oversight by the National Gallery’s Monochrome exhibition gallerist.

Why the name Lavender’s Blue? Apart from being good with colour and enjoying the paradoxical phrase (surely lavender is purple to the masses?), there are geographical reasons for the naming of the vision that became a house that became a collection of essays that became a lifestyle that became an obsession that became a romance. This part of Battersea, back in its rural Surrey days, was awash with lavender fields. Nearby Lavender Hill and Lavender Sweep pay testimony to its perfumed history. Sweet. Oh and the Marillion song is pretty nifty too.

Step inside, and the rooms could be anywhere (or at least anywhere pretty decent); there are no visual references to its location in southwest London. Unless you count an 18th century threaded collage of Kew Palace. The street facing windows are opaque while the rear of the house reveals itself only onto a private cobbled trellised courtyard overlooked by absolutely nobody. A little piece of secret London. There are subtle hints of the Ireland of yore: a diorama of the long demolished Antrim Castle in the hallway; a framed envelope from the Earl of Kilmorey in the drawing room. But really it’s an international collection: no antiques stall or flea market or second hand shop or vintage pop-up was safe from plundering for the last 10 years. Amsterdam, Belfast, Bilbao, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Dublin, Lisbon, Paris, Paris again, Rotterdam and of course Savannah.

The naïve mirrored mini portico is one of several purchases from Savannah. We visited the Deep South’s finest after devouring Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The events in John Berendt’s book happened yonks ago but Savannah is still oh so magical. Meeting antiques dealer Charlie Brown, he gave us fragments of a chandelier from Jim William’s home, Mercer House. Jim was the central protagonist. The chandelier was smashed to myriad pieces when he shot his lover dead. We’ve slotted the crystal pieces into a standard lamp. Perfection.

The tiny mirror framed with horns is also from Savannah. The tinted photograph of General Lee came from an antiques arcade. It’s faded so his features can only be seen from certain angles like a shimmering ghost. “The family were glad to rid of it!” the dealer proclaimed. “He’s a bad omen!” Despite being swathed in bubble wrap, the picture split down the middle in our suitcase, hopefully dispelling any malignant spirits in the process. En route to Savannah we simply had to stop off in Atlanta for “Funday Sunday”. Margaret Mitchell’s flat where she wrote Gone with the Wind was a must-see. It’s also a late 19th century building – roughly the same size as Lavender’s Blue.

It may all look a little shambolic but there’s method (occasionally) and sanity (mostly) in the madness. Chicness amongst the shabbiness. Collections within collections include 18th century wax silhouettes hung in a group in a dark corner of the drawing room. “Darker again!” we ordered our ever patient decorator. And so he added another layer – or was it four or five? – of purple paint to the drawing room walls. At night, and even during the day, the walls merge into the charcoal grey ceiling. Antlers cast mysterious shadows by night. A tiny internal window over the recessed bookcase yields yet more mysterious lighting.

The bedroom is all about pattern. More is more. So very Sister Parish. Sanderson wallpaper covers the walls and ceiling while a Christian Lacroix shirt has found new life stretched across two square canvases. Nothing is coordinated – matching is just too bourgeois. Ok, the blue and white theme of the kitchen is pretty controlled but that’s all. And we’ve got to live up to our Delftware. It’s an eclectic collection, a layered timeless look, nothing too contrived or designed. The collection is complete, right down to the Argentine spoon embellished with Evita’s face and the majolica vase next to the piano. We’re resting on our laurels in the courtyard. Ah, the courtyard. So very Lanning Roper. Scene of lively summer lunches (Selfridges catering) and even livelier autumn soirées (more Selfridges catering). So very Loulou de la Falaise. Mostly with Annabel P, Lavender’s Blue intern amanuensis, on overtime. It’s getting greener and greener and greener. Grey Gardens watch this space. Sorry neighbours.

So what do the literati and glitterati have to say? Their quotes benefit from a touch of upper class case dramatic effect and a dash of well placed irony. “The place has great panache,” says Rupert Thomas, Editor of The World of Interiors. His predecessor Min Hogg, now Editor-at-Large, thinks it’s “lovely”. “Your rooms are a triumph,” believes architectural historian Dr Roderick O’Donnell. “They’re brilliantly decorated.” Artist and country house doyenne Amanda Brooke agrees, “What a triumph your understated flat is.” Jacqueline Duncan, Principal of Inchbald School of Design, thinks it’s “Bohemian”. Reverend Andy Rider, Rector of Christ Church Spitalfields, calls it “Baronial”. Astrid Bray, MD of Hyde Park Residence, loves it: “Wow! Quite a place.”

“LOVE it!” breathes model Simon Duke, simply and succinctly. Loving is a theme. “LOVE it!” repeats neighbour Emma Waterfall, MD of Cascade Communications. “Especially the William Morris inspiration in the bedroom. Fab.” Ok. “LOVE the purple!” raves interior designer to the stars Gabhan O’Keeffe. Still focusing on the drawing room, Nicky Haslam, man about town and interior decorator, is a fan: “That room is EVERYTHING I love!” Lady Lucy French, girl about town and theatre director exclaims, “I LOVE your interior design! Stunning!” The final words must go to conservation architect extraordinaire John O’Connell. “Very brave, very Russian, very YOU!”

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Nuala Restaurant + Bar Old Street London

Celtic Revivification

Shillelaghs at hand for the wee dander to Old Street for school night shenanigans. Dry January doesn’t apply to Irish launches. “It’s Ginuary,” muses amusing muse Annabel P. Time for a cèilidh. Nuala is Niall Davidson’s microcosm of Irish craic next to Derwent London’s White Collar Factory. The talented part Northern Irish part Scottish chef cut his teeth at St John Bread + Wine and the Chiltern Firehouse: Nuala is his first restaurant. The motif is a redhaired colleen – presumably the enigmatic Nuala?

There’s all the rage all day all night all week naggins and nosh to be had; a high five to the best of Irish – and British – bistronomy. The kitchen is run by Colin McSherry, a Fat Duck and Dinner alumnus. When you’re finished the scampi fried quail’s eggs, Jerusalem artichoke crackers and pear cream with grated orange and mushroom or clams in pistachio beurre blanc cooked on a brick lined wood fire in the middle of the 75 cover restaurant, you can stretch the night in the underground bar.

Once you’ve refuelled on Irish whiskey punch or downed a kick-ass Manhattan Serve (10 year iold single malt, Armagnac, Palo Cortado, squash seed oil, honey) in one of the timber panelled snugs, live music will entice even the most shrinking of violets to join in the Hibernian hooley and dance like dervishes till dawn. Tonight’s musical highlight is Conor Scott singing Zombie. Oh, and for those midnight munchies there’s always Tayto crisps.

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Lavender’s Blue + Goldsborough Hall Yorkshire

Princess Diaries

One can never have enough chairs.

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Argentine Open Polo Championship Palermo + La Dolfina

Campeonato Argentino Albierto de Polo 2017

The Campeonato Argentino Abierto de Polo (Argentine Open Polo Championship) is to polo what the World Series is to baseball. Quite simply it’s the single most important international polo event on the planet. Cue the jetset. Held every year since 1893 at the historic Campo Argentino de Polo of Palermo, popularly referred to as the Cathedral of Polo, the Open Championship welcomes some of the world’s greatest equestrian athletes.

Today it’s 33 degrees and being an exclusive midweek match (a recent intervention), family and friends only. And us. Not only is this event important to the sporting community, it’s one of the hottest social tickets in Buenos Aires. Later, the fashionable restaurants of Palermo will be thronged. The Telegraph calls the Argentine Open “polo’s pinnacle”. Ezekiel P, himself a polo player and proud Porteño, is our English speaking guide. So who’s playing? La Dolfina against La Albertina. Get ready for the thunderous thud of hooves.

“This polo tournament is the most competitive in the world. Not in Argentina, the world! There are 10 teams in the tournament. Competitive polo playing follows spring season round the world. That way you can practise the whole year. It’s all very sociable!”

“The perfect team handicap is 40. An individual player’s handicap ranges from zero to 10 with 10 being the best. There are players at the highest level in Argentina, England and the US but nowhere else. Polo is the hobby of ‘patróns’ who fund the sport. The money is in breeding, training and selling the horses. All you receive when you win a match is a handshake – from the Queen if you’re lucky!”

“This match is at a really really high level. So you’ve got four versus four players and one sub on either team. There are two yellow jacketed referees on horses. There will be around 160 horses between the two teams. That’s 20 horses per player. The horses are all pure Argentinian pedigree. The field has to be perfect. After each goal teams switch sides of the field.”

“There are five to eight ‘periods’ per match. A period lasts six and a half minutes of real playing time. It’s a very dangerous sport! The horses are travelling at 60 to 70 kilometres per hour. Polo is very physical, like ice hockey. The Royals play for charity – they’re not professionals. When passing the ball to Prince Charles you have to say ‘Please sir’. The match will start soon. We do everything late! Everything in Buenos Aires starts late!”

“Polo horses have very pronounced tendons in their legs. They’re like the best girls: beautiful faces and big asses! Most of the horses playing are clones. Look at the scoreboard – the horse’s head beside any horse’s name means they’re cloned. All four of La Dolfina’s horses playing now are clones! Dolfina B04 C Clon 4; Dolfina Polemica; Irenita Acertada; and Vasca Harrods.”

“A polo field is the size of six football pitches. An underlay of sand keeps the grass bouncy. There’s only one match per day on the field. The match continues when players have to change horses, unless they’re hurt.  Look how they pass the ball so perfectly. The speed is always amazing!”

At the half time interval TV screens broadcast a six year old, an Adolfo Cambiaso in the making. “The fun part of polo is having fun,” he declares. The final score? La Dolfina 22: La Albertina 6.

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i Latina Restaurant Buenos Aires + Lavender’s Blue

Aga Something to Say | Been Latin | Columbian Marching Orders | Cuban Resolution | Caribbean Crews | Chefs Specials | You Can Get the Staff These Days

“Take lots of photos! We love a photo shoot!”

Tasting menus and addresses only released upon booking are the whole rage in Buenos Aires. In the UK, wine lists start with white and end with red. The opposite is true in Argentina. A locked gate keeps the hoi polloi at bay at i Latina, a “Cocina Latino Americana” restaurant. i Latina is open for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday and brunch on Sunday. The tasting menu costs 1,600 Argentine pesos; wine pairing, 900; a margarita 180; and sparking water is 120. That’s 2,800 pesos without tip, or just over £120. Not cheap, but for one of South America’s top restaurants, not budget busting either. “A glass of Laborum 2016. Let’s do it on the house!”

“This building is 200 years old.”

It turns out we’ve saved the best till last. i Latina will prove to be Buenos Aires‘ finest restaurant. And it’s not like the competition ain’t hot. i Latina is in Villa Crespo, a neighbourhood fast becoming a dining destination. It opened in 2012 and kick started those two Buenos Aires’ signature trends: small plates and closed door policy. Once the white pillared gate is unlocked, the evening begins. Walk along a chessboard path, walk past white painted cast iron furniture, walk under a candlelit birdcage, walk through the open glazed door.

“The owners have adopted a stray cat they found nearby.”

A psychedelic parrot painted on the bathroom wall looks like it escaped from the birdcage. Colour doesn’t end there. We’ll eat off blue spoons and mustard plates; watercress leaves (yes, green), carrots (yes, orange), horse radishes (definitely red) with purple and yellow petals decorating the courses to come. “This is typical of Mexico – spicy and sweet.” It’s a family affair. Laura Macías designed the interior; her brother Santiago is Head Chef; and third sibling Camilo manages front of house.

“Coconut is used so much in Columbian and Ecuadorian food.”

“The creamy coffee is hand picked grain by grain.”

Somewhere and somehow between pudding and coffee we end up in the kitchen. The chefs line up, striking poses, full of the joys; a grand finale, we’re half expecting some high kicks. “Where’s the pastry chef?” they frantically chorus and a pretty girl appears from nowhere with knowhow to join in the fun. If this is hospitality Patagonia style, a super supper club (Puerto Cerrado), we’re converts.

“Go to Columbia!”

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Pasaje Defensa San Telmo + Casa Pardo San Telmo

We Cry, We Laugh, We Seek, We Shop

“Do you like Chopin?” goes the old joke. “Only in San Telmo,” we sardonically reply. Nobody does shabby chic better than the Porteños – except the Anglo Irish. But they’re another story altogether. Dundering in looks better in the dusty heat, deep in the United Provinces of the Silver River.

Entering Pasaja Defensa surely must be the closest contemporary experience to visiting an Ancient Roman villa. Originally built for the Ezeiza family in 1880, it’s arranged around a cloistered courtyard supported by the slimmest of columns, four poster bed girthed really, sprouting vegetative capitals.

During the 1930s recession, the building housed 32 families. Nowadays it’s the home of antique dealers, artists and craftsmen. And a forlorn grey cat.

Across the street from Pasaja Defensa is Casa Pardo. A counterpart as sweet as any in Johann Sebastian Bach’s Wachet Auf. If the former is all open aria atria; the latter is a high octave top glazed gallery and a long one at that. Dating from 1745, Casa Pardo was and is a cultural salon. Scion Monica Pardo reminisces,

“Anyone would believe that the ‘gatherings’ were meetings that were held only in the colonial era, but in the 20th century in the House of Pardo, these meetings were held where many collectors, museum directors and historians had coffee and chatted.  Many years ago, when I was very young, I was visiting my grandfather at his Sarmiento Street store and I heard an animated debate between the Unitarians and Federalists.”

We buy, we laugh, we see, we drop. And later, much later, we dance.

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The Kavanagh Building Buenos Aires + Corina Kavanagh

Concrete Idea

It’s as close to Brutalism as Art Deco can get. Argentine Irish developer Corina Kavanagh’s eponymous skyscraper, once the tallest in Latin America, boasts no frills monumentality. Designed in 1934 by local architects Ernesto Lagos, Luis María de la Torre and Gregorio Sánchez, The Kavanagh Building was also once the world’s highest reinforced concrete structure. Ms Kavanagh lived in a luxurious apartment occupying the entire 14th floor. A transparent mosaic of jacaranda flowers in full bloom softens the hard line architecture on a hot spring day.

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