The Communication Group + 10 Bloomsbury Way

The Bloomsbury Group

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London architecture practice Buckley Yeoman Grey are no strangers to breathing new life into old buildings. Derwent London’s Buckley Building in Clerkenwell, 1930s printing works turned offices, is a case in point. L+R commissioned the architects to transform the 1940s Ministry of Defence HQ into offices. Bloomsbury’s very own flat iron building, sprinkled with Buckley Yeoman Grey’s fairy dust, is now home to the UK’s longest established independent PR consultancy. Glamorous and sophisticated, the offices look good too. They overlook London’s most curious steeple: lions and unicorns coiling round the stepped pyramid atop St George’s Bloomsbury. Hawksmoor gone cuckoo.

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The Communication Group was founded by Maureen Sutherland Smith, who is now the Chairman. A renowned professional in the world of PR, Maureen was made a Freeman of the City of London in 2011. She’s also well known for her charity work. The following year, she was appointed Vice President of Coram, the UK’s oldest children’s charity, and has since been made a Life Governor. In recent times, Maureen chaired the Grosvenor House Arts and Antiques Fair which raised over £400,000 and organised the City Rocks concert. Attracting the likes of Brian May, Lily Allen and Sophie Ellis-Bextor gathered £200,000 for The Lord Mayor’s Appeal.

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Clients of The Communication Group range from places to live in (Ballymore) to places to stay in (Jumeirah) to places to work in (Howick Place) to places to save in (Coutts) to places to spend in (Masterpiece) to places to get well in (Nightingale Hospital) to places to get even better in (Necker Island) to places to bring an umbrella (Edinburgh) to places to forget an umbrella (Dubai) and umbrellas (Fulton). Wherever Ms Sutherland Smith’s black Morgan is parked outside, there’s a good party going on indoors. Tonight is no exception. It’s The Communication Group’s 30th birthday celebrations. Hurrah! The lights are on in 10 Bloomsbury Way and everyone’s home. It’s time to chat to Lady Lucy French of St James’s Theatre.

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Assassin-black uniformed waiters come and go from The Bloomsbury Kitchen serving caviar, smoked salmon and cream cheese followed by watermelon and mint. Janisson + Fils champagne flows. A tower of coloured meringues lures guests. Maureen steps forward to speak, “Thank you so much for the flowers and cake! I find it difficult to believe its 30 years since The Communication Group began. It’s been a privilege over the years to have such exciting, outstanding and amazing clients! It’s been wonderful to build friendships and relationships. Other companies have been bought out but The Communication Group is proud to have retained its independence. So I would like to give you a big thank you for the part you have played in our past, present and I hope in our future!” The saxophonist plays happy birthday. Later, a female lead will sing Valerie while the band gets louder and the lights dimmer. “The singer was an intern for me,” says Sally Hawkins, Chairman of the Management Board and Creative Director of The Communication Group. “She performs at the Blue Marlin.”

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SPPARC Architecture + The Music Box Southwark

White Cube

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Missed it, impossible. An enigmatic form; a legible plan. Classical with precedence; original with credence. Absence of colour; presence of brilliance. Monochromatic look; colourful character. Box clever; clever box. The morphemes of negative space; the polyphemes of architectonic afterimage. Lines of beauty; the unlocked grid. Complexity; contradiction. Cool design; hot property. If architecture is frozen music, The Music Box is a timely sculpture in ice. Above the arches; above the commuter belt; above the parapet; above the radar; above the norm. Blue sky thinking. Right side of the tracks. Rooms with a view. A place for living; a space for learning. Thinking outside the (Miesian) box, Trevor Morriss, Principal of SPPARC Architecture, is a bright young(ish) thing, a rising star in the architectural firmament that is London. The sky’s not the limit. The Music Box is his latest meteor to strike across the galaxy. Taylor Wimpey Central London’s mixed use scheme of 55 apartments suspended over a music college will inspire generations to come. List it, imaginably.

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“The scheme is in two parts: the upper element adopts the vertical proportions of the golden section. A cube shaped residential building is delicately positioned over a 15 metre high base with a large glazed section, providing both prominence onto the street and glimpses into the music college. This purity of form is reflected in the simplicity of the external surfaces. The strong base is faced with a white ceramic brick interrupted by a textured three dimensional band representing rhythm which accords with the positioning of the rectilinear punched apertures. But it is the erosion of this cubic form that truly defines the building. A ‘missing’ street corner acknowledges the strong horizontality of the adjacent railway line, in parallel creating a longitudinal distinction between the music college and apartments. The upper residential storeys are distinguished by a hierarchical layer of vertical solar spines intersecting glazed fabric. The top of The Music Box is a continuous glazed kerb regularly punctuated by the extension of the solar spines: a profile reminiscent of a hammer and piano keys.”

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The Pink Panther + The Goring Hotel London Afternoon Tea

Piece of Cake

The Goring Hotel Union Jack © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Sapphires or rubies? To tiara or not tiara? The Lanesborough afternoon tea or The Goring afternoon tea? It’s a close run thing, but The Goring steals the crown. It has the stamp of royal approval. Literally. ER is stamped on the top of the chocolate and toffee filled meringue. Plus The Goring, London’s last family owned five star hotel, boasts a garden to turn The Lanesborough green with envy. It’s a spatial rarity for central London and even more so considering Victoria Station is only 300 metres from the front door. Not that you’d ever guess, gazing out at the calm grassy oasis.

The Goring Hotel Veranda © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Look out for The Pink Panther’s gloves in a frame in the sitting room. The idea is he has stolen most of the paintings. That’s why there are empty frames on the walls.”

The Goring Hotel Garden © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Afternoon tea is served in the darkly atmospheric sitting room and an adjoining gallery-like space lit by windows along its full length. We’re in the latter. The custard yellow walls match the veranda awning and the William Edwards fine bone china and the honey glace and pear mousse to come. A Chinese couple are at the table on one side of us; a pair of Indian sisters on the other. There’s not a Middleton in sight. Afternoon tea by definition is a luxury, floating superfluously as it does between lunch and dinner. Best served with a frivolous glass of Bolly from a jeroboam doing the rounds.

The Goring Hotel Lawn © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“This amuse bouche is pea mousse, crème fraîche and smoked salmon. It’s unusual and I’m sure it’s good for you. Enjoy.”

The Goring Hotel Hall © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Goring Hotel Interior © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Goring Hotel Lavatory © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

We choose The Goring Afternoon Blend tea. It’s mellow Assam and second flush Darjeeling; no milk required. A three tier stand rising from a savoury base to a sweet top arrives. Tradition is adhered to but there are variations. Curried cauliflower finger sandwiches are a welcome surprise. It’s the attention to the most minuscule of details that defines The Goring. Scones in scrupulously folded linen napkins. Perfectly soft miniature rugby balls of Devonshire cream. Sandwiches meticulously laid out in rows of brown | white | brown | white | brown.

The Goring Hotel Amuse Bouche © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“Try something you haven’t tried before. If you would like to change the tea and try another one, just tell me. If you would like some replenishment of anything always ask me.”

The Goring Hotel Sandwiches © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Yippee! It’s bottomless, and we mean bottomless, afternoon tea. Utopia, unlimited. Except for the Bolly. Ok, utopia, slightly limited. The Goring lives up to and surpasses its rep as the most quintessentially English hotel in London, starting with the red liveried doormen beyond the reticent Edwardian façade, flowing through the David Linley designed hall and ending with loo humour. The loos. Grey and white marble basins by Drummonds. Who else? Hand lotion by Asprey. Praise be. Amusing Auguste Leraux cartoons lining the walls sadly aren’t appreciated by all. Or at least not by a certain Ted Patton of Kew Gardens. A framed letter expressing his concerns that their allegedly outré content would shock female staff takes pride of place next to the cartoons. George Goring has scrawled on it, “Close your eyes, girls!!” Not so much publish and be damned as post and be damned. Mr Patton’s letter is set to entertain gents going about their business for years to come. As we said, quintessentially English. No wonder The Goring is so popular.

The Goring Hotel Afternoon Tea © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“We cater for around 45 afternoon teas every day. Today we have 49. In June and July it can be 50 or more.”

The Goring Hotel Pear Mousse © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Saint Hill Manor + Standen House + Ockenden Manor Afternoon Tea

To The Manor Born | Hearts and Crafts | Strawberry Fields

Standen House Garden Front © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Somewhere between London to Brighton, anywhere lost in rural Sussex, deep in the midst of nowhere lies Ockenden Manor. A Grade II* Elizabethan house, it’s now a privately owned hotel (that’ll be Pontus and Miranda Carminger) with a Michelin baubled restaurant. Screech of breaks. Jerk of handbrake. Afternoon tea emergency. It’s been a long morning. Lady Diana Cooper couldn’t resist swinging by a pair of open gates in the country. Neither can we. So it was impossible not to zoom up the drive of Saint Hill Manor, the wedding venue and Scientology HQ, with the subtlety of a Wagner opera. Georgian splendour with a Monkey Room painted by Winston Churchill’s nephew and an ostentatious orangery all overlooking rolling parkland? We’re down with that. Saint Hill Manor is enough to make anyone begin to think Kirstie Alley and John Travolta may have a point.

Standen House at Dusk © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Next pit stop, neighbouring Standen House. Philip Webb’s swansong to the Arts and Crafts movement. A symphony in (Horsham and Keyner) brick. And sandstone. And oak weatherboarding. And clay tiles. And mustard coloured roughcast. The servants’ wing is as big as the family’s. It’s one L of a house. Now National Trust, the original 19th century owners must have had a pretty high staff-to-Jacques-croquet-player ratio. The William Morris pimped interior is a veritable forest of timber panelling and leafy wallpaper. Fortunately we know our Strawberry Thief from our Willow Bough thanks to an Irish Georgian Society London Chapter study day at the William Morris Museum in Walthamstow.

Standen House Interior © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Saint Hill House Side Elevation © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Saint Hill House Garden Front © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Saint Hill House Entrance Front © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Ockenden Manor Entrance Front © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Back at the last manor of the day, after a 22 minute whiz through the South Downs from Standen, the voice of a waiter announcing the arrival of the sugared strawberry appetiser is music to our ears. Afternoon tea at Ockenden Manor is on its way. Sussex cheddar sandwiches zhuzhed up with homemade piccalilli compete with smoked salmon to hit the high (crust free) note. Homemade scones with clotted cream and raspberry slash redcurrant (not strawberry!) jam contribute to a mellow-day. A harmony of sweets follows. Lemon drizzle cake, chocolate éclairs, strawberry shortcake and petit fours: all of Mrs Beeton’s  boxes are ticked. At Lavender’s Blue, we pride ourselves on originality of word, image and thought. Mostly. This one is plagiarised. Below is an adapted cut and paste job from our favourite hotelier-turned-MD-soon-to-be-restaurateur’s review of a lively supper last summer at The Ivy Chelsea Garden.

Ockenden Manor Garden Front © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

  • Doorwoman: warm, welcoming and gregariously friendly
  • Reception: great welcome, big smiles and efficient
  • Bar: it might not be a school night but it’s our chauffeur’s day off (return visit required)
  • Room: perfect layout and comfortable seating areas, spacious, adequate (not too bright) lighting – and still in essence a country house – phew!
  • Waiters: just utterly divine – in looks, style, knowledge and personality
  • Loos: lovely design and everything worked (not us, the area!)
  • Food: good choice, perfectly cooked, baked and presented, adequate timing between servings – and did we mention this is still in essence a country house? – double phew!
  • Wine: see entry for ‘bar’ above
  • Could be our new (country) favourite!

Ockenden Manor Hotel Amuse Bouche © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

There’s so much more to Ockenden but we’re as stuffed as the taxidermy at Standen, as full as Saint Hill’s bookshelves. For architecture devotees, the building is a bubbling laboratory of samples through the centuries, well worth analysing. And what about the cutesy chocolate box village of Cuckfield beyond those open gates? But even an indoor | outdoor swimming pool – the laps of luxury – tucked into the walled kitchen garden can wait. Designed by John Cooper Associates, the contemporary spa pavilion is a rhapsody in (copper coloured) steel. And Parklex 1000 Natural Boak. And glazed curtain walling.

Ockenden Manor Hotel Afternoon Tea © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

 

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Zaha Hadid Design + Porcelanosa Vitae

Water Feat | Always Ahead of the Curve

Anne Davey Orr & Zaha Hadid's Red Metropolis © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The art and architecture worlds were shocked by the death of Pritzker Prize winner Dame Zaha Hadid last Easter. Age 65 is young to die and even more so for an architect. That’s the age when many of the greats’ careers are really taking off. The Zaha Hadid Design Studio in Clerkenwell, that well of London overflowing with creative, showcases her designs from paintings to shoes to sculptures to maquettes. And, as it transpires, bathrooms. Porcelanosa, the super high end bathroom company handily next door, has taken over the basement display space.

Zaha Hadid Design Gallery © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It’s a chance to see her last work before the final curtain fell on Zaha’s glorious career as the world’s best female architect. A career which, ironically, only got going full steam in the UK following the brouhaha over the disastrous design competition for Cardiff Bay Opera House. Cardiff’s loss; rest of the UK’s gain. London’s slick Olympics Aquatic Centre and Serpentine Sackler Gallery would follow. As would a flow of high profile international projects. What a curriculum vitae! Masterpiece Fair 2016 posthumously commemorated her non architecture talents. Porcelanosa is celebrating the future of the polymath’s legacy: bathroom architecture. Arbor vitae must keep growing. Zaha’s professional confidant Patrik Schumacher has stepped up to run the architecture practice.

Zaha Hadid Clerkenwell © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley_edited-1

Vitae is a collection of handcrafted ceramic pieces created by Zaha Hadid Design for Porcelanosa’s specialist bathroom company Noken. Maha Kutay, Director of Zaha Hadid Design, at the design launch: “Being an architectural practice and working on hospitality and residential projects, it was only natural for us to look at developing a bathroom range to complete our interiors. The design has been informed by a fluid language connecting each piece visually to create a wholesome experience.”

Porcelanosa Vitae Bath Zaha Hadid © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Porcelanosa Vitae Basin Zaha Hadid © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Lebanon born architect joined the practice straight from university. Initially involved in architectural projects, her career veered into design. “I’ve worked on the Roca showroom in London, various exhibition and fair stands such as Design Miami and Design Miami Basel, and products such as the Citco marble collection.” Zaha had a fearsome reputation but Maha says working for her was rewarding. “She kept you on your toes. She knew exactly your potential and pushed you to achieve this.”

Porcelanosa Vitae Sanitaryware Zaha Hadid © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

High tech advancements haven’t watered down the cutting non edged design of Vitae. Quite the reverse. Zaha’s practice has always been at the forefront of the interface between architecture, landscape, geology and importantly, technology. Computer systems enabled her early designs to be executed. Technology had to catch up with Zaha, not the other way round. “Zaha Hadid’s vision redefined architecture for the 21st century, capturing imaginations across the globe. Her legacy endures within the DNA of the design studio she created.” Magistra vitae.

City of Towers Zaha Hadid © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Fronteira Palace Gardens Lisbon + The Black Swan

The Knowing and the Now | The Last Battle You’re Free

Fronteira Palace and Gardens Lisbon © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Nestled in the Monsanto Hills, on the city’s edge, glimpses of modernity far below, sits the Fronteira Palace. The seat of the Marquesses of Fronteira, it is Portugal’s premier example of a 17th century Italianate palace and gardens. A tapestry of sunburnt red walls, yellowed white trimmings, cerulean blue screens and enigmatically black loggias elevates the elevations from architecture to art. This being Lisbon, tiles are aplenty too. Or azulejos as they’re locally named, lifting the prosaic to the mosaic. Founder Dom João de Mascarenhas, 2nd Count of Torre and 1st Marquess of Fronteira, was clearly good with colour.

Fronteira Palace and Lake Lisbon © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

‘The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan’

Fronteira Palace Garden Front Lisbon © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Following the 1755 earthquake which smashed up the family’s city centre home, the former hunting lodge was upgraded to palace. At this time, the 5th Marquess Dom José Luis de Mascarenhas added a family wing perpendicular to the gated entrance. And that was that. And this is now. If architecture is frozen music, then Fronteira Palace is frozen history. But there are bills to be paid. “Very few family owned historic houses in Lisbon are open to the public,” says the guide. “The main rooms are hired out as they are for weddings. We don’t clear the furniture away. The family wing is completely private.”

Fronteira Palace Lisbon © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Fronteira Palace Terrace Lisbon © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

‘And the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle’

Fronteira Palace Balustrade Lisbon © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The gardens are the stuff of Capability Brown nightmares. A maximalist dream of terraces and terracotta, clipped bushes and stone tushes, box hedging and bucks’ antlers, urns and turns, airs and parterres. In their midst, unbeknownst to the casual wanderer, a red eyed red beaked black swan, a magnificent beast, a silent risk, patrols his territory: the lake and then some. “He attacks people!” warns the guide. This palace is now the black swan’s hunting lodge. The hunted has become the hunter. Ha! An epistemological fourth quadrant – this one has legs.

The Black Swan of Fronteira Palace Lisbon © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Medeiros e Almeida House Museum + Café

The Shock of the Old and the New

Medeiros e Almeida House Museum Lisbon Exterior © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It’s the Van Loon Museum of Lisbon: historic interiors with contemporary interventions. A strictly guarded circuit ensures visitors view all three floors, six centuries, 27 galleries and 2,000 objects in a mannerly fashion. “To the left!” “Up the stairs!” Turn right!” “Down the corridor!” Like another of its cultural continental cousins, the Baccarat Museum, the Medeiros e Almeida House Museum fills a Parisian (style) townhouse. Originally built for a lawyer in 1896, the house was bought by António Medeiros e Almeida 47 years later.

Medeiros e Almeida House Museum Lisbon Interior © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Medeiros e Almeida House Museum Lisbon Bust © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Successful businessman António and his wife Margarida emerged in the mid 20th century as great European collectors. On a quest for beauty, the glamorous pair filled their home with fine and decorative works of art. Following Margarida’s death in 1970, and with no children, he established a foundation to keep the eclectic collection intact. António added an extension covering the garden to accommodate yet more art. He died aged 90 in 1986 and at the turn of the 21st century his wish came true. The Medeiros e Almeida House Museum was opened to the public.

Medeiros e Almeida House Museum Lisbon Bedroom © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

A glass fronted café spills out onto a courtyard between the old and new wings: a leafy oasis in the business district of Barata Salgueiro. Perfect for whiling away the daylight hours over a frothy coffee (€1.50) and savoury twiglets (grátis). Post tour, of course. A magnet on the café’s fridge door spells ‘Food with Art’. Always back a winning formula.

Medeiros e Almeida House Museum Lisbon Bed © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Belcanto Restaurant Lisbon + José Avillez

When the Hallelujah Chorus Sang

Rt Hon Jacqui Smith and Tessa Jowell © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“I’ll eat when I’m dead,” quipped Daphne Guinness, heiress-turned-chanteuse. We haven’t cooked since the war but we’ve certainly dined out on that. Quo vadis? Quo Vadis. Hello Kitty Fisher’s. Blue Fin seafood. Annabel’s. The incredibly Social Eating House. Intertwining wining and dining otherwise known as ‘spending the nephew’s inheritance’. First there was the Astrid Bray hosted Christmas party at Daphne’s. Next came the Launceston Place midsummer soirée with good stock (company and gravy) and theatrical staff. Epigram anyone? Yep, both Princess Diana haunts. We’re following in her footsteps, even photographing Prince CharlesLe Caprice to go. Completely up our own rue.

Belcanto Lisbon Exterior © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Provenance matters, whether antiques or antipasti, dated or stated or possibly slated. So it was good to indulge in whipped Elveden beets at the MABA (Middle Aged British Artists) adorned Hix Soho. The farm shop on the Guinnesses’ Elveden Estate is a destination in itself. For the carnivorously inclined, Glenarm Estate produce pops up several times on Hix’s menu. The walled garden at Glenarm Castle is a destination in itself.

Belcanto Tuna Tartar Cone © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Escaping what Lord James Bethell called “the chilling effect of the referendum on social calendars” at Westbourne’s groovy fifth inaugural garden party, waving goodbye to The Right Honourables Tessa and Jacqui, we’re off to hot hot hot Lisbon. Well, not before stopping for nocturnal wanderings in the Royal College of Surgeons’ Hunterian Museum. It’s not every night we get to enjoy noirish canapés next to the mesentery of a sheep with several globular cysts attached to the tissue by long pedicles.

Belcanto Amuse Bouche © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

With the rhetorical daring of Mrs Merton’s interrogation of the millionaire Paul Daniel’s wife Debbie Magee, what first attracted us to the lovely Belcanto? Answer: wherever there’s a Michelin star there’s Lavender’s Blue. Make that two and we’re there with bells on ding-a-ling. Belcanto is the first restaurant in Lisbon to receive two Michelin stars. José Avillez is the first Portuguese chef to achieve this accolade. The hot to trot 36 year old has created a paradise for pescatarians with sophisticated palates. He does, after all, have over 1,000 miles of coastline to explore. Piscean provenance ain’t ever a problem. In his own words:

Belcanto Starter © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“My life is cooking. Because of that, many of my memories are tied to tastes. I was born and raised in Cascais, near the sea. The memory of being that close to the sea is very strong and is really a part of me – it defines me. I truly love cooking fish and seafood. Let me say I believe that in Portugal we have the best the sea has to offer in the world. I love creating dishes with the taste of the sea. At Belcanto, we use algae codium which has a very strong taste of the sea. I loved eating it on the beach at Guincho.” Such joy, joy, joy.

Dip in the Sea Belcanto © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belcanto Sea Bass © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belcanto The Garden of the Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belcanto is in Chiado, Lisbon’s most exhilarating neighbourhood. Chiado is a cultural mix of the old and new, the traditional and the adventurous, a distillation of the best. Easily a metaphor for José’s cooking. Outside may be sweating 30 degrees but inside a coolly slick gastronomic and sensory performance is underway. There are just 10 tables for the chef to impress with his pedigree. Table to tableau. Thank goodness for the high waiter to customer ratio as we eat more courses on the tasting menu than Henryk Sienkiewicz’s novel Quo Vadis has had film versions. The bill comes to €759.50. Say bon. Not exactly cheap as frites, but it’s a special occasion, a Lisbon treaty.

Belanto Red Mullet © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Behind an unassuming white exterior lies the understated white interior. A blank canvas. It’s the food that delivers the colour | shock | humour | art. Palette to palate. An exploding olive, “a tribute to the great chef Ferran Adrià” explains our waiter, sets the scene. José trained at elBulli, Ferran’s legendary triple Michelin starred Catalonian restaurant. Said olive is served in a 2cm diameter frying pan. Similarly, caviar topped edible stones crack open in a flow of volcanic lava. Textures and tastes and experiences and expectations are reinvented. Foraging in flowers for tuna tartar cones for starters. “You tell me!” smiles our waiter when asked what the indefinable taste is in the pudding. “How is your mushroom?” he later laughs. Rosemary ash butter tastes like fag butt ends. This is haute haute haute cuisine. And we’re loving it. All 3.5 hours.

Belcanto Pumpkin © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Belcanto Pudding © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Birthplace of fashion designer Cruz Bueno, it’s good to see the cool cool cool citizenry of Lisbon that have hung around in the sizzling heat live up to our soignée sartorial expectations. And there’s not a pickled dead sheep in sight. There’s more art in simply eating. Portugal is having a fashion moment according to Knightsbridge’s top kitchenware store Divertimenti. This Christmas’s essential stocking filler is a cabbage bowl designed by Portuguese artist Bordallo Pinheiro. Caldo Verde, cabbage soup, is a national dish. Our Divertimenti bowl is purely ornamental, unused of course. Bathos to pathos.

Belcanto Mandarin Sorbet © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Lisbon + The Doors

The Passages of Time

Lisbon Doors © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lisbon, where even the doors are hot.

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Altis Grand Hotel Lisbon + San Jorge Roof Terrace

Summertime Gladness

Altis Grand Hotel Lisbon Roof Terrace View © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lisbon’s mercurial mix is intoxicating, and made all the more sparkling by its simultaneous and very definite continental dynamic. John O’Connell, designer of ‘The best room in London’ according to The Times, doesn’t hold back, “Lisbon is like Paris in the 1930s. It’s so adorable. And I mean Paris! And I mean adorable!” Elizabeth Bowen drawled, “Paris is always a good idea.” Turns out so is Lisbon. Subdued restaurants, subtropical evenings and a subversive attitude make Lisbon in summer a sexy option. While the locals head for the hills, we head for the beach. We’re smitten by the sultrier side of the city. Lisbon in August is playful, an attribute exaggerated by the soaring temperatures. The weekend exists as a narcotic and we’re aching for it. When it comes, the nightly daiquiri on the five star 20th century iconic Altis Grand Hotel’s San Jorge roof terrace kicks in, before we kick up our heels dancing downtown in Bairro Alto.

Lisbon Coast © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Lisbon Sunrise © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Elevador se Santa Justa © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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