Rathmullan House Donegal + The Tap Room

Aalto Pitch | Lucid Camera | A Play on Words | Studium et Punctum


“The Photograph belongs to that class of laminated objects whose two leaves cannot be separated without destroying them both,” Roland Barthes.


“Ireland is a staging point beyond Europe and the New World,” Professor Finola O’Kane of University College Dublin told us. Nowhere does it feel more so than in Donegal. A place of wild geese: the constant iterative of land carries a long shadow. A depth of field. Like its distant neighbour Castle Grove, Rathmullan House has been a hotel for more than half a century now. The house was originally built in the 1760s by the Anglo Irish Knox family (really Scots Irish as they hailed from Scotland but the term Anglo Irish is liberally applied to Plantation settlers). Anglo Irish: aristocrats | no portmanteau | universally accented | no translations. Rathmullan House later became the country retreat of a Belfast merchant family. The Batts doubled the size of the house in 1870.


Its long Victorian stuccoed façade is anchored by a central canted bay window and one at either extremity. This proliferation of projections is rivalled only in the Province by Benvarden House in Ballymoney with its two bows and two canted bays. At Rathmullan House they act as framing devices, freezing the corrugated surface of Lough Swilly below the tattered theatre of a thundery sky mid afternoon. Honeycomb punctured vertical bargeboards peek out from the side elevation dormers, silhouetted against a sky turned powder blue. All changes again with the descent of a crimson tinged sunset: bloody inland.


“Every photograph is a certificate of presence.” Roland Barthes


An enfilade of five antique filled commodious yet intimate rooms stretches across the façade. “Almost all the furniture was auctioned when the Batts sold the house. There are just two original items. My grandmother bought the tub chair and the painting of Charlotte Sarah Batt was bought by a lady who discovered it was too big for her home so returned it to Rathmullan House!” says Mark Wheeler who runs the hotel with his wife Mary. “Henry McIlHenny bought much of the furniture for Glenveagh Castle.” Luscious plasterwork, some polychromatic, adds richness to the rooms.








In 1966 the first generation of the current hotel owners, Mark’s parents, employed the architect Liam McCormick to add a dining room extension with tented ceilings. “Liam was a great sailor,” explains Mark, “and the ceilings are hung with the silk used for yacht sails. Their shape was inspired by the Indian arches in the Rajah Room.” The dining room is formed of interlocking octagons, pagoda-like structures taking the Victorian chamfered bays to their logical geometric conclusion. “The hotel is a popular wedding venue for architecture students,” smiles Mark, “ever since Liam McCormick’s Burt Church won building of the year!” He also designed a smattering of cuboid holiday pavilions in the wooded grounds.


Such is the Photograph: it cannot say what it lets us see.” Roland Barthes


Rathmullan House was a departure from his oeuvre. Before his death in 1992, Liam would complete 27 churches in Ireland. Each is recognisably by his hand: with one sweep he felled the cluttered gothic norm with a spare modernist form. Abstraction wasn’t Dr McCormick’s primary goal, “I wouldn’t say it’s studied. My resolution of problems tends to have a sculptural end. I grew up in a physically dramatic countryside; this sort of background inevitably comes into play when I design, and the churches have nearly all been in a rural setting.” The stark white shapes are as integrated into the Donegal vernacular as whitewashed cottages, their outlines as distinctive as Muckish Mountain. The closest of Liam’s seven Donegal churches to Rathmullan are Donoughmore Presbyterian to the south and St Peter’s Milford Catholic to the west.


Enough waxing lyrical taxing diction. Pizza awaits us in the vaults of Rathmullan House. A stone oven baked base piled high with wild and exotic mushrooms, fior di latte mozzarella, marinated friarielli, garlic, parsley and aged Pecorino to be precise. And then a moonlit walk along the two mile beach at the end of the garden. A rare curlew’s forlorn and faintly human sound assumes an eerie resonance across the still sand. The freedom of the country, far away from the London vertigo.


“Whatever it grants to vision and whatever its manner, a photograph is always invisible: it is not it that we see.” Roland Barthes.


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Kitty Fisher’s Mayfair + Shepherd Market

Generations Come and Generations Go


Oh. Em. Gee. Whizz. After months of talking about going, we simply rock up on a random Wednesday night with a zest for life but no booking. Reservations at the tiny restaurant (just 40 lucky customers at any given time) are infamously hard to come by. We’re in luck. No tables free, but the bar along the window is ours. We’re perched on stools like Nighthawks. Perfect for spying on our usual Shepherd Market hangout Le Boudin Blanc. Skipping the light fantastic cocktails (Good Kitty, Bad Kitty but no Hello Kitty) we head straight for a bottle of Voignier Le Paradou 2015 (£30). Dry with a hint of honeycomb.

Kitty Fisher’s is all about plates. Courses are just so passé. The menu is concise: five small plates | five medium plates | four large plates | four sweet plates | one cheese plate. Yet there’s plenty to satisfy a pescatarian and carnivore. Whipped cod’s roe, bread and fennel butter (£7.50) is chef Tom Parry’s four fingered salute against mediocrity. A textural contrast of creaminess and crustiness. Taleggio, London honey, mustard and black truffle (£9) is a bitter sweet symphony of wood fire grill smokiness. The last of the savouries arrives. Burrata, beetroot and radicchio (£12.50) is a colourful collage of purple and white. Cambridge burnt cream (£7) isn’t an undergrad’s baking error but a Cointreau and cinnamon crème brulée smoothly nestling under a crackly golden lid. These plates aren’t for sharing. They’re far too good for that.

Named after a Georgian lady of the night, the restaurant is aptly boudoir-like with dark purple walls and red lamp shades and background jazz music. Dining extends underground, down the dogleg staircase, past the pumpkin stacked kitchen window. Trumpers accessorised loos are at the far end. Incidentally, we note that currency signs have vanished from fashionable menus as swiftly as pounds disappeared out of the wallets of Kitty Fisher’s gentlemen callers. Laterally, history repeats itself.

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Charlton House Greenwich +The Young Irish Georgians

The Wind Returns Again


The Young Irish Georgians’ trip. We’re not that young. We’re off to a Jacobean House. And at least one of us is Dutch. How terribly Irish. Autumn falls. Days shorten. Frieze’s here. Today, a carpet of golden leaves gently billows round Charlton House. The house is in Greenwich but forget the fashionable part. Charlton Village’s charm, to put it politely, is faded, a bit frazzled. A ski-slope roofed pepperpot pavilion heralds the house’s presence at the top of the hilly high street. This Grade I listed lodge, possibly once a summerhouse, is now a public convenience (or inconvenience – it’s shut).


“The lodge is widely attributed to Inigo Jones. Of course it is – he did most of Greenwich! Someone once attributed the lodge to him and it stuck.” Aimee Felton, Associate at Donald Insall Associates should know. She is undertaking a conditions survey as part of a long term masterplan for the house and estate. “A variety of historic fabric is remaining. Some in my opinion was later heavily edited by the various occupants. And heavily rebuilt following bomb damage.” This is most obvious in the north wing where the original imperial red brick and whitish grey stone has been patched up with metric red brick and yellow stone. These mid 20th century repairs included placing the sundial upside down.


“It’s the best Jacobean house in London and is of pivotal importance to its era,” Aimee declares. A southern Temple Newsam. “It displays a full modern appreciation of flow and sequence of rooms. An H plan was so innovative. There are lots of Jacobean houses of E plan and E with a tail, but not H. Charlton is first in its class: to walk in through the front door – and see its garden beyond. The axis through the building is what makes it so special. The kitchen was always on the north side of Jacobean houses to cool dairy produce and meat, with bedrooms above as heat rises. But this house is laid out to take in the views to the north towards the river and to the west to the King in Greenwich. This is a really bold statement and the only Jacobean house facing north.”


The first floor long gallery stretches the full length of the north elevation. Like much of the house, the long gallery is a puzzle. “The floor and ceiling are original,” Aimee highlights, “but the panelling isn’t. Charlton has some of the best fireplaces of the Jacobean era. The long gallery marble and slate one is odd but exquisite.” No architect is recorded. “There is incredibly scarce information both on the Jacobean era and Charlton. You’ll notice I say… attributed to… we suspect that…a lot.” At least there’s a dated keystone of 1607 and the staircase is engraved 1612.




Built by Sir Adam Newton, tutor to James I’s son Prince Henry (teaching must have paid better in those days), Charlton House was last lived in by the Maryon-Wilson family. Sir Spencer Maryon-Wilson sold the house to Greenwich Council and auctioned the contents in 1920. The house has been used ever since by various community bodies. Donald Insall Associates are tasked with applying a holistic approach to its fabric and future use or uses. Furnishing rooms in the original period like a National Trust house is not an option. “There simply isn’t enough Jacobean furniture,” says Aimee. “Even the V+A wouldn’t have enough and any pieces it has are so special they’re kept in glass cases.”


There’s plenty of pictorial evidence of how the rooms were furnished in the latter Maryon-Wilson years. Aimee smiles, “If you can’t find a decent photo of a country house look in Country Life because someone is always bragging about their home!” Charlton House is no exception. Black and white Country Life images of the early 1900s show the interior chockablock with Chippendales and brown furniture and taxidermy and tapestries. This eclecticism is reflected in plasterwork additions. She points out the ceiling in the Henry Room isn’t original. “The cornice is beyond wrong! As offensive as the ceiling is, it’s a nice ceiling, but one that’s just not for this house. Just because it’s not right, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be preserved to show history. Everyone has their oddities and we just move on.” Much more in keeping with the original architecture is the 1877 extension to the south. Unsurprisingly, really, as it was designed by the great Arts and Crafts architect Norman Shaw. “Jacobean with a Shaw twist,” is how Aimee sums it up.


Frieze is the international art show that consumes Regent’s Park every autumn. Jacobean furniture may be in short supply but we discover a source of art from the period: The Weiss Gallery’s ‘A Fashionable Likeness: Court Portraits 1580 to 1625’. There are enough gentlemen and ladies choking on their lacy antimacassars (or at least that’s what their collars look like) to coverthe walls of Charlton House’s long gallery. On the subject of fashion, the blue velvet jacketed chef Giorgio Locatelli is busy setting up tables in his eponymous temporary restaurant. Just like its permanent namesake, lunch at Locanda Locatelli under the canvas of Frieze Masters is the epitome of Milanese cooking:



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Bourne + Hollingsworth Fitzrovia

Most Flaunted


Oracle of our orbit, balancing on a notional pedestal, we don’t need a doctorate in aesthetics to enjoy Bourne + Hollingsworth’s revamped salon. It’s the antithesis of a mesmeric void. Kaleidoscopic covered antique chairs and floral banquettes fill the space around the marble bar. Pink is the new black. As (once upon a time) MP Keith Vaz would say, “Let’s get this party started!” A quirky basement cocktail bar, it’s the perfect hideaway for a cocktail inspired foray into the far precincts of the mind. A shadowy cavalcade of pedestrians parades by at street level, marching marionettes unaware of the subterranean soirée underway underground. It’s time to let our hair down over a Rapunzel cocktail (a refreshing mix of Polish vodka, lemon, mint and a ginger kick). A Pink Mojito (agave tequila, fresh lime and mint coloured with cranberry) judiciously coordinates with the fuchsia hued fabric wallpaper. A Heisenberg Daiquiri (Jamaican rum shaken with Chartreuse, lime and blue falernum) is art in a glass. Unlike Oscar Wilde, we can live with the wallpaper of this haunt. Actually, we don’t want to leave.


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Church of the Nazarene + Fresh Ground London

Free Fearless Flourishing


“Wherever we step, we are stepping on holy ground.”


A glorious revival has taken place at Clapham Junction. Once the Wandsworth Board of District Works, this mid 19th century stucco fronted portico adorned pediment splatted building has been restored with more than a dash of panache. Its owners, the Church of the Nazarene, commissioned architectural design consultants Studio A Plus to turn all four floors into useful spaces serving the community. Front of house is Fresh Ground, a café occupying the original lobby, waiting room and clerk’s room. Back of house, the beautifully intact former boardroom lit by a roof lantern is now a multipurpose hall.


“Don’t let the struggle crush you; let it form you.”

Fresh Ground’s suntrap terrace fronting Battersea Rise is the perfect spot for spying on the red corduroyed yellow pullovered tassel shoed uppity middle classes at play in Vagabond Wines opposite on Northcote Road. Less Up the Junction, more The Upmarket Junction. Fresh Ground knows its clientele, from the pram lift off the pavement to the dog bowl at the top of the steps. This is, after all, Nappy Valley Central. Play to Pilates to prayer – all needs are catered for. And great coffee for the thirsty.

“You say we’re amazing.”

The breakfast and lunch menu is a healthy mix peppered with veggie and gluten free options. Dishes are named after families connected to the church. The Phineas comprises folded eggs and asparagus on toasted sourdough with halloumi, smoked salmon or bacon. The Andrew consists of Mediterranean vegetables, sundried tomatoes, black olives and feta cheese on garlic infused flatbread. Main courses hover round the £7 mark. So fresh ground coffee and a very ample portion of goodness on a plate for less than a tenner. Service is fast, friendly and efficient. Parents, au pairs and pets will approve.



Over to Reverend Jason Nike: “So, in a nutshell, the Church of the Nazarene has been on Battersea Rise since 1915. It opened as the headquarters of the International Holiness Mission, who merged with the Nazarenes in the mid 1950s. The Fresh Ground project was initiated in 2008 when the Church gave us the remit to look at how we could best serve the local community. At the time of writing we have around 20 groups – fitness clubs, children’s activities, charities and small businesses – using the building. All profits over and above running costs are reinvested in local charities. Two such charities we are currently working with are Wandsworth Foodbank and the night shelter charity Glass Door. Church is weaved in and through all of this.”


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The Communication Group + 10 Bloomsbury Way

The Bloomsbury Group


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.


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.



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.


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


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.



“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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