World Boutique Hotel Awards 2019 +

The Four Score Nations

Merchant Taylors' Hall City of London World Boutique Hotel Awards © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Robin Sheppard, Co Founder of Bespoke Hotels, calls it, “A star studded, must attend, essential date in the world’s perpetual calendar.” The ninth World Boutique Hotel Awards takes place, as ever, in Merchant Taylors’ Hall in the City of London. The Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors gained its first Royal Charter in 1503 and is one of the 12 Great Livery Companies. It started life as an association of tailors (the Threadneedle Street address is an historic clue). Quite apt too, considering the guests’ fashion on show tonight from black tie to national costume. The world and their partner really are here. The livery hall reads like an architectural encyclopaedia covering the 14th to 20th centuries.


Merchant Taylors' Fountain World Boutique Hotel Awards © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

A lavish setting for a lavish gala. It’s a high octane international evening of accolades and industry recognition, of competition and celebration, of flowing wine and fine cuisine. A reception of award winning Tenuta Montemagno Relais and Wines precedes a cocktail party courtesy of “intricately realised” Silent Pool Gin (which turns out to be blackberry and damson gin liquors). Laura Scampini, proprietor of Tenuta Montemagno Resort, comments, “It’s a very nice occasion to be here this evening. Our resort is quiet, calm, very comfortable. We produce our own wine there.” The suspense gains momentum during the three course dinner (globe artichoke of course) before the ceremony truly gets underway.

Lyton and Eroline Lamontagne World Boutique Hotel Awards © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It’s a serious global operation. Director Schlomo Gabbai explains more: “There are many awards in the world of hospitality. But remarkably the World Boutique Hotel Awards is the only one of its kind that takes the time, care, and in all honesty, pure joy, to visit each and every prospective winner. We don’t judge from afar. We feel the full experience – the rooms, the grounds, the lobbies, the private islands, wilderness tents and castles. We see the attention to detail in every stitch of fabric and every crumb of food. Most importantly, our judges are always moved by the extraordinary people behind each establishment, by the people who pour their hearts and souls into creating timeless memories.” This year there are 300 nominees from 80 countries.

Esti Barnes and Jorge Lizarazo World Boutique Hotel Awards 2019 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Carmen Romero World Boutique Hotel Awards © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Cheryl King World Boutique Hotel Awards London 2019 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Merchant Taylors' Hall World Boutique Hotel Awards London 2019 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Merchant Taylors' Hall World Boutique Hotel Awards Dinner © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Patcitalavila, Saran and Marndadee Pattaropong World Boutique Hotel Awards London 2019 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Seresinas World Boutique Hotel Awards © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

World Boutique Hotel Awards 2019 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Antonelli Puglisi World Boutique Hotel Awards © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Merchant Taylors' World Boutique Hotel Awards 2019 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Elisabeth Visoanska World Boutique Hotel Awards London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Elisabeth Visoanska World Boutique Hotel Awards 2019 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Cally Squires World Boutique Hotel Awards London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Abracadabra Pousada Winner World Boutique Hotel Awards Dinner © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The roll call of honours begins… Fond Doux Plantation and Resort in Soufrière, St Lucia, wins America’s Most Ecofriendly Hotel. It’s owned by Lyton and Eroline Lamontagne. “What I really like is that boutique hotels are niche – they’re all completely different and very personal,” believes Eroline. “They’re about hospitality. We own a plantation hotel in St Lucia. It is the heartbeat of the island. We do our bit for the island. There is nobody like us. It’s a working plantation. You can see how cocoa grows on trees and is then fermented before becoming chocolate.”

Overall Winner World Awarta Nusa Dua Resort Boutique Hotel Awards 2019 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Villa Sostaga in Gargano, Italy, is awarded Europe’s Most Stunning View Hotel – it revels in a breathtaking panorama of Lake Garda. Owner Francisco Seresina reports, “It’s a 19th century building my family and I renovated in 2004 and opened the following year. Villa Sostaga is cosy and romantic and most of all has the real taste of a home. My wife and I personally look after it seven days a week. We are surrounded by a 40,000 square metre park. It’s kind of unique!”

Schlomo Gabbai and Overall Winner World Awarta Nusa Dua Resort Boutique Hotel Awards 2019 © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Bradley Goian and Antonelli Puglisi are joint General Managers of Wild Retreat which won Most Sustainable Restaurant in the World 2018. “We’re on the far west coast of Vancouver Island,” describes Bradley. “We’re 45 minutes by sea plane. We’re in the middle of the wilderness!” Antonelli adds, “It’s very much like an African safari in the northwest Pacific. There are killer whales, otters and eagles. We run an indigenous detox destination.” One of the 2019 winners is Mestyle Garage Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. It wins Southeast Asia’s Most Inspired Design Hotel. “We have a garage theme of course,” says owner Phatthamon Sangratkanjanasin. She jokes, “My surname is quite long!”

World Boutique Hotel Awards Table Setting © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Elisabeth Visoanska, Founder of eco luxury skincare line Visoanska, is a sponsor and judge at the 2019 World Boutique Hotel Awards. She says, “Every winner stands for making their dream come true and each founding story could make the synopsis of a film. It is all about sharing your passions and executing them in the best way forward.” Wanderlust fills the air. Writer Cheryl King hails from Tennessee but now lives in Costa Rica: “South America is all about the food and the people. I want to see it all!” This year’s keynote speaker is CNN travel journalist Maureen O’Hare. Originally from Northern Ireland, Maureen is based at CNN’s London bureau. “Travel is exciting!” she proclaims. “It’s real life but better.” And now, for the overall winner… silence… drum roll… applause on standby… envelope opening… Awarta Nusa Dua Resort and Villas in Bali, Indonesia, is crowned the World’s Best Boutique Hotel 2019. Adieus! Goody bags! Carriages!

World Boutique Hotel Awards Dinner © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Cheryl King + Lavender’s Blue

Travel is So Sexy

Cheryl King © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“My name is Cheryl King.” Writer. Producer. Director.

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Sir Simon Milton Foundation Gala Dinner + The Nine Kings Suite Royal Lancaster Hotel London

Lots of Fun

Sir Simon Milton Foundation Ball © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The first charity ball of the season interlocked the party circuits of London life. After being bagpiped into a drinks reception flowing with Champagne Irroy and Bergerie de la Bastide 2015, Robert Davis MBE, Chairman of the Sir Simon Milton Foundation, welcomed guests to The Nine Kings Suite of the Royal Lancaster. There was much to celebrate. The Sir Simon Milton Westminster University College in Pimlico built by Taylor Wimpey Central London is up and running with bursaries funded by the Foundation. The Annual Tea Dance is now a fixture on the calendar for older Westminster citizens. Before the four course dinner began fellow Chairman John Barradell OBE said grace and Major General Matthew Sykes, Chief Executive of the charity, raised a glass to the Loyal Toast.

Royal Lancaster Sir Simon Milton Foundation Ball © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Sir Simon Milton Foundation X © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Silken Strings Sir Simon Milton Foundation Ball © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Entertainment, heard and unheard, carried on through dinner. The Silken Strings, a female electrica strings trio, top conservatoires’ finest (they’ve performed with Sir Elton John, Queen, Rhianna and Take That), looked like models, played like angels and danced like dervishes. A silent auction included Christmas dinner for four at No.50 Cheyne (guide price £300; sold price £500). William Edwards fine bone china (used on the Belmond Orient-Express and at The Queen of Afternoon Teas in Café Royal) was a corporate supporter. The vast room was wall to wall with luminaries such as Lady Lucy French OBE, Executive Member of the Sir Simon Milton Foundation, and doyenne of PR Maureen Sutherland Smith. A tribute band, Abba’s Angels, got everyone on their feet. Actor Christopher Biggins compèred the auction, declaring “Some tables here have stronger finances than Greece!”

Christoper Biggins Sir Simon Milton Foundation Ball © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Maureen Sutherland Smith and Lady Lucy French Sir Simon Milton Foundation Ball © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Deal Town Kent + Dalziel Douglas

The Importance of Being

Deal Town Kent Beach © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It’s not every coastal town that has a restaurant run by a descendent of the lover of the greatest wit of the 19th century. But Deal in Kent isn’t just another coastal town. It’s chockablock with listed buildings without being chocolate box boring. The upwardly mobile relaunch of The Rose (firmly prefixing gastro to pub) complete with Tracey Emin prints hanging on the walls is simply the latest proof in the pudding (St Émilion chocolate torte tonight) of Deal’s rising status as Battersea-on-Sea. Roast Jerusalem artichokes with shallots and hazelnut dressing provide more memorable menu moments.

Deal Coastline Kent © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Deal Town Kent Boats © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Deal Town Kent Sunrise © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Deal Town Kent Pier © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Deal Castle Kent © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Deal Town Kent Esplanade © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Deal Town Kent House © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Deal Town Kent Houses © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Deal Town Kent Townhouse © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Rose Pub Interior Deal Town Kent © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Black Douglas Deal Town Kent © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Black Douglas Deal Town Kent Family Portraits © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Black Douglas Deal Town Kent Family Photo © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

On a rainswept late Friday evening, The Black Douglas along Deal’s esplanade is an atmospheric hive of joyful activity. “My name’s pronounced ‘DL’,” says owner Dalziel Douglas. There are a few visual giveaways. One is the sepia soaked photographs of distinguished aristos in court dress – lots of ermine on display. Another couple of clues are Dalziel’s cheekbones to slice Manchego with and her piercing blue eyes. She is of course the great great niece of Lord Alfred Douglas, the dashing poet better known as ‘Bosie’, Oscar Wilde’s amour. “My great great great uncle, the 9th Marquess of Queensberry, invented the Queensberry Rules of Boxing!” smiles Dalziel, pointing to one of the photographs. The Douglas clan motto is Jamais Arrière which means ‘Never Behind’. True to form, Dalziel confirms, “We were one of the first places to open in Deal of this nature. We’ve been here for 14 years and it’s given other people confidence to open up similar businesses.”

The Black Douglas Deal Town Kent Family Portrait @ Lavender's Blue

Just as The Rose and The Black Douglas have weekend dinners down to a tea tee, Deal Pier Kitchen upholds the great British breakfast tradition with a twist or rather lots of vegan twists. Eating the first meal of Saturday to the rhythm and splash of lapping waves is a must. Suspended over the sea at the end of a 1950s concrete pier, the café is in a timber and glass pavilion designed by Níall McLaughlin in 2008. The architect has continued Deal’s centuries old dedication to romantic maritime architecture.

Dalziel Douglas The Black Douglas Deal Town Kent © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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The Jetty Restaurant + Harbour Hotel Southampton

The Munificence and Counsel of Steel Magnolia

Ascot The Ashes Bisley © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Surrounded by a sea of sails, Harbour Hotel itself is tiered like a mega yacht, ship shape, a frozen avalanche of balconies cascading down to the pier. HGP Architects’ expansive use of glass walls and extensive rows of perimeter decks and extravagant square meterage of terraces exploit and expose nautical views to the hilt. The five star Harbour Hotel is the highlight of Ocean Village Marina. Patron Chef Alex Aitken runs The Jetty Restaurant which is on the ground floor of the ‘bow’ of the boat building. Daily catches fill the sea-to-plate menu. Alex’s plaice meunière affirms his mantra “fresh, seasonal and local”. For the more adventurous there’s always Poole Bay Oysters with Black Cow Vodka to sample. The top floor Harbar enjoys the best panorama of pontoons in Southampton. Sea Breeze cocktail, anyone?

Bargate Southampton © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

River Itchen View Southampton © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

River Itchen Southampton © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Marina Southampton © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Yacht Southampton © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Ocean Village Marina Southampton © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Harbour Hotel Southampton Hampshire © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Ocean Village Marina © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Habour Hotel Marina Southampton Hampshire © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Harbour Hotel Marina Southampton © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Harbour Hotel Entrance Southampton © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Harbour Hotel River Front Southampton © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Harbour Hotel Roofline Southampton © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Jetty Restaurant Starter Southampton © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Jetty Restaurant Main Southampton © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Jetty Restaurant Pudding Southampton © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Southampton + The Doors

Plain Sailing

Southampton Doors © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Southampton, where people like us live north of the Polygon and south of the Common.

Southampton Common © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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St Patrick’s Church Murlog Donegal + Liam McCormick

Fragrant with Myrrh and Aloes and Cassia and Lavender

St Patrick's Church Murlog Donegal Old Church Tower © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Henry Mulholland, 4th Baron Dunleath, may have been referring to musical events but his erudite musings could easily apply to Murlog Church: “Excellence is not an exclusive right of the metropolis, quality is not necessarily governed by quantity and mood need not be dependent on magnificence.” Dedicated to St Patrick, this rural building is the epitome of restraint, of architecture and art pared down to elemental presence. It’s the second – and largest – of acclaimed architect Liam McCormick’s seven County Donegal churches. Two decades of building starting in 1955 produced Milford, Murlog, Desertegney, Burt, Creeslough, Glenties and finally Donoughmore.

St Patrick's Church Murlog Donegal Old Tower © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Liam’s patron at Murlog was Parish Priest Anthony McFeely, later Bishop of Raphoe. In 1959, prior to commencement of design, they set off on a mini Grand Tour visiting new churches in France, Germany and Switzerland. As a consequence, Ireland’s most northwesterly county was blessed with Continental influenced state of the heart ecclesiastical architecture. Liam described Father McFeely as, “A client who was not just precise about the brief but one who having reacted against the gimmickry in much contemporary Irish church architecture, made a point of going abroad to see the best European churches and assessing their spiritual quality.”

St Patrick's Church Murlog Donegal © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Patrick's Church Murlog Donegal Roof © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Patrick's Church Murlog Donegal Side © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Patrick's Church Murlog Donegal Gable © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Patrick's Church Murlog Donegal Garden © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Patrick's Church Murlog Donegal Bell Tower © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Patrick's Church Murlog Donegal Spire © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Patrick's Church Murlog Donegal Stained Glass © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Patrick's Church Murlog Window © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Patrick's Church Murlog Donegal Roof Lantern © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Patrick's Church Murlog Donegal Crucifix © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

St Patrick's Church Murlog Donegal Baptismal Font © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

A green apron of gradient slopes down to the site along the road between Lifford and Raphoe. Like all his other Donegal churches (except Burt which is stone faced), Murlog is painted roughcast plaster (once white, now custard cream). A covered entrance walkway links the bell tower to the main body of the church. The architecture has a distinctly Continental appearance, defined by geometry rather than decoration. A stone tower in the car park is all that remains of the Victorian church.

St Patrick's Church Murlog Donegal Tabernacle Vestibule © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The layout is a variation of the traditional cruciform plan with splayed walls and chevron headed extremities drawing the congregation towards the altar. An octagonal roof lantern lights the crisscross of the nave and transepts. Liam selected six artists to work on the interior. Patrick McElroy, who designed the tabernacle and baptismal font cover, recalls, “He was like the conductor of an orchestra, and you had to fit in with his idea… he certainly wanted original works of art… you got your area where you were to work, and all the artists knew each other… and Liam became a great friend to us all. He was a great man for having a night out!” Patrick Pollen created the largest expanse of stained glass in any Liam McCormick church. The windows are chevron headed, reflecting the floor plan. Stripped of sensuous frills and casual thrills, the architecture and art work together towards a sacred Gesamtkunstwerk.

St Patrick's Church Murlog Donegal Tabernacle © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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No.50 Cheyne Chelsea London + Iain Smith

Chelsea Arbour

Cheyne Walk Chelsea © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

So, 50 is the new brasserie. After a nine month rework, our favourite Chelsea haunt is up and running again. Sprinting even. It came at a price: a cool £3 million. Money well spent though: Lambart + Browne (Founding Directors Freddy van Zevenbergen and Tom Browning are from the school of Nicky Haslam) have created interiors that are at once luxurious and relaxing. Let’s start with the spacious upstairs drawing room. That’s where we’re ushered for pre drinks to meet Maître d’ David Gjytetza on the last evening of summer. It’s like being at a house party – if you’ve friends who own a Georgian property overlooking the Thames. All five tall windows are gracefully dressed. It’s clearly not curtains for curtains: significant drapes are joined by Roman blinds and generous pelmets. There are plenty of Nickyesque touches: curly edged bookshelves, squashy sofas, tweedy cushions, a host of antiqued mirrors (through a glass, darkly). The drawing room meshes highbrow bibliophilia with talented mixology: it’s somewhere to slake your thirst with a Garden of Eden Cocktail (Wolfschmidt Kummel, Champagne, apple and lavender shrub) while browsing The Collected Works of Robert Louis Stevenson. Such reserve, such reticence.

No.50 Cheyne Restaurant Chelsea © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

In contrast, the intimate first floor cocktail bar is Chinoiserie red with midnight blue satin highlights. Such boldness, such sexiness. Drummonds sanitaryware is the ultimate sophistication signifier in the bathroom. The centuries old tradition of distractingly saucy cartoons of racy girls hanging on the walls is upheld. Downstairs, leather banquettes and stripy snug chairs are made for decadent dinners and languid lunches in the restaurant. Chandeliers with 50 shades radiate a soft glow. Such elegance, such comfort. General Manager Benoit Auneau joins us for a chat. Gosh, this place is friendlier than ever. The building was once a pub and it still feels like a local. A very upmarket local. “Cheyne is my baby,” says Benoit. “I’ve been here a long time.”

No.50 Cheyne Restaurant Chelsea London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Owner Sally Greene (who’s also proprietor of Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho and The Old Vic Theatre in Waterloo) lives nearby on Cheyne Walk in a house with a Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll designed garden. Splendid. Sally opened Cheyne Walk Brasserie in 2004 to great aplomb; its relaunch has gone and upped the aplomb.  She says, “My passion is creativity. My passion is looking for opportunities and just going for them.” During dinner, David tells us, “The split of guests is roughly 60 to 40 residents to visitors. We get people coming from Blakes Hotel and Chelsea Harbour Hotel too.” There are a few modelly types as well tonight. It’s a terrific British menu focused round the wood fire grill. We choose the scallops starter. Unusually, they’re served cold in a cucumber soup. Such flavour, such joy. Stuffed courgette flowers with aubergine caviar for main is a sumptuous artistic composition. Classic St Véran keeps things lively.

No.50 Cheyne Restaurant Chelsea Exterior © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

No.50 Cheyne Restaurant Chelsea Sign © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

No.50 Cheyne Restaurant Chelsea Head Chef Iain Smith © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

No.50 Cheyne Restaurant Chelsea Flowers © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

No.50 Cheyne Restaurant Chelsea Plasterwork © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

No.50 Cheyne Restaurant Chelsea Cornice © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

No.50 Cheyne Restaurant Chelsea Hall © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

No.50 Cheyne Restaurant Chelsea Upstairs © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

No.50 Cheyne Restaurant Chelsea Bathroom © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

No.50 Cheyne Restaurant Chelsea Drawing Room © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

We return to No.50 Cheyne on the first afternoon of autumn. Head Chef Iain Smith talks to us over lunch. We’re back in the coveted corner table (the best place to see and be seen). “There aren’t that many restaurants in Chelsea,” observes Iain. That wasn’t always the case. A scan through the 1975 edition of a Discriminating Guide to Fine Dining and Shopping in London by James Sherwood, Founder of Orient-Express Hotels, identifies 22 restaurants in the hallowed postcode enjoyed by No.50 Cheyne of SW3. Two prominent survivals are Daphne’s and San Lorenzo. There are six restaurants on King’s Road alone:

No.50 Cheyne Restaurant Chelsea Sofa © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

  • Al Ben Accotto, 58 Fulham Road… “plain walls, Venetian lanterns overhead”… “the crème brûlée is a triumph”
  • Alvaro, 124 King’s Road… “genuine, small Italian restaurant”… “octopus with spinach in chilli sauce is delicious”
  • Au Bon Accueil, 27 Elystan Road… “small, pretty, cheerful Chelsea restaurant”… “vegetables are prepared with originality”
  • Brompton Grill, 243 Brompton Road… “patterned wallpaper surrounds, pink tinged mirrors engraved with clouds”… “unforgettable tartare sauce on fried scallops”
  • Le Carrousse, 19 to 21 Elystan Street…“The original decorator was David Hicks; the original owner, Geoffrey Sharp”… “miraculously unrubbery escargots”
  • The Casserole, 338 King’s Road… “trendy Chelsea King’s Road atmosphere”… “avocado filled with cottage cheese, walnuts and celery”
  • La Chaumière, 104 Draycott Avenue… “the most expensive bistro in London”… “the entrée is served with baked potatoes and salads”
  • Chelsea Rendezvous, 4c Sydney Street… “white painted brick walls, a profusion of fresh plants and paintings by Brian McMinn”… “fried seaweed is a delicious addition”
  • Daphne’s, 122 Draycott Avenue… “plush banquettes, gilt framed pictures and subdued lighting”… “Elizabeth Shaw chocolate crisps are served with good coffee”
  • Don Luigi, 330 King’s Road… “modern prints hang on clean white walls”… “Scampi Don Luigi is a speciality”
  • Meridiana, 169 Fulham Road… “the dining room itself is bright, airy, spacious, clean and bustling”… “pasta is excellent”
  • Minotaur, Chelsea Cloisters, Sloane Avenue… “quiet, cool and spacious atmosphere of a hotel dining room”… “fresh vegetables are imaginatively prepared”
  • Parkes, 5 Beauchamp Place… “bright coloured banquettes line the dining room walls”… “artichoke hearts in mustard soup is a delicious starter”
  • La Parra, 163 Draycott Avenue… “darkly atmospheric in spite of white rough plaster walls and almost cloister-like Spanish arches”… “vegetables are seasonal and well prepared”
  • Poissonnerie de l’Avenue, 82 Sloane Avenue… “long red carpet, long polished mahogany bar, wood panelled walls, cut velvet banquettes”… “scampi flavoured with Pernod on pilaff rice is perfect if you like the idea of that combination”
  • San Frediano, 62 Fulham Road… “one of the most popular of Chelsea’s trattorias”… “salads are fresh”
  • San Lorenzo, 22 Beauchamp Place… “so popular is Lorenzo at lunchtime that it’s very hard to get in”… “in summer the favourite way to begin a meal is with either Mozzarella or Creolla salads”
  • San Martino, 103 Walton Street… “an attractive restaurant with a happy, bustling atmosphere”… “salads are drowned in dressing”
  • Sans Souci, 68 Royal Hospital Road… “the single long room has banquette seats down each side”… “salad dressings are, as the sauces, very very good”
  • Trojan Horse, 3 Milner Street… “freshly decorated in bright nurseryh red and blue with a few amphoras on door lintels”… “the rice is excellent and sauces are well blended”
  • 235 Kings, 235 King’s Road… “one of Chelsea’s most popular and trendy restaurants”… “vegetables are nicely undercooked”
  • Waltons, 121 Walton Street… “Louis XV chairs, stainless steel chairs, and even a beautiful canopied sofa at a table for six”… “soups are wonderful, especially one of fennel and courgettes”

No.50 Cheyne Restaurant Chelsea Starter © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Iain is a protégé of celebrity chef Jason Atherton. He previously worked at Social Eating House Soho and The London Edition Hotel Fitzrovia. “I’ve found my home here!” he enthuses. His interview was cooking a 14 course meal sampled by Sally. “One of my greatest challenges was to win over regulars as this was already an established restaurant.” That challenge has been met and surpassed: “Our 100 covers are full almost every night!” The salmon tartare with avocado starter is a new cold delight. Another aubergine main, this time stuffed with piperade quinoa, proves Iain knows his onions – and fruit. We’re crème brûlée connoisseurs so on both recent visits pudding is an easy choice, especially when served with Russet apple compote and lemon sorbet. “It’s comfort food taken to a new level,” is how Iain describes his cooking. Can this Chelsea destination get any better? “We’re adding a private dining room for 30 to 40 people,” reveals David. Even better.

No.50 Cheyne Restaurant Chelsea Main © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Strabane + The Doors

Prints Charming

Strabane Doors © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Strabane, 18th century Ireland’s capital of publishing and printing.

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Africa Fashion Week London + Nigeria 2019

Talks and Walks    

Live AFWL Africa Fashion Week London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It’s the most deliciously distinguished date of distinction on London’s August calendar – the Capital’s not-so-quiet summer month. The largest annual African fashion event in Europe. Yes, for one weekend Freemasons’ Hall Covent Garden plays architectural host to catwalk shows and exhibitions complemented by an African souk and food village. Welcome to the Grand Temple of African Style! A new addition this year is the Business Fashion Forum powered by EPG Media. Insightful talks and informative panel discussions feature guest speakers from the Mayor of London’s Office, Department of Trade UK and the V+A Museum not forgetting British perfume sensation Azzi Glasser. 

AFWL Africa Fashion Week Covent Garden © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Princess Ronke Ademiluyi is the esteemed founder and owner of Africa Fashion Week London and Nigeria. Known informally as “Rukkies”, she is a London trained lawyer. So how did she gracefully make the transition from Suits (law) to suits (fashion)? Her Royal Highness: “When I was in the university whatever I wore to school used to get a lot of compliments. At some point I thought why not make a business out of it? I often bought stuff for some of my fellow students, dressed them up and styled them. That is how the whole fashion thing came about.”

Showcase AFWL Africa Fashion Week London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Both London and Nigeria have been absolute runaway successes. Princess Ronke reveals, “Africa Fashion Week Nigeria has by the grace of God become the biggest driver in Nigeria for emerging brands. The London event is very mainstream in the sense we have a lot of mainstream media, fashion buyers and organisations who attend to see the latest coming out of Africa because it involves the 54 African countries. It is still promoting our culture as well because our fashion is our culture – it translates our cultural identity.”

AFWL Africa Fashion Week London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Joseph Farodoye, CEO of EPG Media announces, “This is a moment in history. We are an amazing bunch of people – beautiful, resilient! My mother says, ‘If you know better do better!’ Africa Fashion Week London has celebrated over 900 designers. When Ronke set it up it was for aspiring designers who are now established designers. “It’s now the largest and longest running culturally diverse fashion and trade exhibition in Europe. Let’s begin to change the narrative of the landscape – we are a vibrant people!” There’s liquid refreshment too seeping through all this glamour: Amarula. This drink is made from the Marula fruit of Sub Equatorial Africa. The Marula spirit is distilled and aged in French oak for two years then blended with a velvety cream to create the smooth taste of Amarula. Yesterday’s dream.

Backstage AFWL Africa Fashion Week London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Designers AFWL Africa Fashion Week London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Vanessa Gounden Africa Fashion Week London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Becca Apparel AFWL © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Becca Apparel Africa Fashion Week London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Makeup AFWL Africa Fashion Week London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Beauty AFWL Africa Fashion Week London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Style AFWL Africa Fashion Week London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

AFWL © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Model AFWL Africa Fashion Week London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

South African fashion designer Vanessa Gounden believes in merging creativity and business to be sustainable. “My husband and I are activists involved in the liberation. I’ve always had a passion for fashion!” she exclaims. “What is my actual USP? It’s an activist expression of wearable art – the very essence of how we can be more feminine and responsible. I’ve created an integrated atelier proud of ‘Made in South Africa’ goods that can compete in the international luxury market.” Vanessa Gounden is now open in Soho London’s Ham Yard Village. Today’s fashion; tomorrow’s vintage.

Hairstyle AFWL Africa Fashion Week London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Elisabeth Murray, Curator of Modern Fashion at the V+A, says the museum is “an amazing resource for designers and makers”, adding, “there are around 80,000 fashion and textiles objects”. Janet Browne, Senior Producer of Audience Development at the V+A Learning Academy, predominantly works with black audiences at the museum. Her aim is to “celebrate difference and tell the difference through narratives in the collections”. There are around 4,500 objects from Africa and its diaspora. Janet confides, “My favourite is the bust of a black youth made in the 18th century which stands proudly in the Europe Gallery. He has no collar so he wasn’t enslaved. We believe he was probably a gondolier who worked for himself in Italy. The bust is made of marble with glass buttons. I love him!”

Africa Fashion © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Africa Fashion Week London is packed with other fashionable dignitaries taking part. To name just a few: Her Royal Highness Queen Diambi Kabatusuila Tshiyoyo Muata of the Democratic Republic of Congo; Her Excellency Erelu Bisi Fayemi, First Lady of Ekiti State, Nigeria; and Her Excellency Mrs Olufolake Abdulrazaq, First Lady of Kwara State, Nigeria. August isn’t August isn’t august without Africa Fashion Week London. And Christmas isn’t complete without Africa Fashion Week Nigeria. As for the First Lady of Fashion, Mary Martin, after triumphantly showcasing her premier menswear collection at Africa Fashion Week London she’s flying off to present the highlights of her show at Africa Fashion and Cultural Week, Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

Vanessa Gounden Material © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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