Le Dîner Gastronomique Chez Vous
Remember ye anciente days of olde when we went to restaurants? Now restaurants come to us. Service? That’ll be a knock at the door. Carriages? That’ll be a walk down the bedroom corridor. A mere 45 years ago, James Sherwood’s Discriminating Guide to Fine Dining and Shopping in London didn’t list any restaurants on Battersea Rise. The nearest mentioned was Five Five Five once on that same number on Battersea Park Road. The Guide records, “The cuisine is described as Central European, although many of the starters are more familiar to Battersea than Romania.”
Mr Sherwood knew his onions (fried, pickled and sautéed): he founded Orient-Express Hotels. The hotelier wasn’t afraid to give the two finger salute either to establishments in his “Not For Us” section. Bentley’s on Swallow Street and diagonally opposite on Piccadilly, The Ritz Dining Room, both suffered this fate (they have since changed hands). What was so bad about Bentley’s? An “overcooked entrecôte” and “lukewarm broccoli”, apparently. And The Ritz? “Tough overcooked roasts”, allegedly. Oh, and rather bravely, he named and shamed a further 118 restaurants which failed to meet his exacting standards. Other lighter categories include “Where to Eat in Blue Jeans” (Alvaro, a King’s Road Italian, and Pimlico, another Italian in – you guessed it – Pimlico; both confined to the history of hospitality), and “Where to Eat If You Have Come Into an Inheritance” (Mayfair hotels Claridge’s and The Connaught – some things never change). James Sherwood died 11 days ago.
Fast forward four and a half decades and Battersea Rise is rammed with restaurants. Our perennial favourite – and we are fervent Francophiles – is the six year old Sinabro. One thing for sure: the late critic would award Sinabro Two Stars (his top accolade). A pop up food and wine shop for now, owners Yoann Chevert and Sujin Lee chime, “We are keeping our delivery menu simple but will change it very often. Enjoy upscale gourmet cuisine in the comfort of your own home. Bon appétite et très bientôt!” We stick to our pescatarian roots and order seatrout with toasted almonds and baby gem salad, complete with a personalised presentation note. Summer on a plate, so to speak. There’s plenty more to order tomorrow and tomorrow’s tomorrow, from homemade pickles and potato terrine to chocolate babka and strawberry tart. This service has legs. C’est bon, c’est très bon.
A Night on the Tiles
All dressed up and somewhere to go. Sometimes, all a girl wants to do is party.
Necropolis in the Megalopolis
It’s a sculpture park in a wild garden. What’s not to love? St Mary’s Cemetery in Battersea may run parallel with the busy shopping street of Northcote Road but it’s an elevated world away, a sanctuary of foxes and squirrels running amok among the crumbling statues and long grass. A place of reflection, one can almost hear Montserrat Caballé’s Prayer floating through the dense foliage. It’s also the perfect setting for a Savannah style picnic provided by local supplier Pique. Named by Tatler as one of “London’s most luxurious readymade picnic hamper companies”, Pique is based beside the former Von Essen Hotel Verta at Battersea Heliport.
St Mary’s Cemetery was laid out in 1860 to 1861 on part of the Bolingbroke Grove House estate which had been sold two years earlier. Burials had ceased in the churchyard of St Mary’s which is situated two kilometres away along the Thames next to Montevetro. Parish surveyor Charles Lee was appointed to lay out the ground and design two chapels and lodge.
The Survey of London Volume 49 edited by Andrew Saint states, “The little twin mortuary chapel range remains the chief feature of the cemetery, a building of simple charm and quiet Gothic details. The chapels, one for Anglicans, one for other denominations, are placed on either side of a tall pointed archway, above which sits a meagre bellcote. Each chapel is lit by a lancet at one gabled end and a rose window at the other, but these are switched round so that the east and west elevations are asymmetrical.” The Church of England chapel and the ecumenical chapel each have a gross external area of 39 square metres.
The City Four Square
Kennington has some of the best Georgian architecture in London. And some of the best neo Georgian. Take the Duchy of Cornwall’s estate in Kennington. In 1911, architect Stanley Adshead was commissioned to design this residential scheme. He partnered up with fellow architect Stanley Ramsey.
Prince Charles is a fan of his family’s commission: “Courtenay Square – a subtle reinterpretation of a Regency square, carried out in a ‘progressive spirit’ to use King George V’s own description. The architects Adshead + Ramsey were renowned pioneers of ‘planning’ in this country. They created a civilised architecture employing the simplest of means. The houses in Courtenay Square of around 1914 are not of the finest materials, nor richly decorated, nor on a grand scale. The Square works because of its proportions and straightforward detailing.”
A pair of three storey red brick apartment blocks mark the entrance to the estate off Kennington Road. Each has a concave quadrant angle gracefully gesturing towards the two storey yellow stock brick terraced houses beyond. The apartment blocks are more flamboyant than the understated terraces, with an ensemble of Roman cement dressings. Prince of Wales’ feathers feature in the capitals of the apartment block pedimented porches and the mid terrace attic pediments. Each terraced house is treated to a delicate timber trellis porch topped by a swept lead hood. A Greek key patterned Roman cement first floor cill band wraps around the terraces.
Architectural historian Andrew Saint observed in his 2018 European Commission Lecture, “The persistence of classicism continued throughout the 20th century. In 1900 it was there and is still going today.” Studying Courtenay Square it’s as if Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts never happened. Adshead + Ramsey didn’t rest on their Grecian laurels or stick to their neo Georgian guns though. In the 1930s they designed the Romanesque St Anselm’s Church in Kennington and the modernist block of flats John Scurr House in Limehouse.
Hugging at the Venice Ball
Only Mary Martin London would conjure up haute couture hoodies with matching face masks in an increasingly byzantine world, introducing evanescent light into the Stygian darkness. Worthy of a Rizzoli monograph, Behind the Mask is futuristic fashion fusion taken to a whole new paradoxical level. Mary exclaims, “I just thought to myself I need to create streetwear for this time when we’re not allowed on the streets!” Face masks are the new matching fashion accessory. Socially distanced, a “drive by shoot” takes on a whole new meaning, channelling inner Fauda. Thanks Becks. Gucci velvet slippers model’s own.
Of course it’s sheer Joanne Lumley actress territory. Completely the ‘hood of the real Patsy Stone. Lesser known south of the Thames. Swap a consonant in Kensington and you get real London. Welcome to Kennington. The Park. Prince Albert’s Model Cottage marks the entrance. Over to Patsy:
“I know what you’re feeling, darling, but really, I don’t even care.”
“Are you mad? I’ve got nothing to wear on public transport!”
“Whatever I choose is cool because I am cool.”
“Just a smidge…’
A Street Named Desire
Gazing at a house on Roupell Street, any house, lucky number seven, luckless number 13, before a visit to The King’s Arms (crammed Monday to Friday; only the fireside cat for company at the weekend), after a visit to The King’s Arms, summer and smoke, makes us think of that part in Alan Hollingsworth’s novel The Spell when, in the grips of his first ecstasy experience, Robin Woodfield realises why house music is so called: “Because you want to live in it.” Or there’s the picture of a house in the photographic journal Camera Lucida which Roland Barthes captions, simply and perfectly, “I want to live there.” It’s a shortcut to The Cut; thespians acting at the Old Vic, acting up at the New Vic.
A grid, a toast rack, a tightknit urban grain, a bacchanalian bout of Augustan nostalgia, a traditional survival in an otherwise redeveloped postcode. Roupell Street runs parallel with both Theed Street and Whittlesey Street to the north and Brad Street to the south – all traversed by Windmill Walk. The early 19th century terraced houses, once unremarkable by their compact ubiquity, now listed for their intact rarity, a lesson in brick for planners and architects and citizens. The original artisan workers have long gone, replaced by harrumphing gazumping bankers, boorish bourgeoning bourgeois, collars swapped from blue to white. Modest houses bought with immodest bonuses. All too apropos, the property developer Mr Roupell moonlighted as a gold refiner.
Ian Nairn where else but in Nairn’s London wrote: “Here is true architectural purity… nothing but yellow London brick and unselfconscious self respect. Whittlesey Street is… two storeys made into three with a blind attic window concealing a monopitch roof of pantiles. Roupell Street answers with a wavy pattern. On one level there is no finer architectural effect in London.” Stock brick darkened by soot over the passage of time, closer in colour now to the Welsh roof slates – accidental homogeneity. Originally the frames of the timber sash windows holding mouth blown hand spun glass would’ve been painted black; they’re all white now. Solid to void relationships are perpendicularly predictable, correctly so. A pleasing wallage to window is maintained.
Who says repetition is monotonous? Who says repetition is monotonous? It creates rhythm. And order. Strength and safety in numbers, arithmetical progression. Ah… the terrace. That arrangement of buildings enjoying continuity intimacy, expressing conscious couplings by the noblest concepts of civic design. The two bay houses of Roupell Street coincidentally correspond to the height and width of the arches of the massive railway viaduct which ponderously plods its elephantine progress across this patch, carrying wistful commuters longing to live in this coveted corner of SE1. Each house has a butterfly roof with two pitches nosediving into a central valley gutter that drains to the rear. The gables on the grander three bay Theed Street and Whittlesey Street houses are hidden behind one continuous high, no make that very high, stone coped parapet with three blind mice windows. Mono pitched roofs descend into cat-on-a-hot-tin-slide returns.
Character is derived from uniformity and regularity of appearance. Regimented form contributes to cohesive sense of place, place having lost its definite article. Come closer. Character is also derived from the quiet details. Draw nearer. Stucco cornices and pediments, arches over openings, half moon fanlights, iron knockers, tall chimneys holding slender pots shrouded in a spider’s web of aerials, striped bollards guarding granite kerbs like Lilliputian lighthouses.
“The period of domestic architecture from which of all others we have most to learn is the Georgian,” ponders Trystan Edwards in his textbook Architectural Style. “The essential modernity of the Georgian style should be widely recognised. If we do not derive full benefits from this tradition, the failure will certainly be justified by the extremely disputable suggestion that such a manner of building is unsuitable to our present social circumstances. Its reliance on the virtue and dignity of proportions only, and its rare bursts of exquisite detail, all expressed as no other style has done, that indifference to self advertisement, that quiet assumption of our own worth, and that sudden vein of lyric affection, which have given us our part in civilisation.” Houses built to last. Roupell Street – so Georgian; so English; so reticent, gentlemanly and polite; abstracted; understated classical authority; so not suburban; so not Poundbury; so real. Hark, it’s the architecture’s Camino Way to Santa Barbara.
Valley of Dashes
One valley, two villages. Meon. Like The Great Gatsby, there’s an East and a West. Let’s go waste the most poignant moments of the night and life and capture on celluloid one of the villages in the valley. As Nick Carraway narrates in The Great Gatsby, “Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge.”
“The Court House led a quiet life down the centuries,” remarks George Bartlett, who lives with his wife Claire in the medieval building plonked in the middle of East Meon. “In the first half of the 20th century the house was restored by the architect Percy Morley Horder who bought the house for himself. He designed many country houses.” George reassures, “He added a very discreet wing to the Court House. It’s wonderfully unassertive. A lovely piece of add on architecture.”
Lavender’s Blue caught up with the inimitably monocled magnificently manicured Carmen dell’Orefice when she recently stayed in a Diane von Furstenberg designed hotel suite (where else?) in London. She was fresh – very fresh indeed – off the runways at New York Fashion Week where she stole the show walking for Norisol Ferrari.
Those cheekbones sharp enough to slice bread with… the thoroughbred aquiline nose… the gunshot grey and lilac hooded eyelids… the supremely elegant arch of her back… that majestic mane of silvery white hair… Her legendary beauty has been captured on countless occasions by the great and the good of the photographic world. But in the flesh she is even more enticing, more exquisite, more natural and best of all armed with a wicked sense of humour that celluloid could never capture. We fell about laughing as she exaggeratedly demonstrated some of her more extreme model poses. The secret of her suppleness? One hour’s stretching exercises in the morning, she confided. Over to Carmen:
“I have worked with all the best photographers long before digital photography came along. Back then, photographers talked a different language. I don’t consider images taken of me belong to me. They are the products of the photographers who are mental and spiritual sculptors. I don’t think about the labels people give me. I’m too busy. Have the passion to live. I never chose to be in my profession. I learnt to achieve. Life is worth living. Do some good when no one is looking.” Inspirational isn’t a strong enough adjective.
“I am still thinking of who I am. Think of who you are and where your passions lie. When young guys like you tell me I’m inspiring I know there’s hope for the future of this world. The idea is from 80 to 100 to slow down but quite sure how I’m not sure yet. I may be the last link to a golden age and I’m going out with my heels on. I love being silent. Take life seriously.” And with that, she burst out laughing.
“It’s sort of feeble really,” says Min Hogg. “Open the property section of any newspaper and you’ll see page after page of boring beige interiors. I blame technology. People just want to switch on this and that but can’t be bothered to look at things like furniture and paintings.” Her own flat is neither boring nor beige. Quite the opposite. It’s brimming with antiques and art and personality. And magazines. “The red bound copies on my shelves are from when I was Editor. The loose copies in boxes are all the subsequent issues.” Min was, of course, founding Editor of the highly influential magazine The World of Interiors.
“My mum would have made a brilliant Editor but she was awfully lazy,” confides Min. “She always made our houses really nice without any training, none of that, she just did it. She was a great decorator. You bet! So was my grandmother.” Min’s first plum role was as Fashion Editor of Harpers and Queen. Anna Wintour, who would later famously edit American Vogue, was her assistant. “We hated each other!” Min recalls, her sapphire blue eyes twinkling mischievously. “I was taken on by Harpers and Queen over her. She really knew I wasn’t as utterly dedicated to fashion as she was. By no means!” Nevertheless, Anna was the first to leave.
Thank goodness then for an ad in The Times for “Editor of an international arts magazine” which Min retrieved from her bin. She applied and the rest is publishing history. The World of Interiors was a roaring success from day one, year 1981. “I submitted a three line CV,” she laughs. “I didn’t want to bore Kevin Kelly the publisher with A Levels and so on!” It didn’t stop her being selected out of 70 candidates. “I sort of knew I’d got the job. I ended up having dinner with his wife and him that night. I think probably of all the people who applied, I was already such friends with millions of decorators. Just friends, not that I was doing them any good or anything, I just knew them because we were likeminded.”
Studying Furniture and Interior Design at the Central Art College must have helped. “Well it was too soon after the Festival of Britain and I really didn’t get it. The only person who taught anything was Terence Conran. He was only about a year older than any of us actually. But you could tell he wasn’t into Festival of Britain furniture either which, I’m sorry, I don’t like and never did.”
“Come and have a look at the view from the kitchen, it’s really good,” says Min stopping momentarily. “It’s like living opposite the Vatican,” pointing to the plump dome of Brompton Oratory. Back in her sitting room, the view is of treetops over a garden square, a plumped up cushion’s throw from Harrods. As for choosing an interior to publish, “If I liked it, I’d do it. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t! I came to the job with this huge backlog of interior ideas. We never finished using them all. I’m blessed with a jolly broad spectrum of vision, and as you can see, although I’m not a modernist I can appreciate modernism when it’s good. I don’t like Art Nouveau either but I can get the point of a really good example of anything.”
Appropriately Min’s top floor which she bought in 1975 looks like a spread from The World of Interiors. “I don’t decorate, I just put things together. I’m a collector,” she confesses. Eclectically elegant, somehow everything fits together just so. “John Fowler was an innovator. He was frightfully clever.” So is Min. She laments the disappearance of antique shops. And junk shops. “London used to be stuffed with junk shops. Now it’s seaside towns like Bridport and Margate that have all the antique shops. There’s nothing left in London. Just the few grand ones.” Interiors may be her “addiction” but Min is interested in all art forms. She’s been an active member of the Irish Georgian Society ever since it was founded by her friends Desmond and Mariga Guinness. “I love the plasterwork of Irish country houses,” she relates, “Castletown’s a favourite.”
With her vivacity and an email address list to die for, it’s little wonder Min’s parties are legendary. She even makes a fun filled appearance in Rupert Everett’s autobiography. But it’s not all play between her Kensington flat and second home in the Canaries. She’s still Editor at Large of The World of Interiors. Plus a few years ago she launched the Min Hogg Seaweed Collection of Wallpapers and Fabrics. It began with Nicky Haslam telling her: “I need a wallpaper for an Irish house I’m decorating. You know about colour and design.” So Nicky gave Min an 18th century portfolio of botanical seaweed prints for inspiration and off she went.
“Mike Tighe, the former Art Director of The World of Interiors, joined me,” she explains. “For me it was a physical thing, cutting out paper patterns by hand. Mike did all the computer work. I learnt to do a repeat and everything else. It’s funny how you can learn something if you’re interested. By pure luck the finished result looks like hand blocked wallpaper. If someone gives us a colour we can match it. I like changing the scale too from teeny to enormous.” It’s a versatile collection, printed on the finest papers, cottons, linens and velvets. Prominent American interior designers like Stephen Sills love it. The collection may be found in a world of interiors from a Hawaiian villa to a St Petersburg palace. But not in any boring beige homes.
Baroque and Roll
You know you really have achieved celebrity status as an architect if you are still a household name three centuries after your death. Or your surname is adopted for a revival of your architectural style a couple of hundred years posthumously. Sir Christopher Wren and the Wrenaissance. St Paul’s Cathedral in the City, central London, may be his most famous ecclesiastical building but at the opposite end of the scale spectrum is Boone’s Chapel in Lee, southeast London.
Or at least Boone’s Chapel is attributed to Sir Christopher Wren. It certainly exhibits many of the trademarks of the master: chunky modillion cornices; boldly rusticated quoins; scroll key blocks; a rather delicate timber cupola crowning its pitched roof; and more oeils de boeuf than a farmer’s field. Beefcake architecture. A study in red (bricks and rooftiles). Originally part of an almshouses complex, Boone’s Chapel has found a new use that is staggeringly appropriate. It’s become an architects’ office.
Over the course of multiple visits – breakfasts and brunches, dates and dinners, walks and weekends – Lavender’s Blue cover and discover and rediscover London’s best Eighties development. Back in the day, Astrid Bray was Director of Sales and Marketing at the Conrad London (as Chelsea Harbour Hotel was originally named). She recalls various Chelsea Harbour restaurants, “There was Ken Lo’s Memories of China and Viscount Linley’s Deals. Marco Pierre White’s The Canteen was owned by Michael Caine, a great friend of ours. Deals was opposite The Canteen on the same side as Ken Lo’s. There was a pool table bar called Fisher’s. We would bring pop groups like Westlife through the loading bay to get to the bar!” A shortage of celebrities was never an issue. “Robbie Williams bought an apartment in The Belvedere opposite the hotel. Take That and Tina Turner stayed in the Conrad. We had a lot of fun there. One night I sat on the grand piano in the bar while Lionel Richie played and sang! There’s nothing in life that isn’t slightly mad!”
Chelsea Harbour, all seven hectares of it, is a defining development of late 20th century London. Despite its Thameside location, the former industrial site had been poorly connected and blighted by infrastructure proposals. Architect Ray Moxley of Moxley + Jenner won a competition organised by landowner British Railways Property Board to design a mixed use scheme. “It seemed obvious to excavate the old harbour, rebuild the lock, repair the walls and form a new yacht harbour,” Ray remembered. “Harbours are always pleasant to watch and enjoy and property values are higher on the waterfront.” Honfleur provided inspiration. That town in northern France has houses and shops and bars and studios grouped around a lock on the mouth of the River Seine.
The triple level penthouse of The Belvedere merited its own brochure in the original marketing of Chelsea Harbour. Designed by Mary Fox Linton, the “interior of contrasts” included Seguso urns in the entrance hall and Hurel furniture in the reception room. “Fine views of the Thames on one side and upstream towards Richmond on the other” were rightfully recorded. The kitchen was fitted out by Bulthaup and the “warm intimate” guest bedroom had an Alvar Aalto table and 18th century chairs. Apropos to a flagship scheme, Ms Linton’s rejected chintz for eclectic minimalism.
Grouping is key to Chelsea Harbour’s aura of containment. The marina is tightly ringed by the hotel, Chelsea Harbour Design Centre and apartment blocks. Ray’s genius was to create a sense of place. The tallest apartment block, the 20 storey Belvedere, next to where the marina flows into the river, is topped by a whimsical witch’s hat roof. A maquette version of this roof tops the security pagoda entrance to Chelsea Harbour. Ray excelled at roofscapes sculpting a cornucopia of pyramids, swan necked pediments and mansards.
The architect was also adept at architectural playfulness, from reinterpreted Trafalgar balconies to oversized industrial metal window frames. The Design Centre is lit by tall glazed domes, ogee roofed conservatories and outsized neo Georgian windows topped by fanlights. Chunky columns and bulky balustrades add to the sense of gargantuan scale. Ray Moxley died in 2014 aged 91. Architectural practice APT is now encasing more of the original mall in glass to form an internal street. Lead architect Robin Partington enthuses, “We have the best jobs in the world. It’s all about curating, whether designing the interiors of an office development or masterplanning a scheme.”
Chelsea Harbour Hotel is shaped like half a butterfly, with two wings hugging the marina in an architectural embrace. The top of the tips of the wings culminate in oriels in the sky. Undulating waves of balconies swirl and curl their way across the elevations. The hotel looks like a grounded ocean liner. Earl Snowdon’s eatery Deals, which he launched in 1988 with his cousin Lord Lichfield, may have long gone but there’s always Chelsea Riverside Brasserie on the raised ground floor of the hotel. And yes, the view lives up to its name. The Canteen is also confined to history and memory. Its à la carte menu for October 1997 priced starters (featuring frivolity of smoked salmon and caviar) from £6.95 to £8.50 and mains (such as escalope of salmon with stir fried Asian greens, ginger and soya dressing) were all £12.95. These days, Chelsea Harbour Hotel room suite service caters for midnight munchies. Hand dived scallop ceviche at 2am? Yes please. Chelsea Harbour Hotel is the only all suite five star hotel in London.
The cruise ship inspiration wasn’t just confined to the exterior: it flowed indoors too. “David Hicks designed the hotel interiors in 1993,” explains Astrid. “It was all about a ship. He believed, ‘Themes are always intriguing.’ The mezzanine stairs were modelled on a cruise liner. The ground floor meeting room was called The Compass Rose. There were lots of blues and light ash wood in the interiors.” It was a real era catcher. One of David’s best known earlier works was his colourful revamp of Baronscourt, the Duke and Duchess of Abercorn’s seat in County Tyrone. Wallpaper by his designer son Ashley Hicks is for sale in Chelsea Harbour Design Centre.
Chelsea Harbour is the private members’ club of the marina world with a record breaking six year minimum waiting list. The luckily berthed include: Achill Sound; Ariadne; Christanian II: Ella Rose; Esperance; Honey Rider; and (guess which actor’s?) The Italian Job. A four bedroom Lamoure yacht is currently for sale at £249,000. Back on dry land, the range of properties on the 2020 market include: a two bedroom duplex penthouse (92 square metres) in Carlyle Court for £1,000,000 | a two bedroom third floor apartment (90 square metres) in King’s Quay for £1,200,000 | a two bedroom duplex penthouse (112 square metres) in Carlyle Court for £1,250,000 | a three bedroom 14th floor apartment (194 square metres) in The Belvedere for £3,200,000 | a four bedroom ninth floor apartment (186 square metres) in The Belvedere for £3,300,000. Splashing the cash is one sure way to make a visit permanent.