Joseph Connolly reviews this double-starred Mayfair haunt
Joseph Connolly reviews this double-starred Mayfair haunt
Joseph Connolly reviews this double-starred Mayfair haunt
Joseph Connolly reviews this double-starred Mayfair haunt
By Robin Dutt
There’s no doubt about it. Cocktails have become the capital’s dernier cri. Of course, they were always enjoyed in specialist bars and such immaculately magnetic environs as Claridges, The Ritz or The Connaught – these and other bastions of almost impossible elegance, synonymous with the strident precision and tradition of ‘cocktail hour.’
The cocktail concept has been readily embraced by many other establishments appealing to a jolly crowd seeking liquid inspiration, soon after the work stable door has shut. But you don’t bolt a cocktail, so it’s hard not to drink responsibly.
Cocktails are all about experimentation, personal choices, adaptability and oh yes…the salient advice of your ever attendant cocktail shaker/dream maker.
Apart from its sheer 18th century elegance, a confection of master architect Robert Adam, the Home House Members’ Club’s comprehensive cocktail list is reason to join alone. With three bars offering a staggering variety of classics and home grown favourites, the cocktail creators are adept at providing taste adventures from a classic Mojito to the signature Black Bison – dark and fruity sprinkled with vanilla sugar.
Any analysis of cocktail choices could, would, should not be complete without the appearance of a Bloody Mary. For many, a restorative pick me up. For others, a soup in a glass, the classic Bloody Mary does not exist – unless of course you are in a pub and being asked – “How spicy?” as the limp demi lemon slice slides in apologetically and the Tabasco sauce bottle is proffered.
That is certainly not a classic – as such. The secret of a Bloody Mary is… well, should be exactly that. The basic ingredients are obvious but it’s that extra unusual ingredient that gives character and uniqueness, as personal as your DNA. I often add a splash of soy sauce and sometimes wasabi. Actually, Marmite too. Oh yes… and a large chilli. Hot. And definitely no ice.
The Grenadier’s version has for years been praised as the best in London and it is not difficult to understand why. Smooth, spiced and satisfying, the secret recipe remains secret but much enjoyed in this historic and elegant London venue. Who knows exactly why it tastes so good? Perhaps the bartenders slice the lemon with a regimental sword or whisper a Mason-esque spell as the drink is being created. The appearance of a celery stick however is apparently down to one New York socialite who wanted something to stir her favourite cocktail with and, if needing a bite of lunch, had it to hand.
The Grenadier, 18 Wilton Row, SW1
020 7235 3074
An atmospheric cellar experience, Purl is a real find. Ancient booths are set into brick caverns and the cocktail waiters are so experienced that you feel instantly that you’d like to ask their advice before plumping for something you normally imbibe. Sharing plates of nibbles are the perfect partners to the alcohol and you can choose from all the classics. But do consider the Ballpont Fizz – Ketel One vodka, lemon, egg white and sugar that comes with a stash of flavoured ‘ink’ pipettes, which offer several taste experiences.
Or you may be brave enough to try the Cerez Joker – a cunning mixture of Jack Daniels, sloe gin, ginger bitters and a detonated lemon twist. The drink comes with a respectful note to inform the waiter if you have a weak heart. When my friend Dan Thompson was the manager of a cocktail bar in Soho, one cocktail he expertly prepared was accompanied by a waiver you had to sign before tasting. Are cocktail bars sensory laboratories? Fantastic! Purl. Blandford Street. W1 020 7935 0835
For many, a cocktail is not a cocktail unless it involves champagne. And it must be champagne – not something fizzy from anywhere in the world which is a sham and usually a pain. There are so many to choose from – the classic champagne cocktail comprising a sugar cube, angostura bitters and brandy, the delicate peach Bellini, Stolichnaya and Bollinger (Stoli-Boli) and a particular favourite, champagne mixed with tasty and nutty Amaretto.
If you like the idea of experimentation, the Experimental Cocktail Club, sprawled over three floors of a townhouse in the heart of old Chinatown, is more than fit for purpose as a purveyor of unusual cocktails – perfect for a pre-theatre tipple or post-opera drench. But such is the demand for evening libations here that booking is more than strongly recommended. (13a, Gerrard St., W1 020 7434 3559).
Classics, naturally, but let your bartender suggest something. Just tell him a few signatures tastes and styles you like or indeed the very texture from crisp and clean to gooey and gloopy.
You can make a cocktail out of any drink – well to be precise, a cocktail cannot be called such unless it has at least two alcoholic ingredients. Several other examples feature many more, such as the Long Island Tea – what’s not in it? And of course, you can have a non-alcoholic cocktail. Home House has a palatable virgin Bloody Mary but they hint at what they feel in its title. It’s called a Bloody Shame!
One of the capital’s latest on the cocktail scene is The Whip (50 Davies Street, W1 020 7493 1275) situated above Mayfair’s oldest pub – The Running Horse – and so, reasonably named. With a backdrop of jockey-silk upholstery, racing themed images and antique furniture, which used to grace The Ritz in Paris, the adventurous cocktail list is worth sampling. All of it. Perhaps make a pledge with a friend to sample a different cocktail every night and perhaps keep a spirits diary.
Drinking cocktails makes for times well spent and happily remembered. Most of them look so well dressed, have been prepared with such love, and designed to please, that you have to look the part yourself. Happy drinking!
By Robin Dutt There’s no doubt about it.
Antiques are self-selecting, only the fittest survive – and their survival is testimony to the quality of their manufacture and how much they were cherished. We ask seven members of LAPADA, the largest Association of Art & Antiques Dealers in the UK, to offer their expertise on the joys of collecting in disciplines favoured by the modern man today.
Arms and Armour were considered in their day to be the most expensive single item a gentleman could purchase other than land. The handmade rapier, the suit of armour, the flintlock pistol, the hand forged shield – all would have been purchased to order and made to measure. These bespoke items demanded exceptional craftsmanship from the creators beyond the skill or knowledge of any contemporary manufacturer. Indeed, a fine tailored suit from Savile Row is the closest thing a man could purchase today that would be comparable.
Arms and Armour have a huge tactile quality. To enjoy them hung or displayed on a wall, or worse behind glass, is to miss so much of the pleasure in them. Handling the item, its feel and weight and balance, is as much an experience as any visual pleasure. Like a good suit, armour is enjoyed as much for its aesthetic appeal as for anything else.
Today, with their original use rendered obsolete, what remains of their masculine intent is what the gentleman attaches himself. The working knowledge of mechanisms and the evolution of arms is also much of their appeal.
Simply handling such treasure is enough to transport somebody back in time and so by association make connections that gentlemen enjoy.
Dominic Stickland from Michael German Antiques
Posters provide an emotional link to a person’s interests or an important period of their life. As a design element, they are bright, bold, imaginative, arresting and timeless; they can be elegant yet masculine. Original vintage posters are also recognised as collectible items and alternative investment, ideal for the growing trends of man caves and cinema rooms, as well as personal garages and ski chalets.
The most popular subjects for men of all ages are sports – in particular skiing and cycling – and cars, especially those associated with classic movie icons like James Bond.
Ski posters, like many advertising posters, were originally produced to entice holidaymakers and winter thrill-seekers to resorts and alpine areas. The early to mid-century skiing posters were often designed by notable artists of the time and are colourful, dynamic, glamorous, nostalgic and stylish, sometimes also fun and quirky.
Since its invention in the 1800s, the humble bicycle has been the subject of many cycling posters, from the promotion of safer cycling to advertising events such as the Tour de France. These are proving increasingly popular as more people take up cycling as a lifestyle choice.
Harriet Kalinin from Antikbar
Maps are usually associated with travel, exploration and adventure, generally appealing more to men than women. Often decorative, in design or colouring, they appeal to collectors and novices alike. Today, there is a trend in interiors for large wall and 20th century maps, as they make great statement pieces.
Maps appeal for their historical importance. It is interesting to observe how the layout of the continents and countries has changed over time. In general, collectors look for the earliest printed maps of a particular area, and then concentrate their collection on these early examples, or they collect maps of a certain place through the ages – enjoying the stages of development. For some, finding an unrecorded state of a map turns into a lifelong quest. Others concentrate on a cartographer, trying to accumulate a complete collection of maps in all different stages.
Also sought after by collectors are maps with fundamental mistakes, like the depiction of California as an island; caricature maps that depict countries as people; and fantasy maps of ‘the Land of Love’.
Angelika Friebe from Map Woman
Sport is part of our lifestyle, everybody can identify with one sport or another. Men especially like to share their interests with friends and acquaintances. One of the best ways to fire the imagination and rekindle memories is in owning and handling beautiful historic pieces.
Of particular appeal are the vintage sports paraphernalia that bear the name of great sportsmen of the past who endorsed the equipment they used and helped to develop it. Buyers like the fact that you can actually still use a great deal of sports equipment like croquet sets, billiard tables, football tables and amazing vintage and classic cars, and motor bikes. Some equipment is still used by traditionalist and enthusiasts professionally, such as the split cane fishing rods or the 1920s hickory gold clubs at the English, Welsh and Scottish Hickory Golf Championships.
Manfred and Gabi Schotten from Manfred Schotten Antiques
Campaign furniture was made for travel, principally for the military and empire builders who were used to the finer things in life. The cabinetwork is very good, and protective brass strap details are common. Designed with clean lines, their style is timeless, appeals to many, and works in a variety of settings.
However, they are not standard pieces of furniture, and have the added ‘surprise’ function of folding or dissembling for ease of travel, and out of this practical necessity often ingenious design was born. It might be a portable shower that packs into a box, or an oak briefcase that turns into a table.
Sean Clarke from Christopher Clarke Antiques
Over the last decade, aviation pieces have become increasingly popular, especially with men. People are drawn to the aesthetics: their sculptural forms and good design. There is an adage in the flying world that says: if it looks good it will fly well. The pieces are made to the highest standards, in order to pass rigorous security tests, with high-grade materials such as titanium, rare alloys and hard laminated wood.
Alan Hatchwell of Hatchwell Antiques
Antiques are self-selecting, only the fittest survive
Birthday celebration draws the crowds to a treasure trove
Although a London and international institution, it might be hard to realise that LAPADA (The Association of Art and Antique Dealers) celebrated its 40th birthday last year.
Established – some might say, a mite audaciously – on December Friday 13 1974, dealer Gordon Savage was quick to wish the association well but wondered whether it would survive the launch ceremony. But if the hordes of conspicuously eager visitors were anything to go by, the enthusiasm and enjoyment of this fair has not diminished. As many observers and writers are quick to point out regarding the significance of the date of the launch, this certainly did not seem the most suitable time to garner clients and of course, impress customers.
1974 began with the Three Day Week, which many will remember for restriction of electricity, which meant doing homework by candlelight. Or not doing it at all! Television broadcasts ended at 10.30pm. And then there was the oil crisis. But despite all, business in the art and antiques world in many quarters was on the up. On reflection, the establishment of Lapada at this time of seeming negativity was not such a bad idea. At least there would be plenty of chandeliers to light up the darkness. And oh yes…the symbol of Lapada… precisely that.
If anything, the opposite is true. For seven of those forty years, the familiar Berkeley Square marquee has been such an integral part of the early London autumn scene that this part of the capital would look strangely denuded without it. Of course it is a given that even if attending every moment of every day that the fair is open, one still will not be able to see everything. The sheer variety of the exhibits – paintings, sculptures, furniture, jewellery, fugitive objets d’art and other oddities dazzled this year, buoyed up by the birthday celebration at the Collectors’ Preview. This witnessed a vast audience in attendance, sipping Lanson champagne (seemingly endlessly poured), whilst a glittering queue snaked around the Square. But the mood was one of bonhomie, expectation and excitement, despite the wait to gain entrance.
Although seasoned visitors can and usually are experts in their field and choice of collecting, it has always been a feature of the fair that the first time buyer should not be deterred but indeed encouraged. Accordingly, although one might not receive much change from half a million pounds for an item or two, for just £500 one can secure a precious treasure here. It will have great provenance and may be purchased from a dealer whose own enthusiasm marks him or her out – even among other dealers who might not be part of the association. The chief joy for many this year – as in the past – was the ingenious balancing of the antique world and the fervently, even feverishly contemporary scene. Curated with care and a precise eye, old and new worlds provided a not surprisingly contextual balance – the stridency of a pop image, say, informing the established assurance of a Regency extravaganza. Often, old and new actually needed one another – quite evident if one thinks about the collecting zeal of characters as diverse as say, Andy Warhol and Gianni Versace.
An example last year might be the Butchoff Antiques competition to mark half a century in business. This took the form of a competition for students. The winning design by Kingston University’s Giulia Liverani was a portable laptop table called ‘E-Scritoire’ – an appellation that wittily united the antique and contemporary worlds. Other students were inspired by Butchoff’s history of providing customers with choice pieces from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras.
As a timepiece (more than) enthusiast, this writer found much to weep about – tears shall we say, not of jealousy but envy. In this sector, from a heritage piece for your wrist to the classic vestibule statesman in the form of a long case clock, there really was something for everyone. A cliché perhaps, but what is a cliché if not an often repeated truth?
What is particularly impressive here is not only the precision of the knowledge of these dealers but specification almost within specification. Craig Carrington’s Grand Tour pieces dazzled and Sandra Cronan’s unerring eye for the finest jewels reminded everyone of her authority. The indefatigable Tony Pontone of the Albemarle Gallery fused together several contemporary talents and Tanya Baxter displayed luscious jewel-bright oriental portraits. Philip Mould displayed divine portrait miniatures.
There were so many highlights that it would be impossible to list them all, but the carpets and tapestries on display provided that element of luxury and bursts of woven colour which perfectly partnered the
objets de vertu.
Mieka Sywak, the Fair’s Director, emphasised the event’s overall design – nature in an urban setting, balancing, “elegance and a touch of whimsy.” And a more desirable, timeless inspiration one might be hard-pressed to shake a very polished stick at.
Birthday celebration draws the crowds to a
There are faster, flashier, more luxurious, more expensive and more famous motorcars but to the cognoscenti, nothing beats a Morgan.
This small, sporty marque is the automobile equivalent of a Savile Row suit. It is completely bespoke, made by hand to the specifications of each customer, and is entirely British made.
Who said the British car industry was dead? Since 1909, the Morgan has been lovingly crafted in the old spa town of Malvern, still owned by family of the founder, H.F.S Morgan, and the only independent car maker in Britain. A skilled workforce of just over 200 produces some 1,300 cars over the year.
Its special blend of sporty style with traditional make has seen the Morgan become a cult car around the world, with a waiting list of eager buyers. Currently, the waiting period is around six to seven months, the actual production taking five weeks. Many more famous marques must envy such success.
There are dealers scattered around the globe and in the UK – but curiously, for a few years there was not one in London. Last year, London-based dealer Anthony Barrell happened to be looking for a quality name to take into his South Kensington premises and, as a life long Morgan fan, thought of Morgan.
“I thought, they must have a London dealer but just on the off-chance, I rang them and was told no, they did not have a London dealer. It transpired they hadn’t had one for about four years. And so as a result of that call, we became Morgan’s exclusive dealer in the capital.”
Such happy chance has resulted in a highly successful first year of trading, he reports, with buyers coming from overseas as well as the London area. The showroom is tucked away in a mews that years ago would have housed a different kind of horse power, and on display are splendid examples of Morgan’s special style.
“When customers come here, we sit them down and go through the specifications available to them,” Barrell explained.
And this is quite an operation. For those who find selecting a cloth, deciding the colour, indicating the style and details required for a new suit a challenging operation, the options open to the Morgan buyer are indeed extensive. The colour choice is literally infinite, the desired shade achieved via a Spectometer. There’s an extensive range of leathers available for the upholstery, and then the trims – piping, embroidery, contrast stitch, seat inserts… Interior facings may be wood or painted. Heated seat mats? Subwoofer for the speaker? Wheels – eh, yes please. Then of course there is the car itself.
The somewhat spartan image of a Morgan sports car that some might harbour may be dismissed. It is a very smooth drive, comfortable, and even with the top down can be very warm and cosy by virtue of the high powered heating. Though true to the personal craftsmanship laid down by the founder, the very latest technological developments are incorporated where appropriate.
The classic entry model is the 4/4 with 1.6 litre engine, the world’s longest running series production car. Though it has undergone many changes over the years since it was launched some 78 years ago, it retains its classic appeal and is instantly recognisable. Drive around London in one of these and suddenly even taxi drivers are accommodating, others politely give way and pedestrians stop to admire.
Other models range from the Plus 4 through to the Roadster 4 seater at 3.7. And then there is the Aero range. This was a major development for the company, the first Aero 8 launched in 2000, created to keep the company on the race track and in so doing providing a world class sports car.
Given the pedigree and bespoke nature of all these cars, the prices make them, if not exactly a bargain, then certainly reasonable. The basic 4/4 starts at £35,000, then at the top end, there is the Aero Supersports at £126.900.
“No two models are exactly the same,” said Burrall, “because they are made by hand. And with all the options available, it means each customer gets a unique car. And one with a heart! That’s part of its appeal.”
There are faster, flashier, more luxurious, more