Karl Lagerfeld’s Topsy-Turvy Tree For Claridge’s

 

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the heart of the capital, now that Claridge’s has revealed its highly anticipated designer tree. This year, it has been given a quirky twist by fashion maestro, Karl Lagerfeld. Who better than the creative director of the Chanel and Fendi fashion houses, to add a touch of monochrome magic and luxe sparkle. You only have to look at the current Chanel collection for dazzling fabrics and one of the party season’s most coveted items, Chanel’s knee-high glitter boots.

This is the eighth year that Claridge’s has invited an iconic name from the world of design to create a unique installation in their own distinctive style. Previous guest designers have included Alber Elbaz, Dolce & Gabbana, Apple CEO Jony Ive and the industrial designer, Marc Newson.

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For his design, German-born Lagerfeld has turned the notion of a freestanding tree on its head – quite literally – by hanging it upside down and high above the Claridge’s’ Art Deco staircase. And in case you were wondering, the tradition of hanging a tree from a ceiling by its base has its roots in antiquity.  As legend has it, the English monk Saint Boniface who went to Germany in the 7th Century to preach the gospel, first discovered this practice there. It is said that Boniface used the triangular shape of the Fir tree to describe the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and by the 12th Century the fad for inverting trees had spread to Central and Eastern Europe as a symbol of Christianity.

Meanwhile, back in 21st Century Mayfair, Karl Lagerfeld’s magnificent spruce measures 16.ft tall and is festooned with metallic-coloured foil streamers and snowflake decorations. At its top, or should that be trunk, sits a large silver star, while at its foot lies a circular shearling rug. “Christmas trees are the strongest ‘souvenir’ of my happy childhood,” says the designer of his latest creation.

 

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Elsewhere at Claridge’s, for the first time in its 151-year-old history, the celebrated hotel has created a series of Claridge’s Christmas hampers, packed with the same gastronomic treats that visitors can enjoy in its Foyer, Reading Room and Fumoir bar. Three sizes of lidded willow baskets are available to purchase: the Davies Hamper (£295) containing aged Negroni and a signature Christmas pudding amongst other goodies. Then there is The Brook Hamper (£495), which includes a bottle of Laurent-Perrier La Cuvee Brut and Pierre Marcolini Caramel & Praline Chocolate Squares. And finally, The Mayfair hamper, the largest of the three, which includes a Dundee Cake and a copy of the recently launched Claridge’s Cookbook. The latter features the Lobster Wellington, which was created for 2016’s Christmas tree launch party. Or if you prefer, skip straight to the cocktail section. Happy Christmas!

SHOP TACTICS WITH SAMUEL BAIL AND ABEL SAMET

Samuel Bail and Abel Samet are the creative duo behind London-based leather goods label, Troubadour. They first met whilst working at Mayfair financial advisory firm, Lazard, where, after lamenting about the lack of durable business bags, they decided to embark on a journey to create their own. Today, to the delight of globetrotters everywhere, their exquisite handcrafted designs are sold around the world. And for those shopping on Bond Street, a selection of pieces can also be found at Thom Sweeney on Bruton Place.

Vegetable-tanned leather, derived from the finest tanneries in the Italian region of Tuscany, underpins each unique piece. As Abel notes: “This tanning method is an all-natural process that creates exceptional leather, so that our products wear beautifully, last for years, and actually look better with age. We work with highly skilled artisans, whose leather-working techniques have been around for generations and therefore stand the test of time.” Samuel is also quick to note a blend of old-meets-new. “By combining these techniques with many modern innovations, each piece is more functional and technical than the bags our grandfathers once carried,” he adds.

Meanwhile, several of Troubadour’s existing products have proven to be much more popular with women than initially expected. This pleasant surprise inspired Samuel and Abel to develop a line of women’s bags, which will launch this summer.

Work aside, this sporty pair are gluttons for long distance races – running, swimming and cycling – and have both completed Ironman triathlons. Samuel, who just happens to be a former professional Canadian cyclist, also swam the English Channel last year. Here, they take a breather and share some of their favourite Mayfair addresses:

Raw Press at Wolf & Badger, 32 Dover Street

This is the place for mouth watering and healthy breakfast bowls. Make them yourself with soaked oats, coconut yoghurt, fresh berries, quinoa cereal and lots of toppings. The coffee is great as well. We suggest adding some coconut yoghurt and almond butter on top.

Brown’s Hotel, 33 Albemarle Street

Brown’s is ideal for a morning meeting. We especially like the comfortable chairs and its relaxed, quiet setting. The tea is always good and is served beautifully.

Rapha, 85 Brewer Street

We have a very active team and enjoy a morning ride around Richmond Park and a weekend ride into Kent. Rapha, though not in Mayfair, is where we pick up most of our cycling kit. The clothing is thoughtfully designed, comfortable, wears well and looks good.

28-50 Wine Workshop & Kitchen, Maddox Street

Many of the early Troubadour discussions were held over dinners here. It provides consistently great food and great wine in a casual setting.

Thom Sweeney, 33a Bruton Place

This is one of our favourite tailors in London. It boasts a great team and a super strong ready-to-wear collection, featuring everything from suits and sweaters, to ties and a selection of our latest Troubadour bags.

 

SHOP TACTICS WITH TOM CHAMBERLIN


Tom Chamberlin killing time while having a suit measured in Kent, Haste & Lachter
– Photography by Foxall Studio & Elodie Nizon

Tom Chamberlin is the editor of men’s style bible, The Rake. Impeccably dressed and perfectly coiffed, Tom started out in television working on The X Factor, where he says: “I basically made tea and was an all-round dogsbody, even though it was a pretty amazing and dysfunctional entry into working life.”

Later, whilst having his hair cut at the barbers, he picked up a copy of Finch’s Quarterly Review and instinctively knew he wanted to work there. “It was witty, intelligent, beautiful and took the kind of irreverent tone that I like,” says Tom who was taken under the wing of its then editor-in-chief, Nick Foulkes. “No one has had a greater impact on how I work, dress and look at life today,” he says of his former editor and mentor.

 

In 2014 Tom joined The Rake. The renowned gentleman’s magazine had just moved from its home in Singapore to offices on London’s Upper Brook Street. As editor, Tom and his team have successfully built the brand, predominantly using front covers and interviews mixed with rich content and a good online strategy to become a leader in the field of men’s luxury publications. As for being slap bang in the middle of town, Tom adds: “Mayfair is at the epicentre of what The Rake is all about. I am very lucky to have my favourite places on my office doorstep.”

Meanwhile, the newlywed is gearing up for his next big challenge, fatherhood. And with a baby boy due any day now, Tom is already planning shopping expeditions to Mayfair, just as his father did with him. “My father taught me everything there is to know about the longevity of classic style from an early age,” he adds before taking us through his favourite addresses below:

 

Kent, Haste & Lachter, 7 Sackville Street

Terry Haste is my tailor, my mentor Nick Foulkes introduced me to him in 2010 and no experience since has been more thrilling or rewarding than having a bespoke suit made with him. He is to my mind the finest tailor in the world. Terry’s style mixes structured and unstructured tailoring which somehow takes into account both my psychological and physical needs. After all, clothes are meant to be an expression of self.  It also helps that he, John Kent and Stephen Lachter are tremendous fun to work with.

 

G.J. Cleverley, 13 Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street

Shoes are a small (large) obsession of mine. I have big feet and that causes problems because you can ruin a look with clumsy, large shoes. When you go somewhere like Cleverley, a company that my father took me to when I was 16 to buy my first pair of proper shoes, you get every tradition of British craftsmanship at its best. I was hooked from then and have since been on a mission to trick people, through footwear, into thinking I am halfway elegant. Cleverley’s ‘Hague II’ loafers are, as far as I am concerned, as good as it gets.

 

Ralph Lauren, 1 New Bond Street

Ralph Lauren is a genius and a master of the Mise-en-scène. Here you will find my two favoured labels of the Ralph Lauren family. The sartorially led Purple Label which has the most wearable ready-to-wear suits for someone my size (and frankly most other sizes too). Then we have RRL, which could hitherto be found on Mount Street but has its own section in the store. I absolutely love the nostalgia for any of the many eras it is inspired by, Twenties Chicago, the Old West, Fifties Americana, the designs are imaginative and evocative and easy to chew up the day looking around.

 

Bellamy’s 18, Bruton Place

This is my favourite restaurant in London, or anywhere else. Gavin Rankin is the patron mange ici proprietor and knows how to run an establishment properly. He cut his teeth as the general manager of Annabel’s when it was actually good and he was also Mark Birley’s right-hand man. My wife has dreams about the smoked eel mousse but I recommend the fish fingers, not joking.

 

Davidoff of London, 35 St. James’s Street

Another vice that Nick Foulkes got me into is cigars. Nowhere is there a better riposte to anti-smoking legislation than Davidoff of London. Father and son team Edward and Eddie Sahakian, are two of the most generous and kind men in any industry I work with. They give very freely of their time and have encouraged a loyalty so engrained in me that even buying a cigar in a foreign country fills me with guilt. I do not drink, so cigars are my one vice, one that has become my most dedicated hobby.

 

Nordic Delights – Aquavit Brings Contemporary Scandi Cuisine to London

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Henrik Ritzén

For someone who has just completed his inaugural breakfast service to a room packed full of food critics and fine diners, Aquavit’s executive chef Henrik Ritzén, looks incredibly chilled. Indeed, he is as cool as a cucumber – or should that be ‘pickled cucumber’, since preserving vegetables is one of the main components in Nordic cuisine? For those unfamiliar with the Scandi way of eating, other traditional delicacies include smörgåsbord (small sharing plates), Gravlax, smoked herrings, lingonberries and squidgy cinnamon buns. The latter, as with all Aquavit’s dark ryes and sourdough breads are baked here on the premises.

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Fresh-faced Henrik grew up on a farm in Sweden’s Koster Islands. It is, he says, about as far west in the country as you can get and is home to around 350 inhabitants. His parents were organic sheep farmers and his mother also kept bees. “It was quite a Bohemian upbringing,” says Henrik. “We ate home-grown organic vegetables and fresh fish and meat… so that’s where my love of seasonal ingredients began.” Today, at Aquavit, he is passionate about sourcing British produce wherever possible. The venison, which is made into a tartar and served with wild blueberries is Scottish, the scallops are from Cornwall… while the trout hails from Hampshire’s freshwater chalk streams.

In contrast to the renowned two Michelin-starred Aquavit in New York, the London outpost promises to be more of a relaxed all day dining concept. It begins with a Nordic breakfast, which includes Raggmunk (potato pancake) with bacon and lingonberries. There’s also Henrik’s twist on Eggs Benedict, in which smoked eels take the place of eggs and the hollandaise sauce is also smoked. Fika (coffee and buns) is served throughout the day, while the evening menu offers heartier fare such as Swedish meatballs.

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Meanwhile, Aquavit’s bright open space is flooded with natural light thanks to the large glass façade. As expected, the interior adheres to a minimal, Scandinavian aesthetic. It is the work of Swedish-born Martin Brudnizki (The Ivy, Scott’s and Sexy Fish) and is inspired by Gunnar Asplund’s design of Sweden’s Gothenburg City Hall. A large tapestry by textile designer, Olafur Eliasson, takes centre stage on the main wall. Elsewhere, silverware from Georg Jensen, artwork from Andrea Hamilton, and furnishings by Svensk Tenn, complete the contemporary Nordic vibe.

The restaurant’s arrival in the new St. James’s Market redevelopment on 1 Carlton Street is a further indication that this area of town is fast becoming a foodie destination. Neighbours include Italy’s ‘Veneta’, while it could be buns at dawn when Danish bakery Ole & Steen opens its doors later this month. Still, this chilled-out chef seems unfazed by the ‘healthy’ competition. “Our cinnamon buns will be far superior!” he says confidently.

Aquavit, St James’s Market, 1 Carlton Street

 

Under the Apple Tree… Sir Jony Ive and Marc Newson Design Claridge’s Festive Showstopper

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Nothing heralds the start of the festive season quite like a twinkling Christmas tree. Luckily, London has plenty of fine examples to admire, from Trafalgar Square’s towering Norwegian spruce to more artful creations, which crop up in the halls of many a boutique hotel. But as far as ingenuity goes, all eyes are on Claridge’s.

For the past seven years, the luxury hotel has enlisted a distinguished guest to create a showstopper tree for its art-deco lobby. This year’s masterpiece is the work of two heavyweights from the world of industrial and product design – Apple’s Chief Design Officer, Sir Jony Ive and his peer and colleague, Marc Newson.

London-based Ive is best known as the designer of the iMac, PowerBook, MacBook, iPod, iPhone, iPad and AppleWatch. Australian-born Newson, who resides in London, has been described as one of the most influential designers of his generation.  As Apple’s designer for special products, Newson has already worked closely with Ive on the AppleWatch and other projects. His work can be seen across a wide range of disciplines from furniture to private and commercial aircraft and bespoke sculptural pieces for clients across the globe.

Their tree design, which remains a tight-lipped secret until the official launch later this month, is the latest in a line of memorable installations, which began with John Galliano for Dior’s ethereal ‘under the sea’ creation in 2009. Since then, we have been treated to Alber Elbaz for Lanvin’s rendition in 2011, featuring a tableau of caricatures portraying the Lanvin family around the tree at home. Dolce & Gabbana put a unique Sicilian twist on things in 2013 and 2014, and last year, Christopher Bailey’s interpretation for Burberry featured a cascade of 100 silver and gold metallic umbrellas (frontispiece).

Paul Jackson, Claridge’s General Manager says: “Christmas has always been a truly special time of year at Claridge’s and we are delighted to welcome our friends Jony and Marc to spread their legendary creative magic this year. We truly believe their innovative spirit and ground-breaking approach will make this year’s annual tradition one to remember for our guests.”

All will be revealed on Friday November 18th in Claridge’s lobby. Prepare to be wowed!

Claridge’s, Brook Street 

 

The Q&A With Yann Chevris, General Manager of ‘MNKY HSE’ restaurant and bar

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Photography: Foxall Studio / Elodie Nizon

 

MNKY HSE (add a few missing vowels and you get the wordier version – ‘Monkey House’), promises great Latin American food, club class DJs, live music and dancing when it opens its doors later this month.

Designed over two floors in what was once the site of the Dover Street Wine Bar, MNKY HSE will house an upstairs bar/lounge area serving an impressive list of mezcal-fuelled cocktails. Downstairs in the ground floor restaurant, the open plan kitchen overlooks leather banquette-style seating. This can be adjusted to encourage table-hopping and who knows… some innocent monkey business?

Heading up Mayfair’s exciting new venue is Yann Chevris – a restaurant consultant with both commercial acumen and a passion for excellence. Yann has shared his knowledge of luxury hospitality and special passion for fine wines to some of the finest restaurants in Dubai, Bangkok and the Caribbean to Michelin starred establishments here in London including Nobu and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon.

Bond Street News caught up with the affable Frenchman ahead of MNKY HSE’s official launch to quiz him about the story so far and to gaze into the future.

Bond Street News: You’ve been in the restaurant business for over 30 years, what continues to make you tick? 

Yann Chevris: I started working in the business when I was 15 years old! What makes me tick? Well I guess it’s the excitement of never having the same day twice. This is due to the people, the concept, and of course the nature of operational challenges. I like the following quote, which I think sums up the job perfectly: “We are like actors in a West End theatre – when the curtains open, you never know what can happen”.

BSN: How long has MNKY HSE been in the making and what was the most enjoyable part of the planning process?

Y.C: MNKY HSE has been two years in the making, so it’s fantastic to see it finally coming together. The most rewarding part would have to be the ‘coming together’ of the build – but most of all the team. Everything takes a few weeks of training to reach perfection, but there is no better feeling than when you stand in a room that was a building site a few weeks ago and suddenly it is full of happy people and everything’s running smoothly.

BSN: Tell us a little about chef Pablo Peñalosa Nájera who has created MNKY HSE’s Latin American menu. 

Y.C: Pablo is a young and very talented chef, with great techniques and plenty of ideas. We wanted to bring someone to the table with a fresh perspective on Latin American cuisine, but also someone who could bring authenticity to the flavours. Pablo is very excited about developing new dishes for Londoners and we have really enjoyed the tastings!

BSN: Can you predict 2017’s next big thing in food/drink and interior design? 

Y.C: I see the organic movement getting stronger – both in food and restaurant design. In the last few years, Japanese and Asian cuisine has really taken over. A ‘family style’ way of eating with sharing plates will continue to grow, as it’s such a popular way of eating in all cultures and cuisines. This also ties in nicely with the rise in popularity of dining locally.

MNKY HSE, 10 Dover Street

http://www.mnky-hse.com

Shop Tactics with Carolina Bucci

It was the night of San Lorenzo and having witnessed the Perseid meteor shower in the inky skies above Florence, jeweller Carolina Bucci had a bright idea. She would take inspiration from nature’s annual light show for her latest collection and call it “Superstellar’.

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As part of her starry theme, the London-based jeweller with Italian roots, also looked to the 1960’s – to Jasper Johns’ flag paintings and the stencilled works of Mario Schifano. The resulting mix and match earrings come in various coloured pave finishes – with or without long shooting star earring backs. After all, no two stars are ever the same.

Founded in Florence by her great grandfather Ferdinando Bucci in 1885, the family-run jewellers has just celebrated its 130-year anniversary. Surrounded by jewellery and artisans from an early age, it came as no surprise when Carolina decided to continue the family line and pursue a career as a jeweller.

She studied fine arts and jewellery design in New York before returning to Florence to work alongside local goldsmiths. Her first collection, ‘Woven’, was created on a centuries-old Florentine textile loom. Carolina used it to weave gold and silk threads into bracelets and other signature pieces. She also applies the same methods and tools used by her great grandfather to combine the tradition of Florentine craftsmanship into one-of-a-kind designs.

Whether it’s taking tea at Sotheby’s café or admiring the work of celebrated artists and jewellers, Carolina likes nothing better than spending a day in and around Bond Street. She shares her favourite haunts below:

Hermès, 155 New Bond Street 

A brand to aspire to: traditional craftsmanship of the highest standard combining both heritage and innovation. I love its fun windows and displays. Here, craftsmanship is highly regarded and the quality of each hand-stitched leather article sings when you touch it. Exquisite silks are as precious as gold to me and Hermès continues to surprise with new designs and collections, which I find truly inspiring.

Harry Fane, 13 Duke Street, St James’s

A true treasure trove of jewellery awaits you at the top of a small staircase in St James’s. Harry Fane is a wonderful discovery. He is the UK representative of my all-time favourite jewellery designer, Fulco di Verdura. He was the cousin of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and got his break in jewellery when Cole Porter introduced him to Coco Chanel. The jeweller then went on to produce some of the most iconic and daring pieces of the 20th century. Whenever I am feeling uninspired I revisit his amazing designs to remember that anything is possible.

Sotheby’s, 34-35 New Bond Street

Sotheby’s is always in flux. One day it is hosting a contemporary art auction, the next old masters, then fine jewellery or sculpture. It provides the perfect 15-minute break between meetings and the building itself is rich with history and stories. Furthermore, it is also a great place to enjoy afternoon tea and watch the buyers and sellers coming and going.

Luxembourg & Dayan, 2 Savile Row

This is a small commercial gallery, which stages important historical shows in a tasteful and unpretentious way. It revitalises lost artists’ careers as well as putting an interesting slant on more established names. It is one of those galleries that avoids slavishly following fashion but at the same time manages to establish trends.

Chucs, 30B Dover Street

Chucs is one of my favourite places in Mayfair for an intimate dinner. It takes me straight to the heart of Italy with its simple, yet delicious, dishes. In my opinion it serves the best vitello tonnato in London. The interior design is wonderful. On a cold, wet winter’s night it can make you feel like it is July in Portofino and you are stepping out onto the deck of a glamorous friend’s yacht.

Shop Tactics with Giacomo Maccioni

Along with delectable Northern Italian cuisine, Cecconi’s fabled Mayfair restaurant boasts one of the most likable restaurant managers in town – Giacomo Maccioni. Originally from Sardinia, Giacomo moved to London in 1979 and started his career at the Vendome Restaurant on Dover Street. Two years into the job, he was forced to do an about-turn and enlist for National Service with a Sardinian tank regiment.

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Having climbed the ranks to corporal major, Giacomo returned to London in 1982, becoming headwaiter at Scott’s on Mount Street. In 1990, he joined the team at Cecconi’s, first as chef de rang and then as assistant general manager. After Soho House & Co acquired Cecconi’s in 2004, Giacomo was promoted to general manager and has held the role ever since.

Away from the buzz of Cecconi’s, you’ll find Giacomo zipping about on his Honda Fireblade motorbike in the Hertfordshire countryside where he resides with his wife and two children. On vacation in Italy, he enjoys climbing the Sardinian mountains with friends. Back in Mayfair, his attention turns to chocolate, shoes and other coveted pieces from his favourite haunts, which he reveals below:

Charbonnel et Walker, 1 The Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street 

Charbonnel et Walker’s chocolates are fabulous! When I want to spoil my wife, I always pop in here to choose a good selection of chocolates for her. I also like to buy Charbonnel et Walker chocolates as a ‘thank you’ gift. The staff at Cecconi’s will verify this!

Mulberry, 50 New Bond Street

Mulberry products are such high quality, I find its bags rather hard to resist. They are also practical – you can tell that each design is well thought-through. I own a few Mulberry bags, and my wife is also a fan of its handbags. The latest addition to her collection is the classic black Bayswater, which goes with everything.

Richard James, 29 Savile Row

I am a big fan of contemporary British tailor Richard James. I have several suits from him, made-to-measure as well as off the peg, and scores of fitted shirts. Richard’s style of tailoring is timeless yet contemporary and Andrew Black who manages the Savile Row store is a top guy. I’d say he’s one of the nicest people I have ever met!

Camper, 8-11 The Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street

I love this shop. I have about ten pairs of shoes from Camper and I wear them constantly. I just love the simplicity and the originality of Camper’s designs, not to mention how comfortable the shoes are to wear.

Claridge’s Hotel, Brook St

Claridge’s is housed in such an iconic building. The stunning Art Deco touches make this hotel so special. I do like going for the odd afternoon tea there. The finger sandwiches are so light and delicious.

Rocking the Art World

Self-taught visual artist Geronimo, aka ‘Jumping Bull’, was first introduced to Keith Richards during the final leg of a Rolling Stones world tour. A firm friendship was forged and several years later, Keith, along with Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood, still takes centre stage in this Native American artist’s paintings, portraits and sculptures. The band’s legendary tongue logo, made from flattened Coke cans, also ranks high among Jumping Bull’s most recognised pieces. His latest work can be seen in a new solo show running this month at The Club at The Café Royal. In conversation below, the artist tells of overcoming colour blindness and how a troubled past led to a successful career in art.

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“Homeless gangster, businessman, composer, performer, music producer… That’s the story of my life before I became an artist. Late 1990 and I’m in jail for old offences. It was there that I began to paint. Initially it became my therapy, allowing me to rid myself of my inner demons. Art gave me freedom in every sense. It became my reason to live and has contributed to my personal evolution. Two years after my release from prison I staged a museum exhibition. One year later I had my first international exhibition.

The Rolling Stones are an inexhaustible source of inspiration to me. Keith, Mick, Charlie and Ronnie are legendary icons. The band as a whole, but also as individuals, has been my main inspiration for several years. I’m fascinated by their incredible charisma, but also by the myths and legends that have developed around a group that has thrived for over 50 years.

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When I first met Keith Richards, we spent the whole night in his hotel suite putting the world to rights.  It was not an evening of sex and drugs, but one of rich exchanges and deep conversation. I met Keith the man, a humanist – not the rock star persona.  On another occasion, I visited a Buddhist temple with Charlie Watts and introduced him to the Tibetan monk, Lama Karta. Charlie then invited us both to a Rolling Stones concert where Lama and I went on stage to experience the effect of being in front of 100,000 people. It was an indescribable moment. Mick Jagger then asked to have his photo taken with us. Later, I met Ronnie Wood. Recently I created a giant LP for him. I also have one of his paintings in my studio. In 2014, Ronnie and I exhibited in London and later New York, in a show called:”50 Years of Rocking the Art World: a Celebration of The Rolling Stones”.

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I am a self-taught artist and I created my own style. Andy Warhol created Pop Art and you could say Jumping Bull created Rock Art.  I suffer from colour blindness or achromatopsia. When I was a child, I lost my sight for about three months. I recovered the sight but without colours. Today I see in black and white but also a whole range of grey.  All the colours in my work are based on memories. I remember that tomatoes are red for example.

I don’t have a favourite medium. I use China ink, masonry paint, acrylic and lime paint. I am comfortable painting on wood, metal or on linen canvas. I recycle. I create leather or polyester or metal pieces. This ensures I never get bored. Each of my works marks a new adventure and a clinch with my inner demons. I paint, I sculpt, I create objects and I make music and poetry. The artist I admire most is Mother Nature. Who else can create an oversized work such as the Grand Canyon or a mystical work like the Amazon rainforest?

I’m really excited to be showing my work in London again. An ideal stay in London for me would start with English breakfast at The Wolseley followed by a walk to Portobello Road to shop the vintage stores. Next, I’d visit some museums and art galleries. Lunch would be at Cipriani on Davies Street or fish and chips at Poppies in Camden. I love the decor at Poppies. In the afternoon I’d stop for a Guinness in The Hawley Arms pub – also in Camden – then I’d spend quality time at the Wendy House Studios with my friend Jerry and have an aperitif with another friend Byron, at The Café Royal. Finally, dinner at Koya would be followed by theatre or a musical comedy.”

Peyote – Modern Mexican Fare in the Heart of Mayfair

‘Peyote’ may take its name from the hallucinogenic drug used in Shamanic healing ceremonies, but there’s nothing untoward about this modern Mexican restaurant on London’s Cork Street.

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On a sultry summer’s day when only salad and fresh fruit will suffice, I am pleasantly surprised to discover that Peyote boasts a healthy menu, brimming with clean and lean Mexican dishes. Eduardo Garcia, the master chef behind Mexico City’s celebrated ‘Maximo Bistrot’, has specially created it.

My lunchtime host, Peyote owner Tarun Mahrotri, informs me that the menu is ninety per cent carb-free while the crunchy tostadas and tacos being corn, are totally gluten-free. There’s more good news for the time-starved who work locally. Peyote’s new lunchtime delivery service is now up and running.

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Ever the modern entrepreneur, Mahrotri casually lets slip that just last week he was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Today though, he looks as cool as a cucumber dressed in a crisp white shirt, (monogrammed on the hem of the shirt front), jeans and heavy-framed specs. He orders the guacamole to start. It is good. Fresh and zingy thanks to a good squirt of lime and a light hit of chilly.

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“The secret to great Mexican food is the spices – the chillies,” he notes. “People often associate heat with Mexican cuisine but there are so many subtle flavour nuances in the chillies we use – cool, hot, sweet… They don’t have to make you gasp for water.”

Mahrotri is also on a mission to improve tequila’s reputation and plans to run tequila tastings at the bar later this year. “So many people have bad memories of drinking cheap tequila shots in their youth but it can be an incredibly sophisticated drink,” he says.

I imagine this would be a cool setting in which to sample tequila and any other of Peyote’s mescal-fuelled cocktails. The interior has a subtle hint of an old-style hacienda about it. There are painted tiles, oak window shutters and parquet floors as well as bejewelled ‘Day of the Dead’ skulls set into the walls. Colourful lampshades, made from recycled plastic bottles found in the Amazon jungle by war-displaced artisans, are dotted around the ceiling.

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Meanwhile, my host orders the ‘Nopales Salad’, made with grilled cactus leaves. Having never tried cactus before I can report that it has a green-peppery bitterness about it – but it’s good. This is accompanied by the yellowtail sashimi served in a ginger broth. Lastly, the grilled fish wrapped in a lettuce leaf instead of a corn taco. The portions are bite size but just right.

Thanks to chef Eduardo Garcia’s modern vision and the pioneers behind other new-wave eateries including Mestizo, Lupita and Wahaca, London is fast becoming a mecca for authentic Mexican food. Gone are the days of heavy quesadillas smothered in gooey cheese and tacky Tex-Mex interiors. These days, there’s rarely a plastic cactus insight.

I leave Peyote with a spring in my step. And while there’s no chance of any dream-inducing ingredients pepping up the guacamole here, I think I’m already experiencing withdrawals.

Peyote, 13 Cork Street

www.peyoterestaurant.com