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Afternoon tea, Guest posts, South Africa

Afternoon Tea At The Twelve Apostles – Cape Town, South Africa

Rebecca Brett swaps afternoon tea in London for the sunny backdrop of the Twelve Apostles mountain range and the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Town…

Afternoon tea in London is a quintessential treat that takes one away from the stresses and strains of every day life for a little luxury. No soggy sandwich or homemade soup can compare; the likes of The Ritz, Claridges, The Berkeley and the Sanderson make lunch special with fine teas, dainty finger sandwiches and sweet pastries.

I’ve been to my fair share of teas in London, escaping the hustle and bustle of city life, and usually the grey and miserable weather, for an afternoon of genteel refinement and a jolly good feeding. When I was invited to afternoon tea during my trip to Cape Town I wondered if the Capetonians could capture the magic of what so many places in London do so well.

Afternoon tea was to be taken at The Twelve Apostles, a five star hotel and spa nestled between the unspoiled natural beauty of The Twelve Apostles mountain range and the Atlantic Ocean. We’d driven past the hotel on our drive to the beach in the morning of our reservation and were very excited at the prospect of sitting up at the majestic hotel later that day.

We arrived at The Leopard Bar, a huge room with plush seating, a bar and a balcony with spectacular views of the sea. At first we were seated inside but how could we resist more sunshine and the cool breeze from the ocean so, without a fuss, we were moved to the balcony.

Once outside, we were served a bottle of Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut 2010 (R260 – approximately £18) to start our high tea. Of all the places in the world, it felt like there was nothing better than drinking Champagne with the sun beating down on us in Cape Town , certainly a huge difference to previous experiences at home.

A trio of nibbles was served next – assorted olives, spiced nuts and corn kernals, were perfect to prevent the bubbles from going straight to our head on our empty stomachs.

Those worries were short-lived; soon after the snacks were quickly demolished, a huge stack of sandwiches and sweet treats were delivered to our table. The savoury plate was a classic sandwich selection of smoked salmon and cream cheese, egg mayonnaise, cheese and tomato, beef and horseradish and a special creamy chicken sandwich with flaked almonds.

The sandwiches were all very nice, nothing out of the ordinary aside from the chicken and almond. The marriage of flavours and textures were incredible and an idea I’ll definitely be using back in Blighty.

The desserts were very special, there were strawberry cheesecakes, shortbread biscuits, macaroons, eclairs, cupcakes, chocolate brownies, carrot cake, fruit tarts and scones with cream and jam. Phew. We had quite a feat ahead of us to get through them.

With the sweets we were also served tea, a redbush (or rooibos if you speak Afrikaans) which is native to South Africa and can be served with or without milk. Rick went for a slice of lemon while I went with milk and sugar.

As the afternoon went on, our waistlines expanded with the decadent selection of desserts and as the sun shined down on us the sweets strained under the immense heat. Before completely melting we managed to make our way through most of the sweets.

The fresh fruit tart was sweet from the ripe fruit, the macaroons crisp on the outside and impeccably chewy in the middle, the shortbread better than any I’ve eaten from Scotland and brownie bites full of huge chunks of nuts and chocolate. The only let down were the scones which were a little dry and crumbly.

But how can you complain when the views are beautiful, the service impeccable and bubbles flowing. Even though it was gone 5pm by the time we’d finished eating, the sun was still very strong so we decided to retire to the lounge and take our tea inside to cool down. Inside the room was very busy with young stylish guests having cocktails, families relaxing with tea and snacks and the waiting staff seamlessly working their way around the room.

I’m a Londoner and I love London but nothing can compare to the exceptional afternoon experience that we had at The Twelve Apostles in late December. The food was delicious but perhaps the extra ingredient of sunshine made it extra special for us. There was nothing quite like taking in the breathtaking scenery around us while devouring sandwiches and sweets.

The other huge difference is the price – while at home you would expect to pay £40 upwards each for the privilege, in Cape Town this whole afternoon costs less than £40 for two and that’s including the Champagne too!

Tea by the Sea is served daily from 2-6pm and costs R220 (approximately £16) per stand.

The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, Victoria Road, Camps Bay 8005, Cape Town, +27 (0) 21 437 9000

For more information and booking, visit: www.12apostleshotel.com

Rebecca Brett was a guest of The Twelve Apostles and writes the blog, Bon Appetit.

Photos by Rebecca Brett (The Leopard Bar by The Twelve Apostles).

Cafes, Guest posts, London, Restaurants

42Raw At Royal Academy, Mayfair

Rebecca Brett shakes up lunchtime with the fresh, raw food concept straight from Copenhagen…

Lunchtime in London leaves one spoilt with choice, from huge generously-filled burritos, freshly made baguettes, hot and warming soup, salty beef sandwiches, naughty takeaway burgers and fish finger wraps. But with summer, comes the urgency to look better and feel better, to don a skirt without worrying about the wobbly bits and to opt for a lighter lunch that is both healthy and nutritious.

This is where 42°Raw comes in.  Fresh from Copenhagen comes the acclaimed restaurant that specialises in raw food. Not one single thing that leaves the kitchen has been cooked, everything is served in its most natural state. That means no added sugar, no dairy products, no colouring and no nasty preservatives.  Just really healthy and natural food. Boring right?

I’m the first person to shun salads for pizza, dollop a huge blob of mayonnaise on my triple-cooked chips and add an extra sugar to my tea. So an invite to 42°Raw was intriguing yet I expected to hate every minute. For moral support and guidance I took along my spirulina-loving, fat shunning, health freak friend Lisa, who I knew would love every minute of the weird and alien (to me) wholesome world.

The 100% plant-based healthy fast food cafe is in the well to do area of  Mayfair, on Burlington Gardens, with the likes of Cecconis and The Embassy Club as neighbours.

Set in the beautiful Royal Academy of Arts, the idea is to choose which dish, or dishes in our case, you would like from the extensive menu, hand over your money and then you get a numbered carrot, no wooden spoons here! You then find a table and wait while your lunch or dinner is freshly prepared and bought to the table.

After some recommendations we chose the Lasagna (£7), Mango and Pumpkin Seed Salad (£6) and Tapas (£10) which is trio of mini samplers including the lasagna, Thai noodles and apple and walnut salad.

While we waited for our lunch, we supped on a smoothie each, the Milano with basil, ginger, apple and cucumber for Lisa and the Stockholm with mango, mint, chilli, apple and carrot for me. Packed full of goodness but not heavy or sweetened, I loved the extra chilli kick in mine – good for the metabolism too!

Then these works of art arrived, the presentation of our lunch was stunning. Thinly sliced layers of courgette, tomato and baby spinach with walnuts, parsley and cashew made up the huge portion of lasagna. It was divine. As we were eating, we kept discussing our disbelief that everything was raw, it just tasted so good but the creaminess in the lasagna didn’t come from artery clogging dairy fats but the natural fats from the cashew cream. Genius.

The tapas selection was very large and definitely best to share, we were happy to devour more of the lasagna, the Thai noodles were ribbons of carrot and courgette dressed in curry, red chilli and ginger with coconut oil and a small apple and walnut salad with courgette, avocado, apple, walnuts and a creamy mint and cardamom dressing.

Another huge serving came, this time the mango and pumpkin seed salad, again with courgette (it’s popular here!) avocado, mango pumpkin seeds and a mango and chilli dressing.

The most surprising thing about this huge array of healthy foods was that although it felt light, it was all really filling as well as being good for you, even though sometimes you couldn’t tell!

42°Raw was a complete surprise to me and my senses. Common preconceptions around raw food is that it’s rabbit food for the uber skinny supermodels of the world but the great food we ate completely blew that idea out of the water. The dishes we ate were delicious, especially that beautiful plate of lasagna, as well as being really good for you! A trip to 42°Raw definitely sees to the five-a-day in just one sitting.

I was also thrilled to find out that they serve breakfast too, the organic chia-cocoa pudding and chai latte with almond milk and cinnamon is already on my radar.

Rebecca Brett was a guest of 42°Raw

Rebecca Brett writes the blog, Bon Appetit

42°Raw Café on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Afternoon tea, Designers, Fashion, Guest posts, Paris, Patisserie, Stores

Café Pouchkine Pâtisserie at Le Printemps Paris

Moscow grand cafe culture meets with Parisian haute pâtisserie at Printemps’ pop up Fashion Cafe Pouchkine.  Coralie Aude Grassin enjoys a very stylish afternoon tea…

Paris combines two passions: fashion and gourmet food.  So much that pastry chefs have designed what could be called Haute Pâtisserie.  Each season brings a catwalk of tastes, colours and creativity.  A Parisienne would be as enthusiastic for Pierre Hermé’s lastest sweet collection as an elegant dress by Givenchy.

There is a new buzz in town – Café Pouchkine, a legend in Moscow, has opened a pop-up in Le Printemps, presenting exquisite ‘gâteaux à la mode.

I just could not resist having a look… well, being a cake-hunter, it was only professional to try them too!

Master pâtissier, Emmanuel Ryon, is quite a star already, having won the international pastry competition as well as been titled France’s best sugar worker.

He loved the challenge of working with two cultures, marrying the very best of each. He looked for inspiration in art books among other sources – you can see how they have been carefully structured, each detail balancing another, the colours chosen to attract the light.

They even achieve the jewel status with a chocolate powdery note or a touch of edible gold. Even macarons have dressed festively, each of them combining two flavours like lemon with a heart of caramel…

The textures are sumptuous. Each cake plays on complex layers – moist, melting, smooth, finger-licking good. We fell in love with:

The Rose Pouchkine – those elegant petals hide a pistachio biscuit with an orchard fruit compote, a cloud like yogurt cream and melting pistachio…

The Moskito – velvety and very cheerful in taste with its variations around pistachios with a vanilla cream and a touch of marzipan.

Simply called red fruit and poppy seed spongecake, this one is an irresistible poem which speaks of spring – biscuit flavoured with Bourbon vanilla, poppyseeds, gorgeous red fruit jelly, unctuous cream made with Russian cream cheese.

And our favourite, the Rose du Tsar – you will spend as much time admiring its perfection as savouring each spoonful…Chocolate mousse on a light brownie base, fragrant blackberry and jasmine jelly, and golden chocolate gems… How precious!

Why not try them with an aromatic tea or a traditional hot chocolate, served in an old-fashioned silver pot?  Alternatively, you can buy a selection to take away and mind you, they survive the Eurostar quite well…

In celebration of Paris Fashion Week, Fashion Café Pouchkine has also created a range of delectable cakes inspired by the collections of designers including Chloé, Marni and Dries Van Noten.

But hurry, as Café Pouchkine is only to be enjoyed until March 26.

Café Pouchkine, Printemps Haussmann Mode Floor -1 64, Boulevard Haussmann 75009 Paris.

Open until 20.00 Mondays to Saturdays, 22.00 on Thursdays.

Photos by Coralie Aude Grassin.

Coralie writes the blog Tea Time in Wonderland.

Designers, Guest posts, Hotels, Hotels - Design, Paris

Guest Post: Hotel du Petit Moulin, Paris

Coralie Aude Grassin steps into the magical, illustrated world of Christian Lacroix at Hotel du Petit Moulin…

Hidden in le Marais, the beating heart of the city, hides a tiny but luxurious hotel called Le Petit Moulin, which has been redecorated by the famous fashion designer Christian Lacroix.

The artist was seduced by this most unusual space, which used to be one of the oldest Parisian bakeries (Victor Hugo used to buy his bread here). It does retain its gorgeous and romantic original 1900 facade – easy to still be mistaken and walk by…

Step in the elegant lounge, reflecting the colours of the historical ceiling.  The decoration mixes styles, colours, patterns – very Lacroix indeed. Each of the 17 rooms offers a different atmosphere, all inspired by the neighbourhood.

It is quite a surprise to push one door – will it be pop, zen, colourful as a rainbow?  But wait, the journey starts from the lift…

Ours was number 202 and was created with travels in mind. Look at that Indian style panel! The ceiling still shows the wooden beams, celadon painted pillars add a lovely twist.

Every detail seems to have been thought of, even down to the the light switches!

The secret lies in the superposition of styles, collage, imitated stencil effects on the wall paper, collection of patterns and textures… The room was best enjoyed in the evening, the dimmed light playing elegant shadows, creating a rather magical effect.

The bathroom was more classical and very white, though others in the hotel prove more original, some with gorgeous heart shaped mirrors. On the side are Anne Semonin sample products – wonderfully aromatic. The exotic verbena bath gel is pure heaven after a day walking and shopping – it takes all the tensions away and leaves a gorgeous fragrance on the skin.

I was lucky to get a glimpse of the nearby room too – with its energetic fuchsia theme, it is sure to put you in the mood for a party. How could you not feel elegant and glamorous in such a surrounding?

Breakfast is served in the bar area, in which decoration is clearly influenced by Mondrian on once side, while offering a Lacroix sketch book style on the other. You end up gazing around, lost in details and forgetting that your cup of French coffee is getting cold in your hand…

Hotel du Petit Moulin, 29-31 rue du Poitou 75003 Paris

Photos by Coralie Aude Grassin

Coralie writes the blog, Tea Time in Wonderland.

Art, Exhibitions, Guest posts, London

Guest Post: Little Card, Big City

Matthew Miles explores fragments of London at The Urethra Postcard Art of Gilbert and George…

This new show from the most famous couple in art is not as bold, or as immediately beautiful, as some of their previous high-profile exhibitions. If you’re seeking the shock-factor of series such as the ‘Naked Shit Pictures’ you might be disappointed, but dig deep and there’s layer after layer beneath the mass-produced surfaces of ‘The Urethra Postcard Art of Gilbert and George’.

With 564 works piled high on the walls, and each featuring 13 postcards set out in exactly the same pattern, the exhibition is a tad daunting at first glance. From tourist shop views of Trafalgar Square to Union Jacks and the calling cards of gay or transgender sex workers, all the sets are laid out to form an angulated version of the sign of urethra, used by one-time theosophist C. W. Leadbetter (1853–1934) to accompany his signature.

The urethra carries semen out of men’s bodies and urine out of a female’s – production for some, and waste for others. And for me, this show is about the ebb and flow of the big city – the industry and consumption; the new and the redundant; the opportunities for anonymity and rebellious self-expression that exist simultaneously in places like London.

With health awareness messages next to patriotic chest-beating and rose-tinted views of historical landmarks, the show confronts us with hundreds of adverts.  But the deeper connection is in imagining the lives on the other side of the cards – the people that bought them, scrawled messages on the back or tried to forget their wife as they phoned that S&M sex-worker.

Having a quick chat with Gilbert & George at the private view were Tracey Emin; Stephen Fry; Jay Jopling; Bianca Jagger; Courtney Love; Alan Yentob; Pandemonia and Konrad Wyrebek.

You start to imagine possibilities. What’s happened to ‘Transsexual Linda new in town’? Is she still out there, or does she have a new name online or in another city?

Some of the cards had a more personal tug and I began to wonder how I pictured my own future – the times I crossed Oxford Street in the mid-nineties, when a so-garish-it’s-tropical image of blue sky and red Routemaster buses was produced.

Konrad Wyrebek and friend

For big city people with a little time to spare, a visit to White Cube Mayfair could get you closer to the chaos and diversity of a seemingly anonymous and ordered place.  Wish you were there?

Gilbert & George: The Urethra Postcard Art of Gilbert & George runs until 19 Feb 2011 at White Cube, Mason’s Yard.

Matthew Miles is a freelance arts and culture writer, photographer and video producer.  To see more of his work visit: www.matthewmilescreative.blogspot.com

Events, Guest posts, Hotels - Design, London

Bedtime Storynights at 40 WiNKS, London

Coralie Aude Grassin packs her pyjamas for an enchanted evening of storytelling at London’s eccentric 40 WiNKS boutique hotel…

Strolling from blog to blog, from link to link, I stumbled on 40 WiNKS.  This boutique hotel, house of an interior designer, hosts the most exquisite events, including Bedtime Storynights at 40 WiNKS – an enchanting evening of storytelling, curated each month by storyteller Rachel Rose Reid and hosted by Mr David Carter.

Storytelling?  For adults?  Intriguing, isn’t it, especially as the dress code is evening-wear: the nightgown kind… Gentlemen are welcome to join, creativity is encouraged, cocktails are on the list and the evening promises to be deliciously different.

Ideally, go with a friend: choosing the right outfit is quite a fun challenge and is most pleasant shared, giggles included.

Will you go for a silky material?  A vintage look?  Will you add a smile with a cosy accessory such as a hot water bottle?  What are the right kind of slippers to match?  What a wonderful feeling to feel like a 15 year old going to a pyjama party!

Standing in front of the entrance on the night, we felt very VIP, part of a secret society.  We were warmly welcomed by Mr Carter, so very British with his bowl hat and suit.  Had he stepped from a book, I would not have been surprised.

We exchanged our shoes for comfortable white slippers and were guided upstairs to, er dress down, rather than up.

Glitters, feathers, silk stockings, velvety gowns, pearl necklaces…never has a bedtime looked so glamorous.  Guys were getting ready in the next room.

Some had cotton pyjamas, others had added a teddy, one was in a thick colourful bathrobe, another looked like a Victorian character with his bonnet de nuit.

Our favourite was Santa inspired – red and white seasonal hat and twinkling light garland around his neck.

As you can guess, conversation flowed easily: we were all curious about each other’s ideas and accessories and chatted happily around a Hendricks gin cocktail and a few nibbles.

Alternatively, you can go an explore the house and take hundreds of decoration tips along the way/corridors.  Each room is a delicate balance of antiques, French touches, magical associations.

We loved the very Christmassy touch of a tray filled with tangerines and candles, the feather mask on a sculpted bust, the shells on a cake stand…

After a couple of drinks, the group separates, each joining a different storyteller.  We settled on the floor or in one of the cosy sofas, some of us grabbing a blanket for more comfort.

At the first words “Once upon a time”, you wonder whether you are not too old for this.  The rhythm of music, the soothing voice take over your imagination.

Sally Pomme Clayton’s voice is magical: she is so much into her story you can only travel with her.  You go over hills, you walk in the snow, you climb mountains, you suppress a tear…her smile, particularly radiates happiness and emotions.  Mesmerizing probably describes her best!

When asked how she came to storytelling, she explained this is just what she had always done best from childhood and so naturally, she transformed her skills into a job.  Even the British Museum fell in love with her!

When the tale of The White Bear came to an end, nobody moved – we all waited for more. We would have been happy to stay there all night long…we were five year olds again, ready to beg for just one more story, pleeeeease!

Thankfully, there was more coming our way.  Just a pause to share our amazement with the other guests, clinking our cocktail glasses and we joined the second storyteller, Nell Phoenix.

What a different atmosphere she created!  A succession of three tales of the world – very interactive, with a dash of sexiness and plenty of laughs.  A different kind of warmth, a different journey in time.

Both groups reunited for a last comfort dose with songs from the very talented Helen Chadwick, some a capella. What a voice!  It is not so much that it is powerful, no that would be common.

It just has this tribal note, it goes right through you envelops you, soothes you.  A perfect conclusion to the evening.

It feels strange stepping out of your comfy night close to step back into the night, had it been summer I am sure a number of guests would have decided to take the tube wearing pyjamas!

The next Bedtime Storynights at 40 WiNKS will be on February 09, 10 and 11th with extra special treats. Don’t miss them!

Photos by Coralie Aude Grassin

Coralie Aude Grassin writes the French and English blog, Tea Time in Wonderland.

Art, Designers, Events, Exhibitions, Fashion, Guest posts, London

Dior Illustrated: René Gruau and the Line of Beauty

Coralie Aude Grassin explores the elegant world of Christian Dior through the illustration of René Gruau at the private view at Somerset House…

Any woman will gasp at the name.  We are talking haute-couture, glamour and chic.  Dresses so beautifully cut they seem unreal, as if they had been sewn on the body – the essence of femininity.

To learn a little more about this magic, rush to the Somerset House’s retrospective of René Gruau, Dior’s iconic illustrator.

The two artists met in 1936, when they were both working in the fashion department of le Figaro.

They shared the same thoughts, the same visions: a friendship that also led to a fruitful collaboration of 50 years…

When Dior launched the New Look in 1947, there was no hesitation: Gruau was the one to illustrate it and he would have carte blanche.

Together they defined an elegant woman –  radiant, clothes likes flower petals around her, mysterious, the femme fatale.

The war had just ended, the public now focusing on a joie de vivre.  Ideal timing for a new style!  Inspired by Japanese calligraphy, Gruau designs have a sophisticated and feline air about them.

In just a few lines, he creates a whole story and you could spend hours imagining the life of his characters.

He succeeds in capturing details: the position of a curl, the eyebrow innocently raised in a silent question, the half smile, the languid pose.

For Diorama, he paints a veil and gloves on a chair – the movement is such you could swear the woman was there a second ago, her perfume still lingering in the room.

So intense you feel you could step in the picture and grab those accessories…

My favourite part definitely is the male image he created.  Imagine the readers’ shock when they opened their Figaro, looked at the Eau Sauvage ad and saw…black slippers, a pair of hairy legs, and a white bathrobe cut at the waist!

What a revolution: sexy yet relaxed.  Although it was controversial at the time, it did prove a real success and more humoristic versions followed.

When Dior died in 1957, Gruau continued to work on the perfumes ads until the late 1980s – an unequalled era which inspired so many other creators: daring, sophisticated and timeless.

Even 50 years down the line, each piece remains as powerful.  Magnifique!

Dior Illustrated: René Gruau and the Line of Beauty runs until 9 January 2011 at Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA

Photos by Coralie Aude Grassin

Guest posts, Theatre

Kim Cattrall in Antony and Cleopatra

Rebecca Enright discovers that there’s more to Kim Cattrall than Sex and the City

When you hear the name Kim Cattrall you automatically think of Samantha in Sex and the City, the iconic strong-willed, man-eating character we all know and love.

But her homecoming to the Liverpool stage in Antony and Cleopatra at the Playhouse Theatre certainly proved that she is more than just a TV superstar, but a gifted theatre actress who can put her hand to more traditional thespian challenges, including Shakespeare.

As a huge fan, I last saw Kim on the London stage as the lead in Noel Coward’s Private Lives back in the spring of this year, so was interested in how she would conquer the role of the cunning yet passionate Queen of the Nile.  But she did!

Directed by a former legendary Cleopatra, Janet Suzman, it was sure to be a great hit and it’s obvious Cattrall delights in playing strong, dominant women, and does so with much gusto.

The play can be difficult to understand at times, but it’s at no fault to anyone except me and the fact I haven’t studied it for so long! But don’t let the fact that it’s Shakespeare put you off.

The plot – an ill-fated love affair where passion collides with political gain – is easy to pick up via the stunning stage decor, atmospheric music and superb acting from the entire cast.

The play does have its modern touch too, most notably Cleopatra donning stylish specs to sign papers and the Romans, in contemporary get-up (Caesar even in a pin-stripe suit), having a jolly whilst drinking Peroni and Carling!  Who would ever have thought it?

And for the girlie bit – the dresses. Many a conversation was had about what you would wear and when, or “do you think we could ask Kim if she is keeping those?”

Standing ovations do not seem to be the norm ‘up north’, or so it seems, although I felt proud to make my appreciation known… even if I was one of only six standing!

And there’s always the meet and greet at the stage door, an excitement equivalent to meeting your favourite boy band when you’re 13.

The Playhouse theatre is certainly worth a visit, and can be combined with a general sightseeing tour of Liverpool.  It’s a beautiful theatre that’s been around since the early 1900’s and if you’re anything like me, it’s one of the first things I take a good look at – the beauty and grandeur of a theatre interior.

There is no doubt that Kim gets the majority of people through the door, but with a fantastic cast, many of which are from the Royal Shakespeare Company, its one not to be missed. World class theatre isn’t just confined to London.

Antony and Cleopatra runs until Saturday 13th November. You can book tickets via www.everymanplayhouse.com or by calling the box office on (0151) 709 4776.

Photos: Stephen Vaughan

Bars, Events, Guest posts, London

Hendrick’s Carriage of Curiosities at London Cocktail Week

Coralie Aude Grassin has a breakfast of cupcakes and gin cocktails in teacups at Hendrick’s Carriage of Curiosities during London Cocktail Week…

Hendrick’s horseless carriage of curiosities really intrigued me. Pop-ups are quite a modern trend but this is something else.  To be fair, I danced in joy on the way!

Imagine stepping back in time, switching to the delicate Victorian era.  The staff are playing along in refined vintage clothes, taking you along on a wonderful trip in wonderland.

Outside, you will find a car all set up with hiding places for the cocktail set and a glamorous bath with two dream taps: one for gin, the other for tonic, cucumber slices included.  Oh, the look of envy on some visitors’ face…

The wagon is a real treasure chest.  Many families have been through their attics and donated the strangest objects to the project – quite a hypnotising collection.

Imaginative labels have been attached and you will find yourself chuckling regularly as for this miniature sofa indicating ‘please do not sit’.  You might even find a few cucumbers on the way.

I was lucky enough to join the bloggers’ tea party yesterday morning. A table loaded with Hummingbird’s bakery cupcakes and croissants made us crumble with delight.

Of course, it was only polite to taste them all…the most elegant touch was sipping our Red Snapper (a gin version of the Bloody Mary) in tea cups, thus ensuring laughs and gossip galore – a moment suspended in time.

On a normal day, you can exchange a drawing, a quote a story for a drink -  the best ones are on show and might be collated in a book in the future.

Hendrick’s definitely is as sparkly and cool as the Gin and Tonic they are serving.

Photos by Coralie Aude Grassin

Art, Guest posts, London

Damien Hirst, The Souls at Paul Stolper, London

Coralie Aude Grassin visits Damien Hirst’s fleeting exhibition…

Mention Damien Hirst during any dinner party and you will get unconditional attention from every guest.  This contemporary artist of many skills has a fascinating way of presenting the fragility of life, always balancing it with precise, colourful or exquisite beauty.

A favourite theme has always been butterflies. It offers the best of contrasts: a life so very short it is amost at its end, raising the question of its worth.

With his new exhibition at the Paul Stolper gallery, Hirst extends his fascination even further. Choosing four different kind of butterflies, he assembled them in a rainbow of colours, filling the walls with 120 specimens.

Entitled The Souls, it is easy to see the silent question towards religion. Look closely at the wings, foiled with metallic but bright colours. The surface is so polished you are perfectly reflected in it – how symbolic!

Although two-dimensional, they seem ready to fly away at any moment. Still and vibrant at the same time.

The idea came from a Warhol show where paintings of flowers covered the walls. Hirst was impressed with the hypnotising and contemplative effect.  A very soothing and inspiring exhibition that is very much worth the detour.

Damien Hirst: The Souls runs until 13 November 2010 at Paul Stolper Gallery, London WC1A 1LH.

Photos by Coralie Aude Grassin.