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Afternoon tea with Truly

Tea at The Capital

Picking special presents year after year can be a bit of a pain, especially when you’re like us and have no room left in your flat for any more physical objects! That’s why I love giving and receiving ‘experiences’ instead: dinner, cooking classes, something that you can enjoy and/or learn from rather than accumulating more stuff. So when Truly contacted me I was pretty excited. Their premise is great: you pick from a fantastic range of do-able gifts – especially strong on restaurants and food experiences but there are spa days, city breaks and outdoor activities too. Put in your recipient’s address and they get a lovely smart box in the post with a simple number/email to contact Truly’s concierge and make the reservation. No messing around booking something and hoping they are free on the date (or ruining the surprise by asking), but you can still pick out something personal.

Tea at The Capital

Truly kindly gave me the chance to try one of their experiences out, and I opted for Champagne Afternoon Tea at the Capital Hotel. I invited my wonderful mum along because she’s a little envious of all the nice things Josh and I do in London, so it was great to be able to share something with her. She was delighted to get the box in the post and phoned me immediately to say thank you! She was down in London last weekend so we got the chance to book it up.

Tea at The Capital

The Capital hotel is literally around the corner from Harrods. I’d never ever been in Harrods before, so a nose round the food hall was mandatory (wow, it’s busy in there). Tea is served in a pretty and cosy sitting room – with wallpaper and books lining the walls and a window open to the pleasant day outside it was a lovely place to spend the afternoon. We started with a glass of champagne while browsing the extensive tea menu.

Tea at The Capital

Before long a tiered stand laden with goodies arrived. Delicate finger sandwiches on the bottom and a whole plate of sweet things for each of us – treacle tart, passion fruit tart, lemon sponge, baby trifle and a hibiscus maracon. They were all delicious – the moist sponge and creamy tart especially. If you run out or particularly enjoyed anything, the waiters will gladly restock it for you.

Tea at The Capital

There was only one vegetarian sandwich but I didn’t even think to ask for a replacement; I’m sure they would have switched one of the others for a veggie option if requested. Never mind, more room for cake!

Tea at The Capital

Just when we were reaching peak cake, freshly baked scones arrived with cream and jam. They were so buttery and flaky – my Devon-raised mum approved. You can even pack up anything you don’t eat into takeout boxes.

Tea at The Capital

One happy mum and some serious daughter points for me! This was a great experience and my mum really appreciated it. Truly have this and loads of other luxurious gift experiences on their site including lots of Michelin-starred restaurants like The Square, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (which I reviewed here), Hakkasan and La Manoir. Any would do for my birthday present, in case you’re wondering. Thanks, Truly! Anyone else love to give or receive foody gifts?

Truly supplied my afternoon tea experience for review; views are my own

A Vegetarian tasting menu at L’Atelier Joel Robuchon

L'Atelier Joel Robuchon

I apologise for it being blogger-perk frenzy round here at the moment. I’ve had a good run lately! The latest was the chance to try the tasting menu with matching wine selection at Michelin-starred restaurant L’Atelier Joel Robuchon, on the borders of Covent Garden and Soho, where a new executive chef (Xavier Boyer) and pastry chef (Francois Delaire) have just been appointed.

L'Atelier Joel Robuchon
L'Atelier Joel Robuchon

L'Atelier Joel Robuchon
L'Atelier Joel Robuchon

We started by going up the first floor for a delicious cocktail in the plushy bar. There’s a lovely terrace which on this warm evening was full.

L'Atelier Joel Robuchon
L'Atelier Joel Robuchon

Downstairs, we were seated at the central bar with a view directly into the working kitchen. Quite uniquely for a Michelin restaurant, the food is informally served by the bar staff/waiters, as was the wine for each course. I really liked this less stuffy approach and our waiters were relaxed and funny – a nice change from formal fine dining.

L'Atelier Joel Robuchon

In what must be a first, L’Atelier Joel Robuchon is a Michelin-starred French restaurant with a vegetarian tasting menu. Gosh, I do love the treat of seeing a list of delicious-sounding food where I can eat all of it!

L'Atelier Joel Robuchon
L'Atelier Joel Robuchon

Each course was beautifully dainty and almost too pretty to eat. It was a real ode to the humble and lovely vegetable, whether a mushroom whipped into a silky veloute or an heirloom tomato simply dressed and served zingily red in a martini glass with pickles and flowers.

L'Atelier Joel Robuchon
L'Atelier Joel Robuchon

Asparagus with comte; a beautiful girolle and truffle risotto; crisped glazed tofu with wild mushrooms. It was all perfectly pitched and a delight to eat. Unlike some tasting menus, the pacing and portion size were spot on: it never felt like an onslaught and I didn’t feel uncomfortably full at the end.

L'Atelier Joel Robuchon
L'Atelier Joel Robuchon
L'Atelier Joel Robuchon

Josh went for the omnivore tasting menu; he declared the ox cheek gyoza to be a particular standout dish. Personally I loved the blingy gold toast rack and gilt leaf on the caviar and salmon starter.

L'Atelier Joel Robuchon

As a special side we were given some of the infamous Robuchon pommes puree, made with 50% butter to 50% potato. Jeez, I could feel my arteries furring up as I ate it but it is just so good I didn’t care.

L'Atelier Joel Robuchon

The dainty portions meant we had space for dessert, hurrah. Josh’s was a beautiful physics-defying orb of shiny gold, with a delicate citrus mousse inside.

L'Atelier Joel Robuchon

I had an equally gorgeous concoction; light as air milk chocolate mousse with bitter dark chocolate sorbet and Oreo crumbs.

L'Atelier Joel Robuchon
L'Atelier Joel Robuchon
L'Atelier Joel Robuchon

Each course was matched with the sommelier’s selection of wine, and wow – they were all utterly amazing. I don’t know much about wine at all, but I loved how our choices featured some really unusual ones with tasting notes like smoke, mushroom, cellar, and minerals. Even the dessert wine which I don’t usually drink was a sweet, light red that was perfect with the chocolate.

This was one of the most enjoyable fine dining experiences I’ve had; partly for the superb food and partly for the unique relaxed ambiance and friendly service. For a special occasion meal I would certainly go back.

I was a guest of L’Atelier Joel Robuchon for my dinner; views my own.

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon on Urbanspoon

Wedding Dresses at the V&A

Wedding dresses at V&A

I was treated to a preview of the V&A’s new Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 exhibition last week. It opened to everyone at the weekend, so here’s a peek at some of my favourite things on show.

Wedding dresses at V&A
Wedding dresses at V&A
The ground floor charts dresses from the 18th century up to the mid-20th century. You can clearly see the styles changing through the years and the influence that factors such as wealth and location had on the dress a woman chose. Above, some elaborately hand-worked 18th century dresses.

Wedding dresses at V&A

I love the print of this humble cotton dress, worn by a farm labourer in the 1830s.

Wedding dresses at V&A

A steam-moulded Victorian corset to be worn under a dress – yikes.

Wedding dresses at V&A
Wedding dresses at the V&A
A century later, the influence of eveningwear on bridalwear became apparent. This beautiful gown with a ridiculously long train was worn by a socialite in the 1930s.

Wedding dresses at V&A

Another stunning 30s dress, bias cut silk with a slightly more subtle train, again worn by a society lady.

Wedding dresses at the V&A

A silver lamé bridesmaids’ dress for a Jewish wedding, from just up the road in Stamford Hill.

Wedding dresses at V&A
Wedding dresses at V&A

Not every dress is white: a purple coat dress handmade by its wearer in the 1890s, and a gorgeous red shirt dress from the 30s.

Wedding dresses at V&A

The show is interspersed with little personal touches: fabric swatches, shoes and floral crowns and real quotations written on the walls, which makes it feel intimate and personal. This show really celebrates the bride herself.

Wedding dresses at V&A
Wedding dresses at V&A

Moving upstairs, this section covers the 1960s onwards and contains most of the star draws of the exhibition. Firstly, Kate Moss’s dress from her wedding to Jamie Hince.

Wedding dresses at V&A

The Galliano dress is even more stunning in the flesh as it was in the photos at the time: it’s got over a quarter of a million gold sequins as well as pearl beads and paillons which took over 700 hours to complete.

Wedding dresses at V&A
Wedding dresses at V&A

Another Galliano creation and one of my all-time favourites, Gwen Stefani’s dip-dyed dress. Great to see all the punk-influenced lacing and strapping on the back. Ugly shoes though!

Wedding dresses at V&A
Wedding dresses at V&A

Dita von Teese’s typically retiring shimmery purple gown

Wedding dresses at V&A
Wedding dresses at V&A

Modern dresses with influences from the 60s and 30s.

Wedding dresses at the V&A
Wedding dresses at the V&A

A pretty 60s tea dress, designed by its wearer

V&A Wedding dresses

A modern Ghanian wedding ensemble in traditional wax prints. I thought the show was a little too Western-orientated overall – it would have been nice to see more dresses from other cultures.

Wedding dresses at V&A
Wedding dresses at V&A

Interesting and beautiful craftsmanship techniques: roses applied to the veil with rubber, and the Duchess of Cornwall’s handpainted silk coat.

Wedding dresses at V&A

Even if like me you don’t have much interest in weddings, there is plenty to be enthralled by here. The changing fashions through time, the craftsmanship and the social and historical influences are all fascinating and make this show well worth a visit. The exhibition runs at the V&A until next March; you can find out more and order tickets here.

Boro at Somerset House

Boro at Somerset House

Yesterday, a beautiful sunny spring day, Michelle and I went down to Somerset House to check out the Boro exhibition. To quote the website:

Translated to ‘rags’ in English, boro is the collective name for items – usually clothing and bed covers – made by the poor, rural population of Japan who could not afford to buy new when need required and had to literally make ends meet by piecing and patching discarded cotton onto existing sets, forming something slightly different each time they did so. Generations of Japanese families repaired and recycled fishermen’s jackets to futon covers, handing them down to the next and weaving their own sagas and stories through the threads.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Cotton was an expensive and sought-after material in rural Japan, so worn-out clothing was passed along and used as futon/bed coverings, the worn-out parts re-worked and replaced with new patches as necessary. The pieces are beautiful and mesmerising to look at, so have been appropriated as highly collectible artworks in Western countries. As a sewist, I was particularly fascinated to get up close and see the various woven patterns, fabric combinations, dyeing and embroidery techniques used to create such a richly textured surface.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Varying lengths and patterns of hand-stitches for decorative texture.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

I love these dense rows of stitches: nothing is measured or straight, and it doesn’t matter. It seems to tie into the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi: imperfect beauty.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Some of these patch-pieced ones look like English fields seen from an aeroplane.

Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House
Boro at Somerset House

Look close and you’ll see layer upon layer of patterns and textures. Woven patterns remind me of ikat, one of my favourite types of fabric, and some pieces seemed to have had patterns created by resist-dyeing and shibori-stle knotting and folding techniques.

Boro at Somerset House

You can see why the pieces are compared to art works: some have the Cubist arrangement of a Picasso or Mondrian, where others seem freely expressive like a Pollock or late Matisse.

Boro at Somerset House

This was my favourite, the decorative embroidery looks like mystical cave symbols, and the tan corduroy with the shades of indigo is gorgeous. It was very inspiring to look at a different way of combining and manipulating materials, and really makes me want to create an abstract hand-pieced and -embroidered quilt. The free exhibition runs until 26th April, daily 10.00-18.00. I can’t recommend a visit highly enough.

V&A Friday Lates

V&A Friday Lates

Josh and I made the trip to West London on Friday to check out the V&A Friday Lates. They open the museum extra late and put on installations, talks, exhibitions and interactive sessions to complement the shows that are going on in the museum. Last Friday’s theme was “Adornment’ to coincide with the current Pearls show (I saw this last weekend too, it’s excellent) and it covered fashion and tattooing as well as jewellery.

V&A Friday Lates
V&A Friday Lates
V&A Friday Lates

Sadly I missed the talk I wanted to see due disorganisation, but we swung by the Skin Deep session put on by Brothers of the Stripe, where you could watch the collective doing a live drawing installation and make yourself a rubber-stamped tattoo poster to take away.

V&A Friday Lates
V&A Friday Lates

We also saw a fashion show by E Wha Lim in the Medieval & Renaissance hall. Her surreal work was beautifully complemented by the surroundings.

It was also just great to roam the museum ‘after hours’. We popped to the Japan section…

V&A Friday Lates

Happy chest is happy

V&A Friday Lates

Embroidery detail on samurai robes

… and my favourite place, the jewellery hall.

V&A Friday Lates
V&A Friday Lates
V&A Friday Lates
V&A Friday Lates

Is it just me who likes to play pretend I’m shopping and pick what I’d most like to take home?

V&A Friday Lates
V&A Friday Lates

Beautiful wheel of gems

V&A Friday Lates
V&A Friday Lates
V&A Friday Lates

I think this was the last Lates of the year, but check the site for next year’s events.