16 January 2011

London Diary: Days 2 & 3

 view from the room

For the first few days of our London week, Mr. EEE holed himself up in the hotel room preparing for a conference while I made myself scarce.  First stop: The British Museum.  Not only is it a close jaunt from our hotel,  it is tantalizingly adjacent to Robert Kime's newly expanded shop.

One side is devoted to his antiques and the other to his textile lines - both bear the most wonderful air of patina.

 Kime's Harlequin

In many ways, he is a modern-day Geoffrey Bennison who also appreciated the beauty of the worn and weathered.

A gorgeous tomato-beef stew at the BM cafe (lots of fresh parsley on top) revived me between the Minoans and the Myceneans and after finishing the audio-guide Classical World tour, I roamed the streets until dinner.

 Dionysus, the god of revelry - a masterpiece of drapery, c. 1250 BCE, photo courtesy of the British Museum

A new but already dear friend Lavinia whisked me away to her house in Pimlico where all fireplaces were blazing.  She whipped up a cozy risotto with peas and carrots while we gossiped and drank bottle after bottle of champagne. Lavinia apologized that that is all she drinks, and furthermore it must be ice ice cold.  (You understand why she has become an instantaneous great friend.)  I parted at 2 am in a warm glow and The Hare with Amber Eyes tucked under my arm.

By Day 3, I was organized enough to have lined up companions.  The marvelous Bridget (who is very proper but can recall her wild drinking days with the artist Francis Bacon) and Maeve were waiting for me for eggs benedict at the Wolseley, as our usual haunt Oriel's in Sloane Square had been closed down by Earl Cadogan who refused to renew the lease after deeming the food not very good.  No matter, as the Wolseley has one of the most smashing Deco-style interiors.  Formerly a car showroom, it is a large cavernous space reminiscent of an RKO sound stage with a jazzy black and white floor to match.  N.B. they refuse to make frites before 11:30am.

After sniffing scents at Floris and reconning the upstairs restaurant of Fortnum and Mason's (supposedly it is much more smart to dine here than the ground level Fountain Cafe, but we found the low-ceilinged space disappointing), we hopped in a taxi to the Sir John Soane Museum.

The museum keeps opening up new parts of the house - the bedrooms are planned for 2012 - and this time I was able to experience the Monk's Yard which Soane created to evoke the mystery and romanticism of a Gothic novel.

The Library, courtesy of the Sir John Soane Museum
One might think Soane an eccentric or obsessive after seeing how he transformed a great part of the house into a picturesque arrangement of antiquities, but, as one of the guides reminded us, architects and their students couldn't travel during the Napoleonic Wars and so Soane's collection was very much used for teaching.

His imaginative and innovative pared-down handling of the Classical vocabulary is evident everywhere.  I particularly adore his fireplaces which one day I can make mine via Chesney who reproduce them.  Click here to see the archive of Soane's chimneypieces.

If it seems all I did on this trip is eat and drink, you are right.  Maeve remembered a new restaurant in Belgravia that was in The Pantechnicon, an 1830s building which was built as a bazaar for arts and crafts.

Photos from flickr here and here

Alas, the gastro-pub which "borrowed" this name is not in the impressive Greek Revival building (which must have been rebuilt after an 1870s fire and is now inhabited by a Starbucks), but it did have an excellent Bloody Mary infused hamburger.

Before getting dinner fixings at the most beautiful grocery store I and Bridget had ever seen (the Waitrose at 27 Motcomb Street, if you must know), Maeve lured us into the dress shop Egg.

Egg - photo courtesy of Remodelista

It was full of very expensive aprons and floaty, unstructured jackets and dresses that harkened back to the '80s when babydoll dresses were the thing.  Not my bag, but brava to anyone who can wear an apron out on the town and look cool.  A light supper of cauliflower soup, crusty bread, and red wine and it was time for bed.

Tomorrow: Meeting Rose c'est la vie!


Karena said...

Emily you are having a most fabulous time!! The champagne! The company! I would love to talk with Bridget about Francis Bacon....how fascinating that would be!


Art by Karena

The Ornamentalist said...

sounds like you are having a wonderful time! If time permits try to see the Dennis Severs House I hear it's brilliant.

columnist said...

So many familiar and favourite things, I almost regret not going there in September, when for the first time we restricted ourselves to Scotland only. I agree with you about "Egg". Someone have raved about it, but it was not for me.

Jennie said...

OMG Oriel's is gone? I didn't go to London this past year but what a great place to people watch even if it was hideously overpriced and food average. So sad. Love your other recommendations and will have to check them out!

Toby Worthington said...

That shot of the Wolseley threw me for a moment,
since there's a similar, slightly more exotic room
that constitutes Barclay's Bank in Piccadilly and it
too was once an automobile showroom!

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Ornamentalist, My biggest regret is not making it to the Dennis Severs House. As you shall see, this was the hidden gem I learned about and the first thing I will see upon my return!

Mr. Worthington strikes again! It is indeed the same Barclay's - the switcheroo happened in 2003. It never would have occured to me to enter a bank so am very grateful for the change of business. The Wolseley was actually the name of the car that was sold - very dashing.

Jennie - I am as desolate as you. Doesn't the Earl know food isn't everything?

Dominique said...

Emily, you must buy striped socks at Cordings, if not for yourself, for your dearly beloved--and tucked up behind that shop on a charming side street (near Wolseley but other side of Picadilly) is a marvelous old bookstore full of fabulous tomes on architecture and design, among other things. At least I hope it is still there...It's been a while since I've visited London, so thank you for the wonderful vicarious thrill. d

quintessence said...

This is the best vicarious trip I think I've ever taken. From the Robert Kime shop to your champagne lunch to the Soane museum, it was a glorious romp!! Thank you!!

The Down East Dilettante said...

Couldn't you have done just one boring awful thing? It sounds so perfect (especially as I sit here in 6 degree Maine) that I'm just turning green with envy. Kime, Soane, Rosie West....it just couldn't sound better. I agree with quintessence--best vicarious trip I've ever been on.

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

DED and Quintessence, Meanwhile I've been wracked with dread at the thought of being too self-indulgent in describing my (almost) every step. I will soldier on then as the best is yet to come!

Janet said...

Eggs with Bridget and Maeve!? I want friends named Bridget and Maeve! Sounds like you had a smashing time. Dennis Severs House is right on top of my list of things to do next month (I always seem to miss it). I will report back.

Reggie Darling said...

What a lovely trip you are having, and how envious one is of your delicious exploits in one's favorite city. Reggie does adore the Wolseley so, having stumbled across it the last time he was in London and where he had a delightful dinner one evening at the advice of fashionable and discerning friends. So much so he followed it by a luncheon the next day because it was so perfect? Ah, me, I cannot wait to return to London!

The Devoted Classicist said...

I can hardly wait to see the other spaces open to the public at the Soane Museum, one of my favorites.

Jane Hall The Voice of Style said...

I love love love London, and go every year to buy fabric at the Designers Guild sale which happens twice a year. I am inspired by the English use of colour and pattern in design, and I use Tricia Guild's fabric almost exclusively in the products I make in Canada. Last time I was in London I spent 5 weeks wandering all the best neighborhoods and finding great antique and design stores. I love your books, and your ideas about the classics reinvented.