Saturday, 30 January 2010

Art Tea/Arch London

On Thursday I was invited to an event that combined three of my favourite things: Champagne, art and cake. It was a party held at the chic Louise Kennedy store in Knightsbridge to celebrate the launch of Art Tea afternoon tea at the Merrion hotel in Dublin. Quite why the party was held in a clothes shop in London rather than the hotel in Dublin remains a mystery, but one I was pleased to be part of.

The Merrion has built up a sizable collection of Irish art from the likes of Jack B Yeats (brother of the poet William Butler Yeats), Sir John Lavery and Paul Henry. Taking nine paintings as their starting point, the hotel's pastry chefs were tasked with creating a series of edible art works inspired by the paintings.

The results were impressive, from the lemon panna cotta with a raspberry mousse inspired by Robert Ballagh's Homage to Fernand Leger (pictured), to the towering mixed berry bavarois with cinnamon brioche – an artisitc interpretation of Jack B Yeats' brooding blue Defiance.

Some of the pastries were more of a nod to the work than a direct representation, but you could trace the thought process behind each of them. The mini art works were passed round the heaving shop on silver trays alongside cucumber sandwiches and clotted cream scones.

I enjoyed a selection of them between sips of Taittinger, my favourite being the chocolate and star anise macaroon. The crowd was very Sloaney, awash with velvet and pearls. One lady with a broken arm was sporting a silk black sling she'd sewn herself (presumably from a Hérmes scarf). A&E chic, who would have thought...

I grabbed a goodie bag filled with vanilla macaroons and a pot of lemon curd, and made my way to the Arch London, the latest townhouse hotel to launch in the capital. On my way, I peered through the window of Christian Louboutin. It really is a shoe shrine. Each red-soled shoe resides in an arched cubbyhole, like a saint in a church, and commands the same reverence from its worshippers. There is nothing to distract you from the icons – all focus in on the six-inch demigods.

I rocked up to the Arch in the rain with my cream scarf wrapped around my head in what I hoped looked like a homage to Hepburn. It's a bad business arriving at an event fresh from the rain – bedraggled rat is not a good look. Nevertheless, I sashayed through the door, checked in my coat and sought out Champagne. The hotel has a cosy feel to it, think log fires, bookcases full of the classics and inviting armchairs.

A lot of the rooms were on show, and we were given carte blanche to explore, passing from room to room like a game of Cluedo. All the rooms had a distinctly homely feel, but with a trendy twist. It was very Wallpaper* magazine, with i-pod decks, Nespresso machines and flat screen TVs in the bath! I walked into one bathroom and saw the headline 'JD Salinger dies' flashing up in a news bulletin. It was very surreal learning of Salinger's death from a flat screen TV in a hotel bathroom – what would Holden Caulfield make of that?