From Diptyque to Chanel: A Perfect Day in London

On Tuesday, I took a day off from the day job, put on my new Mulberry booties and went off to London for a day crammed with appointments.

To celebrate their 50th anniversary, Diptyque (one of my favourite brands, full stop) have a snazzy little vintage 1961 French Renault driving all over London for two weeks before taking off to Paris for Fashion Week there. And since the lovely people at Diptyque loaned me the car (complete with a very dapper driver), I decided to turn it into one of those perfect London days and cram in all manner of loveliness in between all my appointments with PRs.

First up was an appointment at the Chanel head offices (a dream come true), so afterwards I took advantage of being on Bond Street and raced off to (again) try on the glittery shoes I can’t stop dreaming of in Miu Miu. Afterwards, I hopped back in the car and it was over to Lowndes Street in Belgravia, where I had an invite from Pierre Herme to sample the wares at his London salon (delicious is an understatement – but more on that in a later post). After I’d had my fill of sugary gourmand bliss, I went over to look at Karl Lagerfeld’s fantastical Chanel installation at Harrods (more on this later), which was so beautiful that I had to physically force myself away before I missed all the afternoon appointments! From there it was over to Shoreditch (I waved to Big Ben through the car window as we passed my London office at the Houses of Parliament on the way) for rose bellinis and some pre-Fashion Week hair primping at my favourite London salon, Taylor Taylor, before a marathon Fashion Week organisation session with Liberty London Girl into the late hours.

I am so stuffed full of pleasurable experiences (and the subsequent sleep-deprivation), and Fashion Week hasn’t even begun yet!

How do you love to spend a precious mid-week day off work and all to yourself?

Love, Miss B xx

Small Pleasures: Happiness is a Box of Laduree Macarons

I truly believe that small pleasures make life infinitely more fun. I am constantly in pursuit of them, and discovering a new small treat (or returning to one of my favourites) never fails to bring a smile to my face. It might be something such as a new bright pink lipstick, a cup of tea somewhere decadent, buying a bunch of peonies at the farmer’s market, acts of kindness, or simply the luxury of time to spend an entire weekend reading a book and organising your shoe wardrobe. Whatever it is, the point is that although it’s a rare treat that doesn’t cost a lot of money (this isn’t about frequent consumerism or emotional spending), but it’s something which always makes you smile on a grey day or when you’re in a slump.

So in recognition of the place small luxuries hold in living a charmed life, I’ve decided to start a new series on the litle things that make me smile. And for my first post on the subject, it seemed appropriate to mention Laduree, because exquisite French macarons (or almost anything Parisian, for that matter) always bring a smile to my face. I remember my very first trip to Laduree; I was 23, and travelling to Paris for the very first time on my own (it took 30 hours to get there from Australia, but I loved every second I was there). I vividly remember thinking that the shopfront was like the magical Land of Sweets from the Nutcracker that I used to dream of as a child, brought to life before me, right there in Paris. I went inside and felt as though I’d arrived at my fantasy Parisian salon, complete with the most charming staff, the kind of attention to detail I worship, and desserts that blew my sweet-tooth into a whole other realm.

Ever since that day, a trip to Laduree (I choose the tiny gilded cave on Piccadilly when I can’t make it to Paris) is guaranteed to send me skipping home with glee, with that powdery green bag swinging from my arm. For opening one of those pretty little boxes (which I always save to store jewels and trinkets in, or to send a little packet of treats to a friends in cities deprived of Laduree) to find the light-as-air jewel-coloured treats within is surely the gourmand equivalent of a treasure box, or a Faberge egg.

Do you like this new series? What is your ultimate ‘small pleasure’?

Love, Miss B xx

London’s Best Afternoon Tea: The Parlour at Sketch

The English half of me has always had an inherent need for tea, but since moving to England, this has turned into a fully-fledged obsession. Whenever I have a spare afternoon, the mean reds (in the words of Holly Golightly), want to catch up with a girlfriend or just need a moment of peaceful decadence, I am usually to be found having afternoon tea all over London. I don’t know what it is, but a proper cup of tea and some pretty little cakes seem to me like pure luxury when served on floral china in a chintzy, gilded room. And after two years of hunting down the best establishments in all of London, Sketch is one of my firm favourites.

Though it’s incognito from the outside – you’ll be able to spot it from the big headless dog statue perched above the entrance – once you step inside the Parlour, it feels like Alice’s mad tea party meets a Victorian English eccentric’s over-stuffed sitting room meets Mayfair aristocrat (kind of a perfect mash-up, in my opinion). I love either perching right beside the window (for Conduit Street people watching) or, on a rainy day, happily hiding as far in the back as possible, settling in with a newspaper and a pot of tea beneath the big, illuminated stag heads.

The tea selection is extensive (I love the Jing Chai), but it’s the little cakes and pastries where they really excel – each one is like a little work of patisserie art, gorgeous enough to make Marie Antoinette herself squeel with glee. I’m enamoured with the Cardinal – a beautifully constructed oversized blackberry macaron with violet creme, crystalised violet petals and blackcurrant jelly.

Also, and I do not make this statement lightly, their macarons are some of the best I have ever had. For quality, they are certainly up there with Laduree and Pierre Herme, but their flavours (though they only ever have a few at a time) are wonderfully original – last time I had early grey tea and lemongrass (my tastebuds were simultaneously shocked and dancing with excitement).

Finally, you simply cannot leave the establishment without a trip to the toilets. Though this may seem a strange dictate to make, I’m quite certain that Sketch boasts the best toilets in all of London. To find them, head down the hallway, through the heavy doors (with golden ladies’ legs for doorknobs), and through the art gallery (which may be completely dark, but for a moving art installation on one wall). There, you’ll come to a ghostly white staircase where, at the top, sits a forest of giant glowing pods (each one is a toilet) watched by uniformed French maids. If ever going to loo could be a cultural experience, then this is surely it.

Do you have a favourite place for afternoon tea? And would you like to see this turn into a regular feature?

Love, Miss B xx

The Parlour at Sketch – 9 Conduit St, London W1S 2XG

Bastille my heart

Bonjour! In honour of Bastille Day, this week I’m happily indulging in my love for all things French. Tomorrow i’ll be donning my favourite breton stripes and Chanel heels before popping to the Pierre Herme counter at Selfridges for a fix of rose macarons. After work, i’ll hop home, via Paul’s bakery at St Pancras (for baguettes fresh off the Eurostar from Paris), to whip up an asparagus et chevre tart from my favourite French cookbook (which requires my full concentration to decipher – the whole thing is in French) while listening to Hotel Costes’ achingly hip soundtrack.

Although it’s surely anathema to my family history to feel such a way (the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, is a relative of mine)*, I’m certain that a large chunk of my dreamworld-self belongs in Paris.

From Coco Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld, Laduree macarons and French pastries, champagne and vin rouge, lipstick, high heels and parfum, French Vogue and Collette, Louis chairs and Diptyque candles, Serge Gainsbourg and Phoenix, Louboutin and Vivier, jaunty berets and breton stripes, Left Bank philosophers and bohemian Marais artistes – my love of all things French may be cliche, but it runs deep to my soul.

So tell me, is there a particular place you fantasise about?

Love, Miss B xx

* Apologies for the name dropping – it’s not my usual style to do so unless it serves to illustrate a point