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Posts from the ‘Escape to’ Category

The beauty of simplicity

I have been in Singapore this week to attend Maison & Objet Asia. Given the reputation of the Paris fair I had high expectations,  in hindsight far too high. So, in all honesty it has been a bit of mixed week. There were certainly some highlights which I am excited to share with you in upcoming posts, but mainly my Singapore sojorn became an opportunity for some much needed solo time.

With all the busyness of my life I have become unaccustomed to being with myself and by that I don’t mean being alone, but  existing without distractions. Raising a child, growing a business and the myriad of other domestic and social responsibilities are all things I love dearly, but my life is filled to the brim.

In Singapore staying in a conveniently located but soulless hotel was a constant reminder how vital interiors are to our mental health and happiness. Instead of checking-out I decided to seek my inspiration elsewhere and last night I took myself to Waku Ghin, Tetsuya Wakuda’s Singapore restaurant.

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When this dish was presented to me it took my breath away. A combination of sea urchin, shrimp and caviar, it was possibly the most beautiful thing I had seen all week.

I vividly recall the first time I ate Tetsuya‘s food: the favours and combinations were unlike anything I had ever tasted. It was a transformative. My husband and I even bought his cookbook and prepared many of the recipes. Surprisingly, they were incredibly easy to make and depended on simplicity: the freshest of ingredients prepared with great care and delicacy.

Last night, I decided to set myself the challenge of enjoying a 10 course degustation menu without any distractions: no book or  magazine, no iPhone, pen nor paper or company. Instead, I was to do nothing except the task at hand of eating. Sounds simple, but I had my doubts about my comfort doing this.

You see, like most of us, I have become a master at multi-tasking. I listen to podcasts while I drive, I unpack the dishwasher as my husband and I talk about our day, I brush my teeth and remove my make-up while my son is in the bath, I am on the phone while I prepare dinner, I am reading emails on my phone as I walk to work, lunch is eaten while I answer emails. It is efficient, or at least I kid myself it is. But is it a pleasurable  or gratifying way of living?

What struck me last night was this. My sensory experience was heightened. I could tell you about the texture of certain dishes, the coolness of the marble counter, the finely textured paper of the wine list, the warm hue of the lights, the sound of sizzling olive oil,  the concentration of the chef as he placed the lobster tails in the shiny copper pan and exactly how he gracefully cleaned the hot plate . . .

It made me reflect upon how much of my life I am not fully savouring, because I am distracted, because I am kidding myself that life is too busy to just to be doing one thing at a time.

Is this just me or is this a modern affliction?

Opulence and minimalism combined: The Aman Grand Canal, Venice

Venice is one of my favourite places in the world. My love for that city, if you can call it that, began when my parents first took me there as a seven year old. Like millions of people before and since, I was captivated by her stunning architecture, her mystery, her elegance, but most of all her art.

Fortuitously one of the manuscripts central to my doctorate research was housed in the Biblioteca Maricana, opposite the Dodges Palace in St Mark’s Square. For two weeks I spent my days in the Director’s Office (the manuscript being too precious to be read in the public reading room). When I glanced up from my work I would look directly over to SS. Giorgio Maggiore. As a post-graduate student on a scholarship even the local youth hostel was out of my budget, so stayed at covent. There was a strict curfew at 9pm, about 100 narrow metal beds were crammed a hall. The nuns would turn off the lights by 9:30pm  having recited nightly prayers in Latin. A Renaissance altarpiece depicting a most penitent St Magdalen looked down upon us all.  Having been brought up an atheist, I was intrigued by the nightly sermons and rituals. It just added to the other worldliness of Venice.

My husband has never been to Venice and I have promised to take him one day. When I do it is the Aman Grand Canal where I’d love to stay. It seamlessly combines the grandeur of a 16th century Venetian palazzo complete with elaborate  Murano chandeliers, wood panelling and frescoes by Tiepolo with modern sleek design for which the AmanResorts is renown. The refurbishment is the work of Jean Michel Gathy of Denniston Architects.

Take a look, what do you think?

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Do you have a favourite place in Venice?

All pictures Aman Grand Canal

Monsieur Bleu Restaurant: The Palais de Tokyo Paris

Imagine this: inventing a character whom you wish to bring to life not as flesh and blood, but as an interior?

This is what French architect Joseph Dirand did when designing Monsieur Bleu the restaurant in new wing of the Palais de Tokyo, Paris. And to fully appreciate the design, it is important to understand that the Palais de Tokyo is dedicated to contemporary art.  And Dirand’s fictional character, Monsieur Bleu is “a true bourgeois gentleman, artist, gastronome and dandy that lives simultaneously within and outside the codes of the city, culture, conventions and everyday life.”

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The interior of the restaurant is the epitome Paris chic: sensual fabrics, strong lines, quality materials and superb craftsmanship. The soft velvets in hues of greens and greys contrast both in colour and texture with the black and white tiled floors and smooth Carrara marble throughout.

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It is stunning in a totally understated way. What I find particularly inspiring is Dirand’s creative process: the idea that a space is a person whom you are bring to life.  It is interior designer as author or playwright. It tickles my fancy!

Photos Adrien Dirand via Yatzer

 

“Aesthetically Flawless”: Septime Restaurant, Paris

I have just returned from Paris with my hubbie and son. While junior has been aboard before, this was the first time on a long-haul flight (12 hrs from Singapore to Paris). We had heard horror stories of children suffering from jet lag so we psychologically armed ourselves with plans of lego in the middle of the night. We’d take turns and reasoned we will be in Paris, so it’s just one of those things you do if you want to travel with a child. And like most parental expectations, it did not come to fruition: Jasper went to bed late (10pm) and woke up late (9am).

We had an amazing time and 10 days was still not enough. What struck me about Paris was the amount of non-franchised small owner run businesses: whether it be clothing, food or other retail. Almost totally absent from the landscape were the global brands. Of course, they exist but not to the same level of market saturation as elsewhere on the planet (think of London and New York).

Today, I bring you Septime, a small restaurant owned by chef Bertrand Grebaut in the 11th arrondissement. The New York Times critic described the food as ”aesthetically flawless” and I would say the same about the space. It is minimal, yet complex.

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The beautifully designed space is industrial meets rustic with its heavy old wooden tables, modern Tom Dixon chairs, industrial Dutch lamp shades, cement clad walls, traditional tiled floors and large antiqued industrial mirrors. The results are a warm, yet understated interior.

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I love the interiors and can see loads of ideas which could be effectively used in residential homes.Do you like it or do you like more grandeur?

Sadly, I did not go to Septime as I did not know of its existence, but there is always the next trip.

Images via Remodelista

Urban Kaleidoscope’s Style Guide to Ubud, Bali

The amazing Design Sponge has published my City Guide to Ubud, Bali which as many of you know is my second home. It’s my take on the places to eat, sleep and shop that are both good, as well as exceptionally stylish. Thanks to Stephanie and Design Sponge.