I am starting to feel EXTREMELY Christmas-y. I don’t normally throw myself into the festive season with *quite* such alacrity, but as I am spending Christmas in Asia this year, I am trying to pack in as much sparkly activity as is humanly possible before I leave on the 22nd.
Take, for example, yesterday morning – by 1020hrs I had already bedazzled a plain pine wreath at Jane Packer’s floristry school, courtesy of my friends at sparkletown aka Swarovski. (I worked for them in Austria, once upon a time, and I can confirm that there was a crystal-studded walkway on the way into the studio.)
I’m quite pleased with my efforts, given that we were given a bag of trimmings, a handful of wire hooks, and the basic wreath. (I’m hoping that I may have inherited even a tiny bit of my mother’s floristry skills.)
Wreath bedazzling accomplished, it was time for the annual GQ Christmas lunch, this year held at Quaglino’s.
The magazine had booked out the entire space for its 150 guests, and being there was a little like playing celebrity bingo – a famous face every time you looked up from your glass of Champagne.
I shall draw a veil over the proceedings, but suffice to say that delicious copper pots of gratin Dauphinois slightly lose their appeal when every few minutes a pert bottom clad in transparent mesh, and belonging to an A list model wiggles past your table.
Although this week is already winning points on the festive front, the most Christmas-sy thing I’ve done so far was attend the Quintessentially Foundation and The Crown Estate’s hosted annual Fayre of St James charity Christmas concert, at St James’s Piccadilly, which was absolutely glorious.
I was already feeling festive, having popped into Assouline next door on Piccadilly for a coupe with a friend in their Swans Bar (a wonderful oasis in the heart in of the West End).
We all got to bellow our favourite carols – and Rachel even got cracking with the descant in O Come All You Faithful. We heard Leona Lewis sing Christmas songs, The Soho Parish School Choir sing Away in a Manger, Hugh Grant do a reading, and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble play a fantastic medley (There’s a tiny snippet of their set over on the LLG Vine channel.)
And, best of all, it raised lots of money for the inspiring children’s charity Rays of Sunshine. Afterwards we watched Leona Lewis switch on the lights on Jermyn Street, and helped Nyetimber get through their stocks of glorious English sparking wine at their delightful Christmas popup shop, also on Jermyn Street. (Nyetimber provided the wine at my book launch.)
What else have I been up to? Well, there was a lunch with The Crown Estate to look at their exciting and ambitious plans for the redevelopment of the new Regent St James quarter, just south of Piccadilly, where we were lucky enough to be fed by Angela Hartnett’s wonderful Cafe Murano. I ate plumply delicious pumpkin ravioli, and far too many of her epic mushroom arancini. Oh god and I must mention in dispatches the tiramisu. And I don’t even like the stuff.
It was an absolute pleasure to meet Marissa Webb, the new global creative director at Banana Republic, who was over in London for a fleeting visit, hosting a breakfast at The Modern Pantry. (Which also happens to be one of my picks in Friends, Food, Family for a wonderful afternoon tea.)
Speaking of afternoon tea, I finally got to try this season’s Pret a Portea at The Berkeley Hotel, as guest of La Prairie – all the cakes and biscuits are designed around a particular piece from the collections – above we have a Charlotte Olympia boot, and a Dolce & Gabbana mousse.
After we finished our tea, I wandered off to check out the magical Christmas installation by McQueens (one of my favourite London florists) in the foyer of the hotel.
And I spent most of my down time over the past few weeks like this: being distracted by a small sausage dog who believes with every fibre of its being that the only suitable place for a kip is on my lap.
Quaglino’s. 16 Bury Street, London SW1Y 6AJ. Telephone: 020 7930 6767
Swans Bar at Maison Assouline, 196A Piccadilly, London, W1J 9EY. Telephone: 020 3327 9370
The Modern Pantry. 47-48 St John’s Square, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 4JJ. Telephone: 020 7553 9210
The Berkeley Hotel. Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RL Telephone: 020 7235 6000. The Pret a Portea is served in The Caramel Room of the hotel. Reservations telephone: 020 7107 8866