Victoria here, writing about one of my favorite places in London — Kenwood House. I first visited many years ago and feasted my eyes on the stunning collection of masterworks in the Iveagh Bequest and on the justly famous Adam Library. But I admit, the rooms used as galleries, were — aside from the paintings — quite bland. So I was delighted a few years ago to hear that the whole house was to be renovated and restored to the period when the 1st Earl of Mansfield purchased the structure and had Robert Adam remodel it in 1764-1779.
Entrance Hall, 2014
When Lord Iveagh purchased the building to house his art collection, it was primarily to be gallery space, but over the years, English Heritage decided to make changes that complement the architecture and the paintings both. And they did a stunning job!
When Lord Iveagh, one of the heirs of the Guinness Brewery fortune, bequeathed Kenwood and his incredible art collection to the nation in 1927, he specified that his collection should be exhibited free to all.
The library ceiling as it appeared when undergoing restoration.
The painting above the fireplace in the Dining Room is by Anthony Van Dyke, Princess Henrietta of Lorraine Attended by a Page.
Elsewhere in the Dining Room are two priceless masterpieces:
Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of the Artist, above, and
Johannes Vermeer, The Guitar Player, below
The furniture is certainly equal to the paintings and the setting: a sidetable
Above, The Hon. E. S. Russell and His Brother by Landseer.
Above, Angelica Kauffman, RA, The Disarming of Cupid
Kauffman was an excellent painter and did many Georgian interior medallions and other paintings — and is, in my opinion, quite underrated.
Carlton House Desk – the original was supposedly designed for the Prince of Wales by George Hepplewhite.
Portrait of Elizabeth Murray and Dido Bell, cousins, once attributed to Johann Zoffany, but currently unattributed; the version hanging at Kenwood is a copy of the original, which can be seen in Scone Palace, Perthshire, Scotland. This painting of Lord Mansfield’s wards has long fascinated art experts and social commentators. Dido Bell was the subject of a 2013 film exploring her life and times.
In the Music Room
Sir Thomas Lawrence, Miss Murray, 1824-26
Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mrs. Musters as “Hebe”, 1782
Another version of this work can be seen in the staircase of Highclere Castle, sometimes in evidence in scenes from Downton Abbey
John Hoppner, Mrs. Jordan as Viola from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, c.1785-92
Sir Joshua Reynolds, Kitty Fisher as Cleopatra Dissolving the Pearl, 1759
Sir Joshua Reynolds, The Brummell Children, 1782
Magnificent Chimney piece by Adam, completed in 1773,
a fantasy with mermen, flying griffins and cherubs, and panels of Chinese painted marble tiles.
Marguerite Hyde, 19th Countess of Suffolk
by John Singer Sargent, 1898
Also known as Daisy, she was the daughter of Levi Leiter of Chicago, a partner in the Marshall Field. and Co. Department Store. She presented her family’s collection of portraits to the nation. They are displayed on the upper level. Here are a few examples, taken from the website.
Maria Constantina Trevor, Countess of Suffolk, attributed to Catherine Read
Elizabeth Home, Countess of Suffolk, artist unknown
Charles II by Sir Godfrey Kneller
You can see the fabulous collection of paintings and furniture at Kenwood House during Number One London’s Town and Country House Tour in September.
After leaving Mr. Foggs, we cabbed it over to Randall and Aubin in Soho. Known for their fresh seafood, Randall and Aubin has been a favourite since opening in 1996 and it has a contemporary Manhattan vibe with it’s Subway tile walls, wood floors and marble topped tables. The dining room is a buzz with voices, laughter and music, while the prep kitchen, open to the dining room, affords a view of fresh oysters being shucked and a variety of fresh fish being readied for the table.
Victoria and I have eaten many a meal together and we know what we like – seafood. Especially moules, or as you may know them, mussels. And oysters. Lobster ain’t bad, either. The menu at Randall and Aubin is huge – what to choose?
We needn’t have worried because our server, Adriana, was the perfect hostess. R & A is that rare place where the entire staff – servers, line cooks, chefs and host – are not only consummate professionals, they believe in their product, i.e. fresh seafood. Nothing, really, could be better.
Arianna, who was not only knowledgeable, but also gorgeous, served us some bread with anchovy butter and then led us through the menu, suggesting that we try is the mixed rocks huites – in other words, the oyster sampler, served with challot vinegarette, horseradish and Tobasco. This is what’s so great about restaurants like R & A – even the most dedicated foodies will learn, and taste, something new as suggested by the staff, who are passionate about what they serve.
Tastes of heaven!!
Victoria and I were served two of each type of oyster, so that we could taste them together and rate them as we went along.
Here’s our ranking:
Native = 5 best!
English = eh, salty
French = salty sweet
Scotch = eh
Irish – excellent
All gone…too fast.
Then it was on to the great moules (mussels) with garlic, parsley and cream.
The sauce complimented the flavour of the meaty shell fish and we made quick work of them. I think it was at this point in the meal that Victoria and I swore we’d never had so much fun digging into fruits de mare. I can’t recall exactly which of us suggested that we eat here at least twice a week when we move to London, but I know I didn’t argue.
For an entree, Victoria opted for the pan roasted Hake with spring onion. Cooked to perfection, the white fish was melt in your mouth perfect.
I opted for the crab and lemon risotto, which tasted as good as
Amazingly, we found room at the end of the meal to try a combination of raspberry ice cream and salted caramel ice cream. Sorry, no photos of dessert as, by that time, Victoria and I were in a fabulous meal stupor.
Don’t take our word for it – if you’re into real seafood, prepared and served by people who are passionate about seafood, Randall and Aubin should be on your “must do” list.
Always looking for a new London adventure, one night Victoria and I took Diane and her sister, Marilyn, to Mr. Foggs in Mayfair for a drink. Hidden away on Bruton Lane, there’s no outward sign that an establishment of any sort is housed behind the Victorian facades that line the street. Up a few steps to the door, one has to knock in order to summon the door keep to slide the peep hole back. It’s at this point that one is tempted to say something suitably snarky, such as “Rick sent me” or “Let us in, we’e got a fresh body for ye” or even “The password is Brummell.” None of these are necessary as, unless one looks truly iffy, the door is typically opened to admit you into another world – the world of Victorian London and the townhouse of Around the World in 80 Days adventurer Phinneas Fog.
You’ve instructed your date to meet you on Conduit Street in Mayfair.
They’re excited. And happy.
You stroll together through Mayfair, past restaurants and designer boutiques; past jewellers and art galleries. There’s a spring in their step, and a smile on their face…
….until you direct them down a dingy back alleyway – menacingly encased on every side by concrete, shadows and high-rise office buildings – which they intuitively believe can only lead in one direction: towards their brutal and untimely death.
But just around the corner relief sets in, as they spot Victorian lanterns hanging outside the immaculate exterior of a truly glimmering beacon of peculiarity: the fictional home of Mr. Phileas Fogg… which you can call “Mr. Fogg’s”.
Because that’s its name.
After climbing the steps to Fogg’s abode – having possibly just manoeuvred yourself around a horse and carriage in the street, depending on which night you go – you’ll enter the madcap home of one of fiction’s most eccentric adventurers, which overflows with artifacts and trinkets collected from his travels. Stuffed Indian tiger heads, whole crocodiles and umbrella stands made from elephants’ feet; portraits of Fogg’s ancestors; wall-mounted busts of the man’s favourite pets; annotated maps and pictures from his travels; birdcages, bicycles and one large penny-farthing swinging from the ceiling, alongside the very hot air balloon in which he travelled the world for 80 days.
Expect to see staff clad in military uniforms – coloured according to their seniority within the household – serving up absinthe aperitifs, sazeracs and stirrup cups. Expect to enjoy live sing-alongs around the piano; expect monthly visits from Mr.Fogg himself, who will regale you with tales from his most recent travels…
…and expect your date to be excited. And happy.
And happy we were, as you can see by the photo below – drinks in a Victorian parlor, served up by attractive men in period uniforms . . . . . . bliss.
Period details abounded and were arranged around the walls – and floors, and ceiling – as far as the eye could see. In fact, period details were also found in the ladies loo.
From here we took a cab to Soho for dinner – stay tuned for that adventure, coming soon!