Had an unexpectedly lovely day on Saturday doing things that were slightly off the beaten track. We’d thought we’d go to the Royal Academy, but the quite ‘in’ restaurant we were planning to meet at was full. Hungry (and frankly getting crotchety with it) we ended up going to Green’s in Piccadilly.
This was an oasis of calm tranquility, virtually empty except for us. Sometimes sitting in lonely splendour at a restaurant can be unnerving but on a miserable wet day I really enjoyed the feeling of being hidden away somewhere warm, dry and full of delicious food. The decor is a bit clubby, with panelled walls and a lot of framed prints, and there are booth-style alcoves to sit in which increased the feeling that we were tucked away from all the unfriendly, full restaurants outside, not to mention the tourists, the rain and the thundering buses along Piccadilly. The place turns out to be owned by Simon Parker-Bowles. This took me back to my days working on the Nigel Dempster and Ross Benson diaries on the Mail and Express, as Simon Parker-Bowles was the sort of person we had to know all about. Simon P-B is the ex-brother-in-law of the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker-Bowles as was. Nowadays, thank goodness, I can subside into the same state of blissful ignorance as everyone else.
After a delicious lunch, we decided against the Royal Academy and ended up in a gallery in Cork Street looking at a collection of early Mondrians. It was the sort of place I’d never be brave enough to venture into normally, as there was no sign on the door and certainly no advertising of the exhibition outside. Luckily we were with a grown-up art dealer who knows this world like the back of his hand, so we swanked past the chilly receptionist (the type of private school swishy-haired gel who’d usually freeze me with a glance) and were soon admiring some lovely tiny canvases, of trees, houses, and a solitary cow. While Mondrian hadn’t yet boiled things down into a clutch of lines, he was clearly even at this point preoccupied with planes rather than living creatures. Quite other-worldly. I was dying to photograph the canvases but even with our art dealer guide in tow I didn’t quite dare. Sorry.
Next (after sadly deciding we weren’t, ahem, ready to make a purchase ) we ended up at Dover Street Market. This is not, let me stress, a fruit and veg type market, or really a market at all. There’s no haggling and certainly no vendors hawking their wares. The goods on sale are beautiful, high end designer labels (Japanese make Comme des Garcons was everywhere) and everything costs an absolute fortune. I brushed past a stand of what I thought were tea towels at one point and noticed they were wonderfully soft. It turned out they were the last word in cashmere throws, definitely not intended to go anywhere near the washing up, and priced at over £400 each. In one of the rooms right at the top, we came across a hushed enclave with very few garments arranged on a couple of racks. The clean, pared down look of the clothes caught my eye. These were very special – Dior. My friend and I were rooting around trying to find the price tag for a particularly beautiful fur wrap when a sales assistant drifted over. He was quite nonchalant considering that we were turning the exquisitely-made wrap inside out and upside down in our quest. “That’s £11,000, he said, coolly. “It’s mink and goat hide.” I felt like fainting on the spot – £11,000 is a car, or a year of school fees, or …well, a whole bunch of stuff. I was very proud of my friend for commenting loftily, “quite a lot for goat.” It was a stunningly beautiful garment, though neither of us would dream of wearing fur. “You might like our cruise collection,” said the assistant kindly, pointing to another rail of impeccable clothes, which were presumably slightly less horrifically expensive. None were what I would have worn for a cruise – swim suits, sarongs? But he explained ‘cruise’ just meant ‘clothes worn between the main summer and winter collections.’ Presumably it all makes sense to people with £11,000 to spend on glorified cardis.
We ended up back at the friend’s house sharing her galette des rois, the French (and Belgian) cake served around the 6th of January to celebrate Epiphany. There is a small bean hidden in the cake and the person who finds it in their slice then wears a gold paper crown and is king or queen for the day. The art dealer got it and spent the evening with his crown at a rakish angle. At one point we all became rather chilly and, as our hostess’s central heating was having a moment, she turned on a burner on the cooker for warmth. I thought of the £11,000 wrap, but friends and a gas ring keep you warmer.