Thursday, 29 July 2010

My Night with Maud: Competition!

Following my ongoing, indulgent celebration of all things French, from fashion to cinema to food, I thought you might like to join in? With the cinema part. The BFI (British Film Institute) is kindly offering City Girl's readers 5 pairs of tickets to be won, for the wonderfully French film My Night With Maud. Entry details are below. One of my regular Southbank hangouts that I'm extremely fond of, I'm sure you will enjoy your BFI visit. Following the screening, mingle with fellow film enthusiasts at The benugo bar and kitchen, a few steps from the viewing theatre.

Jean-Louis Trintignant and Françoise Fabian, My Night With Maud

Jean-Louis Trintignant & Françoise Fabian

Eric Rohmer’s enduring masterpiece, My Night with Maud, combines the metaphysical and the physical to witty, erotic and psychologically astute effect. Arguably the late director's best film, it’s a funny, sexy and suspenseful drama about the necessity and the difficulty of making a choice. Rohmer’s brilliant script is the basis for a profoundly insightful study of desire, doubt and self-delusion, beautifully served both by superb performances and by Nestor Almendros’s eloquent black and white camerawork. 

To enter this competition (trust me, you won't regret it), simply email your contact details to: by August 10th, 2010. The BFI will contact winners directly. I would love to hear from the winners (or fans of the film); please share your thoughts!

My Night with Maud opened on 23 July at BFI Southbank and in cinemas nationwide. For venues, please check
Image: My Night with Maud, courtesy of the BFI

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Apologies to all for a slight malfunction with the layout of my last post (La Brasserie du Lutetia). Please view the post more clearly on my blog if you had difficulty by email. Thank you!
City Girl x

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Brasserie du Lutetia - Restaurant Paris 06 -

La Brasserie du Lutetia, Paris

My restaurant recommendation, as promised. If this doesn't make you fall in love with La belle Paris, I don't know what will... 

Brasserie Lutetia

  • Les Pommes de terre. 
  • Du beurre.
  • De la crème.
  • Du sel et du poivre. 
There you have it; essentially, the recipe for mashed potato. You can thank me later. Of course, the French don’t call it mashed potato, they call it Pommes Purée.  An altogether more glamorous description, hinting at the combination of carefully-sourced potatoes, the luxury of double-cream and a top-secret sieving/beating/whipping technique; one you imagine every French chef believes is their own. Perhaps that is why the waiter at Brasserie Lutetia, Paris, was so open to sharing this disarmingly simple recipe (you will understand my enthusiasm when you taste it).  I have always had a weakness for mashed potato and, like many busy/lazy twenty-somethings who don't deter from the reliable baked potato, I always believed my Mum’s mash to be the best. As I savoured the Lutetia pommes purée, memories of family dinners rushed back: sausages and mash, fish pie...tough homework or fall-out with a friend would fade into a fluffy white oblivion while such meals were enjoyed. However, France has a decidedly different spin on this staple British comfort-food and, for this dish, Brasserie Lutetia cannot be rivalled. When presented with a mini-saucepan of potato that is silky, velvety and rebelliously oily around the edges, you know you have arrived somewhere special. Partner this with thyme-infused chicken or filet of beef and it’s almost too good, it’s naughty. Take your lover, start with the numero 5 oysters, and you’ll have a seduction scene to rival A Bout De Souffle.            
Brasserie Lutetia tables, Paris

Like most memorable restaurants, food is not everything. Brasserie Lutetia is an experience; a Left-Bank destination. Designed by Sonia and Slavik Rykiel, you’ll sit amongst the most striking art-deco interiors this side of Miami (fitting for Lutetia’s notably artistic clientèle). Light reflecting from mirrored surroundings makes people-watching all-the-more tempting and invites you to indulge in a luxurious atmosphere that you just don’t find in nearby bistros. Now, I loved practising French with my Grandfather, hoping to watch-the-world-go-by from a chair on a Parisian sidewalk (coffee and notebook in hand). But, for a different spin on Paris and one you can’t help but feel is more authentic, Brasserie Lutetia’s food, service and ambience will not disappoint. Almost an aside, the Brasserie belongs to Hotel Lutetia, imposing but elegant on the intersection between two St. Germain streets, an area not yet besieged by tourists. As the hotel celebrates its’ Centennary this year, Brasserie Lutetia will deserve all the attention it receives.

Watch the video above for a gastronomic preview...

Monday, 26 July 2010

Take me to Paris...

A weekend en Paris and J'adore Seberg's style. If you love fashion, you'll know that France boasts some of the world's most influential, talented and pioneering designers. French fashion really deserves a blog/book of it's own, dating back to the 17th century (while modern "haute couture" originated in 1860's Paris). Some of the oldest and most enduring fashion houses remain, to me, some of the most exciting: Lanvin, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Hermès, Balmain (see all 2010/11 collections here). 
Balmain, A/W 2010-11
Balmain RTW, A/W 2010-11
Bold Balmain: sculptured, sexy and sparkling silhouettes, à la Christophe Decarnin.

Walking like a man (or woman?) at Hermès, where leather and tight tailoring evoked the Avengers and Amelia Earheart.

Lily Cole, Hermes A/W 2010-11
Hermès RTW, A/W 2010-11
Other favourite French luxe labels include Chloe, Celine, and newer additions such as Isabel Marant, Maje, Vanessa Bruno and APC. Oh, and once you've spied those enticing Louboutin red-soles, you can never go back.
Red soled Louboutins
The famous Christian Louboutin red soles
A few Parisian fashion districts to jot down in your travel notebook: Le Marais and Saint-Ouen flea market (accessories, vintage, arts/crafts), Boulevard Haussmann (visit Galleries Lafayette for familiar names over 3 floors), Louvre-Tuileries and Faubourg Saint-Honoré or Avenue des Champs-Elysées (la crème de la crème of French designers, including the legendary names above), Saint-Germain-des-Prés or Rue de Rivoli (chic, contemporary boutiques and my 'secret' spot to watch the Parisians-go-by). I only wish that I’d found the fantastic HiP Paris insider's shopping guide beforehand.

Vanessa Bruno, S/S 2010
Vanessa Bruno RTW S/S 2010

Isabel Marant, A/W 2010-11
Isabel Marant RTW, A/W 2010-11

1) Vanessa Bruno, RTW S/S 2010 & 
2) Isabel Marant RTW A/W 2010/11... both perfect for that function at Hôtel de Crillon (a favourite Fashion Week party-spot).
Unsurprisingly, my weekend would have been quite blissfully spent wandering around Parisian boutiques, a startlingly-strong expresso and subway map in-hand. However, I was soon to discover that the French don't just do fashion so enviably and exquisitely. They 'do' food; with the same panache and inimitable style (at least for those of us who haven’t been trained in the art of French cuisine). 

Tarte Tatin, France's signature patisserie

Now, we all know (and worship) certain French foods that never taste as good on this side of the ocean: croissants, tartes-aux-pommes, baguettes, (or any patisserie item), steak-frites, croque-monsieurs...perhaps even greater French ‘celebrities’ than home-grown fashion designers, artists, thinkers or politicians. Yet, what many tourists seek and fail to find, is a bistro or restaurant which they find truly special; a place to which weary shopping companions/husbands/boyfriends can steal you away and where you can wear your fabulously French finds amongst locals. If you are like me, you will spend your holidays trying to escape fellow tourists and convince yourself that sitting in cafés rather than squeezing in the sights is far more 'authentic'. Certainly, eating the food and mingling with residents is a fascinating window into a place and its culture. The real Paris. Interested? Where ticks all the boxes? Check out my next post for my dinner recommendation (and a new culinary delight to add to our 'French foodie' list above). In the meanwhile, here are a couple of my 'daytime discoveries' to fuel your fashionable tour of Paris...
Poilâne bread
Poilâne bakery, 6th & 15th arondissement. Impressive array of homemade breads, pastries, biscuits, sweets, jams and gingerbread. Delightful French 'farmhouse' ambience.

Bordeaux Primeurs 2009, Vente de vin de bordeaux, vin de bourgogne, champagne, vins étrangers : LAVINIA Lavinia is the largest wine store in Paris, 1er arondissement. Treat yourself to a coup de champagne with ham and cheese or foie gras in the restaurant, or choose a bottle from the store to drink at usual retail price.

Café de Flore

Café de Flore, 6th arondissement (perhaps I am divulging too many places in my favourite, 'secret' spot). Long-time celebrated for its intellectual and famous clientèle, which included Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Relish the history with no ordinary club sandwich: Le Club Rykiel, in honour of Parisian fashion designer, Sonia Rykiel.

ba&sh clothing, France
Beautiful pieces by ba&sh

If you share my love for French fashion (and food), this summer could be a pound-stretching time to visit (the Euro is 10% cheaper than at Christmas). Pas possible? Voilà... some unmistakably French ready-to-wear labels which you can view and buy online: Sessùn (enjoy the site's dreamy music and beautiful blog), Barbara Buiba & sh (the outfits above), Claudie Pierlot and Cotélac.

Images: 1), 2), 4), 5) Vogue, 3) Net-a-Porter, 6) A Walking Dream, 7) Poilane, 8) Café de Flore, 9) ba&sh.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Close up: Tim Walker's Dress Lamp Tree

Welcome to Tim Walker's world...

'Vogue Pantomime'

...fantastical, theatrical and intriguing, it is not a world familiar to you or I (at least, not in our conscious lives). In an increasingly commercial, PR-led industry, Walker subverts expectations, allowing his imagination to outshine the ‘fashion’ in his fashion shoots. That’s not to say Walker’s images aren’t consequently more striking, or extraordinary showcases for clothes. Indeed, covetable endorsement is evident through repeat commissions from Vogue, Vanity Fair et al. Even so, Walker reminds us that fashion doesn’t exist in isolation. His images evoke a sense of history and place, reference culture, tell stories and provoke debate. Perhaps this skill has led Walker into filmmaking: his debut feature The Lost Explorer, is currently in production. 

One image demonstrating Walker's rebellious, evocative artistry is Dress Lamp Tree, below. Commissioned by Vogue L’uomo in 2002 and inspired by a shop which lit dresses from above, this photograph is unmistakably Walker.

Tim Walker - The Dress Lamp Tree, England 2002
Tim Walker's Dress Lamp Tree
A beautifully bold, aged Oak tree stands slightly off-centre (symmetry is too conventional for Walker), bearing illuminated dresses from its branches which reach out to welcome you, the viewer. The curvature of the twisted trunk and invitingly lit pathway guide eyes around the image. Succumb to this shapely composition and you can almost sense movement as the dresses rotate on an imaginary carousel.  Appealing to the surrealist within us and invoking Vogue inspiration Cecil Beaton, Walker creates a fairytale-like mirage from which you won’t want to wake. The dreamy dark-blue sky and self-contained glow of each dress lamp (like a child’s bedside lamp that stays on throughout the night) suggest a magical world which could be ‘switched off’ at any time. Any nightmarish quality is surpassed by Walker’s thematic coupling of childish fantasy with adult-friendly drama. The idea that somewhere dresses/clothes are growing on trees (because money certainly isn’t) is universally appealing for children, women or Vogue L’uomo’s male readers.

Cecil Beaton, Miss Nancy Beaton as a Shooting Star, 1928

(One of Cecil Beaton's fairytale-like images)
Central to Walker’s oeuvre is nostalgia for a past, rural life. Now a Londoner, his childhood was spent playing in and photographing Devon countryside. Alien to fast-paced city backdrops, the tranquil scene in Dress Lamp Tree could signify a ‘lost’ Britain, as could the corsets (also holding the lamps in place). What transforms Walker’s personal vision into ‘high-fashion’, is his use of clothing in a theatrical, visually exciting way, something designers/stylists lust after. And, to Vogue’s delight, Walker has created an enduring, even timeless image. We can all recall childhood stories of secret gardens and ‘Lewis Carroll’ wonderlands (his film is about a girl who finds an explorer at the bottom of her garden). The image won't date, because it doesn't feature any models; there are also varying dress styles by seemingly unnamed designers. Consequently, the viewer celebrates fashion for fashion's sake, but only after travelling through Walker's deliciously imaginative world. Interestingly, Walker’s juxtaposition of ‘nature’ vs. ‘man-made’ is as relevant now (Peter Pilotto, Zac Posen, Chanel 2010/2011), as in 2002 when the ‘fur debate’ would soon reignite. 

Some wonderfully whimsical Walker to leave you with:

Tim Walker mattress image259596441_be5610cc07Lily Cole meets Alice in Wonderland, Tim Walker

Images: 1) Telegraph, 2), 4), 5), 6) la dolce vita, 3) Miss Nancy Beaton as a Shooting Star, 1928, Victoria and Albert Museum

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Hidden Treasures in Soho

Thank you to Push PR for inviting me to their 'Christmas in July' press day, held today at The Soho HotelI could spend hours walking around Soho: a condensed, if extreme snapshot of London’s diverse, cosmopolitan, energetic and fashionable residents. You can typically spot the tourists: simultaneously bewildered and fascinated by surrounding  sights/streets/outfits. Or, perhaps the feeling that you might never fully acclimatise to Soho applies to most people, bar the seasoned ‘Soholite’. As much as I’d like to pretend that’s me, it’s not (yet). 
The Soho Hotel, London
The Soho Hotel
The Soho Hotel became increasingly elusive as I negotiated my way through Oxford Street roadworks, failed to glance up at the street sign of my chosen pathway and lost patience as my usually reliable ‘Google Map app' died. With no mobile and no direction, I wasn’t only reminded of how much I rely on technology and how I should be more organised before leaving the house. Becoming entangled in the colourful crowds, I realised that when you enter the Soho maze, your life (or day) really is in the hands of this crazy little world. It’s a bit like Vegas casino’s: with no clocks on the walls, you lose orientation and have no idea how many hours have passed.

For those new to Soho, it’s not all noise, bright lights (or red lights) and some distinctively dubious looking shops/bars. A centre for the media/entertainment industries(hopefully I’ll find my way around soon...), there are also Jazz clubs, theatres, famous nightclubs with live music, two Michelin-star restaurants and trendy hotels with equally ‘trendy’ rates. Luckily, it wasn’t too long until I found the one I’d been looking for, tucked away in the surprisingly quiet, cobbled Richmond mews. 

The Soho Hotel London, Afternoon tea
The Soho Hotel, Afternoon Tea

The Soho Hotel (of the Firmdale Group) is contemporary, smart and spacious, offering bedrooms to apartments, screening/private event rooms to spa treatments, and a restaurant/bar to Ruinart afternoon tea (£28) on vintage sofas. Now I love the characteristic edginess which I have always associated with Soho, but in my opinion, this is a welcome addition to its ‘smarter’ offerings, which include Dean Street Townhouse and Soho House.

The Dean Street Townhouse, Soho
The Dean Street Townhouse

Finally entering the press room, I was thrilled that Christmas had again, for me, made a summertime appearance. A lovely, varied selection of (mostly) girly festive goodies, I made a mental note of items which could earn a spot on my Christmas list. I would like to share one particular discovery with you, which I absolutely adored (and please believe me when I say that I will not feature anything I don’t personally like). ‘Lovely Lip Balm’ by Andrea Garland, an aromatherapist-come-natural-cosmetics-queen from Hackney. 

Lovely Lip Balm - Flower Fairy Tin - Hawthorn
Lovely Lip Balm - Beaded CompactLip Balms
In a beauty world saturated with lip sticks, balms and glosses, it’s surely not an easy market to master. But, bored of the brands in Boots, I was ready for a different product. If you try these ‘Lovely Lip Balms’, I’m certain you’ll agree just how moreishly magnificent the ethically-sourced ingredients are: Shea Butter, sun-protecting Red Raspberry Seed Oil,  moisturising Sweet Almond Oil, anti-oxidant Vitamin E Oil and Organic Beeswax. But what really made me smile (and what sets these apart from other natural/ethical lippy competitors), were the exquisite vintage tins, compacts and pill boxes that store the balms (as well as several of Andrea’s other products).  Beautiful, nostalgic one-offs worth treasuring, they would make the ideal gift or spoil-yourself-because-you-deserve-it treat. Travel tins and cologne pots are brilliant for the boys and body/face products prices start at £5 (£16 for the lip balms). 

I’d love to hear what you think... now I’m off to plan my next trip to Soho.

Images: 1) Push PR, 2), 4), 5) The Soho Hotel, 3) Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, 6) - 8) Andrea Garland
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