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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Best London Restaurants That Won't Break The Bank

Tom Parker Bowles – yup, the son of that Parker Bowles – has earned a reputation as one of Britain's leading food authorities.

He writes a food column for The Mail on Sunday, is the food editor of Esquire's UK edition, and has written several cookbooks.

Bowles also serves as food curator at Heckfield Place, a manor house that is undergoing refurbishment and will open as a conference center in 2013.

The Luxurist wonders, "Exactly what kind of job is that?"

But I digress.

His credentials as a culinary maven notwithstanding, it is clear that young Bowles is not what could be called a "man of the people."

Corned (or salt) beef is one of the best dishes in Britain! (Photo: Ewan Monro)

That is why The Luxurist was stunned to read a recent Departures magazine article in which the stepson of the future King of England offers advice on where to find good corned beef in London.

Not just corned beef, mind you, but also lox, American barbecue, jerk chicken, Punjabi meat curries, and deviled kidneys.

And all this time The Luxurist was led to believe that the action on the British food scene revolved around refined, updated interpretations or inspired, unorthodox reworkings of traditional dishes, using locally produced, artisinal, or foraged ingredients – and only those in season, of course.

In the article Bowles declares that "for me, London’s joy is tramping the back alleys and byways in search of real food and serious eating."

Kerbisher & Malt calls itself a "modern British fish and chip shop." (Photo: Rebecca Reid)

By this he means joints "where you’re lucky to get a paper napkin, let alone a linen one, places where menus are chalked on boards rather than embossed on stiff cards."

He concludes with, "I want flavors, bold and pungent, with no concession made to timid tongues and wary palates." 

The Luxurist can relate. He may not be an average Joe, but he sure can appreciate a moderately priced tasty curry as much as the next guy.

The Luxurist also enjoys dining at upscale reasonably priced restaurants. So does Bowles. He  includes several in his article on London eateries that go easy on the wallet.

To see where you should take dinner when you cannot get into Heston Blumenthal's place, review all of Bowles's recommendation right here.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Artful Traveler: Matisse's Inspired Chapel

Though produced by a very old man who was mortally ill,
they seem to come from the springtime of the world.

        – John Russell, on Matisse's paper cut outs 

In 1947, around the time he published Jazz, his famous book of paper cutouts,  Henri Matisse began work on what was to become his other great late-in-life masterpiece, the Chapelle du Sainte Marie du Rosaire in Vence, in the south of France.

Matisse lived in Vence from 1943-1949 and designed the chapel, along with all of its decor, liturgical objects, and priestly vestments, at the request of Sister Jacques-Marie, who had been his nurse when he was ill in 1943 and later became a Dominican nun.

The chapel opened in 1951 to not uniformly approving reviews.

Matisse laid out the space as a simple rectangle. Though he was a master colorist, the artist specified white walls for both the exterior and interior.

Inside, the only color comes from the chapel's signature feature, a series of 15 arched floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows in hues of blue, yellow, and green. They line two walls and fill the simple, sacred space with glorious yet soothing light.

The effect creates a sense of serenity, clarity, and peace of mind. If this doesn't calm you down instantly, then nothing will.

Matisse said that he chose yellow a as symbol of the sun and heavenly light; green of plant life and the earth; and blue of the sky, the sea and the Madonna – perhaps the very same expression of springtime as the one Russell observed.

A vivid blue tile roof provides the sole splash of color outside. Look for it if you are driving to the chapel.

Try to time your visit for late afternoon, when the tourist coaches have departed and the chapel is blissfully devoid of the hordes of gawkers that can turn even the most sacred site into a sideshow of shorts, sandals and snotty striplings.

If you have ever been to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, you will know what The Luxurist means.

But I digress.

Vence's historic center

The Rosaire Chapel is perched on a hillside a few minutes from the center of Vence, a small, unremarkable village inland from the sea and situated about midway between Cannes and Nice.

There's not much else to do in Vence.  If you have the time, you can spend a pleasant hour strolling through the town's medieval center. The main reason to visit is to see the Rosaire Chapel.

If you go, The Luxurist advises you, beloved Artful Traveler, not to confuse Vence with the more famous, nearby St. Paul de Vence, a charming medieval hilltop fortress village with a great deal more to recommend it.

And that is the topic of a forthcoming article.