Johnny Roxburgh

 Johnny's Eye 

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  • Keeping a Weather ‘Eye’

    • Styling
    • Travel
    • Weddings

    Now that summer has finally come to London I thought I would share a few of my favourite, blissful places to stay in the sunshine. Some are bobbing in the middle of the ocean and others nestle in romantic parts of Europe.

    My first piece of heaven is Petit St Vincent – a small private island in the Grenadines.

    Ringed by beaches of pale cream sand and surrounded by water the colour of topaz bursting with marine life – this is truly paradise. There is no Wi-Fi, TV or telephone in the charming guest cottages, perfect for a relaxing holiday (of course if you desperately want to talk to the world, the main building has modern connections).

    The crystal-clear ocean supplies the hotel with the most delicious seafood, including fantastic lobster. The season is between November and April, and the hotel’s super talented chefs make great dishes – one of my favourites is a perfect lobster curry, using local white coconut and sharp sun-ripened limes.

    Snorkelling, diving (Jean-Michel Cousteau, Jacques’ son, has a dive centre on the island), walking through the lush tropical island and sailing out to the reef in an authentic sloop to swim with turtles –  these are some of the things that make up a perfect holiday. Of course, you might just want to lie in the sun, go to the Balinese treetop spa or enjoy the candlelit restaurants while watching the golden sun slip slowly into the sea.

    This is an incredible and very special destination, one that you shouldn’t miss.

     

    In 2004 I organized the two dinners given by the head of the Greek Olympic committee in Athens. They were spectacular events in a wonderful custom designed pavilion – all the world’s heads of state came for dinner and we created a spectacular menu and glorious setting – all in all, a huge success.

    It was months of very hard work and when it was finished I needed some R and R and so left for the beautiful island of Santorini where the Greek sunshine worked its magic.

    So this year I was thrilled to be introduced to Kirini Suites & Spa Hotel, with 18 rooms all piled up like a chalk white toy box overlooking the agapanthus blue Aegean Sea.

    The Anthos poolside restaurant serves fantastic local food inspired by Greek and Byzantine culture. Santorini is also famous for its wines and there are wine tastings to help you choose something extra special for dinner.

    The spa has a link to Petit St Vincent in that it uses Ligne St Barth products, which are of course, inspired by the Caribbean. The treatments are superb, drenching your skin in oils and creams to rejuvenate and relax the winter-weary body.

    Santorini itself is so picturesque, I love it – traffic free, glitteringly white, with the air filled with the scent of flowers, the sea and the gentle fragrance of wood smoke ovens and rosemary skewered barbecues.

    A week of Greek sunshine is wonderful – a spoiling treat in a hotel that knows all about pampering, from charming staff to sublimely comfortable rooms.

    No wonder The Ancient Gods chose Greece.

     

    The delightful town of Isle sur la Sorgue has the liveliest antique and Brocante markets in Provence. One of my favourite gilded crucifixes came from there when I was staying for an old friends wedding anniversary. Sadly then I hadn’t come across the hotel Crillon Le Brave.

    Located in the middle of a lovely Provençal village, it has delightful bedrooms with my favourite Frette sheets – one of the great solutions to a good nights sleep. There are three restaurants all serving excellent local food, La Grange, Jérôme Blanchet and Bistrot 40K. The hotel organises truffle weekends in season which include truffle hunting with the local farmer and then enjoying a delicious truffle tasting menu accompanied by some of the areas most impressive wines.

    Locally, the wines of Chateau Neuf-du-Pape are among my favourites – many years ago I was taken round their vineyards and loved the idea that under the vines they placed flat stones which absorbed the sunshine during the day and then gave back the heat at night – clever and simple.

    The hotel rooms have views over Mont Ventoux from where the famous rosé comes – excellent drinking in the Bistrot where the menu is amazingly well priced.

    Just 40 minutes from Avignon, this hotel is the ideal base for a long weekend – lots to do and at the end of the day you can have a massage in the Provence Spa where Carole Bamford’s delicious products result in a perfumed treatment which is the essence of Provence.

    These three little oases can all be hired for exclusive use and would be perfect for a wedding, birthday or special anniversary.
    Curated by my friend Lisa Small I would be delighted to talk to you about these and other ‘EYE’deas.

    Next, Johnny’s Eye is off to Florence. Another bit of ‘Eye’talian fun.

     

  • La Dolc’Eye’ Vita

    • Styling
    • Travel

    I am fortunate to spend lots of time working in Italy. The food, wine, flowers and people are all wonderful.

    Venice is my second home. In the spring, I like nothing more than sitting on the edge of the Grand Canal drinking a cappuccino in the morning sun or enjoying a lunch of prawns in a lightly curried sauce at Harry’s Dolci, while looking back over the water to Santa Maria della Salute. This is usually helped by a cold glass of Italian white wine.

    This weekend the extraordinary Genesis Foundation had arranged a performance of Sir James MacMillan’s Stabat Mater in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican and they asked me to arrange a dinner the night before and a lunch on the day of the recital.

    We held a dinner the first night in a charming restaurant next to the French embassy.

    To dress the long tables I went to the wonderful local street flower stalls and chose lilac, peonies, stock, and sweet william all in shades of pink and purple and then mixed them with acid green guelder rose and vibrant apricot ranunculus.

    I cut them short and arranged one type of each flower in water tumblers. Placed down the centre of long tables, the 100 little vases looked really effective, especially interspersed with twinkling candles.

    It was a super warm evening and like the best Italian families the guests sat and enjoyed a great dinner including a risotto with pears, gorgonzola and Roman mint – all very relaxed and really too good.

    Lunch was held on the Sunday at the spectacular Villa Miani. This huge white palace is perched high above Rome with sensational city views. A delicious salad of artichoke (at their best just now) and pecorino, was followed by new seasons lamb and then tiny wild strawberries macerated in amaretto. A really perfect lunch, especially with the temperature nudging 30 degrees.

    The recital was simply breathtaking and of course, the setting could not have been more incredible. To be able to sit for two hours looking at Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, listening to great music, is not something that many people experience.

    It is so marvellous that there are still people who commission great works of music and art. An extraordinary legacy.

    On Sunday evening I went for dinner at Pierluigi, the superb Italian fish restaurant. Supper was excellent, as was a wonderful Negroni, which had been aged in a small wooden barrel, before being poured over glacier ice and served with dried orange peel.

    We stayed at the lovely Dom Hotel on Via Giulia. This is a perfect location and the street has the famous bridge which runs from the Palazzo Farnese.

    Shopping is of course never far away and the simply heavenly concept store Chez Dédé is near the hotel on the Via di Monserrato. Wonderful bags and my new favourite room spray Zenology – their tobacco and wood is sensuous, male and like being in an old library. This is part of an extraordinary range of great quality.

    Sad to leave the sunshine and so many great memories. Fortunately, Johnny’s Eye will be working in Florence in three weeks time.

    Ah, la dolc’eye’ vita.

  • A Night on the Town

    • Travel

    A couple of weeks ago I was so privileged to be invited to the new Annabel’s in Berkeley Square and it is quite simply amazing! I feel that is the only word to describe the glittering triumph that Richard Caring has created in collaboration with uber-talented designer Martin Brudnizki.

    Shy and retiring it most certainly is not; this is decadence personified – sumptuous fabrics, intricate glass panels, superbly flattering lighting, and you simply must visit the loos. They must be the most Instagram-worthy in London!

    A great central courtyard is filled with soaring palm trees, charming tables, beautiful little napkin rings which I feel sure will be prized trophies, and dozens of highly-polished staff, all encased under a 20-ton sliding roof. On the first floor a glorious circular bar cleverly straddles two rooms (they weren’t allowed to knock the wall through) to create an awe-inspiring, yet surprisingly intimate, space. Spread over four floors I couldn’t quite take all of it in but from what I have seen so far, it will be a huge success.

    After drinks, I went to Corbin and King’s restaurant Fischer’s on Marylebone High Street. The contrast between this and Annabel’s couldn’t have been greater – Fischer’s is a little slice of early twentieth century Austrian heaven. Excellent martinis went perfectly with my citrus & beetroot cured smoked salmon & horseradish cream, followed by a deliciously retro Wiener Schnitzel “Holstein” with roasted cauliflower and a pudding of Franz Joseph Kaiserschmarrn. It all made me want to be back in Vienna, which I suppose is rather the point.

    Talking of great martinis, I simply must mention Phil Howard’s fantastic restaurant Elystan Street in London’s Chelsea. They have very carefully curated a selection of gins all of which have been specifically chosen to create delicious and interesting martinis. We had lunch and dinner there last week. It is a great place to entertain discerning clients and is truly flawless – you must try the tartare of beef with artichoke heart and truffle. Heaven!

    As I am sure you can tell, excellent food is a bit of a passion of mine and in my quest for a birthday present, I “found” myself wandering around the Harvey Nichols’ food hall. Amongst the array of goodies one product caught my eye – “SoSo” salt. Specifically their Salt & Caviar. Great packaging, and too delicious with scrambled farm eggs and soft ciabatta for Saturday lunch. I may have had to order a couple more to try from Piccantino

    Off to Rome next week where we are organising a huge lunch followed by a recital in the Sistine Chapel. How lucky is Johnny’s Eye to see so much?!!

  • A Night at the Palace

    • Styling
    • Travel

    The Kensington Palace Orangery is being given a huge facelift and as a result will be closed for the next two years. In its place is a wonderful tented pavilion which will not only be used as a restaurant and café during the day, but also as an entertaining space in the evening.

    Historic Royal Palaces, supported by a raft of suppliers, very generously hosted a spectacular dinner for 250 guests and I was honoured to be included in the list. I enjoyed a delicious dinner prepared by ‘By Word of Mouth’ of a Norfolk crab & apple starter, followed by perfectly cooked beef with Jerusalem artichokes.

    The flowers and decorations were by Simon Lycett with my favourite poppies arranged in oranges in the reception – this was a clever concept to work with the grove of orange trees he had created, under which we would enjoy a dessert buffet later in the evening.

    One of my favourite rental companies, Great Hire, continued the theme of orange with their fun mandarin leather chairs. Whilst Dom Lyons of Young Guns, arranged for award-winning star Tokio Myers to perform a superb cabaret – loved it.

    I feel sure this new venue overlooking the Palace’s sunken garden will be a great hit – I already have clients who are asking to book it. So pleased that Johnny’s Eye got to see it so early on.

  • Back to the U.S.A. – A Tri-state trip – The third installment

    • Travel

    Our little propeller plane flew high above the canyons and rocks of the desert, en route from Amangiri. After two hours it glided smoothly over the endless city of Los Angeles and finally plopped us down on the private runway at LAX, where it seemed dwarfed by the rows of gleaming Gulfstreams and luxury jets. I have to say I felt rather smug that our little plane, generously lent by a client, was rather charming and had an air of the adventurer about it.

    Another great black limo took us from the airport to Santa Monica, where we were to spend two nights. Have you been to Shutters on the Beach? If you haven’t, sell everything you own for two days living in a Doris Day-paradise.

    This totally enchanting hotel, sitting on the edge of the sand, is entirely filled with the air of the ocean – the light is extraordinary and feels almost as though its rooms are crammed with Ozone.

    Our bedroom, seven floors up, had wonderful views, fluffy white towels, a bed like a cloud, blue and white Chinese vases bursting with spring flowers, bowls of perfectly ripe fruit and a bath surrounded by more international goodies than one could imagine. Best of all a balcony on which we could enjoy a morning coffee watching the sea and beach-fit swimmers. The restaurant produces excellent food and sitting at the bar having a lunch of seafood and thick yellow homemade mayonnaise was bliss.

    We weren’t here for a jolly though, and went to the warehouse and offices of Town and Country Event Rentals, a marvellous provider of hired party equipment – it was so good to meet Rocki Alvaraz there, one of their team, who totally “got” what we were looking for and very efficiently supplied us with a quotation for structures, tables, china etc. the following morning.

    On our second evening we dined in the hotel with old friends and apart from chatting late into the night, discussed plans for projects in London. Strange how you can make things work on the other side of the world over a double sized Dry Martini…

    A last bit of America – we shopped on Abbot Kinney in Santa Monica – the hotel has a car to take you in a three-mile radius so we were very restrained which is always tricky – then a quick trip to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills where I bought Tory Burch’s signature scent, which comes in 75cl sprays – ideal for a long flight. How can America make this glittering road look so glamorous? No litter, sparkling stores, every plant perfect and cool music playing discreetly in the background. A true shopping haven.

    We lunched at Il Pastaio on Brighton Way and had to try Justin Bieber’s “Pasta with Pink Sauce.” You can make this at home with tomato and mascarpone – I suspect, however, that it tastes better surrounded by gorgeous people and sexy staff.

    Talking of heaven, we all decided that Shutters would be a fantastic place to gasp ones last, cocooned in the American dream of luxury. However not yet – Johnny’s Eye has too much to see.

  • Back to the U.S.A. – A Tri-state trip – The second installment

    • Travel

    Leaving Las Vegas behind the JRD team drove out into the Nevada desert. Driving a car that, at home, would have passed as a small truck was ‘interesting’ but once on the open road, its comfort was wonderful. The desert and road stretches for miles and the extraordinary sight of people ‘skiing’ on great dunes of coral pink sand is amazing and the journey to our next destination passed quickly.

    And so we arrived at Amangiri, a totally incredible luxury hotel rather improbably sitting in the middle of the desert in Utah. This is one of the truly great places to stay and re-energise your batteries. The 32 rooms and suites are heaven, with large comfortable beds, beautiful bathrooms and heart-stopping views. The public spaces and bars are cool and understated, with charming well-trained staff and talented chefs delivering absolutely delicious food. We especially loved the breakfasts, always a treat in the USA, which really excelled here.

    You can hike, swim in the sapphire blue pool, climb the staggering rock faces, or just retreat to the luxury of the spa or yoga room. Two days here was really not enough – a combination of work and play meant our visit passed in what felt like minutes. You have to go there to experience the stars at night, the desert air and the calming effect of being in an atmosphere of such luxury.

    All too soon we were boarding a little propeller jet painted claret red and lined with cream leather and maple wood which made us feel as though we were in Raiders of the Lost Ark – on to LAX.

  • Back to the U.S.A. – A Tri-state trip

    • Parties
    • Travel

    I am always thrilled to be going to America – New York, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and anywhere in between.

    Two weeks ago I set off for Las Vegas as part of a trip to plan an event later in the year. My flight from Terminal 5 was at a civilised time of the day so I made my way to the luxury of Fortnum and Mason for a late breakfast. This is a perfect bar in the middle of the terminal, where I often have a light lunch or supper before a flight. The staff are charming and remember who you are, the coffee is delicious and the food simple but good.

    I had just come back from working in Nice, Paris and Rome and was looking forward to a long 12 hours rest courtesy of BA and was fortunate to have a comfortable window seat. I was also testing Jet Candy, a new homeopathic anti-jetlag. It comes in the form of pinhead-sized pills and you take a series of them before you take off, on the flight and when you land. It seemed to have worked well and I certainly wasn’t as wiped as usual!

    Las Vegas is always fun for a couple of days. We were looking for private dining rooms here for when the guests arrive from Europe but managed to squeeze in a great drag show called Divas whilst we were there – very fun! After a few eye-watering buckets of gin and tonic (mostly gin!) we went to Fremont Street to see the zip-line (you fly from one end a huge shopping mall to the other 20’ off the ground while above your head an incredible video and sound projection plays).

    We found the perfect venues, shopped in Venice – the bizarre copy of the Grand Canal two floors up in The Venetian Hotel – and had an excellent dinner at Le Cirque while watching the dancing waters of Bellagio. A quick bit of gaming and then back to the Mandarin Oriental.

    In the hotel, a young couple were celebrating their wedding and having their photographs taken in the lobby. Unfortunately, they hadn’t realised that in every picture there was a huge vending machine in the background – I told them and I think they were pleased that for the rest of time they wouldn’t have the MO drinks dispenser in their photos.

    Vegas: “tick” – we covered everything one needs to do, apart from the Cirque du Soleil shows. Perhaps next time…

  • Spring engagements

    • Styling
    • Travel
    • Weddings

    There is something so special about a spring engagement. The flowers are wonderful, with great boughs of shell pink blossom, pale magnolia, waxy white camellias, tiny muscari, paperwhites, eucharist lilies, the first ranunculus – all creating a scented backdrop against which a bride and groom can celebrate their future.

    This morning in London was sunny but still with the chill of March in the air. So armed with a steaming cup of coffee, I set off to the new Covent Garden Market to look at the flowers, which are available for my client’s engagement dinner in three weeks time. The party is small, two long tables each seating 22. Really just their close friends and immediate family, with a wonderful late spring wedding taking place in Florence at the beginning of May.

    The room in which they are holding the dinner overlooks their London garden – the walls are painted chalk white, with tall orangery windows.

    To create a contrast with the formal paved terrace outside, I am covering the long tables with runners of Pierre Frey’s Carriacou wallpaper. This is a riot of geometric colours on a dazzling white background. I am putting ranunculus in shades of tangerine, bright pink and deep purple into emerald green glass containers and these will be arranged down the table and interspersed with violet candles.

    My newest find is Charlotte Graham’s ‘Covetable’ range which includes lovely amethyst coloured water glasses – they are a sensible price and will look wonderful on the table. Dishwasher safe, they would make a fantastic wedding present.

    White French linen napkins, folded simply with the couple’s initials embroidered on them, will make the table contemporary. We have our linen embroidered by women in Africa. The charity which organises this is called Kisany – based in Brussels, they do wonders supporting at-risk women living in Rwanda, Kenya and Congo – the needlework is flawless.

    It’s good to start married life with a stock of beautiful linen. I always suggest going to Reeds for the bedlinen that couples put on their wedding list.

    Dinner is going to be delicious, with a first course of pan-roasted scallops and lobster tails served with sauces based on crushed wasabi and red pepper. Followed by seared highland beef, Parmentier potatoes, tender stems of broccoli and tiny heritage carrots. With this, we are serving Maille’s delicious Morel Mushroom and Chablis White Wine Mustard.

    A glow in the dark jelly inspired by Bompas and Parr, which we are serving with frozen clementines – fresh, fun and young.

    Planning the wedding in May has been and continues to be so enjoyable – I have lots to tell you about it in Johnny’s Eye.

  • Travel tips

    • Fashion
    • Parties
    • Travel

    I spend my life travelling around the world organising amazing parties and weddings.
    No matter how I travel, it’s always an effort, and in my life I get off a plane, start working immediately and have to look as polished as I can. So here are some travel tips that make my globe-trotting lifestyle easier. I hope you find them useful.

    I have to say I am slightly addicted to great hotel laundry. There is little as wonderful as a snow white shirt that has been starched and pressed in a far eastern five-star hotel or dried in the sun in an amazing Italian, Spanish, Portuguese…. laundry – all smelling of lavender and olive soap.

    This luxury, of course, comes at a price, and while I still send alarming quantities to the Gritti Palace laundry in Venice (my favourite hotel) I have, over the years, learnt a little about packing, which at least means I can still go out for dinner night one, looking reasonably crisp.

    The first trick seems simplicity itself – buy a good suitcase. Unless you are flying PJ all luggage gets bashed and so I buy cases that look even better once they have been knocked about.

    I love Globe-trotter luggage– their Orient express inspired 33” case is finished in dark brown Japanese urushi lacquer, with burgundy leather trim and champagne silk lining. The range is smart and timeless. Add your initials in a wonderful colour and then the final touch – a Globe-trotter luggage label – I have just been given a red one with an image of my spaniel on it – perfect for this ‘Chinese Year of the Dog’. The older these cases are, the grander they look – they have style written in every scratch and dent and of course, these marks are a visible record of your travels.

    Packing in tissue paper may sound old fashioned but if your clothes are properly folded or rolled and then enveloped in tissue, that has to be the way forward.

    A less complicated solution is Muji’s different sized zip up bags – light as air and perfect for packing shirts, pullovers, underpants and socks, they keep everything flat, tightly together and make unpacking in hotel rooms a dream. I am sure they are also great for women’s clothes but I have a little less experience packing them! I stuff jacket sleeves with tissue, put clean shoes in shoe bags (I don’t want polish on my clothes) and always take a dirty laundry bag with me.

    I fold shirts and pullovers over a copy of Tatler – just the right size to avoid obvious creases when you unpack. On that note, I always travel with Roullier White’s Mrs White’s ‘Crease Decrease’. At £15, this spray is a bargain and like so many of their products it really works. I have been using their amazing ‘Unstung hero’ insect repellant for years – fantastic and unlike so many mosquito sprays it smells delicious, rather like a gin and tonic, which always works for me.

    When I am going to two destinations I often take two cases with me and pack the things that I need for each part of my trip in a separate case so that I am not lugging one huge case around. Also, it gives me an excuse to buy more luggage. Real luxury is not carrying your cases at all. Use ‘First luggage’ to ship everything for you in advance. This luxury travel service delivers door to door and better still returns it – they carry your bags so you don’t have to.

    For mere mortals, there is one absolutely invaluable tip, which takes seconds. When you fly, photograph your case with the airline tag on it before it disappears on the conveyor belt at check-in. If the airline loses your luggage and asks you what it looks like, you can show them. Couldn’t be easier, I hope you never have to use it.

    Travelling is fun, and I love it. Fortunately, I am still asked to wonderful places. Follow ‘Johnny’s Eye’ for more insights into my world.

  • Dreaming and travelling

    • Parties
    • Styling
    • Travel

    A life spent dreaming and travelling has given me access to some of the most extraordinary places, houses and people.

    I think it’s time for me to share a few of my ideas and inspirations.

    It’s only the middle of February and already I have eaten tempura in Tokyo, watched snow monkeys playing in the frost covered trees of northern Japan, flown to Nice and Monaco twice – (going for a third time next week) – been to the Vatican where I am planning a very special lunch and dinner and am packing my Globe-Trotter cases to fly to Vegas, Utah and L.A. in ten days time, to organise a stunning weekend party in the desert.

    Seems enough air miles for six weeks!

    Will find so many great new suppliers and will share these and my visions of the future and also the some of my extraordinary heritage – I hope you enjoy reading Johnny’s Eye.