Johnny Roxburgh

 Johnny's Eye 

  • Johnny in the sk‘eye’

    • Parties
    • Travel
    • Weddings

    Given that I spend so much time at Terminal 5, it seems totally appropriate that I should be writing the latest Johnny’s Eye at 36,000 feet on my way to organise a wedding in glorious Madrid.
    It is almost inconceivable that this Easter weekend wedding has come around so quickly! How can 2019 be disappearing so fast?

    There are times when I feel I take too many flights; I don’t ever remember travelling so much. Over the last few weeks I have been planning an extraordinary wedding in New York, a party in the South of France, a glittering wedding celebration in Madrid, a party in Ireland, a dance at Spencer House in London, a Highland birthday and countless other events; I have spoken at conferences in Italy, started planning a TV programme in India, been to a wedding conference in Dubai, designed two dinners in Florence, and it’s not even May yet – seems enough for anyone.

    The party in NYC is being held in an uber-sexy nightclub/cabaret theatre in a run-down street in Brooklyn. The waiters (who are also the artistes) are 98%, or is it 99%…, nude. Edgy, cool and the kind of place that only a very self-confident couple could choose. I have been having great fun designing the menus, cocktails and whole look of the evening. My clients are divine; exciting to work with and full of energy – it’s rather what life should be about.

    Whilst I was in New York, I stayed at the NoMad Hotel; a very cool hotel designed by the fantastic Jacques Garcia. His flair is faultless and this hotel is truly wonderful – their truffle stuffed chicken is right up there in my list of last suppers, together with their hen’s eggshells filled with sturgeon, sitting on chive oil topped with a warm sabayon and served in a copper ‘Faberge’ egg. Blissful urban bedrooms and charming martini-stirring barmen – a superb place to stay. Personally, I never understand why anyone would want their martini to be shaken – the shattering ice just dilutes the spirit – Bond has it completely wrong as far as I’m concerned.

    I have just come back from a few days in Dubai, where I was invited to the excellent wedding planning conference, held at the incredible Atlantis Hotel. This fantasy setting, with its amazing tanks of huge tropical fish and water parks where you can swim with dolphins, was the perfect setting. Efficiently run and hugely enjoyable; I met lots of friends, both old and new, and as always learnt new ideas and creative skills. A huge thank you to the Destination Wedding Planners Congress for inviting me.

    After the Atlantis, we moved to the Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa. We hadn’t planned to go there but our trip to India had to be changed, so we spent two blissful days in this effortlessly cool ‘Europe in Dubai’ hotel. Wonderful food and heavenly rooms with great views of metropolitan Dubai. Polished, smooth, super European, but with a Dubai influence – we loved it. A shame we didn’t get to India in the end, but I am rather glad we had the chance to enjoy such a spoiling treat.

    My great, great, great, great ……… grandfather was, I believe, the father of Indian botany. Like me, he came from Scotland and eventually found himself living in Kolkata as a doctor in the 1790s. Fascinated by Indian flora he built a vast house in the middle of the Botanical Gardens and began an intensive study of Indian plants. You can look up the house online ‘William Roxburgh House’. It’s now a ruin and there are plans to restore it and make it the centrepiece of botanical education, to be named The Roxburgh Hub. The Scottish Asia trust is involved as well as several other institutions. I may or may not be a direct descendant, but all the eldest sons in my family are called William and have been for generations. I think it’s fascinating and am thrilled to be involved. I am in the process of discussing the possibility of making a documentary about this lovely old building, which should be great fun to do and a wonderful chance to learn about my ancestor.

    I had planned to go there after Dubai – flights and hotels all arranged – but as Robbie Burns said ‘The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley’… We suddenly had to get back to London and so my trip to this part of one of my favourite continents will have to wait until later in the year.

    Good things always come out of chaos and for us, the upside was that we were treated to a First Class Emirates flight from Dubai to London. Emirates is a truly class act, with great staff and a polished product – I feel my life has been very deprived as I have never flown in a plane with two 10-foot long bathrooms complete with working showers; I think it may be something I could become accustomed to very easily!

    I would, however, be being churlish if I didn’t also thank British Airways for giving me a whole page in their April High Life magazine! They had asked me for the 15 things I pack when travelling – I hope it is inspiring but also makes you smile.

    Spencer House is the setting for a beautiful dance I am designing for September. The gardens lend themselves perfectly to a marquee and the house is beyond ravishing – truly the jewel in the London-venue crown. I can’t give away the design just now but I will tell you all later in the year.

    The seat belt sign has just come on and so I guess we are coming in to land – a good reason to let Johnny’s Eye close – but it will be wide open again very soon.

    I hope you all had a very Happy Easter.

  • Living at Terminal F’Eye’ve

    • Travel

    The last two months have seen me living at Heathrow Terminal 5. In early September I went to Paris to the wonderful Maison et Objet trade show. I really shouldn’t be allowed to go alone as despite my best intentions I always come back with dozens of new goodies for my company. This year I was specifically looking for Christmas decorations for a client who wanted her tree to look as though it was a collection of old-fashioned objects that had been in the family for years.

    After two days of digging and searching I found just the right ornaments and two weeks ago five pallets of glittering glass arrived. They are so beautiful and now she will be able to use them year after year.

    At the end of September, I was asked to organise 7 parties in three days at the uber cool Amangiri Hotel in Utah. I flew to Los Angeles with British Airways, who kindly upgraded me to First – makes a difference on a long flight. Straight to Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica for two nights to get over any jet lag (in case you hadn’t realised I love this hotel) and then onto Amangiri.

    Built in the middle of the desert, this fantastically comfortable hotel offers everything you could possibly want. Breath-taking views, good food, great spa, the opportunity to hike, ride, swim, climb rocks and much more – it was to this setting that my clients took their guests having closed the hotel for five days.

    We organised some amazing parties including a dinner where we ‘floated’ the dining tables on platforms built out into the swimming pool. Covered in pale grey and white linen with mother of pearl plates and aqua blue glasses the tables were bathed in candlelight.

    A day spent climbing the via ferrata was followed by a cookout in a log cabin which we transformed into a ‘Ralph Lauren’ room set. Sitting under the stars and eating traditional grits was the perfect way to end all that exercise.

    Sometimes I pinch myself and say ‘why on earth did I suggest that’. That was rather how I felt when I mentioned to my clients that it would be fun to fill the desert with thousands of candles in paper bags as a backdrop to the last night’s dinner. A wonderful idea they said. I must have been mad.

    First of all, I had the local fire brigade come and flameproof the desert – didn’t want the undergrowth to catch fire and then it took two days to prepare the candles in glasses and then put them into sand-filled paper bags. Thirty people put the bags out and lit them. It looked amazing and guests sat on an open terrace overlooking this view. Above them was a canopy of Hermès orange linen and two tables were covered in faux pale silver-grey crocodile skin, with rivers of sunflowers in little vases interspersed with terrariums filled with succulents. Lots of effort for a great result.

    The next morning my clients put me on a little jet to fly me to Las Vegas, an overnight flight to Gatwick and then on to Heathrow before flying to Edinburgh where a charming Scottish driver drove me to St Andrew’s.

    In St Andrew’s, I was styling the Old Course Hotel Bar and Dining Room for the Dunhill Golf – and then creating the interior of the Dunhill Tent clubhouse and Gala dinner – five days of wonderful entertaining which I love to do every year.

    Back to Terminal 5 and then on to Milan for a trip to The Villa d’Este where I was speaking at the Planners Xtraordinaire conference. Lots of interesting people and a chance to cross-pollinate ideas. I was also spoilt with a great room at a hotel in which I have organised several beautiful dinners.

    A quick trip to Scotland to be photographed at Prestonfield House for the Scottish Field publication. Appearing in the January issue, I hope my five pages will be read by lots of people in the Highlands.

    Two days later I was on my way to Madrid where I am organising a wedding. Really one of my favourite cities with dozens of Palaces as potential venues. My great friend Sally Hambleton has a wonderful flower business and is helping me to create something unique. Increasingly clients are asking for things that are romantically simple and the wild country look is more and more fashionable – I love that simple pretty look.

    Two days in the South of France staying at a Chateau where I am involved in a beautiful December wedding. This house has been transformed under the eye of my very talented client – including double-height library and effortlessly glamorous drawing rooms.

    Then I went to Liguria for perhaps one of the most enjoyable four days scouting for wedding venues and meeting really charming people. An Italian Marquis whose castle was perched on the edge of the sea and an extraordinary dining room on top of an office block – this space was entirely glass with sensational views over Genoa and big enough for 200. Liguria is so close to Monaco but half the price with great Italian food.

    Back to Madrid for two days and then onto Ireland for a site meeting.

    My next trip in a week’s time is to Florence and then I am organising a Christmas Party in Germany.

    Back to London for two of my annual Christmas weekends where we arrange three dazzling dinners over three days finishing on Christmas Eve.

    Another year has disappeared in a cloud of flights and travel – thank goodness for Fortnum’s at Terminal 5.

    Happy Christmas.

  • Nantucket ‘Eye’land

    • Travel

    We flew from Boston in a tiny 9 seater plane, courtesy of Cape Air.

    Amazing views as we soared above Martha’s Vineyard and Hyannis Port. When we landed at the airport on Nantucket we found some extraordinary taxis. We were taken to our hotel in what felt like a converted van. It was painted bright yellow and totally charming.

    Our hotel, the Wauwinet, was ten miles away at the far end of the island.

    This lovely place is run under the watchful eye of the urbane Eric Landt and is so beautiful. The lawns stretch down to the ocean and with its own launch to take you to Nantucket town it is like a Gatsby dream.

    We were generously given the best rooms in the hotel, Anchorage House, with three bedrooms and bathrooms, a glorious garden and a pretty sitting room – all very spoiling. Thank you, Denise and Sarah.

    I don’t know where to start with Nantucket. It is picture perfect, with clapboard houses whose windows are flanked by wooden shutters and surrounded by cascades of summer flowers. The streets are cobbled, clean and not in any way Disney. This is a living town with excellent shopping, restaurants, sailing, swimming, cycling – really all you could need for a holiday.

    The American flag flutters everywhere and one feels that it’s all a Ralph Lauren room set.

    One of my favourite places is Bartlett’s Farm. Set in the middle of corn fields, it is the perfect place for a family lunch – we had toasted brioche crammed with lobster mayo and ice cold coke. Sitting in the sun I was in paradise.

    The weather for our four days was perfect and we used it as somewhere to store up some cool energy before leaving to work at Amangiri, Utah where the temperature was 116 degrees – really quite hot.

  • Only in Americ’eye’

    • Travel

    My whirlwind trip to America last week just confirmed how much I enjoy being there.

    An effortless BA flight to Boston, helped by Jet Candy the anti-jet lag pill, and my favourite upper deck seats 60k and J. They make you feel that you are the only people on the plane without having to pay for First Class.

    A super helpful Boston driver took us to XV Beacon. This reassuring hotel in the centre of the city hadn’t really changed since I last stayed there almost 20 years ago.

    The rooms are huge with wonderful beds, gas log fires and pretty window boxes. All very male, with leather chairs and polished wooden floors and a good breakfast.

    I love Boston, its wonderful little streets are filled with great shops which are not like every luxury street in the world – there is a place for Dior and Gucci but in Charles Street and all the other little side roads are the places you find things that are uniquely American. Even the old-fashioned pharmacy was clued up when I was stung by a bee.

    Boston Common has a delightful little boat train which floats along pulled by a giant swan. Straight from Enchanted I fully expected everyone to break into song.

    We ate one of the best dinners ever at Ostra – unassuming from the outside but light and airy inside.

    My main course of Roasted local Monkfish ‘saddle’ with foraged mushroom ragout, fine herbs, shallots and garlic, with Truffle-Parmesan fries was incredible.

    I hardly ever eat pudding but couldn’t resist snow-white meringue, lemon curd mousse, raspberries and tender basil leaves. The diet restarted tomorrow – maybe!!!!

    The real reason for going to Boston was to look for decoration for a party we are designing in Utah – we found so many things but the real joy was Crate and Barrel. I so wish this wonderful store existed in London. Just so many goodies. Canapé trays, lights, linens, glasses. Have a look on line but don’t forget the import tax if you order them from the UK.

    If you do nothing else in Boston go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum.

    This remarkable woman and her husband recreated a Venetian Palazzo in a quite unpromising building and then filled it with incredible art – this is not a stuffy museum but something truly fascinating – the staff are so helpful and are keen to tell you about the paintings and objets.

    I got the feeling that some people just whizz through, so if you are really interested they will love to talk to you and bring it all to life. It also helped that they were hosting a drinks party when we were there and so Rose cast its golden glow over the museum.

    On our second night we tried to get a table at Saltie Girl a really fun restaurant but it was full (as it often is – no bookings, first come etc.). You never know what fate will give you and as a result of being turned away we then had the great luck of going to Michael Serpa’s excellent Select Oyster Bar.

    This contemporary American seafood bar serves sensational food and the best martinis made with small batch artisanal gins. Letherbee Gin was aromatic with an amber cloudiness, which was delicious and created a golden martini.

  • M’Eye’orca

    • Travel

    Summer seems to be stretching deliciously on – day after day of heavenly weather and when the temperatures soar into the high 20s, there is really no need to leave the UK.

    However, when our friends asked us to help them organize a very special party in Sóller there was no guarantee of a hot summer at home and so we instantly agreed.

    Mallorca is so beautiful and the glorious setting of their house, tucked on the edge of this charming little town, was the perfect place to party. Dinner on the birthday night was around their pool, bathed in candlelight and with long tables of Moorish tiles in sizzling colours. One of the best things I have ever eaten was served at dinner, Miso Soup with Foie Gras and shaved black truffle. So good.

    The party was a huge success and to recover we went to stay at the brand new Hotel Mama in Palma.

    This is such a cool place with superb rooms, a small but lovely rooftop pool and excellent staff who looked after us so well. Our suite overlooked the square in which the hotel is situated and where the hotels lovely open-air café is the perfect place to have breakfast. There is something about Spanish oranges that make the best juice and together with strong hot coffee and attentive service each morning started so well.

    Life is full of unexpected treats and about four weeks ago I was invited to the Park Street Salon of the couture house Ralph and Russo. From its immaculate matt grey/black door to the pristine pale grey and cream interiors of the rooms, it is beautiful. The flowers were all in pastel colours arranged by ‘By Appointment Only Design’ and the rooms scented with candles.

    It was of course the dresses that were incredible – works of art, handcrafted in the finest fabrics and then dusted with jewels, tiny floating feathers and the softest furs. One hand decorated cocktail mini dress made in palest pistachio heavy green silk was blushed with painted flowers and jewels and with capped sleeves of sorbet pink shaved mink. Really too enchanting.

    I was then thrilled when I was asked to go to Paris to see the Autumn Winter 2018/2019 Haute Couture show. Dress after dazzling dress, You can see the whole thing here.

    We were then honored to be asked to the party they hosted in the evening at the Pavillon Dauphine. The whole space had been walled with thousands of twinkling lights and on the ground stood urns of white summer flowers. Great Cocktails and sliders, pounding music and dozens of gloriously glamorous women, Martinis and chilled Champagne.

    What a party.

    We stayed at L’hôtel, the Jacques Garcia designed hotel in the Rue Des Beaux Arts. It was here that Oscar Wilde lived and died and we stayed in the room where he gasped his last. It has a great terrace and we enjoyed sitting in the Parisian sun, screened by walls of lush bamboo.

    Talking of things to enjoy in the sun I have just been sent a magnum of one of my favourite rosé wines. It is called Esprit JJ by Domaine des Jeannes and comes in a lovely dimpled bottle that catches the summer sunshine. Rose petal pale and with a delicate complex nose, I love it.

    Next week I am off to work in the USA again but stopping on the way to have a few days at The Wauwinet on Nantucket. Looking forward to the ocean air before heading for Amangiri to put the final plans together for a big weekend party in September.

  • F’eye’renze

    • Travel

    There is something about Florence, which draws me back every year. It’s the light, the people, the food, the art, the buildings and perhaps if I am being really honest it’s my clients!!!!!

    There is an intoxicating quality that makes people want to entertain there, and this May, I found myself with the JRD team working in two locations – one was an old friend and the other was somewhere I had never worked before.

    The Four Seasons hotel is always heaven. The rooms and beds are blissful and the staff are unobtrusively efficient and charming.

    We organised a party round the outdoor swimming pool with supper supplied by local Italian growers and farmers – all very delicious. Superb cheeses, fantastic hams and cured meats.

    We surrounded the pool with tall plinths painted in sugar pink and clotted cream stripes. On top of some of these we sat giant futuristic chromium spheres filled with glittering lights and on others we placed whitewashed pots bursting with clouds of white hydrangea.

    Hundreds of candles and large squashy sofas created a relaxed and magical evening and fuelled with local wines and Italian gin-based cocktails meant everyone partied late into the night.

    The next evening we had a more formal dinner in the courtyard of the Innocenti museum, which in a very enlightened way was the first institute in Europe dedicated to looking after orphaned or unwanted babies.

    It’s a fascinating place filled with great art and some heartbreaking reminders of the trauma mothers and perhaps fathers experienced giving up their children. The parents were expected to give a token when handing over their child – torn or broken, the baby had one half and they kept the other. The infant was then pushed through a door from which there was no return.

    In later life, the parent could present their half of the token and match it with their child’s and hopefully, the two would be reunited.

    The museum is a poignant reminder of the selflessness of the nuns in whose charge these little children were placed.

    The main courtyard, in which dinner was held, is simple and so we filled it with superb tall trees underplanted with wild geranium. Tablecloths of chartreuse damask were a great foil to table centers of peonies in damson, bubblegum, and shell pink – silver glasses and soft lighting transformed the space into a romantic setting, which still retained the essence of the innocents.

    Florence is packed with good restaurants.

    I love the Golden View  – a slick white contemporary room overlooking the River Arno. It’s prime tables in the windows are over the water with views back towards the Ponte Vecchio – fantastic Florentine food.

    Last year we closed it for a pre-wedding party, amazing.

    There are four wonderful suites upstairs, a cool bar and delicatessen. Fun live music (not in the least touristy or tacky) – really a modern, class act.

    Then, of course, Il Procacci on the Via de’ Tournabuoni. Tiny air light soft rolls filled with truffle butter – they are way up on my list of last suppers. The café is old and super charming and the man serving the food is an Italian god – or he was when I was there.

    You have to go there.

    Shopping, shopping and more shopping – do go to the Gucci Garden (which also has the Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura restaurant). I could go on and on about it for hours – just go and see what all the fuss is about. It’s wonderful.

    My super soft shoes come from Mauro Volponi – it’s like putting suede gloves on your feet and the colours are amazing. They are on the via Orsammichele near the Duomo.

    I also love Antonio Mattei who make delicious biscotti and are the oldest biscotti bakers in Florence. Buy them and enjoy one with their sensational coffee.

    There really is too much in Florence to put in one ‘eye’ so I will come back to F’eye’renze later in the Spring.

    While you are waiting, make yourself a negroni and research some of the incredible Italian artisan gins from the wine shop Alessi.

  • 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.