Johnny Roxburgh

 Johnny's Eye 

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  • 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.

  • 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.

     

  • 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.