Puttin’ on the Ritz!
Preparations are drawing to a close here at ‘Ashton Abbey’. No doubt like me you’ve planned, mixed, baked and will probably blow the rest of the budget down at Waitrose and your local farm shop next week on the big Christmas feast. Makes sense now for us to show it all off in style, no?
Sadly I don’t have a ‘Carson’ but I certainly share his sentiment. However as much as we are nostalgic for the glamour of Downton, we did get rid of all that formality for good reason. These days, fortunately, its more about the food and company than the etiquette and we do a chic combo of upstairs downstairs dining via ‘Kitchen Suppers’ with rustic pottery dishes, wine tumblers, wooden platters etc. all very ‘Nigel Slater’ which is great, I love that stylish laid back feel. When the occasion arises though there’s nothing I like better than to get out all my treasures, glasses, cutlery, crockery, serving dishes etc.. and put on the ritz..in a ‘lived in’ luxe way obviously 🙂
My ‘big thing’ are glasses, much to darling Richys distress. I got the, “seriously, more glasses?” look when he discovered my carefully smuggled in latest flea market find, cut glass tankards! perfect for the fellas who love a beer, I mean if I’m coiffing my champagne in something gorgeous then why should they not drink beer with style and panache too? makes sense to me. Plus I can also use them for mulled wine or cider, perfect and at £30 for 6, seriously, how could I walk away?
I love to use lots of different and beautiful glasses and I found my guests love it too. As with many things interior, people don’t notice when you don’t have something but they certainly notice when you do and if it gives pleasure, then its ticking my boxes! You can find some great bargains at flea markets and antique shops, usually in more interesting styles and at a fraction of the price you will find for the same quality brand new. Often you may find odds or incomplete sets, which is fine with me as I like to mix them up, I hate everything too matchy matchy and considered, its ‘lived in’ luxe I’m after and nothing says that like old beautiful things that have had a previous life in a different world and many of the old styles are back in fashion. Those cut glass tumblers that your gran had gathering dust in her G plan display cabinet, are now likely being used to serve up a super trendy Whisky Sour at the Hawksmoor. I also use mine, (found at my local charity shop, even better!), for G & T’s, pop in a gold straw from Rockett St George and all of a sudden that ordinary old drink is fit for a hipster cocktail bar! Champagne saucers are another favourite, I adore them. I keep buying little sets of 4 and odd singles from eBay and again at fleas, very shabby chic for your pressecco or champagne this crimbo! Don’t for get the decanters for wine, sherry, port and brandy. Set up a little table or a lovely tray as a ‘bar station/cart’ very USA and very glam and cool. I’ve also put a light on my tray which shines through the vintage pink soda syphon, it looks amazing at night. Theres something about soda syphons and cocktail shakers. Vintage glasses, soda syphons, cocktail shakers, can you see a theme emerging?
Gold is back with vengeance, haven’t you missed it and don’t you love it? I’m so far into it I don’t know where I go from here! I have just invested in some gorgeous hand blown gold edged wine glasses, new this time and not so cheap, well it is Christmas, but I have spotted some great looking and very reasonable gold trimmed ones around this year if you fancy adding some last minute pizzaz, check out Dunelm, House of Fraser and Homesense to name a few and if you’re lucky and quick, there’s a bargain on eBay check this link! I’m using some gold trimmed tumblers from West Elm, as water glasses on my table setting (see pic) but they are actually billed as stemless wine glasses, in a style I think would be great for future informal suppers, so win win there.
Sherry and Brandy glasses are another of my faves, in fact it’s a bit of a family tradition for my sister and I to crack open a bottle of fab chilled sherry Christmas Day and get out my cute sherry glasses, Hick! Sherry gets such a bad rap, probably due to memories of nasty Bristol Cream, yuk! there are some fantastic sherries out there and we’re missing out I say. At Tramontana Brindisa my fave local Tapas bar in Shoreditch, they have a whole range, some to be drunk chilled as aperitifs others great with deserts, they are amazing and they will happily let you sample and love to tell you all about them. I think I may add the promotion of sherry at my suppers to my New Year to do list, Waitrose have a great range, check them out just avoid the Harvey’s !
The Family Silver
Silver cutlery is something you don’t hear much about these days, I don’t know why, perhaps it’s because people went off silver when dishwashers landed, I suspect so. Thing is that secondhand silverware is so cheap you may as well buy it, enjoy it and put it in the dishwasher when you compare it to the pretty plain and boring stainless steel stuff you will buy for the same price instead of it. So rather than John Lewis I buy my silver from ‘John the Hat’ in Spitalfields market, I know he does the rounds at several other London markets to. He’s a great market/dealer character and knowledgable. He has a vast array of all the different silver cutlery patterns, some full canteens but many grouped together in bunches of 6. I mix mine up as I do the glasses, again it gives a more effortless feel to the look of the table. I was lucky to pick out one set recently stamped Mapping and Webb and the other Selfridges, I always wonder who may have bought them originally. I mean they’re not priceless or anything but at £15 for 6 pieces, I ask you? I also buy pretty serving spoons and what are called fruit knives for the cheese course, which have pretty engraving and pearl handles, in Downton days these were used when ‘desert’ was considered a fruit course and pudding was, well pudding!
Always pick up good looking dishes and platters whenever you see them, you never know how you want to serve things. Anything that catches your eye even if you don’t have an actual use in mind you will find one at some point. Thing is, that what you serve up on is almost as important as what you have served, again its all part of setting the scene and drumming up an atmosphere, sparking the senses, remember sight, smell, touch, sound and taste, tick all those boxes on Christmas Day and you will have a winner of a feast!
Another thing I’ve started doing recently after picking up an old gold vintage trolley, is setting up a very 70’s style Desert Trolley. Practically, it helps with table space and means you can set it up pre dinner at least with all the plates etc.. then push it around, space allowing, my guests love it, always sparks a conversation and usually a bit of a laugh. It sounds a bit naff I know, but if you are going all out with everything else and you glam the trolley up with all your special food gorgeously presented on your fab dishes it somehow works, if you do it ‘tongue in cheek’ of course!
In the end, for me, entertaining stylishly is not about rigidly sticking to rules and etiquette and expecting everyone else to do so, its about wanting to make everything as beautiful, relaxed and wonderful for my friends and family as I can and watching the pleasure it brings. Its about the giving of myself and when I tire of that, then Carson I agree, I think I will be tired of life.
In the mean time that’s me nearly done, all that is left to do is wrap the Goose and cook the presents, whoops, tired? me? no of course not, I did just test run the Sherry though 🙂
Enjoy a very merry ‘lived in’ luxe Christmas, Blog will back in style in 2016, Mwah.