The Estonian Ministry of Creative Affairs

Estonia_067Estonia_070Estonia_071Estonia_072

The Theme and Venue

The Estonians chose an interesting idea – creating a ficticious Ministry of Cultural Affairs to showcase their four Creative Ambassadors. The venue is a quirky choice, last time I was at The Horse Hospital there it was an exhibition about the woman who swallowed a fly. This time Helen Sirp transformed it into really interesting and immersive mythical and mystical space (think Narnia but warmer); divided it into distinct sections and decorated with tonnes of yarn and white wood features. It was white as the Estonian snow and worked really well with wooden drawers and planks creating separate areas. It looks like they deserved their London Fashion Week International Fashion Showcase 2013 Winner’s trophy:

Estonia_068

Helen Sirp was also responsible for the short movie showcasing the designers’ work. The story in brief: a model wanders through the snow wearing one design by Kristina and later reveals she is sporting one of her slightly less practical hand-knitted gowns. I am not surprised the model is not smiling and has ice crystal lashes. I heard it was MINUS 20 degrees during filming. The male model/hunter character was wearing the menswear woollies and eventually a pair of the fab Karl Annus specs he found in the woods…

Two out of the four featured designers were on hand to talk about their craft:

Karl Annus / Wooden spectacles

Estonia_144Estonia_138

Karl is a humble and quiet creative type. He told us about his journey from student and furniture maker to the perfectionist designer he is today. Originally starting with made-to-measure pieces that would take up to a month to create and has a waiting list of a year, he presented his new collection of eight ready-to-wear spectacles – eight styles available in seven different woods – including some I’d never even heard of. Later we were staggered to find out the RRP is 300 Euro whereas adding a “0” to the end might have made more sense. Everyone who tried them on seemed to look good and they were so light to the touch and smooth that you would hardly know you were wearing them. Apparently the rather elegant Estonian First Lady (Evelin Ilves) wears a pair and sent good luck messages to Karl and the team.

Kadri Kruus / Leather Accessories

Estonia_109Estonia_106

Kadri is a bubbly and friendly lady who passionately spoke of her hand-made handbags and clutches on display. I was not the only one to ask about whether she specialised in black, apparently this collection fitted the design and theme much better. Attention to detail again is really striking – with studs and tassles and great fastenings that simply work. Again I was surprised that the RRP is in the region of £185 and all made in Estonia too. Nice promo material using the Layar Augmented Reality App to make it really impactful!

Also displayed, but not by the designers were:

Kristian / Menswear

Estonia_125Estonia_126

I was taken through the collection by the knowledgable Sara Kietzmann and it was a fantastic journey of textures and colours. The quality and attention to detail were amazing with “50 shades of grey” on a single shirt, chinchilla furs (ethically sourced from farms in Germany), bright orange trousers and the thickest of wooly jumpers.

Inspired by architecture and definitely taking into consideration the climate, Kristian has a distinctive take on fashion and comfort with a quality and attention to detail that I have never seen before in Men’s clothing.

Kristina Viirpalu / Womenswear

Estonia_096Estonia_083

Bridal gowns: beautiful and intricate. Universally admired for their elegance, but also feared by the clumsy who might unwittingly catch a thread and unravel; or those who would categorically have to wear a full body cat suit underneath to hide their modesty and keep the excess body bumps in place. The hand-knitting is phenomenal and exquisite and apparently most of the pieces are one-of-a-kind. Apparently it takes three women a whole week to create just one dress and you can see the detail is amazing. Again the surprise is the price tag of £1,500 almost sounds a little on the ‘cheap’ side.

Overall

Canapes were lovely, drinks a-plenty and a variety of rather strong but tasty traditional liqueur chocs were offered throughout the evening. I admit I did look Estonia up on the Internet before I went – just so I could place it geographically, identify my host (Kristel Oitmaa) and not be totally ignorant. All I knew was that Skype was born there (a friend of mine used to travel to Tallinn when she worked for the company).

So after having met some “natives”, seen the video, eaten the chocolate and flicked through the brochures I totally want to go there!

Well done Estonia – douze points! LFW winners for me!

More pics here.

The Estonian Ministry of Creative Affairs

Bags of Love

Jackfrench_6Jackfrench_43Jackfrench_69

Love was in the air today when British Designer Jack French London unveiled the latest edition to his luxury handbag collection. The bag in question – called “St Pancras” was being “worn” by the lovely lady at the iconic Paul Day The Meeting Place statue in St Pancras International Station. VIP guests included an elusive Kate Moss who posed for a couple of photos but appeared troubled by the crowds and avoided most photographers (including me); singer Beverley Knight and model Jo Wood:

Jackfrench_60Jackfrench_58

The quilted burgundy design with gold chain and iconic blue brushed felt interior is a mere snip at £185 and available as a limited edition (of just 50) from the label’s pop up shop on the Grand Terrace.

Jackfrench_72

I particularly liked the gift bags which contained a complementary Jack French clutch bag and there were cup cakes a-plenty featuring the bag on top!

Jackfrench_73Jackfrench_99Jackfrench_117

More pics here (including tango dancers, string quartet, magicians, PR people and others)…

Bags of Love

Do I feel the love at St Pancras?

I wanted to find out what was happening in St Pancras International Station around his buddy St Valentine’s Day – were there special offers or standout displays helping me to Feel the Love?

I wandered from the bottom concourse to the Grand Terrace and into the Hotel to find out; and here is what I found:

Img_5068Img_5081Img_5084

A definite sense of pink exuding from a number of shops such as Accessorize, Monsoon, Fat Face as well as Pink. Hearts and roses from the likes of Link. All a bit expected and nothing to particularly lure you in.

There are certainly roses a-plenty featuring on the Isla Flowers:

Img_5082

And some of the “chains” did well with Marks and Spencers standing out their themed gifts and flowers:

Img_5072Img_5070
Paperchase is also an obvious beneficiary of the Valentine’s theme and featured a striking poster design in their window – quite impactful and stylish:

Img_5069

For me the loveliest retail experience was hands down won by Neuhaus and their Valentine’s gift packaging. No special offers per se, but beautiful and enticing. Who wouldn’t love to get chocs from here? (HINT HINT!):

Img_5078

I liked Oliver Bonas‘s window display which was subtle and fun:
Img_5080

Foyle’s has a nice theme of love for their books from kids to Loving London:

Img_5079

Neals Yard featured their Organic gifts – capitalising on a theme rather than a special offer.

Img_5075

Sadly lacking were overt efforts from:

Eurostar – surely there is an obvioust theme of love linking two of the most Romantic cities in the world and departing from the most Romantic Station in the UK…?

Costa and Starbucks could have done something edibly lovely; maybe Vodafone could have made something about communicating with your loved ones; Boots might have done more than the hearts dangling from the ceiling telling you it is Valentine’s Day on 14th Feb…

That said, some retailers probably would struggle with the theme to be honest eg Fine Burger Company (two for one offer maybe?), The Currency Exchange (Money can’t buy you love) or Rolling Luggage (Love is a journey?), but hey, I am sure their time will come.

So what about the offers? Who is actually doing something a little bit different on Valentine’s Day that you would make an effort to visit. I found five places:

  • The Wine Pantry is offering 10% off all pink wines on Thursday.
  • Carluccios has a special 4-course menu for £25pp
  • The Gilbert Scott has a 3-course meal (3-7pm) for £35pp; 5-course meal (8-11pm) for £80pp.
  • Searcy’s Grand Brasserie is offering Romantic Meals for £48pp.
  • The Renaisance Marriot Hotel has “Romance Packages” for two people – but at £372 per night in the ‘normal rooms’ and £487 pn in the Chambers Club Suites, it may be a little OTT.

(The last three options are almost fully booked so hurry if you want in).

And there are more than just rumours about an exciting new pop-up shop due to open later today (Feb 14th) – Watch this space…

 

Do I feel the love at St Pancras?

Burger 4 – Admiral Codrington

Burger number four…The Admiral Codrington, 17 Mossop Street, London SW3 2LY

You can see the scoring criteria here.

The venue – 14/20

Essentially a British pub from the outside and one I would not normally have gone into. 

The service – 10/20

Staff a little bit disinterested. Possibly partly down to the timing – moving from Sunday lunch to Sunday dinner, they all seemed busy doing stuff and not really that interested in serving. The barman was good at making Bloody Marys which helped pass the time – we’d arrived early for a 6pm reservation. I did not like them serving a new couple before us and that I had to go and ask if we could eat at 6.15pm.

The burger – 27/30

Looked good, if a little small on the large plate. Served with chunky chips. The bun was excellent, meat cooked ‘medium’ as requested and piled with bits – from cheese and bacon to pickle and lettuce. Very pleasant and certainly the best of the lot so far this year. This place is clearly known for the excellence of the food and it’s the most expensive so far at £16 each!

Img_5029

Quirkies – 3/10

  • Nothing really stood out
  • Although the Bloody Marys were very good – we had two each
  • The restaurant which featured a lot of fish imagery felt a little ill at ease with the main bar where some Irish chaps were singing rugger songs…

Will I come back factor? – 5/20

Probably not. Burger was best so far but did not warrant the effort of going there…

GRAND TOTAL SCORE: 59

Burger 4 – Admiral Codrington

Smiley Dame Sarah joins the Javelin Elite

Southeastern_1

Southeastern Railway today (Wednesday 6th February 2013) unveiled their latest Javelin train – newly-named after 22-times Paralympic medalist Dame Sarah Storey.

Southeastern_21

Dame Sarah, looking bonny in a striking white coat, arrived a few minutes later than planned, having crossed London in the rain, leaving travellers on the 16.40pm baffled as to why so many photographers and staff were at St Pancras International‘s Platform 13.

Sarah’s smiley signature is emblazoned on one engine and she was happy to pose next to it alongside a number of Southeastern drivers, on-train and HQ staff:

Southeastern_26

Dashing to the front carriages after the official photo calls Dame Sarah and her entourage enjoyed a trip on the train – which left perfectly on time.

For more photos, click here.

Smiley Dame Sarah joins the Javelin Elite

Burger 3 – Liquor Meat Market

Burger number three…

You can see the scoring criteria here.

Img_4924Img_4925

The venue – 17/20

It was buzzing inside – really busy and full of people of all ages and mostly good-looking ones at that. About a 52/48 MF split;
and it was noticable that boys ran the bar and girls were in charge of the waitressing. Call it my age but going from daylight into darkness lit by red light at 2pm is a bit tricky to deal with and almost impossible for the clear viewing of the menu. Music was eclectic and enjoyable, if a little loud at times

The service – 16/20

We were greeted quickly and invited to wait at the bar – the place was heaving and we were not the only ones waiting. We had a rather nice Bloody Mary in ice-cold pint jars and were almost finished when called to our bench. A few minutes to get the order taken and possibly a little longer than I wanted for delivery. Clear up was swift and bill request had to be made but happened pretty quickly after that.

The burger – 25/30

Our burgers were brought out on a tray with paper – a bit disturbingly like a McD – and the fries were in an enamel bowl. The bun as a little greasy on touch and although the burger was nice it was not obvious how well it had been cooked – it felt a bit overcooked on the outside and yet juicy and tasty on the inside. Nice amount of dripping and not too much pickle to overwhelm the taste.

Img_4921

Quirkies – 8/10

  • Loved the use of rolls of kitchen towl for napkins, there were hundreds on tables, at the bar and in a central “cage”
  • I could spend a day looking at the Decor in more detail. The paint, wording, street art and stencils were everywhere – loved this

Img_4919

Will I come back factor? – 19/20

Yes – although possibly not during the day; and definitely with friends. It is an experience you don’t forget in a hurry and one more likely to be had in a US city than just off Oxford Street.

GRAND TOTAL SCORE: 85

Burger 3 – Liquor Meat Market

Top of the Class for East Midlands Trains

I was delighted to attend the official opening of the shiny new East Midlands Trains First Class Lounge today (Friday 1st February 2013).

Emt_2

At 10am Neil Micklethwaite, Customer Services and Commercial Director said a few words to introduce the official ribbon-cutter for the opening: Milan Mandaric – Chairman of Sheffield Wednesday. 

Emt_7

Guests were treated to the same top-class welcome First Class Ticket holders now can now experience with complementary coffees and teas and pastries offered by bubbly hosts Kat, Victoria and Dawn. I am told that fresh fruit and yoghurt are available for the breakfast visitors and wine and cheese available for the evening commuters; alongside an array of newspapers and magazines, a free shoe-shine machine and a (thankfully) silent TV screen. And the all-important train departures board sits gently above the welcome desk.

Emt_14

For one day only all today’s guests were treated to the almost surreal experience of the Lounge being blessed by St Pancras Chaplain Jonathan Barker who led prayers from the doorway to the kitchen into the main room and even to the tables. 

Emt_26

The lounge is warm, bright and welcoming. There are arty canvases cleverly using the EMT corporate colours donning the walls (although I would have liked to have seen more trains and/or images of the station). I also loved the bright blue chairs and red-coloured furnishings but have to say they weren’t terribly comfortable. 

Emt_11

Not only has the relocation brought the Lounge closer to the trains (it used to be the other end of the station), but it has also got more space and – most importantly – it’s own “en suite” toilet facilities which were previously lacking and meant that guests had to go out and downstairs to use the Station’s public conveniences.

Given the “Destination Station” status for St Pancras and the abundance of amazing facilities the station has to offer, I questioned the need for any train operator to have a First Class Lounge at all. Steve Leyland, Route Manager reminded me why it was so important “The EMT routes are the life blood for connections to London (did you know they have four trains an hour from Leicester?). We’re extremely proud of our service and recently scored 89% for customer satisfaction; so it is great to be able to offer an excellent Lounge service to our First Class travellers – a warm and quiet place to work or relax”. 

I spotted George Osborne only this morning heading towards the EMT trains. Next time, maybe he’ll be popping into the Lounge on his way back..?

The lounge is located on the Upper Concourse near the East Midlands Train platforms and is open Monday to Friday from 7am to 8.30pm and open for First Class Ticket Holders only.

More photos here.

More info about East Midlands Trains First Class Lounges.

Top of the Class for East Midlands Trains