Monday, November 30, 2009

Restaurant Inspiration - Da Noi and Sardinia

My parents travelled a lot during the 1970s when I was little. They would return with stories of magical places and (most importantly to me I have to confess) little gifts - a knitted poncho from Peru, a cotton Chinese doll from Hong Kong, a little English shop from London.
They even travelled to Libya once (on business but that's another story).

But to me the most exciting place they ever travelled to was to Sardinia to stay at the Cala Di Volpe (translates as Vixen Cove).

My geography lessons had taught me all about the Mediterranean Sea and its islands, and this hotel, sitting squat on the glittering harbour with its adobe style structures and jewell colours evoked pure 1970s disco fun to me and my fertile imagination.

To this day I still want to visit, and stay here in this room:

And eat at this little restaurant:

In Melbourne there is a Sardinian restaurant in South Yarra called Da Noi. My exhaustive 30 second Google search tells me that there are no other Sardinian restaurants in Australia.

There are many things to love about this restaurant:

1. The owner\chef's name (Pietro Porcu)

2. The lack of a menu (well there is a menu but rarely used. You largely just eat what is brought to you)

3. The lack of a website (anyone who sensibly flies in the face of technology should be applauded).

4. This business card (a tawny misty morning shot of three fabulous Italian boar shooters)

On a recent visit we ate pork cheek terrine, eggplant and tomato salad, marinated octopus, oysters, a salty caper, saffron, olive and white fish risotto and lamp shank with smoked potato mash.

Dessert was a tasting plate of mandarin pannacotta, a tiny square of tiramisu, honey and yougurt cake, some kind of fennelly icecream and little pink square of watermelon.

And I especially loved the cannellini mush we had as part of our appetisers.

This is very easy, and healthy (beans are healthy aren't they?).


Drain and rinse a can of Italian cannellini beans.
PIck over and finely chop a sprig of rosemary
Finely chop a large clove of garlic.

Warm a good slosh of olive oil in a saucepan, add the garlic and once its scent rises add the beans and rosemary. Cook slowly for 10 - 20 minutes. Add more oil if needs be. Some of the beans will break down. They are ready when they become a bit creamy. Add lots of sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Perfect on toasted sourdough or just in greedy spoonfuls.
PS a less overtly lazy search has now revealed at least two other Sardinian restaurants - Cose in Brisbane and Pilu in Sydney. There may be many more, indeed.

Da Noi on Urbanspoon

(Images (1)-(4)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Walpole House - a little slice in time

Here is Walpole House, one time home of Thomas Walpole, nephew of Sir Robert Walpole who was the first effective Prime Minister of Britain between about 1721 and 1742 and responsible for the growth of the Whigs into a major political force in the 18th century.

Robert Walpole is one of those English politicians who crammed so much into his short life he puts us all to shame.

He coined some marvellous phrases including my favourite 'every man has his price'.

And for those too numerous to count people who seem to think that what we are living through now is new and unique, bear witness to Sir Robert's investment in the South Sea Company (and the consequential South Sea Bubble in 1720). This was a plan whereby the Company would assume the entire debt of the government of Great Britain in exchange for the issue of lucrative bonds. People invested madly, and Sir Robert was only saved when a banker advised him to sell his shares before the company collapsed. (Helpful really, as he was also first Secretary of the Treasury at the time so at least his interest was not too personal).

He was also impeached by the Tory House of Lords, jailed for 6 months in the Tower of London and expelled from Parliament. The old Parliaments were great guardians of representative democracy (if you accept that those being represented were a tiny percentage of men in England at the time), weren't they?

The house was also the setting for Miss Pinkerton's Academy for Girls in Vanity Fair, thanks to William Thackeray who lived in it as a schoolboy.

It was also the home of Barbara Palmer, First Duchess of Cleveland and mistress of King Charles II until her death in 1709.

(by John Michael Wright c. 1670)

And in one of those aberrations of history, it is not known as Becky Sharp's House, or Barbara Palmer's House, but Walpole House, even though he only lived there for 5 years.

I wonder how Thomas Walpole would have felt about the Jasper Conran 2008 renovation of his home which is located in Chiswick Mall and looks out over the Thames.

I suspect he would have liked it.

I saw this in World of Interiors, and have not seen it anywhere else. Hence the scanned images.

I know I am a Georgian lass (preferably of the aristocratic, auburn haired, violet eyed kind) at heart but I really love these interiors

So many many things to love not least a very disciplined minimalism which is hard in such large spaces.

Rush matting in the living room which needs to be watered, yes watered, to keep it preserved. And how about the very plain cotton white sofa covers? It must have been tempting to upholster these in something else.

It's a not easy to make out but the smaller dining room has De Gournay wallpaper and an 18th century Murano chandelier.

Lovely Elizabethan portraits (oh that, that's just a family portrait)

Not one but two gilty mirrors in the bathroom.

Incredible Princess and the Pea style tester beds with coverings in hand woven mohair and wool custom fabric.

Authentic old basement kitchen.

Incredible wrought iron chandeliers which I wrote about here.

And just a little while after this house was featured, Mr Conran up and sold it for record price (only 2 years after purchase).

I hope the new owner preserves it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lift me up

This week it is my daughter's 7th birthday. I feel a bit elderly saying this but I can still remember the day she was born as if it were yesterday. Her clear almond cerulean eyes gazed calmly over me, the hospital room and all the people crowded around, as if to say, what is all the fuss about?

She is no different seven years later, a little fey sprite who looks upon the world and its foibles with a bemused smile, interpersing her invented faery songs and woodland dances with carefully considered cross examination style questions (clearly the daughter of two lawyers). As several people have observed, she has the soul of an Edwardian lady.

Here is a little pen drawing she did for Mother's Day last year. The larger skirted lady is me and the smaller person is her.

I realise that in posting this image I am breaking one of my own Top 10 Rules of Blogging (do not imagine your own children's art is interesting to anyone else) but I think it illustrates really well the way small children view the world and their parents - as something much bigger which overshadows but nevertheless still protects them.

I have framed this drawing and I hang it in a place I walk past frequently as it reminds me of something very important, which is this:

At those times when I am being impatient or busy or irritated or distracted (which I fear is probably way too often) I need to remember that this drawing reflects the way my daughter sees me, as someone with the strength to hold her up high. And that I should always try to lift her up rather than drag her down.

The greatest challenge of all is not to taint the relationships we have with our children with our own insecurities, preconceptions and dark bruises of the past.

These are my thoughts today, as I finish planning for a little girl's Disco Pop Diva party for this weekend, complete with disco ball (provided I can install a hook in a very high ceiling without breaking a leg).

By the way - any thoughts on a glittery microphone cake? My microphones always look like icecream cones, so I am thinking instead of something square, pink and straightforward.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Through the looking glass

The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. (William Makepeace Thakeray)

Stage 1.8 of the sitting room fix is a gilded mirror. I have an unyielding view about such a mirror, namely that it must be large and it must be above the fireplace. I suspect this, like some other unyielding views I have (orange tinted art in the kitchen, Persian carpet in the hallways, green and pink in a children's room, hardly any furniture in the bedrooms) come from my childhood. I think we are very influenced by the environment we grew up in.

To demonstrate the point here are some mirrors above fireplaces looking nothing short of divine:

(Well this is actually over an oven but the point is the same)

Even Alice understood the importance of a mirror over a fireplace.

I also love the idea of a leaning against the wall mirror, like these:

This is what I have learned so far:

(1) the dirtier the mirror the less expensive (and I love that hard to see through look).

(2) new reproduction mirrors are often the same cost as a 200 year old antique.

(3) price is not necessarily an indicator of quality or age or even nice gildedness.

So - how big is too big? Does anyone agree that the fireplace must be be-mirrored? Or is this a fixed idea I should rid myself of?

(Images: (1) Homes and Gardens UK (2) via Plush Palate (3) Homes and Gardens UK (4) Decorno (5) Atlanta Barlett (6) Homes and Gardens UK (7) Better Homes and Gardens Aust (8) (9) littlefrenchgardenhouse.blogspot (10) the (11) avantgardedesign.blogspot)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Is it a painting or a real life room?

This room in a home in Blois has furnishings upholstered in a textile designed by Sonia Delaunay, the Ukrainian artist who was born in 1885.

Sonia Delaunay 1933

It got me thinking about how influential 20th century artists have been over interior design.

If you accept the 'everything's connected' theory, and also the 'trickle down' theory then it seems to me that everything we now see in our interiors, which was once radical and almost impossible to imagine, is largely thanks to those sometimes revolutionary and very often brave artists of the last century.

Think about a typical Victorian interior:

Just 15 years later, a Russian, Kazimir Malevich, painted this:

(Black Square, 1915)

And then consider a typical 2009 interior (just grabbing any old one):

How much has changed in 110 years?

So I thank Barnett Newman with his colour field paintings:

(The Voice 1950 MOMA)

for making this kind of monocoloured interior not just possible but normal:

And Franz Kline:

(Painting no 2 1959 MOMA)

for showing us the beauty of black and white and that calligraphy in the form of bold dashes of black can work in our bedrooms too:

And Henri Rousseau:

for showing how green and pink and orange and foliage can all work together, especially in Florida and Queensland:

And isn't it wonderful that something as utilitarian as a kitchen:

or bookshelves:

can explicitly reference the works of sculptor Donald Judd:

Is this art elitist or inaccessible? No. It is part of our lives, everywhere we look.

Have a happy weekend.

(Images (1) Point Click Home (3) (5) (7) (10) Point Click Home (13)(14) Celerie Kemble (15) Point Click Home (17) Others not sure please let me know if you know.)

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