Sadly I'm unlikely to become a world class chef - or even remotely proficient - by the end of January, despite my kitchen being stocked with tomes from everyone from Nigella to Ottolenghi. Therefore it's essential that the table looks good. For I'm totally convinced that a beautiful place setting can distract anyone from the fact that I'm serving fish pie followed by chocolate brownies, again. And in this, I have to admit to gleaning most of my inspiration from Valentino: At The Emperor's Table:
Did you ever, ever, see anything so heavenly as any of these? The closest I've found to anyone else being to emulate the great Valentino is Nina Campbell, who entertains in serious style, and who, true to my heart, declared at a masterclass she hosted that one can simply never have enough china. And I happen to know that she means it, and has a colossal cupboard dedicated to her collection.
I've always thought it a shame that the majority only have one or two sets of china - I do get the storage issue - but how heavenly to be able to use, say, Royal Copenhagen blue and white, or Fornasetti malachite, or something pretty and gilded by Limoges, totally on whim? When I have an enormous house, I shall do just that. Valentino acquires his priceless china via Christie's and Sotheby's, but I am sufficiently in touch with reality to realise that I probably won't - unless our lottery numbers come in - be able to build up my collection that way. However, there are a few easier to acquire sets that I've got my eye on . . . :
Kit Kemp's Mythical Creatures for Wedgewood. Even if the food weren't beyond delicious and the hotel full of my favourite textiles (Kit Kemp's Moondog for Chelsea Textiles, the most heavenly ikat lampshades etc., similar of which can be found at Susan Deliss) this china on it's own would be reason enough to lunch regularly at Ham Yard hotel. Except that you can't really see just how marvellous it is in this image, so:
Here it is again. Kit Kemp's Mythical Creatures for Wedgewood.
Oscar de la Renta's Botanical Garden Peony . . . This would totally be my go-to for a summer lunch in the garden. Now these don't really go, but I have to include them anyway because they're also by Oscar de la Renta:
Oscar de la Renta Amber Tortoise Wine Glass. There are water glasses too, and a decanter. I have a weakness for leopard. Nina Cambell has some amazing leopard print placemats, incidentally, which I seriously covert:
They're not available to buy, sadly. But that amber glassware is, and amber glassware, especially at night, is exquisite. If you look back at the first Valentino image, you can see it used there, too.
Ralph Lauren Home! Just in case you want leopard china. It doesn't actually totally do it for me.
Finally, a complete change - Limoges: Bernardaut's Constance Rouge. I love this. It would be so pretty, especially in the winter.
But, right now, I'm going to return to perusing cookery books. Because however beautiful the plates are, I still need to produce something to go on them.
Valentino: At The Emperor's Table by Andre Leon Talley is published by Assouline and you can buy it here.
Kit Kemp's Mythical Creatures for Wedgewood can be bought here.