Friday, 30 December 2011

Grabbing menaces

My thoughts on the smash and grabbers who terrorise Central London

Today’s Richard Kay column in the Daily Mail features the story of a robbery at the Lowndes Street boutique Herve Leger.

The scene of the robbery at Herve Leger on Friday 23rd December 2011

After returning from a most pleasant evening enjoying a performance of Richard II at The Donmar Warehouse by Eddie Redmayne on 23rd December, I witnessed the scene of this crime at around about 1am with my friend who lives just around the corner.

At the time, we both commented that this type of crime has become far from commonplace in Knightsbridge and sadly it is not the first instance of such I’ve seen in 2011.

The scene of the robbery at The Watch Gallery in March 2011

Earlier in the year, I also witnessed a ram raid by thieves on scooters at The Watch Gallery on Fulham Road and my friend’s sister’s shop in Primrose Hill, Press, regularly suffers at the hands of these menaces. Bond Street and Sloane Street, equally, are favourites of these vagabonds and frankly it is time something is done to stop them.

Masha Markova, the owner of Herve Leger and wife of Robert Hanson, takes the right attitude of the thieves, who managed barely a minute in the store before having to flee, when she stated: “They were not well informed.”

These sledgehammer wielding thugs are not thieves who steal because of hunger. They are cowardly opportunists who deserve to be severely punished.

Herve Leger, Lowndes Street, London, SW1X 9HY. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7201 2590. Website:

The Watch Gallery, 129 Fulham Road, London, SW3 . Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7581 3239. Website:

Press of Primrose Hill, 3 Erskine Road, London, NW3 3AJ. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7449 0081. Website:

Thursday, 29 December 2011

2011’s King of Steaks

A review of The Steakhouse at Harrods

The bar and kitchen of The Steakhouse at Harrods.

The recently opened The Steakhouse at Harrods offers the most exceptional feast for steak lovers without the formality of sitting in a restaurant.

Situated on the ground floor of London’s best-known department store, which itself was founded in 1834 by Charles Henry Harrod, this small 1950s style diner has stool seating around a bar that also acts as the kitchen.

On arrival, diners are greeted by the most efficient and welcoming of hostesses, Laura Sturgess, and butcher Salvatore Dodaro, whose knowledge of meats is second to none.

The finest steaks imaginable on display at The Harrods Steakhouse.

From four refrigerated cabinets, Dodaro gives customers the opportunity to select steaks that include 21-day, dry-aged Aberdeen Angus and American Wagyu. Prices range from £10 per 100g for a bone-in sirloin to £15 per 100g for fillet. In introducing the range, this maestro clearly illustrated the passion for what he purveys.

The T-bone steak.

We opted to share a T-bone (priced at £10 per 100g) and an American Wagyu steak. Served with vine-roasted cherry tomatoes, both were frankly the best we’ve sampled at the many steak restaurants we’ve visited for Da Steeps Speaks this year. Cooked in front of our eyes in the tiny space behind the bar, the chefs place flags with rather fun cooking flags on each piece of meat and what they served was frankly glorious, especially tender and wonderfully flavourful.

The American Wagyu steak.

We tried both a superlative Roquefort butter sauce and a less exciting peppercorn offering (£2 each) but what really impressed as sides were the Macaroni cheese and the perfectly creamed spinach (£4.50 each). The fries triple-cooked in beef driping (also at £4.50) were the only real let down as these were not as tantalising in taste as we’d expected.

To finish, we concluded by sharing a crème brûlée and a piece of buttermilk chocolate cake (£7 each). The former certainly was impressive whilst I’d suggest that the management look into an alternative for the latter as it was perhaps a little on the dry side.

With Enomatic® wine machines, the entire list at The Harrods Steakhouse is available by both the glass and bottle. Starting at £8 for a 2010 Babera del Piemonte at £8 a glass or £22 a bottle, the list of reds rises through a 2009 Chianti Classico at £16 a glass or £42 a bottle to a 2007 Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru at £43 a glass or £120 a bottle. The white offering is more limited but includes a 2009 Chablis Domaine Bernard Defaix at £15 a glass or £38 a bottle and pleasingly for beer lovers, The Steakhouse at Harrods also offers Meantime London Lager at £6 a pint.

That “modern-day Dorothy Parker” Fran Lebowitz once said: “My favourite animal is steak.” I’d have to add that: “My favourite steak of the year has to be that served at The Harrods Steakhouse.”

The Steakhouse at Harrods, 87 – 135 Brompton Road, London, SW1X 7XL:

Opening hours: Monday to Saturday: 11.30am to 8pm, Sunday: 12pm to 6pm.

Gin: the spirit of 2012?

The simplicity of a gin drinking granny wins all

Yesterday Nielson named Aldi’s brilliant advert showing a grandmother talking about her husband’s enjoyment of tea and her own preference for gin as the most popular advert of the year.

Aldi's advert starring Jean Jones from Teeside.

Directed by MJ Delaney, this 21-second advert, starring Jean Jones, is simplicity in the extreme and goes as follows:

I buy this tea for my husband. He likes tea.

He also likes this one.

I don’t like tea. I like gin.

In an interview on her performance, Jones, who is aged 83 and last acted in a Shakespeare play when she was 14, commented:

“I never in a million years thought I would even be picked for this role… I am a big tea drinker… I only occasionally drink gin.”

 Martin Miller: one of the pioneers in the revival of all things gin.

Over the course of the year, Da Steeps Speaks has covered all manner of things related to gin and it seems that finally a revival is truly under way. From new gin brands such as Sipsmith, No. 3, Berkeley Square and Bloom to favourites including Martin Miller’s and Plymouth, interest in what was once considered a “Mother’s Ruin” has finally begun to rocket.

Sipsmith's Jared Brown, Stamford Goldsworthy and Fairfax Hall at their distillery at 27 Nasymth Street, London, W6 0HA.

A favourite of friends John Stoddart and Julia Peatling, who I often enjoy a proper gin and tonic with at La Brasserie in Brompton Cross, gin is now also taking over from vodka as the top spirit on many a cocktail list.

No. 3: Berry Bros. & Rudd's London Dry gin brand.

Though there are several cuckoos in the nest, most notably a gin flavoured with coconut that tastes thoroughly vile, Radio 4 covered the subject with a programme by Dan Saladino on gin and botanicals earlier this month. Today, they continue their investigation into the subject with a piece at 8.30pm where Peter Day meets some of the entrepreneurs currently shaking up the sector.

As Denis Thatcher once said: “I don't know what reception I'm at, but for God's sake give me a gin and tonic. “

Watch Aldi’s commercial at:

Listen to BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme: Gin & Botanicals at:

Listen to BBC Radio 4’s In Business: A Glass of Its Own tonight at 8.30pm:

For more on gin in general go to The Gin Blog at: and also visit Gintime at:

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The art of pronunciation

Tracey Emin’s misuse of the English language

The artist Tracey Emin, who guest edited BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, has been widely attacked in the ensuing hours as a “Tory stooge” after revealing she’s voted for both David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

Britartist Tracey Emin

That Emin has voted for the party closest to my own political persuasions is about the only thing I can say I admire her for. I personally think her unmade beds and tents covered with the names of all the men she’s ever slept with are nothing other than gross but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be allowed an opinion as to who should be in power.

BBC Radio 4's Today programme

Instead, what I found most irritating about her stint on the show was her appalling use of the English language. Perpetuated with words like “mornin” and “workin” and “doin,” Emin’s pronunciation was beyond dreadful and made me truly felt like hurling something at the radio.

Tracey Emin would do well to heed the words of George Bernard Shaw: “To correct an Englishman’s pronunciation is to imply that he is not quite a gentleman.”

Listen to the BBC Radio 4 Today interview with Tracey Emin at:

Sunday, 25 December 2011

A Grand farewell

A review of Richard II at The Donmar Warehouse starring Eddie Redmayne, Andrew Buchan and Michael Hadley

Last night I was lucky to attend one of the finest productions of a Shakespeare play that I’ve seen in a long while.

Eddie Redmayne as Richard II at The Donmar Warehouse

Richard II, which runs until 4th February, marks Michael Grandage’s final production at The Donmar Warehouse. His 9-year stint as artistic director at the theatre has been remarkably successful and highlights have included Frost/Nixon, Merrily We Roll Along and The Chalk Garden.

The undoubted star of this production has to be the Olivier and Tony award-winning actor Eddie Redmayne. This Old Etonian is best known for having appeared in Stephen Poliakoff’s Glorious 39 (2009) and Peter Morgan’s The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) but is also a successful model who has just completed an advertising campaign for Burberry’s spring/summer 2012 collection with my friend Charles Delevingne’s daughter, Cara.

Eddie Redmayne with Cara Delevingne in Burberry's spring/summer 2012 campaign advertising

Described as “established” on the theatre circuit and tipped to be “one of British cinema’s most distinctive faces,” Redmayne amazingly even impressed Charles Spencer of the Daily Telegraph – a man who is best known as Britain’s most notoriously pugnacious critic. Of Redmayne’s performance in the role of Richard II, a man born to rule but incapable of doing so, Spencer states:

Eddie Redmayne confirms his status as one of the most exciting young actors in Britain today with his often mesmerising performance as Richard II. He is by turn grandiose, camp, maudlin and self-dramatising, and sometimes all of these things at once.”

 Andrew Buchan as Henry of Bolingbroke, later to be Henry IV, King of England and Lord of Ireland

Andrew Buchan, whose fiancée Amy Nuttall stars in Downton Abbey as Ethel, as Richard II’s rival Bolingbroke is devious and dark. Assured and assertive, Buchan plays the role of the future Henry IV with gusto and the scene where he encounters Richard II’s coffin is especially well orchestrated.

 Michael Hadley as John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster

Michael Hadley as John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, is intense and brooding. He plays the role of this raging influencer brilliantly and his “this sceptred isle” speech is especially noteworthy.

The set of the play is equally impressive: with incense wafting throughout and a monastic stage complete with balcony, Grandage cleverly brings the audience deep into the action. With our proximity to the destructive viciousness of the characters, we find ourselves as much accused as the sycophants turned turncoats that are played by Harry Attwell, Daniel Flynn, Daniel Easton, Michael Marcus, Stefano Braschi and Jospeh Timms.

Michael Grandage

As Shakespeare himself wrote: “The ripest fruit first falls.” Don’t miss this chance to say adieu to Michael Grandage.

Richard II by William Shakespeare plays at The Donmar Warehouse until 4th February 2012. Tickets range from £10 to £32.50 per person.

For more information on the production or to book tickets call  +44 (0) 844 871 7624 or go to:

For more information on Michael Grandage go to:

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Let it snow

A little light relief on Christmas Eve

Type "let it snow" into Google and you'll enjoy what you see.

Google "let's it snow"

Watch as the window hazes over with snow and then use your mouse to draw whatever you wish in the fog. When you’re ready, hit the “defrost” button to return to normality. This is certainly one of Google's most clever tricks yet.

Happy Christmas from Da Steeps Speaks.

Friday, 23 December 2011

The truth isn’t always as the media portrays it

The story of a murder scene, a crumbling mansion and a bankrupt property company

This morning I read a piece in the Daily Mail about a crumbling mansion in Cheshire that simply didn’t quite ring true.

Oakleigh, Dunham Road, Bowdon, Altrincham, Cheshire, WN14 4NX in it's current derelict state

The article, sensationally headlined: “The stunning Victorian mansion no one wants to buy,” told of the tragic story of the manslaughter of Alison Lumsden by her manically depressed husband, Christopher, in 2005 at their home, Oakleigh in the Bowdon area of Altrincham.

An aerial view of Oakleigh prior to the death of Alison Lumsden

In their piece, the Daily Mail suggest that since the killing the house has been: “Deserted, with smashed [and] boarded-up windows, dozens of tyres piled up along one side and its lawns turned to scorched grass.” They describe the property as an “eyesore” that no one wants but in fact, when I did a simple Google search, I discovered that it had, until recently, been owned by a firm of developers named Greenlink.
Oakleigh, built in the 1880s, was purchased from Christopher Lumsden and the estate of his wife for £1 million by Greenlink in 2007 following his release after serving a 2-year sentence. At around the same time the company, operated by Colin Smith and John Brownley, also separately purchased an adjoining house named Tall Trees for a further £1 million as well as piece of land connecting the two.

A more recent aerial view of Oakleigh

The Daily Mail point out that Oakleigh and Talls Trees are now for sale through a firm of estate agents named Watersons as a whole at offers above £2 million or separately in up to three lots. In his piece, James Tozer, is very specific in pointing out the agents’ neglect to mention the “grisly past” of the property but fails to make reference to the fact that the main reason the site has fallen into such disrepair is because Greenlink, who secured planning permission for significant redevelopment there, went bust in 2010.

With this kind of reporting, the Daily Mail show themselves to be uninterested in the true facts surrounding the dereliction and sale of this property. Instead of attempting to shock readers with the most gruesome of old news, the paper should also have acknowledged that the recession is most probably the real reason that Oakleigh has fallen into such decline and as to why no one has yet bought this property.  

For more information on the sale of Oakleigh contact Watersons on +44 (0) 161 941 6633 or email them at: For details and imagery see:

Read the Daily Mail’s coverage (23rd December 2011) on the sale of Oakleigh and the Lumsden case at:

A villain’s bargain

The tale of an “architectural marvel” sold for a third of the original asking price

The sharp architectural lines of The Razor, San Diego

Today it has been revealed that an 11,000 square foot residence on the coast of California named The Razor has sold for just $14.1 million against an original asking price of $45 million.

The Razor's infinity pool and the Pacific Ocean beyond

Designed by Wallace E. Cunningham, who was named as one of the top one hundred designers in 2004 and 2007 by Architectural Digest and one of the top thirty designers in 2007 by the Robb Report, this spectacular modernist residence was constructed over 6 years above the Torrey Pines State Reserve through a 30ft excavation into it’s hilltop cliff setting and embedding into the bluff.

The Razor's setting above the Torrey Pines State Reserve and Black's Beach

Sculpture-like in appearance, here is a San Diego residence that has featured in Calvin Klein and Visa® Black Card adverts that would do James Bond proud. Effectively a glass pavilion within a polished concrete enclosure, Cunningham created the property, which is located at 9826 La Jolla Farms Way, in 2007 to the specification of a property developer named Jimmy Cooksey Jr. Never occupied to date, The Razor failed to sell at several auctions following Cooskey Jr.’s bankruptcy and this week a telecommunications tycoon and real estate investor named Donald A. Burns was able to snap it up for a third of the original asking price.

The living space at The Razor featured in  Visa® Black Card's 2011 advertising campaign

Entered through an 8 car subterranean garage, The Razor, which boasts private access to Black’s Beach below, the largest nudist beach in the United States, features a central courtyard, vast entertaining spaces with wrap-around views out over the Pacific Ocean, a circular movie theatre, 4 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms, a fitness suite, a rooftop terrace and a 60ft heated infinity pool.

The master suite of The Razor comes complete with panoramic Pacific Ocean views

Burns, who has also been linked to the apartment building in SoHo New York where Heath Ledger died, should be congratulated on his bargain but he'll certain need acres of curtains to protect his modesty from the nudists below and the help of an Oddjob like character to keep all that glass spick and span.

Toshiyuki "Harold" Sakata (1920 - 1982): Bond's "Oddjob"

Watch a video tour of The Razor, 9826 La Jolla Farms Way, San Diego, California, CA 92037 by Bob Hurwitz of Hurwitz James Company at:

Join a Facebook group dedicated to The Razor at:

Watch a Visa® Black Card commercial shot at The Razor at:

Watch a Clavin Klein advert shot at The Razor at:

For more on the architecture practice of Wallace E. Cunningham go to:

Thursday, 22 December 2011

A secret delight

A review of Chakra, Notting Hill Gate, W11  

Renowned Indian chef Andy Varma opened Chakra between Notting Hill Gate and Holland Park in November opposite the site of Damian Hirst's old Pharmacy restaurant.

The exterior of Chakra

The word “chakra” means “vortex or spinning wheel” and is also related to good energy. The logo of the Chakra restaurant reflects this. Originating from around 2500 B.C., the word is associated with Ayurvedic medicine and scriptures and having a “positive chakra” is said to be associated with having a “good and healthy life.” This restaurant definitely offers both of these things but equally should be noted for much, much more.

Andy Varma and his brother Arjun with Shomit Basu and Taimur Khan

Andy Varma, who runs Chakra with his brother Arjun and a core team that includes Shomit Basu and Taimur Khan, began his restaurant career in the 1980s in Mussoorie, India when he opened Le Swisse. This was a huge success and after opening The Village Shop and Dukes Place, he subsequently began to present a regular cookery slot for Good Morning India. In turn, Varma and his brother moved to London to launch Vama on the Kings Road in 1998 and now, following a period travelling in India, they’ve returned with an even more impressive offering.

 The front section of Chakra

Opulently designed by Dezzi McCausland, known for his involvement in the Kingly Club and McQueen, Chakra is frankly one of the most lavishly decorated Indian restaurants I’ve ever been lucky enough to visit. Chakra’s style is about as a far cry from a traditional flock wallpapered establishment as you could possibly get and the building features cream and dark mahogany coloured banquette seating, leather covered walls and oak flooring.  The look is slick and chic but not overwhelming.

The rear section of Chakra complete with conservatory roof

The clientele at Chakra, on the December night we visited, included a mix of well-heeled locals and affluent Indians. The Bentley Mulsanne parked outside and a couple, part of a group next to us, who turned out to be the former owners of the Greenwoods clothing empire, were indicative of the level of wealth here. That said, with such friendly service, Chakra is a restaurant that is a most welcoming a place whoever you may be.

Knowing of Andy Varma’s skills from his Kings Road days, we opted to allow this culinary maestro to guide us through his artisan menu and sampled a vast selection of dishes that ranged from those inspired by The City of Nawabs, Lucknow to the Punjab kitchens of Patiala.

We commenced our “Chakra Experience” with garlic scallops with roasted carom (£16.50) that were packed with oomph. Dilli kebabs (£14.50), made with free-range chicken mince seekh and spiced with fresh mint chutney; and a vegetarian Lucknow plate of spiced lentils and mint with a red kidney bean mince patty and spinach and nutmeg kebab (£10.50), similarly, were both well worthy of a mention in despatches.

Of the many dishes we subsequently tried, the highlight, undoubtedly, had to be the venison Kakori (£15.50). These kebabs were unlike anything I’ve ever had before and simply melted in the mouth: they truly must be experienced to be believed.

A curry of onion and ginger flavoured English baby lamb (£16.50) with fresh bottle gourd that was cooked in a yoghurt sauce was utterly brilliant. Andy Varma learnt the recipe for this dish from a chef named Rehman in Lucknow and I can assure you that this is definitely one not to be missed.

The only slight disappointment had to be the roasted quail (£17.50). Cooked in crushed chickpea flour and marinated in a chilli onion paste, this was the only thing we sampled that was a little lacking in flavour.

We concluded with a ginger and black pepper brûlée with lime jelly (£8.50) and a mango kulfi with raspberry coulis (£8). Calming on the palate, both were highly commendable as were the accompanying sweet wines.

The overall drinks offering at Chakra is surprisingly comprehensive. Beyond a range of beers and signature cocktails is a wine list that starts with a £24 a bottle Pinot Grigio and a 2010 Domaine L’Oliver Rouge, Pay’s d’Oc at £21 a bottle. The offering of whites and reds rises through a whole selection in the mid £30s to a £92 a bottle 2005 Château Gruard Larose. Champagnes range from Chakra’s house offering of a Renard Barnier Brut at £44 a bottle to a 1999 Dom Pérignon Brut at £148 a bottle. We opted for a 2008 Vedicchio Di Matelica Superiore at £32 a bottle and found it perfectly palatable.

Chakra was a huge surprise as Indian restaurants go: here you’ll find a place that is stylish and sophisticated yet run by a welcoming team who are truly passionate about what they offer. It must be stated that if Andy Varma and his team continue in their current vein, this will fast and deservedly become one of London’s hotspots.

Come early 2012, Chakra will also be open for lunch so make sure you get your booking in early as this superb secret will soon be out.

Chakra, 157 – 159 Notting Hill Gate, London, W11 3LF. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7229 115. Website:

Follow Chakra on Twitter at:
Follow Andy Varma on Twitter at:

Seasons greetings

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Thank you for following Da Steeps Speaks during 2011

With the very best of wishes for 2012


Wednesday, 21 December 2011

More money than sense?

Tales of the hardship of being the modern day equivalent of Eloise

In a post for Da Steeps Speaks this morning, today’s guest columnist, Thomas (T.J.) James, included an image of a property, 515 North Country Road, Palm Beach, that one Dmitry Rybolovlev, a 43-year old Russian fertiliser tycoon, had paid $95 million for in 2008.

The Penthouse at 15 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023: soon to be the home of Ekaterina Ryvbolovleva

Subsequently, I read in the Daily Mail that Rybolovlev, who also happens to be in the midst of a $3.5 billion divorce battle, has spent a further $88 million purchasing the most expensive apartment in Manhattan for his 22 year-old daughter, Ekaterina, to live in “part-time.”
A passionate equestrian: Ekaterina Ryvbolovleva

A spokesman for the Rybolovlev family commented:

“A company associated with Ekaterina Rybolovleva, daughter of a well-known businessman Dmitriy Rybolovlev, has signed a contract to purchase an apartment at 15 Central Park West, New York.  The apartment is a condominium currently owned by the Sanford Weill Family. Ms Rybolovleva is currently studying at a U.S. university. She plans to stay in the apartment when visiting New York.”

Anna Abramovich: daughter of Roman Abramovich and his former wife, Irina Vyacheslavovna Malandina

Back in August, I wrote of Anna Abramovich, the 19-year old daughter of Russian oligarch and Chelsea Football Club owner, Roman Abramovich, who was quoted in the Evening Standard talking of the “relatively modest little haven” that daddy bought for her at a cost of “just” £4 million. At a time when the streets of Britain were filled with rioters, this young lady illustrated the colossal divide between the haves and the have-nots.

Omar Khyami and his fiancé Tamara Ecclestone

Since then, on a near daily basis, we’ve been subjected to the shenanigans of another pair of billionaire brats mainly thanks to the Daily Mail, OK! and Channel 5. In an effort, to present herself as normal, 27-year old Tamara Ecclestone, daughter of Formula One boss, Bernie Ecclestone and his ex-wife Slavica, appeared in a show named Billion $$ Girl where she inspected works on her £45 million mansion and highlighted the “heights and inevitable lows” of her glitzy life.

Petra Ecclestone and her husband James Stunt

Separately, Ecclestone’s younger sister, Petra, 23, has very publicly enjoyed supposed a £12 million wedding ceremony to James Stunt as well as purchasing the 100-room, 57,000 square foot former home of Candy Spelling for “a bargain” $85 million. To top it off, they’ve also bought Sir Anthony and Lady Bamford’s London residence, Sloane House, for £66 million and immediately begun an ambitious scheme to entirely remodel it.

Sloane House, 149 Old Church Street, London, SW3 6EB

I have no personal problem with any of the above individuals but frankly the fact that they need to flaunt their vast wealth so publicly, at this, a time of economic misery, is frankly tacky.

The former home of Aaron and Candy Spelling: The Manor (also known as "Spelling Manor"), 594 South Mapleton Drive, Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, California, CA 90024

Read my original piece about Anna Abramovich’s £4 million crib at:

Learn more about Tamara Ecclestone’s Channel 5 show, Billion $$ Girl, at:

View Tamara Ecclestone’s personal website at: