The Roaring ’20s…

14/04/2012

HighclerePlain old curiosity led the Client plus household to leave the Big Smoke and head out to Berkshire last Friday to visit Highclere Castle, the Carnarvon family residence which is famously the setting for the much-praised television drama Downton Abbey. I knew of Highclere before she became Downton, for it was the 5th Earl of Carnarvon who funded the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. (I am sensing a preoccupation with ancient Egypt at present… I know not why…)

I have to admit to being slightly fascinated by the 1920’s. The discovery of the tomb in 1922 was a hugely influential cultural event, spawning new stylistic directions in fashion and particularly in jewellery. Cartier in particular was strongly influenced by such motifs as the scarab, the lotus flower and by the architecture of ancient Egypt. Many of their jewels, and those of other major houses from this period, reference the aesthetic brought to light in the discovery.

Other joys from the 20s include the early works of Agatha Christie, who’s first novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles gave life to the much-loved Hercule Poirot and was published in 1920. My favourite AC novel is Death on the Nile (published 1937) and whilst not universally acknowledged as one of her best, does remind us of the grand tours undertaken at the time and evokes the glamour of travel in the jazz age – something that still resonates today with hotels such as Sofitel’s Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan reminding today’s guests that Dame Agatha was a guest there back in the day. P.G. Wodehouse was also writing at this time and his creations Jeeves and  Bertie Wooster appeared in 1919.

Savoy Cocktail Book First Edition

One defining element of this period is the popularity of the cocktail, this being the era during which many of the concoctions we know and love today were created – or if not created then certainly given names and catalogued for wider reference. The defining tome for cocktail lovers everywhere is of course The Savoy Cocktail Book first published in 1930, with an absolutely cracking Art Deco cover design.

Speaking of cocktails, it was my great pleasure to dine with some chums at the Delaunay restaurant the other night and I must give praise for the absolutely delicious Sidecar they served up. Made with 1/3 brandy, 1/3 triple sec, 1/3 lemon juice, my benchmark for brilliance for this particular favourite is the one served at the Connaught Hotel’s Coburg Bar. I have to say the Delaunay’s comes in a very close second and I will need to return as soon as possible for another (for research purposes of course….) The food wasn’t bad either and I have to say the dining room, service and general all round experience was one I very much look forward to repeating, soon and often thereafter. It may well be my new favourite spot.

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