BROTHERLY LOVE








This is another mind-blowing, tastebud-enrapturing, scrumpilicious post about fine chocolate and graphics and also another story about people who dare to follow their dream and share it with others.

I came across Mast Brothers Chocolate yesterday as I was ‘researching’ in the beautifully diminutive Paul A Young chocolate shop in Soho.

As the name suggests, Mast Brothers Chocolate is composed of two brothers, American, who handcraft fine chocolates and offer amazing pairings of flavours from their factory in Brooklyn.




As is often the case, A-Gent of Style was immediately drawn by the gorgeous graphics on the wraps which made him wonder whether these long-bearded, Amish-looking guys had any connection with fabrics as their designs are extremely reminiscent, at least to me, of ubiquitous textiles from various references: Fortuny, Liberty prints, Lucienne Day, damasks, William Morris, Fornasetti, Art Deco, Toile de Jouy and Pop Art or even simple patterns like chevrons, herringbones, ginghams and houndstooths.

What more could a chocoholic decorator want??



 

  PS: you can see the pictures in full when you hover the cursor of your mouse over them and maximise them when you click on them

 

 

GOING COCO FOR COCOMAYA





Self-restraint and self-control are de rigueur when you are a self-confessed chocoholic and also live above one of the most delectable bakeries and chocolateries in London.




 It is not unusual for A-Gent of Style to smell from his flat the mouth-watering and quite frankly mesmeric concoctions made on site that permeate the house day and night. The intoxicating smell is enough to sate your appetite but more than often, the allure is too much to resist.

Located in the heart of Connaught Village in W2 between Marylebone, Notting Hill and Mayfair, Cocomaya is an Alice in Wonderland, a Midsummer Night’s Dream or a Tim Walker-shot cornucopia of succulent delicacies and dainties.




An artisanal bakery with an adjacent chocolate boutique round the corner (both decked out with continental-style tables and chairs on the pavement, themselves embellished by seasonal shrubs), Cocomaya has the power to enthrall any visitor with the sheer spectacle of its hand-made delights and its welcoming atmopshere (the staff are ever so charming).

Renowned for its exquisite quality – only the best organic products and South American cocoa are sourced here – and creativity, Cocomaya attracts a returning and loyal clientèle and has become a stopping place for gluttons gastronomes in search for one of the best cakes, pastries and chocolates the capital has to offer.

Cocomaya is the brainchild of two fashion and lifestyle players – accessories designer Walid al Damirji and former Liberty Head of Concept Joel Bernstein – who decided to follow their heart and their passion for fine chocolate and created Cocomaya in 2009 and masterminded the whole concept as well as the interior design.

The Bakery, Connaught Street

 

On one side, you will find the bakery with its entrance on Connaught street. Sheathed in pale, bleached timber on the floor and on the walls, the chalet-like room has tastefully and gleefully been decorated with various touches: cool white marble to top the piled-up displays and the tables (there is one oblong communal table and one bar-like table), bright olivey green paint in the niches, joyful packaging (I particularly like their chocolate boxes fronted with vintage postcards) and charming sets of unmatching antique crockery and cake stands.

Expect to find ‘Morning Cakes’ (my ‘to-go’ morning choice), pistachio polenta cakes, cinnamon buns, chocolate fondants to name but a few as well as seeded breads, savoury and fruity salads, healthy sandwiches amongst the more traditional pastries and the newly arrived ‘Cronut’, that sinful, hybrid version of a donut and a croissant – A-Gent of Style tried every flavour so far (chocolate, coconut and salted caramel) purely in the name of research…






The Chocolaterie, Porchester Place

 

On the other side, on Porchester Place, is the chocolaterie – the campiest and kitchiest of the two spaces (ergo my favourite). A bit more Mad Hatter Tea Party, this parlour is an Aladdin’s cave replete with irresistible chocolate creations that sparkle like jewels as they rest on pretty plates or marble slabs. Whilst some of them remain more classic in their shapes (truffles, nut clusters, bars) and flavours (white, milk, dark, bitter dark), others take on a much more experimental and quirky turn: mechanic tools boxes, coins, daisies, edible glittery lizards, skulls and stilettos, and the chocolates are available for instance in Bramley Apple, Sea Salt Caramel, Garden Mint, Sicilian Lemon, Banoffee, Sour Cherry and many other scrumptious characteristics.

There is a long English country wooden kitchen table and chairs often used for customised tea parties (Keira Knightley celebrated her hen party here) in front of a magical mural adorned with an other-worldly scene featuring a giant pelican and butterflies on a olivey background. Set at the back of the room is a mirrored vitrine abounding in beautiful vintage crockery and ‘curiosities’ (for sale), with wild branches and flowers on top to add to the wonder.

 Ralph Waldo Emerson proclaimed that “Moderation in all things, especially moderation.”, an adage A-Gent of Style has to reluctantly remind himself every day.



A 5TH STAR IS BORN: THE WELLESLEY HOTEL (PART 1)









A-Gent of Style
was awaiting with great anticipation two events this year, both different in essence but with a common thread – Art Deco (of course): the opening of the 5-star hotel in London, The Wellesley, and the release of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby.

Whilst the movie was a great disappointment despite its dazzling costumes and superb interiors (Gatsby’s bedroom-cum-dressing room was a design tour-de-force and has now become A-Gent of Style‘s dream boudoir), The Wellesley is a triumph.

Situated opposite Hyde Park at Number 11 Knightsbridge where the famous jazz club Pizza on the Park used to be (oh the memories!) and tucked away between the equally opulent ‘grande dame’ hotels The Lanesborough and The Berkeley, the 1920s townhouse is the new contender amongst London’s luxury hotels.

Now owned by Arab Investments Ltd, the hotel was named after Sir Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, a fine military leader who served as the Prime Minister of Great Britain twice between 1828 and 1834, and later as leader of the House of Lords





The beautifully restored and lavishly refurbished hotel is the result of the award-winning Fox Linton Associates who transformed and crafted the interiors of the 36 suites and bedrooms residence with a modern Art Deco feel and sumptuous finishes.

The six-floor hotel is comparatively smaller compared to the more imposing aforementioned hotels but still offers its residents traditional glamour, contemporary luxury and an uncompromising service. Where else do you get a complimentary 24-hour butler service and the courtesy of a Rolls-Royce drop off service within a 1.5mile radius!






The existing, historical aspects of the current building – above the infrastructure of the Piccadilly Line of the London Underground –  were preserved. The orignal facade decorated with stone and faience was retained but a new one was added and constructed this time with brickwork and slate.





A-Gent of Style
was given special access to the hotel especially the suites and penthouses but this first part will focus on the ground floor and its common areas.




As soon as you step in past the heavy bronze entrance doors, you know that you are dealing with opulence and excellence. A long, colonnaded, vaulted corridor bedecked in marble welcomes you and invite you to discover the interconnected rooms on either side. Everything here has been custom-made and the craftmanship and attention to detail are second to none: the glitzy crystal ceiling lights, the bespoke art work on the walls, the big stud-patterned desks with leather, marble and metals, and the etched, mirrored arcades above the walls.




But what is special about The Wellesley is that the common areas are relatively small and it hasn’t got the overwhelming grandeur some of its counterparts have. It is very much in a class of its own. For instance, there isn’t an imposing lobby and reception area as such with squads of staff milling about with suitcases or trays. It is contradictorily quite simple yet luxurious and feels very intimate and serene.






The first room on your right is the Crystal Bar which showcases a wall of the finest whiskies, armagnacs and cognacs where you can sip languorously at the wondrous 1920s-like, lit-up, glass and marble bar from the midnight-blue faux-crocodile stools. The floor is covered in Moonlight Grey and Noir St Laurent marble






The Wellesley attracts tobacco enthusiasts as it has one of the largest bespoke humidor in the UK.


Wellesley_Hotel-166
Great job on the Art Deco graphics!



On the left, you will find the dark and moody  Humidor Lounge opposite the bar which proved to be the perfect spot for us to have an apéritif the evening I visited. The look of these two rooms is very masculine, sultry and moody a bit like Claridge’s The Fumoir and has the feel of a Gentlemen’s Club. Here the deep-buttoned, Chesterfield black leather sofas and chairs complement well the imposing painting of Winston Churchill and the modern sculptural lights (or is it light sculptures?). The imposing circular blue glass chandelier is undeniably the pièce de résistance. The light fittings in the public areas were made by Dernier & Hamlyn.






There are two outdoor, covered Cigar Terraces (with rugs and art on the walls!) which provide an intimate yet spacious environment to indulge in a fine cigar. The furniture is made of teak and the upholstered in dark blue leather.
 




Then, on the left-hand side at the end of the corridor, guests will find The Jazz Lounge where they can enjoy a selection of high teas while listening to daytime jazz or settle back with a cocktail during the evening in an intimate, Gatsby style and atmosphere. I liked the palette of soft pinks on the chairs (leather on the seats but silk on the back; great detail) and particularly the bronze screen – I do love a screen – adorned with festoon-shaped pearl strings, mixed with the deep blue on the Gunta Stölz-esque, square-patterned carpet.









ivory faux ostrich wall panelling

ivory faux ostrich wall panelling




The Oval Restaurant, on the right, is an intimate hideaway which can seat up to 28 customers offering refined Italian cuisine. Once again, the room is smoothly enveloped in sugar-almond pinks found on the hand-crafted mahogany chairs upholstered with leather on the front and horsehair on the back and deep-buttoned banquettes and is replete with glamourous references to Art Deco from the sunburst-shaped, 2-toned glossy marble on the floor to the cream, fan-shaped leather panels on the walls with brass detailing, the glitzy chandelier on the circular, coffered ceiling and the concertinaed mirrored wall that reminded me of the iconic staircase at the Paris Chanel store, Rue Cambon.











Stay tuned for Part 2 where A-Gent of Style will be taking you on a private tour of the suites and penthouses…





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