December 19 2011
My weekend was full of much-needed family time following a month of travelling, incessant phone calls, emails and meetings. I always try not to work at the weekends and to return to a “normal rhythm” – if normal exists, of course.
We have just moved into a new house in St John’s Wood in London and there are always things that need to be done. I am still looking for innovative storage, amusing carpets. My great friend Maxwell, a leading male model, did some work on the house and created various staples I like; for example, a huge bed-like sofa (quite North African in inspiration) where we can all lounge and watch TV. He even painted the banisters of the hallway stairs shocking pink.
During the week I emailed Caroline pieces of furniture that caught my eye and at the weekend we discussed what might and might not work – Caroline has a great eye for design, her mother being one of the leading architects and interior designers in Beirut.
I have lived in every area in central London, apart from east – and now that it is super popular, I am a little too jaded to play the hipster. When I first arrived in London, I lived in Chelsea, but then I spent a great deal of time in an apartment located on the border of Hampstead and St John’s Wood. Most recently I have lived in Notting Hill and the West End. It’s funny, I feel as if I have returned home to St John’s Wood as I am surrounded here by so many old friends who know they can pop in any time. I much prefer informality – our house is always open to our friends, whatever time of day or night; it’s a very North African tradition. I love the fact that our friends don’t even wonder if it is a good time to pop by because it’s their home too and they know I will always be up for a quick game of backgammon, or a spirited discussion on the ways of the world.
I love this area of London because it is quiet without being too dead or boring. On reflection, one of the great things about this diverse capital city is that you can endlessly move around it and find an area that will match your mood.
On Saturday, I stayed home for most of the day. I slept late, read the newspapers and some magazines, played with the kids. We had a ball decorating the tree together. Caroline and I also planned the huge number of friends who will be celebrating with us on Christmas Day. Of course I still ended up spending a couple of hours on the phone. In the evening we went to Momo to have a family dinner. I just love it when Momo plays the role of family restaurant – that is the original concept of Momo. Actually, on our business cards, Momo is called a “restaurant familial”. We were celebrating Caroline’s brother’s 30th birthday. It was great, the place was warm and the food tasty. Of course I had a few comments to relay to the staff and discussed a couple of points with the restaurant manager, Bertrand. Bertrand is one of the people I love working with because he is a force of nature. Whether you love him or hate him, it doesn’t matter – he is a huge character and his loud voice and larger-than-life personality are infectious. He is the perfect man to run Momo – French, raised in Africa and his mother owns a guest house in Morocco. I have always relished working with characters – they make the world go round.
The evening turned out to be as perfect as I could have wanted; I even managed to take some time to chat to my family, forget work and actually relax a little bit.
On Sunday, my good friend Lara Bohinc was doing a photo shoot at Sketch for her latest catalogue so I visited her to check that everything was all right and going smoothly. I love what Lara does, her inspirations, the fineness of her lines. It is all about femininity, elegance and modernity. I am very proud that she wanted to use The Parlour because I spend a great deal of energy making this place look warm and comfortable. This is one of the reasons I wanted to have restaurants or more generally create venues, so that my friends could use them for partying or hosting their friends and generally hanging out. Last week we also hosted some students from a film school in Covent Garden who were shooting a scene for their short which will be presented at an international competition. We regularly have fashion photo shoots, live gigs and of course DJ sets by friends.
After that, we took the kids to Slava’s Snowshow at the Royal Festival Hall, an amazing show; I can’t find the appropriate words to describe it – perhaps poetic? It was just amazing. The colours are vibrant, the energy on stage is stunning, the story is very sweet. The manager of the show is my great buddy, Gwenaël Allan. He is also organising the tour for Crazy Horse cabaret so he came with them to Beirut last month or so. It is fun how we’re almost never in the same country or even on the same continent, but we still manage to catch up once or twice a year. He is the kind of friend who feeds me with this very positive energy.
I spent the end of the evening planning my trip to Beirut for the end of this year. We will leave London on the 26th but for work and not holidays. I have to spend some time with so many people from my restaurant there – the chef, the sommelier, the general manager. When you’ve just opened a restaurant, there are many lines of direction that you constantly need to refocus. I am also looking forward to a change from the air of London.
Of course, I could not end such a good weekend without spending some time with The Killing, so I sat on the sofa, laid back a little bit more, and pressed “play”.