House & Garden | Diary of a Somebody

Rabih Hage

A long day’s journey from Japanese sashimi to English pub ‘culture’

Rabih Hage

June 10 2011
Rabih Hage

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

I had two meetings on my agenda today: first, a meeting with a lovely but very busy international couple at their offices in Mayfair to finalise a list of ideas and recommendations for their holiday home on the Mediterranean. After that, I had a meeting with a potential new client, Ronnie and his partners, to talk about the refurbishment of their advertisement agency offices in east London. The schedule of some of Ronnie’s partners changed at the last minute, so my spectacular iPad presentation that I had prepared was rescheduled, leaving me with a clear agenda for the afternoon.

I thought it was going to be a crusin’ afternoon into Friday and the weekend. All I have been thinking of since the beginning of the week is Basel, Switzerland, and my week of work and play in this international pharmaceutical city (it does have a cathedral, and many clocks and watches) and its art fair, Art 42 Basel.

In fact it was a busy afternoon that started with a delicious extension of our morning meeting into a working lunch at the excellent Nobu Metropolitan Hotel. My hosts know how to order food. A ballet of the most amazing sashimi from the hand of the head sushi chef looking after us personally with his soft and humble smile hiding his strength and determined character, an excellent trait I see in many Japanese friends. It was an occasion to remember how exceptional Nobu is, as well as all the Japanese culture stuffed in this last bit of tuna roll and the conclusive chocolate fondant cake with its green tea ice cream.

Back to the studio, catching up on e-mails, and I received a phone call from the legend of contemporary design, Maestro Gaetano Pesce, who is in town on his way back from Venice (Biennale) to New York where he has lived and worked for many years. “Let’s have tea, or coffee”; the dilemma was huge… “Well, let’s meet… now.” He popped in for a chat. We were all delighted to see him. It was eight years ago when I had the first exhibition for Gaetano in my gallery in London – and that was the one and only exhibition ever made in London for this leading light! Can you imagine? The giant of surrealist and pop-art design has never had any other exhibition in this city other than our humble show. “We are up for it again Gaetano,” we all agreed; that is done. It will be October 2011 during Frieze Art Fair week.

I like the impulsive programming of shows that are made at short notice with a big heart and no sponsorship.

I had promised Miguel, our newly recruited, highly skilled architect, to take him out for a drink to celebrate. Miguel joined our team a few months ago from Venezuela. His English is getting better every day since he moved here from Caracas. So I took him and his “twin”, his equally skilled Venezuelan colleague, Alvaro, to my favourite pub, The Surprise, in Chelsea, for a little bit of English “culture”.

This little pub on Christchurch Terrace reminds me of the very first day I came to London to work on a short-term basis. I fell in love with the work, the people and this city and I have stayed ever since. It was also my first local pub in London.

It’s now rejuvenated, with Zoe, the cheerful young landlady always smiling and helpful. The food is English and good, served in a relaxed manner, well presented small dishes such as tapas curated by Matt Palmer, the chef at The Surprise. The food is very well complemented with an excellent wine list, which has been carefully chosen by one of the rare Masters of Wine, John Clevely, who is the son of the brilliant couple, Rupert and Jo, founders of Geronimo Inns.

A wake-up call from Françoise at around 7:30pm. I needed to join her and Federica at the Saatchi Gallery for a private reception. Luckily, the venue is on the other side of the Royal Hospital green so I found my way into the Duke of York’s headquarters in his old barracks, went up the stairs and saw 10,000 men and women, or maybe that was the effect of Clevely’s wine. I decided to go home soon; especially because I was slightly molested by a curvaceous Italian lady who was trying to preach to a convert the relevance of design-art in our world. Enough of the art crowd for today, all I can think of now is my bed, and Art Basel next week, where I will see more art, perhaps in better conditions.

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