November 23 2010
My personal style signifier is my watch – an IWC Portuguese. I love its design and precision. Like a lot of people, a big part of my job is about time, so I have a very close relationship with my watch. I’d be completely lost without it. From £4,900, 0845-337 1868; www.iwc.com.
The last thing I bought and loved was my brand-new Toyota Prius. I am slightly surprised by how much I like it because I have always preferred big, fast cars. But we can’t go on like we used to. So my new Prius is both a statement and a contribution. It feels good, but above all, it feels right. From £20,265 on the road, 0844-701 6202; www.toyota.co.uk/prius.
And the thing I’m eyeing next is an exquisite wooden Jarai carving. It’s a sculpture of a bird, originally made to guard over the tribe’s burial sites in North Vietnam, and is about 100 years old. I’m hoping to buy it from a collector acquaintance.
An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Australia, where I took the whole family for a four-week holiday. We spent most of it in the outback – best of all was two weeks camping rough in Arnhem Land and Uluru in the Northern Territory. There’s a raw, natural beauty to the vast Australian landscape, which is now engraved in all our memories.
The best souvenir I’ve brought home recently is a mole negro [thick, dark chilli sauce] from Mexico. I bought it at the amazing food market in Oaxaca. It’s made from an incredibly complex and ancient recipe. By the way, it was absolutely sublime with the 1999 Dom Pérignon.
The last music I bought was It Is Time for a Love Revolution by Lenny Kravitz. If I had to choose my favourite track on the album it would be I’ll Be Waiting. Lenny is a very dear friend, who is definitely larger than life. He’s probably the most generous person I know. Both these facets always come across in his music. He’s also a great wine lover.
My favourite website is i-escape.com, which I often look at when I just need to relax and escape mentally, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. I don’t spend a lot of time surfing the web, but this is one site that I keep coming back to.
A recent “find” is the Parisian boulanger, Christophe Vasseur, at Du Pain et Des Idées. I discovered him through the chef Jean-François Piège. There’s no doubt in my mind that Vasseur is a star. He’s obsessed with his craft; it’s like he’s on a mission. 34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris (+331-4240 4452; www.dupainetdesidees.com).
In my fridge you’ll always find Dom Pérignon, of course. But even I don’t drink it every day – it is too special for that. The other staples would include a bottle of Gueuze Lambic beer from Belgium and unfiltered apple juice.
The books on my bedside table are all about Cambodia. I travelled a lot there in the early 1990s and have always found the culture and history fascinating. The first is Angkor and the Khmers by Malcolm MacDonald. The second is Indochine: Une Rêve d’Asie, an omnibus edition by various writers including Pierre Loti, Jean d’Esme, Claude Farrère, Herbert Wild and Jean Cocteau. And lastly, Voyage dans les Royaumes de Siam, de Cambodge, de Laos – et autres parties centrales de L’Indo-Chine by Henri Mouhot. Essentially, I want books to expand my knowledge and understanding. Novels don’t interest me particularly.
The best gift I’ve given recently was a late-18th-century African necklace, which I gave to my wife in August. I bought it at Whisnant Galleries in New Orleans, the most outstanding treasure trove of ethnic jewellery from Africa and Asia I have ever come across. The necklace wasn’t very expensive, but it is beautifully made from ivory and whalebone. 22 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 (+1504-524 9766; www.whisnantgalleries.com).
And the best gift I’ve received recently is a bottle of Fontanasalsa olive oil from a tiny estate in Trapani in Sicily, which was given to me by the owner, Maria Burgarella. It’s a very green olive oil made from the Biancolilla variety, so it’s not at all fruity. By the way, you should check out the B&B there. It’s fantastic. Rooms from €100, www.fontanasalsa.it.