Edmondo di Robilant talks personal taste: Part Two

The Robilant + Voena gallery co-founder puts the finishing touches to his list of favourites

Edmondo di Robilant at Robilant + Voena gallery.
Edmondo di Robilant at Robilant + Voena gallery. | Image: Jude Edginton

My style icon is a mix of “L’Avvocato”, Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. L’Avvocato is Gianni Agnelli, obviously, who was a very dear friend of the family and luckily a good client of mine over the years. He had this inimitable style that all Italians aspire to – whatever he did, five minutes later half the country was copying it; it was quite extraordinary. He carried it off completely nonchalantly; he was very charismatic, very good-looking, very amusing, hugely cynical – an amazing person who had consummate taste. Then Jimmy Stewart because he was cosy and lovely, very elegant and a real gentleman; and Cary Grant because he was a bit raffish but still beautifully dressed. We are talking about style here; we are not talking about content.

If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is Paris, the only European cosmopolitan city in which I would feel comfortable; Gallic humour – in other words, none – notwithstanding. It’s a very sophisticated city, full of wonderful, small, one-off shops, and it still has some decent restaurants – not many admittedly. Then there are the fabulous museums, lots of friends and so on.

A vintage Patek Philippe watch.
A vintage Patek Philippe watch.

The last thing I bought and loved was a second-hand Patek Philippe chronograph. Every time I see a Patek Philippe, that’s the watch I want, from a very simple one such as the Calatrava – its signature model, which I bought when I was in my early 30s – to this one that I just bought, which is a “grand complication” from the 1970s. It makes them a bit larger now, though, which I don’t particularly like. 15 New Bond Street, London W1 (020-7493 8866; www.patek.com).

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is the Greek island of Naxos, where I did a five-day walk in the hills with some mates last May. It’s one of the Cyclades, the group of islands that includes Mykonos and Paros, and is particularly beautiful. We found ruined Jesuit monasteries, Byzantine churches and this wonderful, more-than-2,000-year-old kouros statue – just left there because it was broken.

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And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is a magnificent late-19th-century, or possibly early-20th-century, sign that says, “I am not paying commission to anybody.” I bought it from a stall in Udaipur market last Christmas. I had to negotiate furiously as it had belonged to the owner’s grandfather and had been in front of his shop for 100 years. It now sits proudly in my office, reminding people not to come cap in hand.

The last meal that truly impressed me was at The Square, where the food is 10 out of 10 and the atmosphere is nought out of 10, which is just perfect. I like it quiet so that I can hear myself and the person next to me talking, rather than at those super-trendy places where you come out feeling that you have been in a tumble dryer for the past three hours. And they don’t interrupt you every two seconds to discuss your food or your wine. 6-10 Bruton Street, London W1 (020-7497 7100; www.squarerestaurant.com).

The late Gianni Agnelli.
The late Gianni Agnelli. | Image: Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city? There used to be a time when that question could be answered with conviction; now most cities are exactly the same, with the same shops, wherever they be. But 25 years ago I would have answered with Milan, its Via Montenapoleone and environs. It had Truzzi, the best shirtmaker ever – gone; Orio, the best shoemaker – also gone. It still has Cova and St Ambroeus, the best coffee shops; and Red and Blue, with the best ties, is still there, thank God. Cova, Via Montenapoleone 8 (+3902-7600 5599; www.pasticceriacova.it). Red and Blue, Via Montenapoleone 8 (+3902-7602 3392). St Ambroeus, Corso Matteotti 7 (+3902-7600 0540; www.santambroeusmilano.it).

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Camille Corot, specifically his early Roman-period sketches. And early abstract watercolours by Kandinsky. I would love to be able to collect, but I never will.

Scottish langoustine tails, Parmesan gnocchi and an emulsion of potato and truffle at The Square.
Scottish langoustine tails, Parmesan gnocchi and an emulsion of potato and truffle at The Square. | Image: Neil Setchfield

My favourite room is my drawing room in leafy suburbia. I have lived in that house since the mid-1990s and, as with all projects where you move out of the centre, it takes a bit of time to get accustomed to it, but I now love it – and I particularly love the drawing room. It is full to the gills with knick-knacks, statues and pictures, and is extremely comfortable. Because I am surrounded by green – it is a detached house – you could easily be in Gloucestershire.

The last item I added to my wardrobe is a smoking jacket from Caraceni. [When I wear it] I am in danger of looking like a president of a banana republic. €5,000; Via Fatebenefratelli 16, 20121 Milan (+3902-655 1972; www.a-caraceni.it).

Tailor John Kent of Kent Haste & Lachter.
Tailor John Kent of Kent Haste & Lachter. | Image: Jemima Beulah

In my fridge you’ll always find smoked eel from Holland. I do the European Fine Art Fair at Maastricht every year and I come back with a car full of bits and pieces, including kilos of this stuff. www.tefaf.com.

The people I rely on for personal grooming are John Kent, of Kent Haste & Lachter, my favourite tailors and shirtmakers. And, as a hair stylist, I have Vito, from Sicily. For £9 a haircut, he is very good and cuts my hair in about 20 seconds. I don’t have a nutritionist – apart from my wife giving me a hard time. Kent Haste & Lachter, 7 Sackville Street, London W1 (020-7734 1433; www.kenthastelachter.com). Vito, 349A Upper Richmond Road, London SW15 (020-8878 1832).

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If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a food critic, or maybe a pizzaiolo. That’s a difficult one, because being an art dealer suits me to a T quite honestly. But otherwise, it would have to be food related.

The best gift I’ve given recently was a very pretty 2nd-century Roman carnelian intaglio ring I found at the Olympia International Fine Art & Antiques Fair and gave to my wife. I always go to Olympia to see if, by any chance, I will find a picture I like – which, of course, I never do, then I get bored and look at the jewellery. I only like giving gifts when there is no particular reason. I hate being put under pressure for Christmas or birthdays. www.olympia-art-antiques.com.

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