Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Spotlight on....Luisa Via Roma

Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.
Florence, Italy does not lack for designer boutiques. In fact, the via Tornabuoni is full of the usual suspects: Prada, Armani, Cavalli. Indeed, Florence gave the world both Salvatore Ferragamo and Pucci, something of a rarity in Milano-centric Italy. However, wandering through Florence on my annual pilgrimage last summer (well, actually, limping as I had just badly injured my foot), I discovered a gem of a shop, stocking harder to find, more edgy designers such as Givenchy, Lanvin, Alexander McQueen and D-Squared - all up-to-date collections. The buyers are extremely good. Indeed, at the moment, it is one place to pre-order some of the new, hotly anticipated bags which are the result of a collaboration between Mulberry and Giles Deacon (please see future post for more).
Situated just off one of Florence's main squares, the Piazza della Repubblica, in the via della Roma, just near the Duomo, it is open seven days a week.
A large space, set over several floors, Luisa Via Roma offers plenty of temptation for even the most jaded shopper. I have also never seen some of the stock anywhere else. Luisa Via Roma is more than just a clothes shop, it is more of a concept store. The staff are very friendly, very helpful and mutli-lingual. Nothing was too much trouble for them. There is also a menswear section upstairs. Indeed, the Florence shop was recently the location for the launch party of Lapo Elkann's new label Italia Independente.
There are two more Luisa Via Roma stores in Italy, the De Grillis boutique in Rome and LVRP, in Prato. However, if you are not intending to visit Italy soon, Luisa Via Roma has a comprehensive and well-designed website which ships worldwide.
Luisa Via Roma, via Roma 19/21 r, 50123, Florence, Italy. Tel: +39 (0) 55 21 78 26
De Grillis, via Campo Carleo 25, 00184, Rome, Italy. Tel: +39 (0) 6 69 29 31 18
LVRP, via Roma 24, 59100, Prato, Italy. Tel: +39 (0) 5 74 4018 40

Monday, January 15, 2007

Tea Time!

Image copyright Louisa McKenzie.
For those of us who dislike coffee, want a healthy drink or just love tea, the Tea Palace in Westbourne Grove, London is paradise. A restaurant and a shop for teas and tea related products, it stocks an unprecedented range. Black teas, green teas, white teas, tisanes, mate, rooibos and blends of all of the above nestle in huge, imperial purple tins, stacked neatly on shelves from floor to ceiling behind the counter. The friendly and knowledgable staff are always willing to offer suggestions both for specific "complaints" i.e. tea to boost the immune system, to help you sleep, for digestive difficulties and specific requests (e.g. allergies). Unlike many so called "healthy" drinks, these teas are both delicious and are designed purely to be drinks, not herbal remedies. One of my favourites, particularly during "cold season" is Immune Boost, an organic blend of echinacea, ginseng, orange, ginger and lemon. This is great first thing in the morning. Particularly impressive is the wide range of green teas, both plain and flavoured. There is always something new to try when you visit. All of the teas are available both to be drunk in the restaurant and to be bought from the shop. This also stocks infusers, teapots , sugar and tea gift sets. The teapots range from the ordinary to the rare. The gift sets are particularly imaginative: tailored to the seasons and presented in a range of cases, sets and "books".
The restaurant at the Tea Palace lives up to expectations. It is particularly popular at the weekend. The food is hearty and tasty and there is a range to suit all appetites.
Tea Palace, 175 Westbourne Grove, London. W11 2SB, UK. +44 (0)20 7727 2600.
Shop online at www.teapalace.co.uk.

Below, A Priori Thé, copyright Louisa McKenzie.

If you love the Tea Palace, you'll also be impressed by A Priori Thé, a beautiful tearoom set in the 19th century splendour of the Galerie Vivienne in Paris, France (the two places are NOT associated). Incredibly popular with locals, it is set slightly away from the main tourist sights but is well worth a visit. It is important to get there early because, being quite small, A Priori Thé fills up quite quickly. There is always a queue. Whilst there isn't quite the range of teas here that there is the Tea Palace, A Priori Thé is not to be outdone. It stocks a selection of teas provided by the legendary blenders Dammann. The teas are renowned for their delicate palates and fruity notes. I would particularly recommend the orange flavoured green tea for a refreshing accompaniment to most meals. The food is equally impressive at A Priori Thé, the goats cheese souflé omlette being light, yet filling. There is a tart or quiche of the day, which is always particularly popular. When you have finished your delicious meal you can explore the Galerie Vivienne, which offers a snapshot of Paris' past but is beautifully maintained.
A Priori Thé, 35-37 Galerie Vivienne, Paris, 75002, France. +33 (0) 1 42 97 4875.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Crisis Averted

Ok. All back to normal now. Please continue e-mailing me. Thank you for your patience.
Quis Sum?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Spotlight on.....Fresh

Photograph copyright Louisa McKenzie.
While there has been a proliferation of natural and naturally inspired cosmetic brands, Fresh remains one of the best. With a wide range of products: make-up, skincare, haircare, perfume and bodycare, there is plenty to choose from for both men and women. The beauty of Fresh is two-fold: firstly, that the products are really effective (and this coming from a paid-up beauty sceptic) and secondly, that the packaging is delicate and exquisite, worthy of any dressing table. Particularly impressive is the wide range of ingredients used and the strange-sounding, but surprisingly effective, combination of these ingredients. I am notoriously difficult to find perfume for, so never would I have thought that I would be wearing a fragrance called "redcurrant basil", and yet, I am. It is delightfully fruity and light, with just the right level of crispness. Similarly successful are the wide range of soap scents. There is something to please everybody. My spies tell me that the V-tonic soap is particularly effective on dry skins. Furthermore, the wide range of gift (many different prices) sets can be particularly useful when you need a last minute present.
The staff in the shops are friendly and knowledgeable, so the best thing to do is drop in and try some products.
Fresh shops in the USA, UK and Korea. See www.fresh.com for details.