The Wallace Collection And The Week

Jan Leeming

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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

THE WALLACE COLLECTION and THE WEEK

Date: 14th February 2010

THE WALLACE COLLECTION and THE WEEK

I've taken The Week for several years now and cannot recommend it highly enough.

I don't buy a paper every day - too depressing and I get so angry and frustrated at what's going on both in the UK and abroad - so I take The Week which covers The Main Stories complete with editorials and also what the commentators are saying and it's a broad spectrum from Left to Right - from The Guardian to the Mail.  There are Theatre and Cinema reviews, articles on wine and restaurants and at the back every week there's a two page article, very often extracted from a book or a longer piece e.g. the latest edition had a completely heart-rending extract called 'Night' written by British historian Tony Judt on his Motor Neurone Disorder.  I just wanted to weep.  This intelligent academic encased in a body where nothing works save for his mind.  I don't think I'd have the courage to continue my 'life'.

So why have I put a heading The Wallace Collection and The Week?  I don't know if this was the first of, what I hope will be, many or if The Week have been organising this kind of function for a long time.  We readers were offered an evening at The Wallace Collection with a lecture by Dame Rosalind Savill (Curator of the Gallery), a glass of champagne and, although I'd totally overlooked the fact, a fabulous catalogue of The Wallace Collection which must on its own have been worth the entrance fee.

I asked my son to accompany me and told him that if he fell asleep, at least please don't snore.  To my delight he stayed awake and thoroughly enjoyed Dame Savill's talk. She was gorgeous - an academic in love with her subject but happy to share it with we ordinary folk on  a level at which we could both appreciate and enjoy. She was also very funny.

What is so lovely about the Wallace Collection is that it's housed in what used to be the family home and it is 'intimate'.  You can actually walk up to the paintings and admire them - as yet there are no barriers.  And there is the most superb furniture dotted around - stunning marquetry work and beautiful carvings - and the only restriction is that you are asked not to touch them. 

As a woman, I was stunned by the fantastic drapes in all the rooms and the décor has been remodelled so as to look the way the house would have been when the Marquesses of Hertford and Richard Wallace lived there.  They must have been stunningly rich to have amassed the treasures that are now on show for us all to see and share.  One rather sad exhibit was the framed Bill of Sale of the Ci-devant Reine of France - poor old Marie Antoinette.

The story of the Hertfords is fascinating.  If you want to know more - just look them up on the Internet.

There were a few surprises for me - I'd always thought that Fragonard's Lady on a Swing and the less well known The Souvenir were very large paintings  - in fact they are both relatively small.  Reminded me of the time I saw the Mona Lisa in the Louvre - very tiny indeed.

We dined in the restaurant - the ambience and décor were simply stunning.  I don't eat out in London very much  but this has to be one of the most gorgeous restaurants around.

A predominantly glass roof has been erected over what would have been the old Courtyard.  The building is about 3 storeys high so you get a fantastic feeling of space and the tables are set well apart.  I don't like restaurants where one is on top of the other customers. 

The meal was a Set Menu for The Week subscribers and the choice was small but excellent.  I don't enjoy being given a huge menu so that by the time you get to the end, you've forgotten what was at the beginning!!  Also, how can the kitchen possibly offer so much choice without being detrimental to the quality of the food.  Having worked in a kitchen for Children in Need and also for Celebrity Masterchef, I'm well aware of the difficulties of providing a huge menu.  I think I'd say 'less is more' and would far rather be given a menu with a few good dishes to suit the tastes of everyone be it fish, meat, or vegetarian.

Don't know what the A la Carte menu might have been nor what sort of prices they would have charged but our Set Meal was excellent in presentation, taste and value.

So, I can heartily recommend both the Wallace Collection and their fabulous restaurant.  And if you ever have the opportunity of hearing Dame Rosalind Savill, do go and listen - she is great - an Academic with a great sense of fun.

I have to say that if I lived closer to London, the Wallace Collection would have me as a regular visitor.  I think you could visit it every week for years and still not take in the minutiae of everything it has to offer.  And the intimate setting was wonderful.

What do you think? Send your feedback to contact@jan-leeming.com.