The tanned legend

Aren’t you fascinated by people that have a perennial tan? How can their skin absorb so many rays when there are others that can lie flat for hours in the sun and just be adorned with three freckles? Valentino should certainly be the poster model for Fake Bake. Throughout his career, whether he’s stood next to Jackie O or Sophia Loren, he’s just a bronzed legend. Sun-kissed and talented, what a jackpot.


Now, that’s not the only takeaway from the Somerset House exhibition I went to over the weekend. The takeway was that Valentino has designed the most wonderful, intricate and feminine dresses that you would never be able to wear as a mere mortal, due to their haute-ness. These are creations made for stateswomen, royals, celebrities and models.

Jackie O

It’s one thing admiring a dress from afar, or even from an image, but to see it up close, with impeccable stitching, detailing and sequins, you get a completely different experience. There are around 130 dresses on display at the Valentino, Master of Couture exhibition at Somerset House; dresses worn by Audrey Hepburn to Anne Hathaway are there to lust after. What impressed me was that two mannequins couldbe standing next to each other and it was impossible to say whether the designs were from the 60s or the 90s. That indicates an ethereal style that defies time and fads.

Miss Audrey

What’s so brilliant at Somerset House is not only their exhibitions (I’ve been to the current Tim Walker affair and a  Maison Martin Margiela a few years ago), but the food options. If you’re ever hungry on the Strand or around Covent Garden, make for Somerset House.

My favourite is Fernandez & Wells, which have other outlets across the city, and serve Mediterranean fare. On weekends they have an all day brunch dish with chorizo, fried eggs and sourdough bread, which is just as simple yet spectacular as you would want it to be. One word of caution, however, it does get pretty steamy in there, so you might walk away with chorizo-scented hair. At the counter they have a selection of cakes (not your usual chocolate cakes, thank goodness), ranging from plum to carrot and honey. I once tried an olive oil cake, which was moist and wonderful. It was impossible to resist and you should know I’m not that fussed about cakes most of the time.

There’s also a Tom’s Kitchen in another wing of the museum, with the deli section providing further sugar temptation. I’ve never had lunch at the brasserie, but the steak tartare in the Chelsea branch is so mind-blowingly good I don’t even want to think about it. I get cravings. The fruit juices are pretty stellar too.

With the palest month yet to come (I hear it’s February), I take comfort in thinking about Valentino’s jetset complexion, his exquisite designs and good Mediterranean comfort food, hoping that those three freckles will materialise come May.


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