CHRISTMAS WONDERLAND AT THE DORCHESTER, LONDON

It’s a Christmas Wonderland at The Dorchester Rooftop in London, with the hotel’s first ever festive pop-up in full sway this holiday season. Inspired by the Frost Fairs that were held on the frozen River Thames between the 17th and 19th centuries when the river froze over, yesteryear Londoners celebrated the season by building markets, playing games, and cooking hearty dishes on its icy surface. It is not surprising that the hotel chose a historic theme for its traditional festivities this season, given it has an extraordinary history of its own.

It is hard to believe that the grand dame of London, The Dorchester hotel in Mayfair (the Money Mile as I like to call it), was once just square miles of strawberry fields. The area began to take shape in May 1686, when King James II granted permission for a fortnight of festivities. The festival ran for another 78 years and thus, born the name May Fair. The origins of the hotel go back to 1792 when the Earl of Dorchester, Joseph Damer, bought a house, and named it the Dorchester House. By 1910, the house had evolved into the American Embassy, as well as a hospital during World War I, before being demolished in 1929. It was then rebuilt into the world’s first hotel to be constructed with reinforced concrete, when it opened its doors on April 20, 1931 as the hotel we all know and love, The Dorchester.

The rooftop terrace, overlooking Hyde Park, has three Winter Globes for pod-style dining. With a choice of two set menus – a party menu of shared delights and a three-course Chef’s menu, both of which include a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne, given the pop-up is in collaboration with LVMH.

“We have created tantalising plates inspired by the finest flavours of the Frost Fairs including Lobster Stockings, Vacherin Fondue, Alpine Salad, Smoked Trout with Warm Potato Salad, Venison Wellington and Chestnut Mandarin Baked Alaska that is flamed table side, to name a few. The Winter Globes have been incredibly popular so far. People are excited to cosy up with friends and family with great views and traditional food this festive season,” says Martyn Nail, Culinary Director at The Dorchester.

You either get cosy or cosy up on the Dorchester’s rooftop, but there’s a warm inside too. Inviting hot drinks, a nibbles menu and wintry cocktails are available along with live entertainment, whilst you enjoy a cigar on the smoking terrace, sip on whiskey and port pairings, and savour classic cocktails with a twist such as a Bourbon Espresso Martini, Islay Hot Toddy, Hot Buttered Brandy and a Rosemary Negroni. Frost Fair themed cocktails like Thames Mead and the Golden Elephant will pique your interest – apparently, an elephant was seen on the Thames as a highlight of the very last Frost Fair (this elephant sure wasn’t treading on thin ice by the sound of it)!

The Christmas Wonderland remains open through to New Years and can be booked till January 3rd, 2023. You can also see the very first festive celebrations filled with holiday decorations by in-house designer florist Philip Hammond, within the transformed Promenade of The Dorchester and the new Artists’ Bar after an expansive renovation by designer Pierre-Yves Rochon.

The best time to go to the Christmas Wonderland is at sunset to watch all of London come alive with the holiday decorations and lights – the twinkling night scape is breathtakingly beautiful.

©Rubina A Khan 2022

RUBINA’S RADAR | SHOBHAA DE’S BOOK LAUNCH IN MUMBAI & A CELEBRATORY FASHION MILESTONE IN LUTYENS DELHI

RUBINA’S RADAR

The magnificently restored Royal Opera House a historic address in Mumbai since its inauguration by King George V in 1911 and India’s only surviving opera house relegated to redundancy in the 90s, is now open to the culturati. It is no longer just a geographical landmark on the Uber app, but a live destination that’s marking up newer glories contrasting from its original, sepia-toned ones today. This vintage Baroque edifice was where author and columnist, not to mention “ready-to-be-lynched-for-anything” Shobhaa De launched her latest book, Seventy And To Hell With It on a fine December evening last Wednesday. At the garden gathering amidst family and friends, De was on fire, as a discerning hostess in a cobalt blue, custom couture blouse by Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla and a real zari Jaipur Kota Doria sari greeting her guests, with her luminosity lighting up the de riguer photo-ops and selfies. She then went on to breathe fire in her role as a celebrated author on stage, in conversation with journalist Barkha Dutt and Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut.

The conversation revolved around sex, the celebration of age and beauty in every stage of a woman’s life, the empowerment of women and the power of speaking up, changing the patriarchal guard and living your life wholly on your terms to a full (Opera) House. De’s quintessential ability to turn anything on its head without so much of an arch of her eyebrows or her “De resting face” with a diverse point of view that could swing from radical to pure nonchalance is what makes her one of the most read and heard “Made in Mumbai” voices in India. Had I been in conversation with her about the book on stage, my opening question would have been “How is sex at seventy, Shobhaa?” because her immediate response would have been far more entertaining and memorable than the latest Bollywood film!

In Delhi, designer Ashish N Soni celebrated a milestone in the fashion business, with a Lutyens lawn gig at The Lodhi. The mannequins looked exquisite in Soni’s all-black Spring Summer 2018 line in a contemporary hard-metal open-air installation tent, alongside a white garment installation which was as enchanting as it was dreamy, exhibiting his structured and minimalistic design ethos beautifully.

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Ashish N Soni SS ’18

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Yuvraj Singh and Ashish N Soni

There was Artificial Intelligence to talk to Soni nd Saif Ali Khan (Taimur’s father!) about all things fashion which was interesting, but the Glam-Cam was a monster fail. A garden gig on a Saturday night in the freezing cold temperatures of Delhi surprisingly brought out the warmth in all its glamorous guests, well, almost all. To attend an alfresco cocktail event like this is a Game of Thrones gamble – you either winter wing it in Uggs and cashmere or you whinge all night about the cold, over endless drinks, which is rather unfashionable.

©Rubina A Khan 2017