Struggling to get a ticket for the V&A’s sold out exhibition Dior: Designer of Dreams? Then why not take advantage of the nearby Baglioni Hotel’s Afternoon Tea and Ticket package that will enable you to go along on any day without having to queue, beg, borrow or steal? It also happens to be a fittingly glamorous way to kick off a day out in chic Kensington.
One of London’s best kept secrets, the five star Baglioni’s stylish black and cream Brunello Bar & Restaurant, inspired by Milanese trattorias of the 50s and overlooking Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, was indeed a treat last sunny Sunday, where we enjoyed Italian-inspired afternoon tea complete with a live pianist to set the mood.
A glass of Ferrari Maximum Brut NV sparkling wine accompanied a sandwich selection with a distinctly Italian flavour, warm focaccia with bresaola and melted buffalo mozzarella cheese served alongside the more classic triangles of smoked salmon and cream cheese and egg mayonnaise and rocket, and I’m all for the change up. If anything, I would have preferred all Italian breads and fillings.
Plain and fruit scones, gloriously yellow due to free range eggs, were brought to the table warm a little later, to be enjoyed with clotted cream, raspberry jam or Nutella along with our tea selections – in my case a leaf Darjeeling Earl Grey which is harvested in the summer when the leaves have reached a full aromatic and flowery bloom.
Finally, we tucked into an assortment of some of my favourite Italian pastries and sweets; from tiramisu served in a shot glass, Baci di Dama, Sicillian cannoli filled with ricotta and pistachio crumbs, and a mini lemon curd and fresh fruit tart. The highlight was the exquisitely made sfogliatella, an ultra fine, crispy filo pastry originating from Naples, filled with chocolate in this case rather than the traditional ricotta and citrus filling. That’s when we knew we would be hopping in a cab to the V&A.
Thanks to being presented with tickets at the afternoon tea, we didn’t have a long wait to enter the exhibition, the largest ever staged in the UK on the House of Dior. The vibrant installation, complete with video footage and brilliant lighting effects, explores the designer’s stratospheric rise, with an insight into Christian Dior’s love of all things English, and especially English women whom he admired for wearing tweeds one minute and ballgowns the next. If only.
Showcasing early ‘New Look’ styles to bold, colourful creations by Dior’s former British artistic director John Galliano who revitalised the brand much the same as the late Karl Largerfeld reignited interest in Chanel, each of the six artistic directors to have taken the helm, Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons, to the current lead designer Maria Grazia Chiuri, have been given equal weight within the exhibition. With 200 haute couture dresses presented, including the famous embroidered full length gown created for Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday in 1951, the fact that each garment was handmade is the most inspiring element of all, for the detail and craftsmanship are nothing short of mesmerising when seen up close and personal.
With over 500 items, the V&A’s fashion and textiles curator Oriole Cullen and set designer Nathalie Crinière have excelled themselves with Dior: Designer of Dreams and fashion lovers are understandably clambering for tickets to see it. The finale ‘Ballroom’ installation, highlighting 70 years of formal dressing, leaves you breathless. Adding in afternoon tea at the Baglioni makes a VIP day of it, I was just relieved we didn’t have to try on any of those petite Dior dresses afterwards.
Afternoon Tea with an Italian Twist, including a ticket to Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition at the V&A, is available from £67 per person at Baglioni London, 60 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington London SW7 5BB until 31 March 2019. For more information and reservations please visit the website.