My Home: Chef Angela Harnett
With all the hours she spends in her other kitchen, returning this Georgian house to its best has been a slow journey for star chef Angela Hartnett
Wednesday 25 July 2007
A former protégé of Gordon Ramsay, Angela Hartnett MBE won a Michelin star at the Connaught and launched Cielo in Florida. Her first book, 'Cucina: Three Generations of Italian Family Cooking' (Ebury Press, £25), is out now. She lives in Spitalfields, east London
I own this house with my brother, and I live here with my sister. I have photos of my family scattered throughout the house. My Italian grandmother's old pasta board sits next to the Aga in the kitchen, along with two of her chairs and one of her old coffee-makers.
My brother used to live here, and when I was looking for a new house to buy, he was planning to move to New York. So he asked if I wanted to co-own it with him. It made perfect sense, and I moved in four years ago. There was no point living in this big house on my own, so my sister moved in too. And though I normally don't do lodgers, Salvatore, who used to work with me, also lives here, and it works very well.
I had previously lived in Stockwell and Wandsworth and was unsure at first about moving north of the river. But I've come to love this part of London: Spitalfields is so buzzy and convenient. I always used to say that I'd live no further than a £10 cab ride from work. With the rise of cab fares, it probably costs closer to £20 now, but it's still a great place to be.
I'm having a break from the Connaught for a few months while it's being renovated, so that's giving me time to sort out the house. I'm decluttering like crazy.
I love living in a house with such character and history. I can see the attraction to modern homes, as you don't have to do any work, but it can be soulless. Some are so minimalist you can't find the front door.
Our home is Georgian, dating back to the 1800s. It's an old Huguenot house, once lived in by French-Jewish weavers and spinners. It was already restored before we moved in, so we haven't had to do much structurally.
But we are in the process of painting. The colours are expensive shades from Farrow & Ball, which could mean remortgaging, but it's worth it. The exterior woodwork is painted a shade of plum and the specialist restoration decorator Tony Gregory is painting the interior in blues, creams and reds. He always knows what's best for the character of a house.
There are original features throughout: wooden floors, wooden stairs, panelling, fireplaces, window shutters and shelving. We even have a cave-like space made from old Portland stone that used to be the old ovens. It must be about 250 years old and – if we can get permission – it would make a great wine cellar.
On the ground floor, there is a dining room painted a deep Hague blue, with original fireplaces, and tall windows with wooden shutters.
The first floor has a study overlooking the garden and another large room at the front. There is a wonderful mural on the walls: a trompe l'oeil border above egg tempera walls.
On the second floor, there is my bedroom and the bathroom – my favourite place in the house. It's painted China blue and white, and there is a large roll-top bath by a tall window overlooking the back garden.
A collection of fish drawings line the walls alongside black-and-white photos of my nephews.
It is also home to a work by the artist Steve Whittle – a landscape in his trademark collage style. I've hosted two shows of his work in the house.
The top floor has two bedrooms. They have lower ceilings but are the quietest rooms in the house.
Another favourite place is the walled garden at the back. It's a very peaceful green space, with views of the nearby church, rooftops and gardens. A curved wrought-iron staircase at the back of the garden also leads to a terrace with a table and two bay trees. Rose bushes cover one of the walls and we have pots of mint, basil and rosemary, as well as olive trees. We're also growing wild strawberries.
The heart of the house is, of course, the kitchen, which is in the basement. This is where everyone sits and drinks tea.
When I'm working, I cook infrequently at home and like to make very easy stuff, like steak and salad. We have an electric oven too, which I don't like and I'm going to replace it with a gas oven. I was given all the cooking things belonging to my nanna, my Italian grandmother, when she died. She was a big influence on me. I still use her old pasta board to make fresh pasta. You can see all the dents made over the years.
There are so many great restaurants around here that we eat out a lot. There's Canteen, St John, the Rivington Bar and Grill and the Lahore curry house on Commercial Street.
The only down side is the noise. There are always crowds heading to Brick Lane and people will from time to time urinate on your front-door step. But that's the double-edged sword of living in such a vibrant part of London.
I was sitting on a plane the other day listening to someone tell an American tourist visiting London for the first time that she had to go and visit Brick Lane. I felt quite cross. Enough people know about Brick Lane already. But at the same ti me, that's also why it is such a buzzy place to live. I can't see myself living anywhere else.
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