If you haven’t heard about Vogue’s exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery celebrating their 100th anniversary then you’ve probably been living under a rock for the past few weeks (we wrote about it here). The must-see cultural event of the year so far, Vogue 100: A Century of Style had been on my wish list since I first heard about it. I was invited by Le Caprice to enjoy their ‘En Vogue at Le Caprice’ package so headed central to absorb some of the hype.
Not the first package Le Caprice have run to honour an exhibition (others include Audrey Hepburn at the National Portrait Gallery and Royal Academy’s Painting the Modern Garden), this one seems particularly special; an iconic British restaurant which turns 35 this year and is already regarded one of the most glamorous spots in Central London. A number of photographs not included in the exhibition have been loaned to the restaurant to hang amongst their existing black and white David Bailey portraits and all guests dining on the package receive an A3 print of a vintage Vogue cover.
Le Caprice is relatively unassumingly tucked away behind Piccadilly but the old-school Rolls Royces butted up next to white custom Range Rovers remind you you’re metres from The Ritz. A live pianist every evening sets the sophisticated tone as soon as you walk through the revolving doors and your coat is whisked from you. Diners can choose to visit the exhibition before or after their lunch or dinner, with reservations from 2pm-6pm Monday to Friday and on Thursday and Friday again from 9.30pm. The National Portrait Gallery is my favourite of all and I am an avid Vogue reader but I can honestly say it was one of the best exhibitions I’ve ever been to – extensive, historic and insightful, it would even appeal to partners dragged along by their fashion-loving other halves (*don’t quote me on that). Impeccably curated, each room was grouped into decades with standout portraits blown up on the walls, accompanied by substantial cultural context so that you feel you’re learning as well as enjoying gorgeous photos. Rightly so when you consider fashion is far more than just pretty dresses – in Britain, the fashion industry contributes an estimated £26bn to the economy.
A meal is the ideal follow-up to any exhibition and the twenty minute walk from gallery to restaurant allowed for in-depth discussions about our favourite dress/model/hairstyle. Just as well because once in Le Caprice the food alone is worthy of conversation. The package includes a two course meal as well as a glass of Veuve Clicquot – all this plus exhibition tickets (normally £19 each) is a steal at £38 per person. The meal was flawless – salmon sashimi was the best I’ve ever had (not surprising really when you consider Sexy Fish is under the same group) and even persuaded me to try the wasabi. Actually quite nice until I got cocky and it hit me big time at the back of my nose.
Sea bream with olives, tomatoes, fennel and – the best part – crispy skin appeared a delicate portion at first glance but was more than enough. The lack of fussy sides meant it received all the attention it deserved. The staff were swift and discreet throughout our dinner, and as someone with years of summer waitressing experience at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships (read: high standards) I clocked the pulling out of our table as we sat, the post-starter crumb-down and attentive glances throughout. They lingered when conversation was initiated but retreated when it wasn’t – what you’d expect for somewhere that counts Elton John and Pippa Middleton as regulars, they had the skill of making us feel as valued as we’d imagine they would for famous faces. Leaving fashionably late at midnight we almost felt as if we were famous. We’d certainly been made to feel so.
The En Vogue at Le Caprice package runs until 6th May