Under the Cacao Tree in Bonnington Square
Bonnington Square was lit dimly by streetlights as we left the busy roads near the Vauxhall Station. Sara described it to me on the Tube, and here it was, as though she’d conjured it. The corner Italian deli, the little restaurant where they held cooperative dinners when she lived here in the 80s, the tall, narrow house and its artistic occupants, the rooftop gardens… I’ve heard about Chantal Coady and James Booth in all the years I’ve known Sara (going on 13 years), so to say their reputation preceded them is understating it. In my several treks through London in the ensuing years I’ve visited Rococo Chocolates, Chantal’s masterpiece of a chocolate shop, but had never managed to meet up with her. Now she was hosting us for dinner, and Sara was full of stories.
The three-wheeled Rococo car on the street resembled the white and blue packages in the shop, and signaled that we’d arrived at our address. The house was narrow and tall, just as Sara said. In front a garden seemed to burst from the sidewalk. Were they all in pots? Were the pavements removed? I’m not sure. It was dim, and we were already inside, removing our shoes and being welcomed by James—who was heading out to the aforementioned deli, and Fergus—his 16 year old son who was lounging in the sitting room off the hall.
Up the stairs in search of Chantal. It seemed like there were more turns of stairs than a normal house could hold. We were in a veritable castle tower, going up, up, up (I learned later that the house has three floors divided by landings at the half level, so it feels like you are climbing six floors).
At the fifth turning—or was it the fourth?—we came upon the rooftop garden, seen in silhouette in the London gloaming. We continued on to the top which opened into a sitting and dining area off the kitchen with its greenhouse roof above the full sized cacao tree on the island. Indeed! Cupboards in deep Rococo blue made me say to myself, “Of course.”
Chantal took us another half floor above this to her mezzanine office, a perfect spot to dream up recipes and designs for future Rococo delights.
An evening of stories from the years when Sara and her husband Bob lived here. Sara gathered three wine glasses and floated lit tea lights in water before placing her newly designed paper lampshades on each one (her new etsy shop is Studio Pinto). Chantal brought out a long-forgotten photo of Sara and Bob taken in the rooftop garden. They seemed like a pair of exotic eastern Europeans in the 1920s, captured in a meadow beside a caravan.
Food and drink appeared at intervals…prosciutto, prosecco, potted shrimp and nasturtium blossoms. Pigeon and roasted vegetables (James was not satisfied with the preparation….but it was delicious), clafouti and cream. And, of course, chocolate. Also at the table was Emily, their old friend and the creative force behind Posh Graffiti, a brand that makes and distributes sustainable wood baskets and carvings from Bali.
My camera was passed about and some of my favorite pictures of the night were taken by fourteen year old Millie. She is a young camera enthusiast with an artistic eye all her own.
Well after midnight we wended down the stairs to finish the night in the—bathroom. We did an impromptu photo shoot of a new line of bath products—REN—made by a friend of Chantal’s. The Moroccan bathroom was the ideal setting, and I think we did okay for a midnight shoot with the camera propped on art books, don’t you?
Go wander about…….
Rococo Chocolate Just go look. *sigh*
Chantal and James’ house featured on Gap Interiors here.
Studio Pinto Tea light lampshade luminaries to delight & amuse…
Posh Graffiti Sustainably made wood products from Bali—gold leafed letters, baskets
Photos taken by me, Sara Pinto and Millie Coady-Booth.