Osterley Park is an elegant house.
Robert Adam designed punch bowl made by Thomas Heming 1771
Not just run-of-the-mill elegant, mind, but a filled-to-the-brim-silver-punchbowl full of elegant.
Osterley was designed in the mid 18th century by one of the gods of English architecture and design, Robert Adam. He transformed an Elizabethan ruin in what was then the London countryside for the terribly wealthy Child banking family. It ain't the country anymore.
London's Osterley, like Ham House (that I wrote about HERE) was remarkably under-visited when I was there on a gorgeous Friday before leaving England. It is only a few minutes from Heathrow airport's rental car drop-off so visiting couldn’t have been more convenient. It was a perfect end to my English visit and filled me with calm before having to deal with Heathrow (and my cancelled hateful, horrid UNITED flight that led to my wonderful VIRGIN AIR flight) .
Robert Adam (1728-1792)
When I’m inside an Adam house, serenity settles over me -– a sense of order and rightness. However, on reviewing my photos of the house, it concerned me that my photographic representations of these very symmetrical and orderly spaces were often skewed one direction or another –– not at all symmetrical (what can I say, I create from chaos not order). One may appreciate without the need to emulate, n'est-ce pas?.
Adam was a great architect (you can see a video tour of Osterley HERE to get a more complete view). He was a master of the neo-classical style, inspired by his grand tour in Europe –– his love for the antique Roman style was captured in a book of drawings from his tour called Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro. He said his style was "directed but not cramped by antiquity." He studied with Piranesi after all.
From the less successful exterior addition of a" transparent" pillared portico oddly grafted on Elizabethan bones (to his credit, Adam wanted to tear the ruin down but the Childs asked him to work with what he had to save a bit of money)...
The addition has an unusual exterior decorated ceiling
... to the terribly successful entrance hall –– so reminiscent of another glorious Adam house –– Kedleston (that I wrote about HERE). You walk from the off-key into the sublime atmosphere of a neo-classical gem when you enter the house.
It was an interesting choice that The Dark Knight Rises was shot in this temple of reason and order. I imagine if I was escaping madness, a temple of reason and symmetry would be the place to go to restore sanity.
Adam was a relentless perfectionist –– it took him 20 years to design every element of the house right down to the superb “door furniture”. Have I mentioned how I love varnished mahogany doors with painted woodwork? I don't usually drool over hardware but these designs really turn the lowly door knob into art.
Adam design for Osterley “door furniture” or escutcheon
Adam escutcheon from another house
Because of the star-stature of the house's design, there is a room devoted to drawings for the house (Adam's original drawings for the house are in the Soane Museum in London -- you can see some of his drawings from the Soane Museum collection HERE, it's an awesome sight for you architecture buffs).
The stairway at Osterley is justifiably famous.
The lanterns are perfect ...
...and the swirling, riotously colored Rubens copy on the ceiling is the perfect foil for the lace of quiet classical reliefs that flutter around it (the original Rubens was removed then burned in a fire in 1949 -– what you see is done from the original drawings).
The Long Gallery (130' long and a remnant of an Elizabethan feature) was used for a party scene in The Dark Knight Rises.
Adam's drawing for Long Gallery Mirror (1767)
The priceless heart-shaped mirrored girandoles designed by Adam's rival William Chambers and the Adam mirrors were all removed for the shooting to protect them. Fees from the shoot are being used to renovate and repair the house so it was a good deal all around (good thing too, they have an infestation of beetles in a tapestry room and are now able to do some paint archaeology to discover the original color of the Yellow room).
Green is the predominant color of the house, although blues, corals and yellow are used.
Mr. Child's Bedchamber
The library was used as a set in The Dark Knight Rises. In the photo below, the bookcase next to the fireplace swings out and is a door to the next room but was dressed as the entrance to the batcave.
The books in the library come via a 1991 National Trust bequest by Norman Norris, a Brighton book collector who picked many of his treasures up when they went on sale after WW2.
A state bed with an interesting double-crowned top designed by Adam, including the fabric.
Child was so horrified by the cost of the bed, he destroyed the bill after paying it.
This lacquer chair is divine.
The "Eating Room" doesn't have a large table in the room as you see in the earlier black and white photo. In the 18th century, gate leg tables (like the ones seen against the wall in the old photo) were stored in a corridor and set up before meals. The National Trust staff at Osterley decided to go with that earlier concept –– the tables are "elsewhere". The chairs are stored against the walls but hints of dining are evident in the small, quirky painted inserts in the ewer and vine bedizened plasterwork. It was said Adams hated the idea of food smells. The kitchen was moved and soft goods kept at a minimum in the room so as not to retain any eau de last night's supper.
Time to think about food. The upstairs rooms are wondrous and grand but the lower levels have their own charms. You won't be disappointed by the Osterley kitchen.
The underground area is enormous with storage for everything from meat and wine to coal as well as servant’s offices that look quite imposing for below stairs.
The kitchen itself consists of a few large rooms that are dressed for the late 19th and early 20th centuries with a splendid servant’s annunciator (or call box) and oven.
Eagle Cooking Range
1906 advertisement in the Kalendar of the Royal Institute of British Architects
The giant work tables and counters are terribly attractive –– they are so substantial, you feel like you could prepare any amount of food the house needed with nary a creak from their strong legs and the center tabletop is made from one magnificent piece of wood. The patina on the stone floor is spectacular.
Pantry and pastry room just to the right of the stove.
Lemon-apple pie on the way with a sugar cone for scraping.
What would a house like this have been eating back in the day? You can bet lamb was on the menu at a great English house like this.
The Professed Cook was first printed in England just after Osterley was built. Bernard Clermont issued an English translation of Menon’s 1758 Les Souper de la Cour, a French cookbook with international additions perfect for stylish entertaining in 1767 ( the true author is not known, Menon was a pseudonym).
Later editions add new recipes with some English favorites and lots of ice creams (like cinnamon and coriander as well as iced cheeses that were popular at the time).
I chose to make the Lamb in the Provence Fashion from the book. Being written in 1776, there are a few then common ingredients in the recipe that need translation today. Cullis is gravy that was made (in an early 19th century recipe I found) by browning lots of veal and ham and then adding onions, sweet herbs, bay, mace and cloves with beef stock. It was simmered, strained and then flour was added to thicken it. A slightly reduced stock (beef is recommended but chicken will do in a pinch), simmered with those extras (a bit of ham, onions, herbs, bay, mace and cloves) and thickened with flour should do the trick (if you are using ground veal for the forcemeat, you could throw a few tablespoons into the pot for authenticity). I think you can skip the flour entirely for a cleaner flavor for the sauce –– your call.
Chibol are green onions. Instead of powdered basil which I don't care for (it tastes dusty to me), I used marjoram but you could use fresh basil if you would like. Lamb is absolutely delicious with the orange, especially the divine New Zealand Lamb loin that I got from New Zealand Meats . It tastes like it spent its life in perfect grassy fields because it did. It tastes healthy and sweet and cooks in just a minute. Although some of the elements of the dish takes a bit of time, they can be done ahead of time. Bringing it to the table takes no time at all. The mushrooms in the breading are really a brilliant idea. If you are in a hurry, you can make the lamb on its own without the sauce –– it's splendid on its own.
For an interesting side dish, I moved forward into the 19th century to Soyer's 1857 Gastronomic Regenerator –– cucumbers stuffed with forcement on a bed of mashed potatoes with a bit of demi-glace. If you’ve never had cooked cucumbers, they are wonderful and especially good with mashed potatoes.
Lamb in the Provence Fashion from 1776, serves 2 - 4
2 loins of New Zealand lamb, fat removed
2 T olive oil
2 t dry basil or marjoram or thyme
3 T finely chopped mushrooms
2 T finely chopped parsley
1 finely chopped scallion
½ lightly toasted breadcrumbs (put a T of olive oil in a pan and toss the crumbs till lightly toasted)
1 T chopped green onion
1 chopped shallot
1 T butter
1 c white wine
1 c cullis (gravy)*
1 T bread crumbs
1 T chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 oranges, 1 juiced, one cut into suprêmes
herbs for garnish
Pulse the herbs, onions and mushrooms to a fine dice, not a puree. Trim the lamb and marinate for a few hours in oil, mushrooms, herbs and scallion mix.
Preheat Broiler, preheat cast iron skillet when oven is hot. Salt and pepper lamb. Remove a bit of the mushroom mix then roll lamb in breadcrumbs leaving the bottom without crumbs. Put oil in skillet and sear the bottom in hot skillet for a minute or 2 and then place in broiler. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Or flip the lamb and brown for 5 minutes in the pan on the stove top, adding a bit more oil. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
Add shallot and butter to the pan. Sauté for a few minutes. Add white wine, orange juice and gravy and reduce. Then add the breadcrumbs. Add orange suprêmes, parsley and green onion and warm and serve with the lamb, either on the side or on the plate
1 slice ham
2 T onions
2 T parsley, thyme, marjoram
1 bay leaf
1 ½ c reduced beef or chicken stock.
1 ½ T flour (optional)
Cook all the ingredients except the flour for ½ an hour on low heat. Strain and then mix flour with 2 T of stock and add to the stock to thicken it. OR reduce to 1 cup and leave out the flour.
Stuffed Cucumbers from The Gastronomic Regenerator (1857)
1 cucumber, peeled with seeds removed
1 recipe forcemeat*
1 t basil and thyme
½ bay leaf, chopped or crumbled fine
1 piece bacon
1 ½ c stock, approximately
Mashed potatoes for 2
1/4 c demi-glace, warmed
Cut the cucumber into 4 - 2"pieces, seed, leaving an opening like a ring. Add the herbs to the meat and cook a spoon of the mixture and taste for seasonings. Stuff the cucumber pieces with the forcemeat. Place a piece of bacon on top and bottom of each cucumber, tie and place in a pan. Add enough stock to reach about ½ way up.
Cook on very low heat for 20 minutes, flip midway through cooking. Remove the bacon -- you can fry it and put on the cucumbers or toss it.
Put mashed potatoes on plate, place stuffed cucumbers on mashed potatoes as they are or slice in half and spoon demi-glace over them.
¼ lb ground veal or turkey
1 T suet (optional)
1 oz panade*
salt, pepper and pinch of nutmeg
1 egg, yolk and white separated
Combine the meat and fat in the food processor and blend. Add the panade in pieces, salt, pepper and nutmeg and pulse.
Add yolk and pulse. Whip the white and fold into the mixture.
*Panade: 1 T butter and 1/3 c water boiled. Add 1/4 c flour and stir till dough comes together in a shiny mass.